Happy Sunday. You guys are in for such a treat today.
Today on the blog we have The Nutrition Babe herself, Ilana Muhlstein. I first heard about Ilana from my freind Sasha. I find her story to be incredible & it’s what makes her a master of her craft. A real practicioner, if you will. Of course I had to have her on the blog to share some of her tips with you guys.
If you haven’t heard of Ilana let me introduce you.
Ilana Muhlstein, M.S., R.D.N. is one of the most sought-after weight-loss experts in the world. She has a thriving private practice in Beverly Hills, is an acclaimed public speaker and influencer, published best selling author, and sits on the prestigious Executive Leadership Team for the American Heart Association. Ilana has been lecturing for the Bruin Health Improvement Program at UCLA since 2013 and is a contributing writer for distinguished publications including The Journal of Obesity, and has been featured in the LA Times, The Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, SHAPE, Health and Women’s Health. Ilana lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband Noah and three children, Olivia, Julian and Gideon.
In this post she is sharing her journey ( just like, in so much detail too, which we love ), how she became one of the top RDNs in the world AND 8 tips for keeping things healthy when eating at a restaurant. The best part? You probably haven’t heard these tips before. I sure hadn’t.
Without further adieu, let’s welcome Ilana to the blog.
8 Tips For Staying Healthy at a Restaurant With The Nutrition Babe
If you and I met, you might think I was naturally lean, born with a fast metabolism, able to eat whatever I want without gaining a pound. Not gonna lie, that would be amazing. But the truth is, growing up, I was always the big kid. I was never “normal.” I was never small. The pediatrician’s office constantly told my parents, “She’s obese. She’s over the hundredth percentile—she’s not even on the chart!”
I was about four years old when my parents got divorced, and every picture of me since then I was either trying to hide my body behind someone else or holding food. I guess I was using food as a form of comfort and a form of consistency when a lot of things in my life were inconsistent.
Going to an amusement park, I’d immediately wonder: “What snacks are we packing? Ice cream cones!” “We’re going to the circus? Cotton candy!” “We’re going to a birthday party? Pizza! And cake!” As a kid, this is what I was thinking about. I turned to food for stability during those unstable times. Lots of take-out Chinese food, lots of sweets, lots of peanut butter—lots of everything.
I also didn’t have the best role models.
My family always struggled with weight and what to eat. I saw the other girls in ballet chuckle about me behind my back, so I tore off my leotard and swore to never go back. I wasn’t able to wedge into my friends’ clothes at sleepovers. The pain of not fitting in hurt almost as much as “chub rub,” the horrible chafing of my inner thighs. But the phrase that affected me more than any insult was: “You have such a pretty face.” That I got told all the time, in a sad way. My grandparents, teachers, friends’ moms: “You have such a pretty face.” The implication being: “I’m a waste of space,” or “Shame about the rest of you.”
And it was a shame, for my health.
According to my doctor, even as a teenage girl, I was experiencing blood sugar issues that “you would typically see in older men,” she told me. I faced elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, and the potential for worse—and was at risk for diabetes or an early death.
When I was just eight years old, my pediatrician looked my mom in the face and said, “You have to send her to a weight loss camp. She’s going this summer. So, at eight years old, I was shipped off to “Fat Camp.” Can you imagine how that felt?
But the truth is, once I got over the sense of rejection from my family, I actually loved it. I made lots of friends. I was surrounded by people who didn’t judge me. And I lost 30 pounds after following their strict eating regimen, working out, and getting weighed and measured weekly. The good news was, at a very young age, I had a positive association with weight loss because I got so many compliments when I returned home. I looked at this summer camp as something that was improving my life.
Then I came back to school…and gained it all back.
