Lose Weight the Jennifer Hudson Way
Posted On Mar 14, 2017
By Ruchel Louis Coetzee
Losing weight is a balancing act. It always starts off with good intentions but then boredom sets in and before we know it, we are once again doing the annual yo-yo dance. So how do we disrupt this dismal pattern? According to celebrity weight loss expert, Liz Josefsberg, it’s all about changing our behaviors. After eleven years with Weight Watchers as a Director of Brand Advocacy and leader helping celebrities and others to lose weight, Liz realized that balance and eating your favorite foods was a crucial part of the weight loss process. That’s how she helped Oscar-winning actress/musician, Jennifer Hudson, lose weight and transform her life. Most recently, Liz partnered with www.myquest.co, to build an online program and app that helps people to achieve a wide range of goals from weight loss strategies to learning to run faster, and other productivity tips. She is also the author of the revolutionary “Success Handbook” (2013, Weight Watchers) and “Find your Fingerprint,” sold nationally in all Weight Watchers locations. Her first solo book “Target 100,” is set for release in September 2017. Here, Liz shares the secrets of her highly personalized and effective new program and the behavioral changes that have helped her clients achieve their successes.
What did you learn from Weight Watchers?
So many things! I got the chance to play every role imaginable there and I lost weight myself on their program. I ended up being their national spokesperson and helped celebrities like Jennifer Hudson, Jessica Simpson, Charles Barkly, and Katie Couric lose weight. Probably the most important thing that I would take away from what Weight Watchers taught is balance. Finding a way to not be so extreme with weight loss and figuring out a way to plan on indulgences so you don’t feel like you’ve been deprived.
What was your primary suggestion to Jennifer Hudson to help her get all that weight off?
Jennifer had been extreme dieting in an effort to take weight off before her experiences with Weight Watchers and, we can all agree, that when we do something like that, when we say ‘I’m not going to eat any sugar and only have salad’, that you can only do that for so long before you go crazy. With Jennifer, it was about teaching her that she didn’t have to give anything up but we had to figure out how to plan it in. She loved chicken wings so we would plan that she would get to have chicken wings once a week but it would be that she would eat three of them and had them with salad. She always went and got the best chicken wings that she loved the most so it wasn’t giving it up, it was learning how to manage it.
Too often we deprive ourselves and then life looks so miserable moving forward. What are your thoughts?
You cannot sustain that kind of negativity or feelings of deprivation for long. In our environment, they say we make 200 food decisions a day. My whole philosophy is that you have to understand and try to eliminate as many food decisions as possible. A lot of people just don’t think about lunch and then they get a little too hungry because they get carried away with work, or a meeting gets set up, or a call happens and they get over hungry and head down to the cafeteria or out into the world to get their lunch. The shift in what I teach is how to actually change behaviors like bringing your lunch to work, which is a giant behavior change. You can’t just say one day ‘I’m going to start bringing lunch to work today.’ It takes a lot more thought than that. You might have to go grocery shopping, you might have to think about what lunch is going to be, you might have to buy containers, you might need to get up 15 minutes earlier so you can make your lunch – all those things need to be considered. I teach you the behavior changes that lead to lasting weight loss.
What is another behavior change in a day that you suggest?
If I had only one behavior that I could modify for somebody, it would be that I could trigger them to start drinking water consistently. They say that 75% of Americans are walking around chronically dehydrated. I always recommend that you drink 100 ounces a day. That is much higher than the government recommendation of 64 ounces. The reason is when I ask somebody to drink 64 they drink 50, they never hit the mark. My thing with hydration is that when you’re dehydrated you mistake it for hunger and so you overeat when you’re not even hungry, you’re just thirsty. That’s why I say I can get people losing weight with this simple behavior change of drinking water. This is what my whole course is about. It’s about setting alarms on your phone to remind you, it’s about buying a new water bottle and setting it on your desk where you can see it, it’s about triggering yourself to drink that water. I train people that the first thing that happens when they walk into their office, there’s a post-it note on their desk that says ‘fill your water bottle’ and they go immediately to the water cooler with their bottle and they fill it up. If they do that for about five days in a row, it’s now their habit. I’m just trying to retrain their routine so that they support their weight loss and wellness goals.
