Interviews / August 16, 2012

Holly Clegg

By Charles Platkin, PhD

Diet Detective: Tell us how you got to where you are now.

Holly: I have had a passion for cooking for as long as I can remember. After graduating from college, I attended the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in London. I then entered the world of food, working as an event planner, then catering, and finally writing cookbooks on a local level. At that time in my life, I considered myself the “queen of whipping cream and butter.” However, in the early 90’s, I began to recognize the correlation between health and diet. I started focusing on cooking healthier foods, while still being able to enjoy the taste. At this time, I started my Trim & Terrific™ cookbook series. I don’t believe in diets and refused to give up any food from appetizers to dessert so I created my Trim & Terrific approach to all recipes. You don’t have to change your way of eating, just prepare the food differently. This self published book anchored my series and was my first entrée into the national book arena. After doing the NBC Weekend Today Show, the Phil Donahue show, and many other television appearances, this book became a staple in bookstores nationwide. Eight books later, this series has spanned over a decade. Ultimately, this also has led to my spokesperson positions with Teflon, Diet Coke, Louisiana Yams, and all the fun foods I represent.

Diet Detective: Define and discuss failure.

Holly: I guess I don’t acknowledge failure as a way of life. I go after all my opportunities with zest and perseverance, and if they don’t happen, the timing simply isn’t right. I might take a different approach or wait until another time in my life to try again. Failure means accepting no as an answer and I don’t believe in no — those who deal with me know I am hard to get rid of! With tenacity, passion, and persistence, I try to open all those doors that are cracked.

Diet Detective: Define individual responsibility and how you react to adverse situations.

Holly: I believe we are responsible for ourselves in whatever situations we are in. I am an honest person and only accept opportunities I believe will help defer adversity in life. I always try to be nice to others and treat them how I would expect to be treated. I guess I treat adversity as a challenge to rectify, and always with a smile!

Diet Detective: When do you have time to think about your mistakes, mishaps, achievements, and minor victories; in other words, do you have any reflective time for yourself of your career?

Holly: With three children, work, and a husband of 27 years (I married very young), I really don’t take time to reflect. It seems I always have some exciting opportunity going on with my career or family which keeps me busy on a full time basis. My mother always said that I look at a glass of water half full and not empty and that is how I approach life.

Diet Detective: What is your favorite saying?

Holly: I think my kid’s would say my favorite sayings are, “Beauty is only skin deep,” and I agree with my father who has told all of us “to be tough” no matter what we do. Life is full of ups and downs but the downs help us to recognize the ups!

Diet Detective: Was there a defining moment in your life when you made a decision that changed the course of the rest of your life forever?

Holly: My son says that I sacrificed my career for my family. My choice to put my family always first as opposed to taking my incredible career opportunities to the next level influenced my life. I always did a juggling act but if my career made my life lopsided, I backed off. I don’t regret my decision, and my biggest successes are my three children, and anyone who knows me, also knows of their accomplishments. Also, my husband has encouraged me to pursue my window of opportunity. However, I remember that he is first and my life revolves around him to some extent.

Diet Detective: What’s the most bodacious chance you’ve ever taken?

Holly: The first time I appeared on the NBC Weekend Today Show. I had never traveled alone, much less even knew what network television was, and I flew to New York by myself with an ice chest of food to do a cooking segment on national TV. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

Diet Detective: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself? What’s the biggest lesson you haven’t learned?

Holly: I have learned that I am more independent and more capable in so many ways than I ever thought. I need to learn to do other things besides work more. Since I do everything myself, I really work all the time and have given up doing frivolous things in town. Now, when I travel, I tend to feel some of the pressure go away as my office is in my house and there is always something I can be doing.

Diet Detective: What keeps you going?

Holly: My passion for what I do, from writing cookbooks to appearing on television. I get up every morning excited about my day with new challenges and opportunities. I feel I am so fortunate since my job is my passion. Also, I have to talk to all three kids daily and see what they have been doing.

Diet Detective: How do you stick to your diet on days when you really don’t want to? What are techniques you use to stay on track?

Holly: I don’t ever diet as I believe eating healthy is a way of life. I only cook trim and terrific at home, but when I eat out I have to taste everything from bread to dessert. I believe in a balance of exercise and eating — too many people ruin their metabolism by over exercising and under eating. Do what you decide to do forever as a lifestyle. The 80/20 rule is a good one — 80 percent of the time make healthy choices and 20 percent of the time do what you want. Also, my life is so full and exciting that I know I burn energy just sitting at my desk.

Diet Detective: If you could eat one forbidden food whenever you wanted without gaining weight, what would it be?

Holly: Big juicy hamburgers and cake.

Diet Detective: What dessert do you dream about?

Holly: German Chocolate Cake

Diet Detective: If there were one healthy food item (something you love) that you had to eat every day, what would it be?

Holly: Louisiana sweet potatoes prepared in a different way every time from roasted, soups, breads, pies, or desserts — after all, I am a national spokesperson for Louisiana Yams and they are the first spokesperson job I ever had and am still doing.

Diet Detective: What do you think is the most important thing that makes or breaks a diet for someone?

Holly: Not depriving yourself of certain foods — moderation and variety are so important as all foods have some value. After all, chocolate is an antioxidant.

Diet Detective: How did you come to your conclusions about weight loss and dieting?

Holly: If there was one magic book or method, everyone would be using it but there are constantly new marketable ideas. I love to eat and never wanted to give up everything. However, I do feel it is important to eat healthy to stay healthy. So, if you make all your food trim and terrific, from dips to German Chocolate Cake, it is about a lifestyle. Variety and moderation are all it takes.

Diet Detective: Do you think that failed attempts have influenced your approach to dieting? How have past struggles helped you find a system that works for you?

Holly: Seeing all the people yo-yo back and forth and struggle with weight has influenced my approach. Remember, I love to eat — in fact that is why I cook. I think balance is the key with food and exercise so it fits into your lifestyle and not a temporary time. My biggest problem is portion control because if I like something I want to eat it all and not quit when I am full.

Diet Detective: Have you dealt with weight issues personally?

Holly: I am big-boned and have thick hair and wear a size nine shoe so I have never appeared thin. I think weight is always an issue with most people and I am conscious of my size — after all I write Trim & Terrific cookbooks. I usually stay around the same weight within five pounds which is my guideline.

Diet Detective: What’s the best book about health that you’ve read?

Holly: I really don’t have a favorite health book.

Diet Detective: What are your two favorite health magazines?

Holly: I like Women’s Health and Cooking Light.

Diet Detective: What do you consider the world’s most perfect food?

Holly: Spinach is one of those powerhouse foods that have so many benefits. Best of all, I can prepare spinach in many creative ways from salads to casseroles.

Diet Detective: What physical activity do you do to keep yourself in shape?

Holly: If I am in town, I love my conditioning class that consists of weights and sit ups. I will go to the gym at hotels to do that.

Diet Detective: Do you have a favorite healthy recipe or cooking tip? If so would you share it?

Holly: I have two tips. Always cook with non-stick cookware so you don’t have to use as much fat to cook. You will end up with a healthier product. In working on a diabetic cookbook, I have recently discovered most recipes don’t need as much sugar as they call for, and using a combination of whole wheat flour with all purpose flour in breads and muffins is easy and tasty.

Diet Detective: Do you have a Calorie Bargain?

Holly: I use all reduced fat products from cheese to sour cream to ice cream, and it is a way to save calories without changing the taste in your recipe.

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