BiggestLoser.com had the opportunity to get an exclusive interview with The Biggest Loser’s Chef Devin Alexander. Below is our interview with Devin and her advice for weight loss and fitness success!
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BiggestLoser.com: You have maintained a 70-pound weight loss over the past 16 years. What was it like being an overweight teenager?
Chef Devin Alexander: It was actually a lot like it was portrayed this season on The Biggest Loser through Sunny and Lindsay’s stories…but worse! I was brutally bullied and had a really hard time. I was so excited to see the show take on childhood obesity! I really connected with Lindsay because I had been on the cheerleading squad in Little League then got chubby by junior high and didn’t make the squad…but ALL of my friends did. I desperately wanted to be back on the team, but I just kept getting chubbier and chubbier as all of my former friends were busy going to cheerleading practice and games and I wasn’t. I tried out for the basketball team but didn’t make that either, so I started staying home on Friday nights doing the only thing I felt good at - cooking. All of those chocolate chip cookies I was baking didn’t exactly help matters. I also started plus-size modeling. But I got so tired of hearing, “You have such a pretty face” like I was some sort of disappointment or waste of a space being overweight. I never really had much energy either and was a bit of a bookworm and overachiever like Sunny, and I never realized that the fattening food and the lack of exercising were keeping me from feeling amazing like I do today.
BiggestLoser.com: Why did you gain weight as a teenager?
Chef Devin Alexander: It started because I lost a couple of people as a kid and the fear that resulted had me turn to food for comfort. Then, as I mentioned, after getting a little bit chubby I was no longer jumping around as a cheerleader or in other active ways - mostly because it’s just not fun when you’re heavier. And then things spiraled out of control and I didn’t know how to fix it. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed by it once you’ve started down that road. I know a lot of people who have struggled can really relate. The good news is that if you can get started, it’s a lot easier than people realize to get the momentum going in the other direction!
BiggestLoser.com: What do you wish you could tell everyone who is trying to lose weight?
Chef Devin Alexander: “Don’t diet!” Before I lost my weight, I had tried dieting, but leading up to the time when I was supposed to start my diet I would eat all the foods that I wouldn’t be able to eat once I started my “diet.” This became a vicious cycle. I yo-yo dieted for years and it never worked until I made the choice to make a lifestyle change and I learned that if I cut 100 calories from my diet per day on average I would lose 10 pounds in a year! A lightbulb went off in my head because it meant that I didn’t have to give up all of my favorite foods (or cooking, which was my favorite thing to do). I wasn’t successful until I learned that I just had to use my cooking skills to make Devinly Decadent meals and treats! This ultimately lead to a much happier and healthier life because I didn’t feel like I was depriving myself of the foods I love, just making them in more healthy and decadent ways!
BiggestLoser.com: What is the biggest mistake people make when trying to lose weight?
Chef Devin Alexander: Making changes that they can’t stick to for life. Sure, you can starve yourself or eat bland food or pop pills for a while, but if it’s not sustainable even if you lose the weight, I promise, you’ll gain it back. My personal obstacle was that I thought I would have to give up brownies and all of my Italian family favorites if I wanted to be healthy. When I figured out how to keep eating them and started making more nutritious choices, the pounds fell off.
BiggestLoser.com: What are your favorite recipes from the Biggest Loser At Home program?
Chef Devin Alexander: Wow…this is always my least favorite question because I love so many! I love my True Love in a Bowl, Asian Crab Salad-Topped Brown Rice Crisps, BBQ Bacon Meatloaf, Boneless Honey Barbeque Wings, Chicken Enchilasagna and Chocolate Not-Only-in-Your-Dreams Cake. See, too hard to pick just one!
BiggestLoser.com: What are your favorite tools on The Biggest Loser At Home program?
Chef Devin Alexander: The Recipes section is such a great resource and I love the Meal Plan, too, because it makes it so easy to track what you’re eating by letting you add entire dishes from the Recipe section. This saves so much time because you don’t have to type in every ingredient you used to make the dishes!
BiggestLoser.com: What’s a great healthy snack?