Maybe you’re not going to be as thin as the person in your head. How do you deal with that?
My philosophy is built on five pillars. We take a look at your nutrition, at your movement, hydration, sleep, and stress. No diet that only looks at food is ever going to give you what you’re looking for because we can only stick to a food plan for so long before a friend says ‘hey let’s go out for Mexican.’ So, we can approach this from a new perspective. When your friend says ‘let’s go out for Mexican,’ you say ‘I’m going to look at the menu first before we get into the restaurant. I’m going to decide on a healthy meal and I’m going to order that when I sit down.’ This is better than getting into the situation unprepared, having a margarita, starting to eat the chips, and getting thrown off by ordering whatever you think you want.
By that stage you say ‘What have I got to lose? I’m already downhill’ – correct?
You’re done at that point! So that is where I come from. I’ve built this online program that’s on a platform called myquest.co. It is a six-week course where I teach you how to trigger and create new routines and behaviors and I am personally there every day in the community helping you and responding to your questions. This is a course where there are videos, worksheets, and a community that shares ideas and supports each other every step of the way.
It is very important to be surrounded by people that go through the same struggles as you because we need empathy, do you agree?
Yes! I think that’s probably why I’ve had so much success in my career because I’ve lost 65lbs and have kept it off so I know exactly how everyone is feeling and I don’t wake up in the morning with this 65lbs magically staying off my body. The thing about habits and behaviors is that if you stick with them long enough, they become your normal. I’ve created habits like prepping of meals or my exercise for so long now that I wouldn’t even know how to not do them anymore.
Run me through a day in your life.
I usually have a client in my gym because I’m a personal trainer as well by 5:45 in the morning and I am training them for an hour. I then get my two boys ready for school. I make their lunches so they don’t eat unhealthy foods at school and then walk them to school which is .6 of a mile each way so I get a nice walk in early in the morning. I come home and make my breakfast – usually eggs. I always recommend to all my clients that they start their day with a strong breakfast of protein and fat. I am very low on the carbs in the morning. I like avocados, eggs, nuts, and sometimes I’ll do a little prosciutto with eggs over some spaghetti squash or make a nice slaw out of spinach. Then I start work. Some is consulting work, some is in-person coaching. I always pack my snack. For me it’s imperative that I never leave the house without a huge water bottle and a cut up apple, cheese, or macadamia nuts in my purse. Even though I am working all day, I always carve out time to walk again to pick up my sons from school so that gives me another mile of walking. Lunch usually for me is something like leftovers from dinner. Like last night I made a nice fajita tray where you actually cook everything on one sheet so today I’ll have leftovers wrapped in lettuce leaves. Carbs for me come from vegetables and fruit and a little bit of healthy grains. I try to keep my clients within 100g of carbohydrates in a day, which is not a low carb diet but it definitely keeps people away from processed foods and sugar. Sugar is in everything these days so if I had with my lunch some raspberries or a sliced up apple, it gives me a good 27 grams of carbohydrates.
How do you prevent yourself from sabotaging your willpower?
A lot of what I teach has to do with how the brain works and how we have urges. My little boys have the urge to get into a fight all the time. I’m trying to teach them that punching each other is just an urge. You don’t have to follow through on it. This is what I try to teach people in the weight loss process. We have urges to eat things and drink things all the time. We also have urges to walk out of our jobs but we don’t do it. The more we fight these urges the more we want to give in to them because it feels so negative. I had this exact thing happen. My sister and brother in law surprised us with a visit the other night and it was fun and they were drinking. I was like ‘oh yea, I feel like drinking,’ but I’m just feeling and sitting on that urge and my mouth is watering but I’m not going to do it. Urges are like waves. It’s not that I’ll never drink again – it’s not that this night will be so much better if I drink. I think that’s another trick the brain plays on you, that somehow your experience will be amplified by doing something that will ultimately hurt you, so it’s a brain trick. I didn’t have drinks with my brother and sister in law. I sat on the urge and let it roll over me and pass and I had a wonderful time! The next morning I woke up clear headed, had a fantastic workout, and I felt so good about the promise I made to myself and that I stuck to that promise.
