In March of 2010, I did a story in the Deseret News about Dian Thomas, who had lost 125 pounds on a slow-but steady lifestyle change. Now her book "Tipping The Scales," came out last week, at http://www.dianthomas.com.
For years, she inspired families to cook, craft and camp on NBC's "Today" show, and ABC's "Home Show." As a young home ec teacher, she was propelled to fame after she appeared on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" in 1974. Those under age 30 reading this post might not realize that Carson was the king of late night TV, a forerunner to Leno and Letterman. Promoting her outdoor cooking and camping book, "Roughing It Easy," Dian showed Carson how to start a fire with flashlight batteries and steel wool, and to cook bacon and eggs in a paper sack.
The book went to the top of the New Your Times bestseller list, and Dian became a media darling. There were plenty of food industry junkets, media dinners, and recipe taste-testing. Her heady-but-hectic lifestyle was filled with stress, and food became a friend.
"I was invited to parties and on trips that included the most incredible foods, and I didn’t want to miss a bite! I ate with reckless abandon," she said.
Six years ago, at 5-foot-8-inches, she tipped the scales at 326½ pounds; quite a jump from the 170 pounds she weighed when she first appeared with Carson. Her knee hurt so much that she started using a walker to get around the house. She broke a friend’s chair just by sitting in it.
Today, her weight hovers at around 200 pounds, with just 20 more to go to her final goal.
"Now, I move like I’m young again! I can bike for miles at a time: last summer I completed a 480-mile bike expedition across the state of Iowa. I love walking, working out and doing water aerobics," she told me.
Instead of a gastric bypass surgery or a crash diet, she took slow, methodical approach and started creating new habits. I aimed for a half-pound loss per week.
"What learned is it’s not the speed that counts, but the direction you’re going. And it’s not a diet — it's a lifestyle change."
I helped Dian with some of the editing of the book, so I'm familiar with what's in it. If you're looking for a "magic bullet," you might be disappointed. It still comes down to eating better and exercising. So many weight loss books today focus on one thing, such as avoiding carbs or fat, or a specific exercise regimen. But Dian writes that it's a number of consistent steps, such as motivation, planning, eating right, exercise and accountability.
"It's like leading a symphony. All the instruments need to be playing together at the same time, or you don’t get the results," she writes. "If you focus solely on the food, or only on the exercise, you’re just playing one instrument. The challenge is playing all the instruments together at the same time. And, you have to keep playing them long enough to make it a habit."
What I liked about Dian's approach is that she offers strategies, such as organizing your fridge so it's as easy to cook a nutritious meal as it would be to hit the fast-food drive-through. And finding a type of exercise that you love so that you can keep doing it.
She also talks a lot about how to avoid emotional eating. Many diet books have a disconnect between what you are supposed to do and how to actually incorporate it. We often sabotage our own good intentions. I recognized some of my own emotional eating tendencies in her book; I'm working on controlling "mindless eating" and finding better ways to cope with stress.