Entrepreneur Dawna Stone is all about fitness. An avid runner and triathlete, she started the Women's Running Half Marathon in 2009, a natural development from her earlier creation, Women's Running magazine.
Back in 2005, she was the winner on TV's The Apprentice: Martha Stewart and landed a stint with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia as development director of Body + Soul. Since then, she has hosted a Sirius Satellite Radio health program, and done numerous television segments on wellness.
Last year, she sold both her race and her magazine to a San Diego sports media business, freeing her up for a project that may come as a surprise to some, but that she says has been a dream of hers for years. Healthy You! 14 Days to Quick and Permanent Weight Loss and a Healthier Happier You was just published last month.
Though she's not racing in next weekend's Women's Running Half Marathon (she prefers cross-training and shorter distances these days), she'll be at the nearby fitness expo signing copies of her book. Stone, 45, lives in St. Petersburg with her husband and their 4-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. She recently spoke with the Times about the Healthy You! program, eating clean and why she doesn't see a Real Housewives of St. Petersburg show in her future.
Dawna, you're about the last person from whom we'd expect a diet book.
People I know now can't even fathom I was ever overweight or ever struggled with my weight. But when I moved to New York City right out of college, I got a great job on Wall Street and gained 40 pounds. I was working really late hours, eating pizza, candy, fast food. I'm only 5-foot-4, so 40 pounds on me is a lot of weight.
What was that like for you?
I was tired, sluggish, really unhappy. I felt like I had such good control over every other aspect of my life, except for my weight. I read so many diet books, I tried all the fad diets, I even did a commercial weight-loss program and ate their prepackaged food. Everything worked — for a little while.
How long did this go on?
After two years of this, one night I was lying in bed in my apartment, in tears, thinking I'd never, ever get to a weight I would be happy with. I realized I needed a lifestyle change, not another fad diet.
What did you do?
After that epiphany, the first 35 pounds came off pretty quickly once I eliminated all the junk foods, the late-night snacks, the sugar, and got back to a clean, natural, wholesome diet. But I'm not one to give up on foods for the long term, which is why I wasn't successful with a lot of diets. People started noticing my weight loss, and I shared what I had learned with friends and family.
It has been 20 years since you've lost the weight. Why write a book now?
I have been working on this book for a really long time. I had two kids, I started two businesses, and then when I sold those companies in May 2012, I finally had time on my hands. My dream was always to finish this book, but it got back-burnered.
What sets your diet book apart from the others?
Having me as an author who has struggled and been there. Hopefully through the book people will get to know me and understand my struggles and that I understand losing weight is difficult if you are extremely busy, and you have a job, and a family.
Give us an example?
I am constantly doing lunch meetings and dinner meetings. So I have an entire chapter that talks about being realistic about eating out, and how you can stick to a Healthy You!-approved meal. Pretty much anywhere you live, all the restaurants will make substitutions for you if you ask. They will bake rather than fry, leave the sauce off or put it on the side.
Where do you like to eat in St. Petersburg?
My office is right off of Beach Drive, so I walk down the stairs to Bella Brava. They have an incredible salmon and citrus salad. Sometimes I get the Caesar salad, but I ask for the citrus dressing on the side and leave off the croutons. Tonight we're going to Parkshore Grill. I'll get the salmon and ask them to grill it, and steam the asparagus without hollandaise.
Healthy You! has a 14-day jumpstart program that calls for eliminating sugar, wheat, dairy, highly processed foods, artificial sweeteners, red meat and alcohol. But then you can reintroduce them. How does that work?
We're trying to get everyone to feel what it's like to be on a clean diet. Your skin gets clear, you have more energy, you feel better, less stressed. Then we talk about adding foods back in gradually. I don't believe dairy is bad, or wheat is bad. What I believe is the wheat most people are eating is overly processed. The same with dairy — people think they're having a wonderful yogurt, but (some varieties) have as much added sugar as a Kit Kat bar!
The Healthy You! program gives you back your taste buds. I found that once I reduced the sugars and the processed foods, I could really taste my food for the first time.
What's more important, diet or exercise?
Diet. You can exercise all you want, but if you're putting horrible food into your body, you're not being healthy. I'm a true believer in exercise, and I want to say both are important, but if you can get your diet under control, then you're more likely to want to exercise and be even healthier.
On Apprentice: Martha Stewart, you beat out Bethenny Frankel, who has put her life on display in shows like Real Housewives of New York and Bethenny Ever After. Any chance you might follow suit?
Oh no, Bethenny and I are very different. I am somewhat shy and she is the furthest thing from shy. During the (Apprentice) show she did a phenomenal job. But I'm not controversial enough for Housewives. They'd never want me!