"The Vice Busting Diet" - Julia Griggs Havey Discusses Permanent Weight Loss With The Diet Channel

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 - 1:27pm

For most people, the word “diet” is synonymous with deprivation and food cravings. After all, who hasn’t been on a diet that made their stomach growl constantly and gave them torturous dreams of cinnamon buns dancing in their heads? Yet in spite of this daily suffering—to add insult to injury—most dieters regain the majority of their weight soon after their diet plans end.

Buy The Vice Busting Diet

Julia Griggs Havey, the author of The Vice Busting Diet, has experienced this vicious cycle firsthand. Ten years ago, at approximately 300 pounds, she got fed up and decided to change her life permanently. However, rather than following another diet, she began implementing small incremental changes into her daily lifestyle. Eventually, these changes added up to big results, enabling her to lose a whopping 130 pounds. Today, she maintains her weight loss and is happier and healthier than ever. What are Julia’s secrets to successful weight loss and maintenance? Recently, she sat down with The Diet Channel to discuss her new book…and to give us a couple hints. Thanks, Julia, for sharing with us.

At one time in your life, you weighed 290 pounds. How long did it take you to lose your 130 pounds using the small incremental changes you advocate?
I lost 130 pounds over a 15-month period. When people hear this, they usually say, “That’s so fast!” However, the reality is that I lost my weight at the recommended 2 pounds a week rate. Basically, I was consistent over the entire 15 months. This enabled me to lose 8 pounds a month, each and every month. Here are the small changes I implemented:

  • The first small change I made was to give up eating my #1 vice: ice cream.
  • Then, I started drinking 64 ounces or more a day of water.
  • After that, I stopped eating fast food.
  • The next hurdle was giving up Coke.
  • Eventually, I added exercise.

I tackled each small change gradually until it was second nature to me. That’s when I’d add another change to my regime. If a person is consistent with their health resolutions, it is just a matter of time until all their excess weight comes off! In addition, it's really important to have a community of supporters to help you motivate (which is something I provide on my website).

Describe the moment when you just couldn’t take it anymore. Do most dieters have this moment? Or is it less dramatic for the people you’ve spoken to?
One of my “rock-bottom/aha” moments (there were several previous “aha” moments before I was ready to commit to change!) was when I went to my doctor to have a lump at the base of my neck examined. I was convinced that it was a tumor and that I was going to die. I was surprised (and extremely humiliated) when my doctor informed me that the lump was merely a fat deposit. At that moment, it dawned on me that (like most of my problems) this situation was of my own doing, and as a result it could only be undone by me. That’s when I vowed to change. Fortunately, I decided to change ONE thing, rather than trying to change everything at once.

Similarly, many dieters have a specific situation they can identify that spurred them to change. However, in talking with the tens of thousands of dieters over the years, I have noticed that successful change happens when a person decides to finally do it all by themselves. Despite the best intentions of spouses, friends, or co-workers who offer encouragement, we don’t lose weight until we want it for ourselves. It is almost like we won’t lose weight if our spouse wants us to because we think ‘they should love us as we are’. It’s like we subconsciously stay overweight to spite them—and to make them prove they love us anyway.

So to answer your question, yes, there is great drama surrounding our desire to lose weight and our conviction to finally get it done. The stories are as unique as each individual’s life and journey. I don’t think everyone needs to hit rock bottom or have a terrible or embarrassing incident that spurs them into change. I really do believe that my Vice Busting program will gently ease them into a new lifestyle, without ever having to realize these worst moments.

How did you stay motivated lose your weight? Is this something you describe in The Vice Busting Diet?
That’s a great question! During the years that I was morbidly obese, I went on dozens of diets. Each time I started out, I was totally motivated to succeed this time. However, like most people, I found the diets themselves overwhelming because they required me to change every aspect of my life overnight. On the first day of most diets, you are supposed to stop eating the large quantities of unhealthy and high calorie foods that you usually eat, and start eating and preparing a strict, low calorie, healthy food diet, which is NOT part of your normal routine. On top of that, you’re supposed exercise like you are Denise Austin, AND drink water, AND be upbeat about it all. You count points, count calories, take supplements…it’s exhausting and virtually impossible!

