Excerpt: 'The Dorm Room Diet,' by Daphne Oz

Daphne Oz offers advice to college students about how to create a healthy diet.

ByABC News via via logo
June 9, 2010, 10:02 PM

July 20, 2010 -- In the updated edition of her national bestseller, "The Dorm Room Diet," Daphne Oz outlines a plan for college students to avoid the freshman 15 and lead healthier and happier lifestyles.

For students heading off to college, social and emotional changes can trigger overeating. Following "The Dorm Room Diet's" 10-step program, dieters learn how to satisfy cravings and avoid eating on impulses.

"The Dorm Room Diet" is based on the idea that a diet is a long-term commitment. Having realistic expectations actually makes diets more effective, Oz says.

You can read an excerpt from the book below and then head to the "GMA" library to find more good reads.

You can also CLICK HERE to see Oz's recommendations for a healthy care package.

Imagine you're a freshman at Fat U. You pummel the alarm clock as it sounds the end of a not-so-restful night's sleep, thanks to the pizza you shared with your roommate at midnight. Groggily, you find your way to the bathroom, cautiously peer into the mirror, and find your face is a mass of dark circles, puffy eyes, and zits. You go through your face-cleaning regimen, applying harsh chemicals to your troubled skin. Because this process takes so long, you don't have time for a good breakfast, and you run out of the dorm, frazzled and starving. The fact that your belly is hanging over the pants that used to be your "fat jeans" doesn't improve matters any. "How did I get myself into this mess?!" you wonder, unwrapping a half-crushed candy bar you find at the bottom of your purse. Classes drone on, you find yourself unable to concentrate, and by lunchtime you are craving another sugar-and-carb fix. You fall asleep at the library after lunch, trudge back to the dorm, and collapse on the couch for a "power nap." You wake up four hours later, feeling more tired than before and furious because now you have to do homework rather than go to the movies with friends, as you had planned.

Now, imagine you are a freshman at Fit U. Instead of feeling groggy and slow when the alarm clock buzzes, you feel energized and alert. "Good thing I passed on that pizza last night," you think to yourself.

In the bathroom, you throw some warm water on your face and are happy to see that there's not a blemish in sight and your eyes look wide and well rested. You bound back to your room and get dressed. You don't have to spend time trying on several different outfits because everything looks great, so you've got five minutes to spare: just enough time for a low-fat yogurt and a piece of fruit for breakfast. Feeling calm and rejuvenated, you practically float into class (heads turn, choirs sing, etc.) and find that time passes quickly because your brain has the proper nutrients and can concentrate on what is being taught. Lunchtime arrives and you're hungry, but not starving. You enjoy your tuna on whole wheat, and aren't even tempted by the cookies that are so conveniently placed by the checkout counter. Your afternoon class breezes by—well, as breezily as calculus can. Later, you finish your homework with enough time to run to the gym for a forty-minute cardio session. After your shower, you're ready to go to the movies with friends as you had planned. At the end of the night, you climb into bed and quickly fall into a restful sleep.

What made the difference between the Fat U student and the Fit U student? Simple: lifestyle and eating habits. While our Fat U student opted to save time by cramming down simple carbohydrates and sugar-loaded snacks, in the end she suffered because of her poor nutrition. Our Fit U student, on the other hand, began her day with a healthy meal, empowering her body to do its work effectively and establishing a cycle of restful sleep, clear skin, high energy, healthy body image, and overall satisfaction and happiness.

Okay, so maybe these examples are a little exaggerated. But figuring out how to eat healthfully on your own without your parents' guidance is one of the hardest lessons you must learn when you leave home for college. Whether you grew up in a home where healthy eating and purposeful activity were priorities or where fast food was a frequent standby and physical exercise was never on the agenda, college can pose a huge threat to anyone's jeans. If you're not careful, it is easy to lose good habits you learned at home, or reinforce bad ones. If you find yourself on a couch in the student lounge face-to-face with a mountain of junk food wrappers, you know it's time to make some changes.