This yo-yoing went on for years. Every summer, I’d lose 30 pounds. Every school year, I’d gain it all back—and more. I fell into a bad cycle. I became dependent on the two-month crash course to weight loss because I saw how easy it was for my body to gain weight (sometimes 45 pounds in less than 45 weeks!). But it’s also likely that the deprivation was causing me to eat like crazy when I was “allowed.” I hadn’t created and perfected my philosophy yet, and no diets I tried ever worked. All I know is that I felt uncomfortable and large in public, I felt bad for enjoying food, I felt deprived of fashion and flirting and fitness and fun.
One year, I peaked. I had 215 pounds on my five-foot-two-inch frame, and was a size 20—and I was just 13 years old. A 13-year-old who was buying women’s plus size clothes. I hated my body. It’s sad to admit but I really did. I constantly fantasized about waking up to a new one and getting a fresh start, but it never came. It was all so unfair. I was filled with jealousy for skinny people. I had a horrible dependency on comfort food, diets and deprivation, all at the same time—and a really negative mindset.
Thankfully, something was different that summer going into high school, something that gave me extra motivation.
I’d had enough. Suddenly, I really wanted not just to lose the weight but to keep it off. I had to break out of it. I always wanted to be trim, fit, healthy, strong and not to have my weight drag me down. So, that’s when I just changed my mindset and I said, “Enough is enough.”
I got over the idealism that one day I would win the new body lottery and finally came to terms with the fact that it would only be possible if I put in the work. I asked myself, What did I do every summer that made it easy for me to lose weight? And what did I do differently during the school year that made it easy for me to gain the weight back?”
At weight loss camp, even on a restricted diet, there were certain foods that I could eat as much as I wanted, and I’d still lose weight. I also knew that I liked to eat a lot of food. And I was what you’d call a “volume eater”; I needed to feel full and satisfied. So I decided to try that on my own.
I focused on the foods I could eat lots of, that made me feel satisfied, but that didn’t cause me to gain weight.
And by the end of my freshman year of high school, I was shocked. For the first time—all on my own—I’d not only managed to maintain my summer weight loss, I’d actually dropped even more pounds during the school year! On my own! For the first time ever in my life! I was so excited. I had discovered the formula that worked for me. It wasn’t a new diet—it was a new mindset. It involved small and simple tweaks to my food environment, nutrition selection and emotional reactions, and it made all the difference.
Once I embraced it, I kept on losing weight, all through high school and when I went to college. Eventually, I got down to my first big goal of 145 pounds. Dietitians and doctors always showed me where I fell on the BMI charts, and at my current height of five feet, four inches, 145 pounds finally meant no longer obese or overweight, but just “normal and healthy.”
Finally, for the first time ever, I felt strong and confident.
I was so happy at 145 pounds. I was “normal.” My whole life my weight was my identity and a burden to myself and everyone around me. And, finally, I was able to just be me. I was a size 8—the lowest size I’d been since I was eight years old. I was a single digit! And the best part was that I was able to maintain that weight, without denying myself or telling myself “no” all the time. You know what might be the most amazing part? It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I always felt full and satisfied.
Once I finally started to lose weight, I was determined to be the most credible expert in nutrition so I could help others who were struggling as well.
I’m proud to say I did go on to get my bachelor of science degree in nutrition and dietetics, my registered dietitian license, and my master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics because I wanted to make sure that I was advising people on the best and healthiest way to live, backed by scientific research. I started seeing private clients in Beverly Hills and leading a weight loss seminar at UCLA helping thousands upon thousands of people with successful weight loss. I can tell you which foods to eat so you’ll never feel hungry again. And how to cook them, too—and in fact, within my social media and book, YOU CAN DROP IT!, I will!
But it’s funny because I actually speak less about nutrition than a lot of other health and wellness “gurus,” because once I started going into practice, and started to counsel so many people, I realized, whoa, knowing what to eat is an important foundation but understanding why you eat is equally essential. So the other pillars of weight loss, that I explain in detail within my book and program, besides nutritional (as in, what we eat), are emotional (why and how we eat) and environmental (where, why and with whom we eat). Once you understand how to master each pillar, you’ll be set for such a healthier relationship with food for life.
