I don't blame my mother, my grandfather, or even my father, for my attitudes toward and my struggles with dieting, body image, and food. I don't even blame the magazines, books, and movies that conveyed impossible images of beauty and the supposed necessity of constant dieting. We are all smart enough to know it's not necessarily realistic to weigh 105 pounds. Yes, we are all, to some extent, products of our parents' unresolved issues, but I truly believe most people do the best they can. We are all fighting against our own issues, and food and diet were my issues. I'm guessing that if you are reading this book, they are your issues, too.
When I became an adult, my love of fine food led me to cooking school, but my attitudes toward food really started to change on one of my trips to Italy. As a chef, I vowed not to miss any food experiences in the country with the most amazing food in the world. I vowed not to obsess about every calorie and not to miss out on cappuccino, pasta, great wine, and wonderful desserts. But in Italy, I discovered something much more important than good food. I discovered a new attitude.
In general, Europeans view food and eating differently than Americans. They value food more than Americans do, but obsess about it less. That was a revelation to me, especially when I saw beautiful, naturally thin Italians eating anything they wanted. I began to shift my perspective. I began to understand how to enjoy food -- any food -- and still be naturally thin.
When I came back from Italy, changed but without having gained an ounce, I began to refine and crystallize the lessons I had absorbed. The result is this book. The lessons I've learned over the years have served me well because my life is extremely fast-paced and stressful. It would be easy for me to continue my unhealthy habits, from starving myself to binge eating. But I don't. When I filmed Martha Stewart: Apprentice, I had just gotten over pneumonia. Being on a competition reality show is brutal, unbelievably stressful, and exhausting, and what was everybody else living on? Energy drinks and meal replacement bars. But not me. During the entire filming of that show, I took the time to make myself three meals a day, no matter what else was going on. I ate healthful food nobody else was eating -- because I know that it takes only five minutes to make, for example, a veggie sandwich or turkey on wholegrain bread.
Everybody has five minutes. That's the only reason I got through the experience with my health and sanity intact -- and I'm not kidding. I was healthy going into the experience because of my new way of life, and that by itself was significant in getting me through. I knew if I was eating processed food -- or, worse, eating food from the street vendors -- I wouldn't make it. When you are on a reality show, you want comfort food, but energy drinks and hot dogs aren't going to provide real comfort. You get very little sleep, or you don't sleep at all. You have cravings because you are under stress, and when you aren't sleeping, you are running around like a maniac. Eating well was an important investment for me during that time -- and is still important, every day of my life.