While calorie-counting programs or trendy quick-fix diets might seem like the easy way out if you want to lose weight fast, these strict regimens are not long-term solutions. For one thing, some recommend extremely unhealthy eating habits, such as consuming really high levels of protein and no fruits or veggies. For another, they are often hard to follow, especially when you're surrounded by friends who aren't watching what they eat and you live in a place that doesn't exactly cater to the health conscious. (See how long your no-carbs rule lasts when you're looking to get a late-night snack delivered and pizza is the only option.) Most importantly, fad diets throw everything out of perspective and give food more power than it should ever have. When you're in control of your eating habits, it's easy to recognize that food is there for fuel (and enjoyment). Most quick-fix plans force you to see food as the enemy because it is so often "off limits." In most cases, it's only a matter of time before you go off your diet and binge your way through several forbidden items. For all your days or weeks or months of suffering, you're right back where you started (if you're lucky). Even worse, your relationship with food is completely out of whack. Why bother with all this negative energy? Rather than torture yourself (and anyone around you) by limiting your eating to a few, select items, why not try a plan that lets you decide where, when, and what to eat? When you're in control of the "rules" of your eating, you're in control of the outcome of your eating, too.

A diet is simply the eating plan followed by a certain individual. But, these days, just seeing the word "diet" conjures up feelings of anxiety and insecurity, sending the average female into a frenzied state in which no food is safe—we're talking everything from yesterday's leftovers to your friend's half-eaten cookie. We say "going on a diet" because diets have come to represent a "going away" from normal behavior, a temporary period of self-inflicted suffering. Call me dramatic, but when we force ourselves to follow eating patterns that are often both unhealthy and inconvenient, seeing how long we can last before we crack under the strain, subjecting ourselves to the depression and fatigue that come from not having a balanced food intake, and longing for foods that are off-limits, do we actually believe that we are getting healthier? With restrictive diets, it's a race against time: do you really want to see how long you can last?

The Dorm Room Diet is nothing like the conventional diets you may have tried in the past. It offers guidelines for creating a healthy lifestyle on your own, without the daunting restrictions of a quick-fix diet. Most of us eat not only when we're hungry, but also when we're thirsty, bored, sad, or happy. This book will help you stop eating out of emotional need and put food back in its proper place, minus all the feelings of guilt and shame.

On the Dorm Room Diet plan, you choose when to indulge, and you choose how much is enough. You'll be amazed by how little it takes to satisfy your cravings once nothing is "off limits." As previously forbidden items start to lose their mystique, you'll be on a path to a happier, healthier, more satisfied you.

My book provides the tools to understand how what you put in your mouth affects the way your body functions and looks day in and day out. You'll never make decisions, at least about eating, from a place of ignorance. Clichéd as it sounds, knowledge is power. With the knowledge you gain in this book, you will have the power to take the exhilarating independence that comes with going away to college and use it to transform yourself into the healthy adult you want to be. Since you make the rules, you won't need to worry about whether that brownie is within the guidelines. The brownie is in if you say it is. Now, doesn't that sound like a piece of cake?

Think of this book as your 10-step program for achieving and maintaining your new healthy lifestyle. While you may want to consult more specialized texts if you are dealing with certain dietary restrictions or other health issues, this book will help you stay healthy—and happy—at college and beyond. Step 1 offers you some words of inspiration, and ideas for motivation, as you begin to establish your goals. Step 2 looks at the reasons college -students especially—and young people in general—find it so difficult to commit to a program of healthy eating, and explains how to move beyond these obstacles. Steps 3 and 4 examine when, where, and especially what to eat while at school (or anytime you're away from home), to make your mind alert and your body strong and resilient. Once you understand, for example, how simple carbs and sugars send your blood glucose levels soaring, then plummeting, propelling you into a coma-like state from which your only rescue is another sugar fix, that brownie we just talked about will seem a lot less appealing.