Do you set aside a day in the week for wine, or bread, or cake?
The way I live and the way I train my clients to live is by printing out a little weekly calendar and looking ahead one week at a time. I say for me, ‘this next week I know I have a party this Saturday night with some friends that I really want to have a couple of drinks with. Other than that I’m home with my kids, I have nothing going on, I have to get up at 5 in the morning most days but Saturday is really important.’ The reason I have people look ahead is that the habit part of the brain will make you think like ‘oh my god! I haven’t had a drink in forever and I’m never going to have one again!’ When you can look at it and plan it out, you bring it to the frontal cortex where decision-making takes place instead of leaving it to the emotional/habitual part of the brain. Then I can say if something happens on Wednesday and I’m having an urge, I can say ‘Saturday is right around the corner, I’m going to have it on Saturday and it’s going to be great.’
If you are Jessica Simpson, you obviously have a lot of help getting that baby weight off. But what about working moms with no help who are stressed out and still trying to lose the weight?
I do a lot of this work with new moms. I often tell them to take the pressure off of themselves. A lot of young moms try to lose that weight right out of the gate. I think it’s very hard with the lack of sleep and the stress. Stress and sleep are two very big pillars of my program. I’ve had two kids, one colicky one screaming his lungs out, so I know exactly where they’ve been, so I always recommend that they take the pressure off for at least a couple months – 2, 3, 4 months to let them settle into that new life and then start with baby steps. We start with things like looking at your breakfast and how to try to get breakfast right this week. Then next week we’ll look at breakfast and lunch. They’re going to lose weight just by fixing their breakfast and then they’ll lose weight by layering breakfast and lunch and then next week we do dinner and the week after that we say let’s start adding in some fitness goals, maybe 5,000 steps a day, then 6,000 steps next week. So it’s a very subtle, very gentle, loving, way of layering new habits and behaviors into a brand new life.
What was Jessica Simpson’s biggest challenge?
I think everyone thinks these celebrities have all this help. Could they hire a chef? Could they hire a trainer? Yes. You have to understand though that they travel so much and they’re out of their own time zones. Their chef doesn’t travel with them, their trainer doesn’t travel with them, so there’s so much self-motivating that goes on. Yeah, if Jessica stayed home all the time… but she’s traveling the world, literally. For her, the hardest thing was probably getting out of the severe diet mentality and coming into a more balanced place of not all or nothing.
What do you hope to achieve with your new book, “Target 100” (September 2017) coming out?
I really hope to start a new conversation on weight loss and wellness. My philosophy is changing habits. I want to take away the negativity that comes around the weight loss conversation. I want it to be very positive and loving with a layering on of gentle new habits that allow you success and make you feel empowered. It does not have to be depravation and self-loathing and that’s where the conversation has lived for so long. The stress conversation cannot be stated enough. If you learn a new food plan and you hang on by your fingernails and you push through these urges and you never give in and you lose the weight but you never learn to manage stress, then you lose the battle. Imagine you started to meditate for 3-5 minutes when you were stressed rather than eat every time you got stressed, just imagine how much weight you would lose. People don’t think of weight loss like that. They think I have to eat kale and bulgur all day long – it’s not that at all. You can eat what you love, literally. You don’t have to follow anyone else’s food plan other than your own and then learn to manage stress, get better sleep, start new behaviors, move around more, and stay hydrated. By addressing each new habit and working on habits rather than just food, you will lose weight.