Obsessed with Food

One skinny, one heavy, TV anchors Mika Brzezinski and Diane Smith couldn’t have looked less alike. What was the same: Their days were controlled by what they ate. Here, the two good friends reveal how they wrestled—in very different ways—with their compulsions 

by Judith Newman
mika brzezinski and diane smith image
Photograph: Evelyn Laws

MORE: What would you tell people who read your book and are struggling with the same obsessive compulsions about food?
[Tearing up] The subject is still so embarrassing for me, but I am just hoping people will read this book and, if they have a problem, seek help. I wish I’d dealt with this problem much earlier, because obsessing about food is a terrible waste of time. I never want my daughters to spend so much of their lives consumed by this.


MORE: Boy, this is quite a story. And I hear you’re not the only one in your family who has gotten healthier.
Diane Smith:
Yes. My husband [Thomas Woodruff, an economist] has lost 45 pounds—and our dog, Chauncy, has lost 10!

MORE: Let’s talk about your eating history. Was food a concern when you were a child?
I have three sisters and a brother, and they didn’t have weight issues. One of my sisters used to wear a rubber band as a belt! But I have been shopping for plus sizes on and off since I was a child. My mother was always putting my dad and me on a diet.

MORE: Were you an emotional eater?
I can definitely trace periods of overeating to tough times. My college boyfriend was killed in a car crash—that’s when I first started reallygaining. And then, when I got downsized from the best job I’d ever had, as a radio talk show host, I gained a lot after that, too.

But once you have one health problem from extra weight, other -problems—and sometimes more weight gain—follow. In my effort to lose weight before I turned 50, Istarted a vigorous gym program and got stress fractures in my feet. So I couldn’t exercise much. And then I had hip problems, too. In 2011, I thought I’d never be able to exercise rigorously again.

MORE: That Labor Day weekend when Mika said you were fat—did you take the anchor of your boat and swing it at her head?
No! At first I was taken aback and very hurt. But she started talking about her own eating issues. I’d often joked about how of course those Jenny Craig spokespeople could lose weight: They were being paid. So that day Mika offered to split the money from writing a book together, and I could use that to lose weight, by having bariatric surgery, going to a personal trainer, whatever I wanted.

Mika and I met while covering stories in Connecticut, but we got to know each other better through her husband, Jim, who was an investigative reporter at the New Haven ABC affiliate where I was a news anchor. We really bonded when she had a baby while Jim was out of town and I was her birth coach.

So how could I be mad? This was a woman I’d been with when she gave birth. And look, I needed a major shake-up. After decades of losing and gaining and losing and gaining again, I needed something drastic. I spent years wearing nothing but black pantsuits and trying to pretend it was fine.

MORE: How did you lose weight?
As an alternative to bariatric surgery, I joined an outpatient -hospital-based program called Take Off. I started in mid-May 2012, and as of March 13, 2013, I have lost 66 pounds. It involves a dramatic low-calorie diet, with two or three protein shakes a day, and now also some vegetables and salad and sometimes a little extra protein, like chicken or fish or an egg.

My goal was to stay on this until I lost 75 pounds, but I may stay on it longer. I needed to break my bad habits and start over. After a couple of months, a nutritionist helps you learn to eat normal foods again. I’ll be working on learning behavior modification and portion control.

First published in the May 2013 issue

Share Your Thoughts!


Mika's advice on food.
Pretend that you overeat, so that you can boast and brag that
you go for jogs.
As if, Mika is the only one in America that is a runner.
How dull, narcissistic, arrogant and boring.

This is Mika's advice on raising young children:
Hire childcare around the clock to make sure that the children are always "staffed."
This is Mika's advice on getting a bigger paycheck:
Be a newsreader for Joe Scarborough and not even bother to watch his show. Then when Scarborough sees that Mika is the perfect deferential, obsequious, sycophant, make Joe demand more money from MSNBC, when all of Mika's efforts have failed. Just like they did when Mika asked for more money from CBS.
This is Mika's advice on food:
Pretend that you overeat, so that you can boast and brag about going for runs, as if Mika is the only jogger on earth.
Mika Brzezinski is one of the most boring, repetitive, self-absorbed, narcissistic, dull women on television.
Or anywhere.

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