Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Best Diet Book Ever

Nancy 3rd from left, Lucy/Roberta 2nd from right

LUCY BURDETTE:  I'm very excited to host today's guests, Nancy Parent and Dr. Joseph Parent, as they are such good old friends. Nan was my absolute best friend in high school. We spent as much time together as possible, including musical theater (she had talent, me not so much) and the yearbook (see picture above.) We also wrote a book of maudlin love poetry together, with a red construction paper cover covered with cut out hearts. (We are both grateful that this artifact has disappeared.) After 20 years as an editor at Disney, she now works a freelance editor.
Joseph in high school

Joseph was Nancy's older brother, adorable and enigmatic. (He was hoping I'd describe him as athletic instead of adorable, but as a teenager, that's not what I noticed. LOL) 

He went on to become a psychologist and become a master instructor in Buddhist meditation and study.
He is best know as one of the top golf psychology experts in the world, and author of the bestselling Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game.


But today they are here to talk about applying their talents to a different field in their new book: The Best Diet Book Ever: The Zen of Losing Weight. Welcome Nan and Joseph!

First about the dynamics of co-writing. How did you guys divide the work? And how did that go?

Nancy: We both contributed our personal experiences and insights to the work. I had a lot of anecdotal material that related back to my trials and tribulations with dieting over the years.

Joseph: I wrote about the peak performance principles and methods of awareness, self-acceptance, and habit-change that I present in most of my other books. I also introduced the techniques that worked for my own personal weight-loss program, checking with Nancy to be sure they’d click with the people she knew who were involved in groups doing dieting work.

How did it go? She’s a dream to work with – great instincts for how to put things, what to add, and what to leave out. And great insights about what dieters go through, to which I could apply the Zen principles. 

Lucy: Joseph, could you give us a little blurb about the book and explain how Zen Buddhism is related to dieting in a nutshell?

Joseph: It’s a fresh new perspective on the weight-loss journey: the freedom to make positive, rewarding choices instead of the pain and sacrifice of strict diets. Making such choices and setting small, attainable goals makes you feel more empowered to succeed than the usual negative, self-punishing approach to losing weight.

No recipes or menus—just simple, effective methods that help you shed the pounds and keep them off, without restrictions or struggle. Dieters learn how to enjoy food more, and win 'the battle of the bulge' at the same time!

What does Zen have to do with dieting? Zen means “action with awareness,” being completely in the present moment. Zen methods broaden the mind, engendering confidence, focus, and awareness, as well as energy, stamina, and peaceful equanimity. The more you cultivate the Zen qualities of presence and awareness, the easier it will be to achieve your dieting goals. 

Lucy: interesting that you say you have to feel what it would be like to lose weight rather than just hearing about it and thinking about it. Can you give us an example of an exercise you recommend for this?

Joseph: There are exercises that give you true glimpses of the future, experiences of what it will feel like to weigh less and be slimmer. That’s the best way to reinforce your intention to lose weight, and inspire you to overcome inertia and take action.

Here’s an example:

The Weigh-Less Exercise

This is a vivid way to immediately experience how good you'll feel when you are literally lighter on your feet:

Put ten to fifteen pounds of groceries in a shopping bag. [Note: How heavy a bagful you choose depends on your weight. Please be careful not to use more than 10% of what you weigh, and no more than 20 pounds.]

Sit on the front edge of a stable (not rolling) chair and hold the bag against your stomach. Then stand up and feel how hard you have to work. Repeat three times.

Next, put the bag aside and stand up without the extra weight.

Feel how much easier it is, how good it feels with less weight on your legs and knees. Now you know—maybe your legs aren’t so weak and your knees aren’t so bad. Maybe they’re just overworked!

Next, carefully pick up the bag and walk around for a minute or two. (You can climb a few stairs as long as you don’t strain yourself.) That’s what it will feel like if you put on those extra pounds.

So if you’re not sure you’re ready to start losing weight, this might at least inspire you to make the changes that will prevent you from gaining weight.

It’s an important motivator that will inspire you to:

· Start the weight-loss journey without delay,

· Keep going through periods of no-change or discouragement, and

· Maintain your weight once you’ve reached your target.