Unfortunately, sometimes the stress, boredom, or even happiness we experience at college can prove too overwhelming for even the most disciplined eaters. Step 5 will show you how to navigate some of the most common college danger zones in which you'll be tempted to let food have its way with you. Step 6 describes the importance of exercise and explains how to tailor a weekly workout regime around your busy schedule—even in the tiniest of dorm rooms—with the help of celebrity trainer Joel Harper. In Step 7, we'll look at how important natural remedies and supplements can be to make up for nutritional lapses, as well as to treat minor ailments. Step 8 presents practical ways to relax and rejuvenate yourself right on campus, so you can stay mentally and emotionally healthy, as well. Step 9 will help you to see how you can start demanding access to health everywhere you go by becoming a conscious eater, day in and day out. This means knowing where your food came from, how it was grown, how it got to you, and whether or not you're going to choose to support these practices—you have all the power! And finally, Step 10 will give you all sorts of fun-to-make recipes to give your eating plan variety and pizzazz. My hope is that, once you have all the information in front of you, you'll become as passionate about "living consciously" as I have and join me in spreading the word. Trust me: we'll have fun.

My dad, who is a heart surgeon, works with many adult patients who did not take good care of their bodies in their formative years. He is able to teach them how to break old eating and exercise habits and reshape their bodies, but not without a great deal of resistance. The thing is, once you've lived your life eating a doughnut for breakfast every day, a double cheeseburger for lunch, and steak and potatoes for dinner, it can be very hard to adopt a new eating pattern that includes more natural, raw foods and less processed garbage. Most of my dad's patients probably wouldn't change their ways if they weren't suffering and facing death as a direct result of their bad eating habits. The good news for us is this: we're still young. We haven't developed habits that are set in stone yet. Granted, we probably don't have the prospect of death from cardiovascular failure as incentive to change any bad habits we do have—but is that really a bad thing? It's relatively easy, and enormously important, for us to learn now the skills that will keep us healthy for the rest of our lives. By reading this far, you've already begun the process. So you're probably wondering who I am and what gives me the credentials to write such a book? As you might have guessed, I haven't been to grad school, and there's no M.D. after my name. I'm a recent college grad who just happens to spend her free time reading up on the latest in nutritional research and the various health-promoting practices of the day. Additionally, I grew up with a father and two grandfathers who are heart surgeons, and an uncle who is a neurosurgeon. My grandma is a specialist in homeopathic remedies and complementary medicine. (Basically, she knows a lot about vitamin supplementation, natural remedies, and proper eating.) And my mom is a practicing vegetarian and reiki master. With all these health experts in my family, I grew up hearing about what I should be eating, what I should be taking for vitamins, and how I should be exercising to maintain ideal health. Of course, what I should have done is not always what I did.

Even with all that medical knowledge surrounding me, from the time I was seven until I was seventeen I was overweight. At my heaviest, I was 5'8" and 175 pounds. I ate well, but in too large quantities, and I rarely made a concerted effort to burn off the extra calories. I'd beat myself up about being overweight, even though I had the tools to be in shape. Then I'd resort to an unhealthy diet to lose the weight that was making me self-conscious. Because being on a diet added to my insecurity, when the weight didn't come off or came off too slowly, I quickly fell back into old habits and food once again became a comfort. It sounds like a psychotic seesaw, but this is often the way insecurities feed off one another. Because I hadn't made a decision to change my lifestyle, it was impossible for me to keep the weight off. It was dieting itself that was keeping me overweight.

I was only able to lose—and keep off—the 30 extra pounds I was lugging around once I stopped treating food as an emotional crutch and put it back in perspective as the fuel that it is. Once I made the rules about when to eat (basically, whenever my body truly needed refueling, with a few treats here and there), I could pretty much eat what I wanted. When I stopped feeding emotional hunger with food, I stopped having to worry about never feeling satisfied. Gradually, what I ate began to shift toward the healthier end of the spectrum. And success led to success. Once I was able to reorganize my eating life, the rest took care of itself. Six years down the road and well out of college, leading a healthy lifestyle that provides all the nutrition I need, while allowing for indulging in moderation, has become second nature to me.

I'll talk more specifically about my journey in Step 1, but the point I'm trying to make is that I know what it's like to be the "big girl." I know how much you want to do what is in your own best interest, and I know how badly you want to look and feel your best. This book—and your own commitment to success—are all you need to create a plan that works for you. Now let's take that first step.

Excerpted from The Dorm Room Diet, by Daphne Oz

Copyright © 2010 by Daphne Oz

Reprinted by permission of Newmarket Press, 18 East 48 Street, New York, NY 10017


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