So, rather than try that approach and doom myself to failure again, I decided to change just ONE thing; I decided NOT to eat ice cream. I didn’t say that I would never eat it again, rather I vowed not to eat it that day…then the next day…and the next day, and so on. I was amazed that I could actually do without it. You see, in the past, every Monday that I started a diet was usually followed by a Tuesday in which I was rewarding myself for my good discipline…with a bowl of ice cream! This time, though, I was simply not eating ice cream. At the end of the first week, I was shocked that I could actually make it a week without any ice cream, so I thought to myself, “Let’s go for another week.” After about 3 weeks of not eating ice cream, my clothes were actually a bit loose around the waist. And I liked the way this made me feel, so I vowed to see what other unhealthy foods that I was eating regularly that I could do without What motivated me was the success; the fact that I was actually able to accomplish what I set out to do.

After these small successes, I implemented a rewards program for myself. Since I had always worked hard to win whatever incentive my boss set for productivity at work, I set up a system for earning rewards based on abstaining from my vices. Every week that I didn’t eat ice cream, I rewarded myself with a manicure, pedicure, new book, etc. Then, when I’d stayed on track for many months in a row, the rewards got bigger—I was giving myself weekend trips and buying massages. Soon, I began wanting these treats more than I had ever craved the foods; and this motivated me to keep going.

Eventually, the weight loss itself became my biggest motivator—to actually be realizing a goal that had eluded me for so long was more motivating than any reward item could ever be.

Although your book is entitled The Vice Busting Diet, you don’t advocate following a “diet” per se. In your opinion, what’s wrong with dieting in general?
What is wrong with dieting is that it requires a person to totally transform how they live overnight, which is a very steep slope of change to scale in one day. The word “diet” means the food indicative to the specie; it does not mean a reduced calorie, food group restrictive program. Yet we keep trying to change our ingrained habits by following a menu plan filled with foods we aren’t familiar with and perhaps don’t even like.

Most people eat both healthy and unhealthy foods within the course of their day. It’s the unhealthy foods that must be addressed. That’s what Vice Busting is all about. It’s much more effective to start out eliminating unhealthy foods from one’s diet than to start following a completely different menu overnight.

What are the worst food habits of the average American?
Without a doubt the #1 worst food habit or “Vice” of the average American (and humans around the world for that matter) is the consumption of soft drinks. There is a direct correlation with the introduction of high-fructose-laced beverages and increase in obesity rates. Recent studies also show that diet soft drinks do not positively affect weight loss. Water should be the beverage of choice.

The #2 Vice would be unhealthy, fatty and high calorie “fast food”. I can tell you hundreds of stories of readers who simply vow to not eat anything from a restaurant that can hand them a bag of food through a window/drive up and have gone on to lose at least 50 pounds! Eating fast food is a fast way to obesity.

You break your plan into 12 weeks. Describe what the “Getting Started” phase of the diet—Weeks 1-3—entails.
The first and most important action that a person does with The Vice Busting Diet is to bust their daily high calorie beverage consumption and replace it with the healthy habit of drinking at least 64 ounces to ½ their body weight in fluid ounces of water.

What happens in the “Ongoing Plan” part of the diet, Weeks 4-12?
The ongoing part of the plan is to identify their #1 food vice (for most people it will be fast or convenient processed foods) and replace it with healthier options. Then, we create the habit of exercise, gradually increasing their fitness level. We do this by eliminating some of the time spent watching television and using this time to get some physical activity instead.

Twelve weeks sounds like a short amount of time for someone trying to overcome a lifetime of poor eating habits. How does the 12-Week program help people maintain their newfound healthy lifestyle permanently?
Twelve weeks not enough time to lose 100 pounds or to erase the damage done by a lifetime of poor lifestyle choices. However, it is enough time to successfully break 2 habits, to replace them with 2 healthier alternatives, and to make exercise a habit. In 12 weeks, you can successfully create a strong foundation on which to continue building a healthy lifestyle.

