Judy Gruen is the author of three award-winning humor books, including The Women's Daily Irony Supplement and Till We Eat Again: Confessions of a Diet Dropout. She's a regular columnist on Aish.com and Mommasaid.net. The Women's Daily Irony Supplement is available on Amazon.com; her previous books, including Till We Eat Again, are available at judygruen.com.
Judy sat down with Diet-to-Go editor John McGran for a fun session of "7 questions with..." Get ready to laugh and learn with dieting insights from this very funny lady.
Diet-to-Go: So Judy, why are so many women hung up on their body and their weight?
Judy Gruen: Gee, maybe because the popular culture feeds us images of women whose legs are so thin you could pick your teeth with them? Actresses have to be rail-thin or risk unemployment, and models on every consumer women's magazine have been Photoshopped or airbrushed. What chance do we mere mortal women have to stay sane?
Worse, many of the mags order us to "Walk Off 5 Pounds in One Month!" on page 56 and then have the gall to instruct us to "Make 12 Different Cookies from a Single Batter!" on page 132. What kind of schizoid message is that?
Honestly, I feel much better about myself not only limiting how much sugar I eat, but how much media I consume. And that's no joke.
DTG: What's the funniest way you ever tried to lose weight... and the funniest diet you ever heard someone else try?
JG: I once tried Bikram Yoga, which is essentially yoga for Olympic-level gymnasts, performed in a room set to the temperature of Dante's Inferno. My brilliant plan was to sweat off the weight, if I didn't kill myself from a heart attack doing impossible contortions in 110 degree heat. I lasted one session, but was proud that I was still alive.
I also endured a colonic, which supposedly helps you lose weight by flushing many gallons of water through your gut and detoxifying your system. It worked... sort of. After my colonic, I immediately felt $75 bucks lighter.
I grew up in the era of really nut-job diets, like the "egg and tomato" diet or "The Pineapple Principle" where every meal begins with a pineapple starter and ends with a hot chili pepper and mustard chaser. Supposedly, these "thermogenic" foods scare the metabolism nearly to death, which makes it burn fat quickly. (NOT recommended for people with acid reflux.)
Tragically, my mother and I tried most of these hare-brained schemes, with the expected results of eventual weight gain. One of my most traumatic memories from childhood was when my mom tried to brew her own version of Weight Watcher's ketchup. When I walked into the house I nearly keeled over from the overpowering stench of simmering vinegar, seeping into the walls of the house. It was more than 35 years ago but some smells are harder to get rid of in the memory bank than getting rid of Congressmen in safe districts.
DTG: Is there anything funny about the fact 2-3 Americans are overweight or obese?
JG: No, definitely not. Every one of us feels better, more energetic, and more attractive when we can fit comfortably in a coach seat in an airline, and since most of us don't work on farms or as personal trainers, our computer-driven lifestyle makes it a challenge to stay fit and out of the plus-sized fashions.
However, laughter burns calories, so look for humor wherever you can find it!
DTG: It's bathing suit season -- what advice do you have for women trying to find the perfect swimsuit?
JG: Summer in Saudi Arabia, where revealing bathing suits are a non-issue, except on pay-per-view television. Otherwise, go for dizzying, garish prints, which will immediately force onlookers to avert their eyes and not see any residual cellulite you have yet to get rid of.
And if all else fails, think side control panels, empire waists, and shelf bras (available at Home Depot).
DTG: What do you consider an ideal dinner? And would you cook it yourself?
JG: Over the years I have made small but steady changes to make my diet healthier. I am convinced this is the best, easiest and most effective way to go.
An ideal dinner for me might be broiled salmon sprinkled with some good herb mix on top, brown rice and sautéed vegetables. Even easier, I might broil vegetables on a pizza tray, along with the fish.
I always like something sweet after dinner, so I'll have fruit or some low-fat, low-sugar frozen yogurt. However, I've also learned to limit myself to one very small cup if I take the frozen yogurt and not double dip!
Would I cook dinner myself? Are you kidding? If I don't do the cooking around here, nobody would eat!
DTG: Michelle Obama is on a mission to end childhood obesity -- what is your solution?
JG: Until parents limit how much time their kids are sitting on their expanding duffs in front of the TV or computer, kids will broaden their backsides, but not their minds. We have to encourage more physical activity as well as healthier food choices, and when parents can do physical activities with their kids, whether bike rides, hikes, playing tennis, or even taking brisk walks together in the neighborhood, that's a win-win.
DTG: What are the three main bits of wisdom moms should instill in their children?
As a mother of four kids, I've seen that true self-esteem is something kids have to earn through personal effort. Giving every kid on the team a trophy just for showing up instills egotism and a sense of entitlement, not the healthy self-regard that can only result from doing good works and maintaining high values.
The second thing is connected to the first, which is that I fear that too many parents invest a great deal in their kids' academic success but bypass the kids' needs for character and spiritual development. Our kids' true success in life will not come from having gone to Yale but whether they lived with honesty, integrity, a good work ethic, and all those other old-fashioned values that have held us in good stead for a long time.
Finally, look for ways to connect and have fun with your kids, don't let them take themselves too seriously and show them you don't take yourself too seriously, either. Look for ways to bring laughter and light into your lives.
And keep a cell phone free zone during dinner time -- and that goes for Mom and Dad, too!