Lucy: In the book you say "there needs to be time to be aware of what's going on, and space to respond rather than react. Without awareness of a decision point there is no option, you eat. With awareness you have options of eating or saying, "No, thank you."" Tell us about the NINJA system.

Joseph: The NINJA System® stands for Necessary Intention & Non-Judgmental Awareness. To overcome an undesirable habit, it is necessary to establish a strong intention to make a change. You then apply non-judgmental awareness to the targeted habitual behavior.

If your choice is to weigh less, you’ll feel out of sync when your actions don’t match your intention.

Like a flower blossoming naturally, by just noticing, without adding judgments of good or bad, you’ll catch yourself sooner and sooner.

At first you only notice what you did after it happened. Then you realize it while it’s happening. After that you catch it just as it starts. Eventually you become aware of the impulse that drives the habit, and at some point even the impulse no longer appears. The habit is gone. 

Lucy: did writing this book together change the way you two eat?

Nancy: Yes. Definitely for me. I used the NINJA System® to help me deal with a longtime night eating habit. I used the concept of "shrinking the window" (intermittent nighttime fasting) to speed up my weight loss. One of my favorite quotes from a Zen story in the book is "when you're eating, just eat." Don't read or watch TV when you're eating. Focus just on eating. You'll slow down and be much more aware of what you are eating. You will certainly enjoy it more. And it's such a simple concept. Definitely easy to remember!

Joseph: I’ve also taken to heart the “Shrink the Window” technique of intermittent fasting as well. Although I was already practicing mindful eating, I started setting down utensils between bites, and that slowed down momentum eating and helped me enjoy my food more. I’m more aware of how I feel as a meal goes on, so I’m more likely to stop sooner. I really dislike feeling too full. As the teddy bear said when asked if he’d like dessert, “No thanks. I'm stuffed.”

Lucy: Nan has started on a new career adventure this year, her own editing business. We'd love to hear more about that process! ​What kinds of projects are you working on, and how does it compare to working for a big corporation?

Nancy: First thing I did in my new freelance career was a line of books featuring new IKEA characters to be sold in their stores. We created a number of different formats under their LATTJO brand which focuses on all kinds of "play." My favorite was a punch-out theater set complete with scripts, backdrops, props, etc. I'm currently working on several projects for Disney Publishing Worldwide. My heart will always have a soft spot for the Disney characters, so it makes me very happy to write and edit for them.

The hard thing about freelancing is looking and asking for work. The advantages are being able to set your own schedules, do errands during the week instead of every weekend, and having the freedom to take on projects like THE BEST DIET BOOK EVER. Loved being able to do lunch and work with Joseph throughout this process. 

(And projects I'm looking for are anything children's book related writing or editing--especially preschool projects. I can help ready picture books manuscripts for publication. Contact: nancyparent at live dot com)

Lucy: Reds, they'll be stopping in all day today. Questions about dieting or editing or ???

Nancy Parent is a 20-year veteran of Disney Publishing Worldwide, editing and writing hundreds of books for the MouseWorks and Disney Press vertical imprints as well as Disney global publishers. In addition, Nancy has written and edited for DreamWorks, Simon and Schuster, Scholastic, Reader’s Digest Children’s Books, Nickelodeon, Warner Brothers, Fox, Suzy’s Zoo, and Lyrick Entertainment. Her picture book, Holly Bloom’s Garden, was co-written with Sarah Ashman and published by Flashlight Press. Her humor book, Meditations for Toddlers Who Do Too Much, was also co-written with Sarah Ashman and published by Andrews & McMeel. Nancy resides in Burbank, CA. She has practiced the "art" of dieting since she was 10, trying every program in existence and concocting a few of her own. She is now using The Best Diet Book Ever to maintain her most recent weight loss of 25 pounds. 


  1. Your book sounds quite interesting, a bit of a different take on dieting books. It sounds as if you enjoyed working with each other; what wpuld you say was the best part of writing together as a team?

  2. Losing weight has always seemed to me one of the hardest things in the world... it seems like this approach makes so much sense. My question is obliquely about dieting. And it's why do I get so sleepy after lunch (if I can I nap) and are there foods that will make you more/less sleepy?