Chef Devin Alexander: I find myself eating everything from apple slices with lime juice squeezed over them to a tomato salad I make with cubed tomatoes, fresh parsley, red onion, a touch of olive oil and sea salt. I also love making riceless spicy tuna rolls in soy paper (just chop tuna, add a bit of chili garlic sauce and roll it in soy paper the way you’d roll a burrito).
BiggestLoser.com: How often do you allow yourself a cheat meal?
Chef Devin Alexander: I’m all about being healthy and happy! Before I lost my weight, I always found myself focusing on what I couldn’t have - I always told myself I shouldn’t eat this or I shouldn’t eat that. But, ironically, it made me want to eat it even more because I felt deprived. Now I don’t restrict myself from eating anything (except fast food and fried food, neither of which I’ve eaten since 1987 - and I truly don’t want them. Really, I don’t!). Now I focus on what I can eat and when I do indulge, I do it sensibly and pay attention and enjoy every bite. If I go to a party and there’s fudge cake, chocolate cake or warm chocolate chip cookies (my weaknesses) and they look delicious, I’ll take a bite. If they’re amazing, I’ll eat a piece of the cake or a cookie (or two depending the size). If they’re not delicious I know they’re not worth the calories, so I put them down and just make them at home later where I can make them healthier.
BiggestLoser.com: What would you say to people who “don’t have time” to cook at home?
Chef Devin Alexander: While none of us can cook every meal at home, to me saying you can never cook at home is like saying you don’t have time to brush your teeth or to take a shower. None are options if you want to be healthy. There are a ton of things that you can throw together quickly, so no excuses! :)
BiggestLoser.com: What is always in your refrigerator?
Chef Devin Alexander: Eggs (for egg whites), tomatoes, fresh herbs, arugula, spinach or kale, some sort of lean protein (shrimp, salmon, chicken, turkey), hot sesame oil, Dijon mustard, hot sauce, red or yellow peppers, a pitcher of unsweetened green iced tea, unsweetened almond milk and many more things. It’s important to keep your refrigerator stocked with good-for-you foods - that way you never get caught with your pants down and find yourself dashing to a drive-thru.
BiggestLoser.com: Do you have a secret habit that is part of your healthy lifestyle?
Chef Devin Alexander: I actually have a ton! I drink at least two glasses of green tea every morning (it’s said to speed up metabolism and I believe it). I never say, “I shouldn’t be eating this” (or even allow myself to think it) if I choose to eat something, no matter how indulgent it is. I will not allow any men’s T-shirts in my closet (only fitted girl T-shirts because I used to hide in them - fitted T-shirts force me to be uncomfortable in my clothes if I’m not fit).
BiggestLoser.com: If you could permanently get rid of one bad habit, what would it be?
Chef Devin Alexander: The only bad habit I really have in terms of a living an optimal healthy lifestyle is that I find comfort in eating at night. I would get rid of that.
BiggestLoser.com: If you could tell one thing to your adolescent self, what would it be?
Chef Devin Alexander: You will someday know how to eat ridiculously delicious brownies and bowls of meatballs and all of your Italian favorites and feel “pretty” and be HAPPY, and you’ll get to make a living showing other people how to do it, too! (If you had said that to me as a teen, I would have thought you were insane! But it’s my life!)
BiggestLoser.com: Do you ever still struggle with maintenance?
Chef Devin Alexander: I actually don’t struggle any more…except maybe a tiny bit when I’m writing a book or have some big project that has me around food all day every day and forces me to sample when I’m not hungry. Beyond that, though, I really don’t. I truly changed my lifestyle and my mindset. You always hear the phrase “calories in, calories out,” and that’s the primary thing that has worked for me. If I gain a few pounds, I cut back and avoid indulgent food for a couple of weeks. But I never, ever deprive myself. If you eliminate entire food groups that you love, it becomes impossible to stick with a healthy lifestyle long-term.
The one thing that I will say is that I am still an emotional eater, and it most manifests itself at night. I wouldn’t call it a struggle because I now eat small amounts of nutritious foods to placate the voice in my head. But if anyone knows how to completely rid me of that, I would vow to be their best friend for life. Anyone? :)
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