Lisa Lillien spends her days curbing the appetites of 400,000 hungry girls. A mighty task indeed. Lillien, a.k.a. Hungry Girl, has built an empire on down-to-earth, no-nonsense food and diet tips for young women. Her Hungry Girl e-newsletter has that many subscribers, and her Hungry Girl: Recipes and Survival Strategies for Guilt-Free Eating in the Real World and Hungry Girl: The Official Survival Guides audiobook have legion supporters. Hungry Girl: 200 Under 200: 200 Recipes Under 200 Calories will be released next week. Her Web site is hungry-girl.com.
This isn't highbrow, wheatgrass-and-all-organics stuff. It's the kind of easy, breezy advice that helps people navigate a holiday party (shrimp cocktail is your friend) and concoct a faux-sinful treat (Cheery Chocolate Cheesecake Nuggets with diet hot cocoa mix, Splenda, fat-free cream cheese and sugar-free chocolate syrup). Lillien makes it clear that she's not a doctor or nutritionist, just someone who "loves food a lot" and is eager to find guilt-free foods that satisfy. We caught up with her before the release of her upcoming book.
What are the diet and food tips that have made the biggest difference in your own life?
Pay attention to your body. Avoid your trigger foods at all costs. Those are the foods that make you want to eat more and more of them (or similar foods). For me those are foods that have a lot of starchy carbs. And write down what you eat. Keep track of your daily intake of food and it's less likely to get out of hand. Even if you just scribble notes on a piece of paper, it really helps. Also, plan your food for the day and think ahead.
And what is the biggest dieting myth that you'd like to debunk?
That there's a magic or secret way to lose weight. There isn't. The equation is simple: calories in vs. calories burned. You really can't escape that at the end of the day.
Is it possible to be "obsessed with food" and have a healthy relationship with food? Is it easy to get too focused on tracking calories and fat at the expense of healthiness?
You need a balance. I think it's a good idea to track calories, but people should be eating the right foods as well. A balanced diet is always going to be better. I eat mostly lean meats, low-fat dairy, and fresh fruits and veggies. The snacky-type stuff is for when I feel like I really need a brownie or cookie and want to reach for a better alternative — and at those times I go for a VitaTop! People don't need to be told to have grilled fish and steamed veggies. They really need help finding better alternatives to pizza, onion rings and fries.
How do you decide which products to promote by name? What kind of testing process do they go through?
I promote the foods I love. All foods that are mentioned by name in editorial are foods that I love and that we use at the Hungry Girl headquarters. When judging a food I will look at nutritional information and taste. Same goes for the foods and food companies from whom we accept ads. I won't accept advertising from companies and products I don't like or use.
What advice do you have for someone who has fallen off the wagon but wants to get back up?
Live one day at a time. Never think of yourself as "on" or "off" a diet. It's really a lifestyle change. And if you fall off the wagon at breakfast, make smarter choices at lunch. Don't wait until the next day, or the following Monday, or the first of the month. Those are little tricks people play and they're not good.
Laura Reiley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2293.