What role should exercise play in a person’s daily lifestyle?
One of the reasons we have become overweight is that we don’t need to physically work hard to survive anymore—life has gotten very sedentary. But the human body was designed be active! Daily exercise is simply a must for anyone wanting a healthy life and body. I am not saying that you must exercise at the same level as a competitive athlete. But I am saying that you do need to walk approximately 30 minutes a day at the very least, or perform some other type exercise. Ideally, you should engage in 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day, in addition to some weight training. To get there, it takes a deep commitment to change, especially considering that most people currently spend 4 hours every day watching television while claiming they have no time to exercise.

In the beginning of this diet, it must be difficult to give up favorite foods. Does Vice Busting get easier as time progresses?
YES! The diet industry has told us repeatedly through the years that we ‘can have the foods we love in moderation and still lose weight’. But I think that the majority of our population is overweight because we can’t moderate the foods we love. We love them, and as a result we eat too much of them. We have been trained to believe that not eating these foods is deprivation, which supposedly leads to binging. But the truth is that abstaining from these foods enables us to realize the weight loss we long for, while eating them deprives us of realizing our dreams.

So, the longer you bust your vices the more you will realize your weight loss goals…and your personal dreams. Remember that the empowerment that you get from finally succeeding at weight loss is far better than any cheesecake ever tasted or ever will! I have not had a bite of ice cream in 10 years, and I don’t want it and I don’t miss it! And I certainly do not feel deprived. I CAN have it whenever I want it. Thankfully, though, I no longer want it. After losing the first 50 pounds, it was incredibly easy to say “no thank you” when confronted with one of my vice foods.

What are some of the biggest obstacles to losing weight?
The biggest obstacle to losing weight is thinking that you can keep doing what you have always done and somehow get different results “this time”. Change—real and lasting change of one’s lifestyle—is the only way to lose weight. So, the obstacle is overcoming the idea that you have to go “on a diet” until you lose the desired amount of weight, and that then you will be able to revert back to the very lifestyle which helped you put the weight on in the first place.

Another big obstacle is the entire concept of moderation—having those foods we “love” in moderation. If an obese person could handle their particular vice foods in moderation, they wouldn’t be overweight! The entire concept of moderation is illogical and misguided. Worse, it dooms a dieter to failure. When a person eats a vice food and can’t stop, they believe lack willpower because an expert/author assured them that they would be able to do so. At that point, they leave yet another failed diet convinced that they are the problem, a failure. But the only problem is they have been listening to bad advice! If you can’t stop at after “one” or “some”, then it is a “diet vice”—and to realize lasting weight loss results, you must bust it!

Finally, what’s the best part about your job as a weight loss motivational speaker and writer?
That’s an easy question! The best part about my job is helping people realize lasting change. If find it incredibly uplifting when I receive an email or have a conversation with someone whose life I have helped to change. People share with me how their health and weight are significantly better, and how they are filled with hope for the future because of something that they read in my books, heard in my tapes, or seen on my program. It is a high like no other.

I really love speaking to live audiences, getting to see the resounding “yes” in their eyes and their expression when I hit on a point that makes sense to them. I am still a bit shocked at the reaction people have to me—it honors me, flatters me and also embarrasses me a bit. After all, I am just a woman who lost a lot of weight; I am not a doctor, or a celebrity, or an “expert”. But I am real and I’m just like them. I think that must be why they relate to me so well—I really know what they are going through and I think they can sense that I really care about their success.

I also LOVE being called a “Master Motivator”. It was the fulfillment of a dream to be in the same category as my mentors: Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, and Mark Victor Hansen. And now, to have many of them—along with Dr. David L. Katz and Dr. Mehmet Oz— endorse my work…I can’t describe how amazing that feeling is!