  3. Mindfulness is truly the key to so much more happiness in life. I once worked at an office that had a sign in the word processing room. It read "Showing up is 80% of life." That always sounded so strange when it seemed to imply you were actually missing out on experiencing the 80%. I've not used mindfulness for weight loss, but it makes sense.

  4. I love this approach - to anything. Thinking about what you are doing (or not doing) and making a decision rather than punishment or letting yourself be buffeted along by other people's choices.

  5. Welcome Nan and Joseph! For the red commenters--they both live in California, but they will be here soon...

  6. This was a fascinating article from start to finish - including that photo at the beginning. Since I'm one who has recently had to start learning how to lose and maintain my proper weight I find this approach to make SO much sense. Thank you!

  7. Oh Kaye, isn't that photo the best? We were wanting to show how thrilled we were to be leaving high school and starting all our next adventures!

  8. Hi Joan:

    Thanks for your comment. The best part of working together as a team was getting to spend time with my brother. It's always a treat to be together and this made sure we were together a lot. We had a great time working on the audio book as well! Great fun to be in a recording studio together!

  9. Hallie--one of the best things you can do to avoid the "sleepiness" after eating is to eat protein during your meal! It will also keep you full for longer periods of time.

  10. Hi Hallie, that's a good question. You're not alone - there's a reason the after-lunch "siesta" is a part of the culture in many countries. And, as happens after Thanksgiving dinner, foods containing tryptophan can make you sleepy. However, everyone is unique - for your individual situation it's best to consult your health professional and find out what is going on, and what might be the best remedy for you.

  11. Hi Joan -- ditto to my sister on spending the time together, and our complementary styles balance each other. The most fun for me was the audiobook. Brought back high school drama production days.

  12. Hi Kait -- Being able to bring mindfulness to many people through this book is a real joy for me. The chapter "Mindful Awareness in Action" talks about how to apply it to many activities. We can discover that moving mindfully is also moving elegantly. My teacher described this as "art in everyday life."

  13. Hi Mary -- You really tuned in to the key perspective of the book. In the chapter "It'll Be Different This Time" we introduce The Positive Choice Model, just as you described it. It's about empowerment, not imprisonment.

  14. We'd love to hear about your experiences (both positive and negative) with dieting. Thanks for the great comments. One of my favorite things about the book is that I feel, thanks to my brother's voice and relatable insights, that I have a "coach" to help me change my relationship to food and eating--which can sometimes feel like a daunting experience.

  15. Lucy, I love the photo!

    Hallie, I get sleepy after lunch, too, no what I eat or how small an amount, but not after breakfast or dinner. I always figured it was my body's "take a break" signal. Would love to know what Nancy and Joseph think.

    The book sounds fascinating!

  16. Hi Deborah:

    Check out the link below to read an interesting article about "Drowsiness after lunch" from the NY Time. It says:

    "First, the 24-hour cycle of the body, or its circadian rhythm, is naturally in a resting phase at this time. In the afternoon, it happens to converge with another physiological cycle - known as homeostatic - that measures the amount of time spent awake and that is also pushing for a rest. Add the effects of food, which can also induce drowsiness, and an overpowering desire to sleep may result.

    Lots of people try coffee but another way to push through the dip is to exercise or to simply get up and move around the room.

    Good article on this common phenomenon:

  17. I'm so interested in this Zen approach to losing weight, something I desperately need to do. I like that it addresses a positive approach instead of a negative, guilt-ridden one. I have already added it to my wish list for my next round of book purchases. Thank you, Nancy and Joseph, for being here today and giving me a hopeful outlook for weight loss and management.

  18. As a former dietitian who counseled patients with more traditional techniques (moderation and often deprivation), this positive, mindful approach is a much better way. Kudos to Nancy and Joseph for enlightening us with your new book!

  19. Kathy -- Thanks for your comment. You have echoed other comments, all of which are very heartening to us. We hope our book will help you in bringing a positive attitude to your weight loss efforts and all of your life.

  20. Kelly-- thanks for confirmation from a traditional practitioner. We hope to spread the word throughout the health profession of the importance of self acceptance and a positive approach.