But for now I want to share something that we all encounter. Restaurants.
How do we make good choices & keep things healthy? Well, let me help you.
Here are 8 tips when ordering at a restaurant:
♡ Be lean with cuisine, and avoid tapas.
Be a strong voice on the selection committee when choosing the restaurant. My favorite cuisines for getting lean are Greek, Japanese, and seafood. You can always guarantee yummy veggies and satisfying proteins. And sorry, I know it’s trendy to serve small plates, but I can’t stand tapas-style restaurants. You can’t tell how much food you’re eating and 99% of people, like me, who love food, get lost in this jungle.
♡ Order first and don’t look back.
The person who orders first sets the tone. If everyone before you chooses fries as their option for a side, it’s not as easy to order the salad or baked potato. If you want something else that sounds yummy, you can always ask your friend for a bite.
♡ Choose your booze.
If you want to drink alcohol and still lose weight, you can do that. But I recommend treating the alcohol as the carb of the meal. If you had to place alcohol in a food group, that’s where it would be. You can learn more about my food group breakdowns within my book, You Can Drop It!. Therefore, enjoy your alcohol and stick to veggies and proteins for your meal, i.e. roasted chicken, double order broccolini, with a minestrone soup or cesar salad.
♡ Strategize your sips.
If you’re trying to lose weight, it really helps to stick with 1-2 tequila or vodka sodas, rather than get into all the sugary syrups. This also comes in handy for preventing hangovers. Feel free to add plenty of what I call “Freebie accessories,” to your drinks as well, like lemon, lime, jalapeno, and stevia.
♡ Don’t be fooled by agave. It’s all still sugar.
If you are going to get a fun cocktail, just know that like simple syrup, agave is still sugar. And even the “healthy” sounding cocktails like a “Detox Retox”, sometimes don’t use real muddled cucumber. They often use cucumber syrup, so you can ask the bartender and suggest they use less. I usually say “I hate sweet drinks,” so they get the picture.
♡ Ask to hold the grease.
If you order a dish that is cooked one order at a time, like a steak, you can ask for it to be made with less salt and oil, if you wish. I don’t typically ask for less salt, but I do like to make a special request for less oil when I order something like a stir fry from a Thai restaurant.
♡ If you can see it, eat it.
Examples of foods you can easily see (and identify) are roasted potato wedges, grilled salmon, and sauteed spinach. But when it comes to mystery foods like deep fried chimichongas, dragon rolls, blended soups, and lasagnas, you’re better off without them. Stick to foods you can see well and keep track of them with my 2B Mindset tracker.
♡ Stick to 2-3 courses not 4-5.
If you’ve already gone for the bread basket, appetizer, and entree, stick with tea for dessert. If you know the desserts are especially worth it, like Cipriani’s Meringue, then sip on your water throughout the appetizer course. Even when you make healthy choices, having 3+ courses is way more food than you’d typically eat at home, and that shift can throw off your digestion, sleep, and routine. The goal is to leave feeling satisfied, not stuffed.
Please let me know if this was helpful within the comments. My goal is to simplify nutrition and help you overcome any food-related struggle. To learn how to lose weight and eat better, I highly recommend my program, the 2B Mindset. It is a video-based program that has helped over 300,000 people and will totally change your life. It includes delicious recipes, vegan and regular meal plans, and every tip you need to lose weight and keep it off for life.
Also, highly recommend my book or audio book, You Can Drop It! as well. Plus, I am a social media nutcase, and you can find me on instagram @ilanamuhlsteinRD or tiktok @NutritionBabe. Plus my website, to sign up for my newsletter and learn more. Looking forward to staying in touch, xoxo Ilana
Hope you guys loved these tips. As I said, I haven’t heard these ones before so just love that we have some fresh hacks for keeping things light & tight when eating out.
+ stalk these recipes for a full-on vegan bbq.
++ for another incredible success story, check out this post from Khalil.