MORE: What would you tell people who read your book and are struggling with the same obsessive compulsions about food?
MB: [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?
DS: 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?
DS: 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?
DS: 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?
DS: 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.