What I Learned from Eating Like Oprah for a Week
Does eating like Oprah really make you feel like you're living your best life?
Oprah has never shied away from the topic of weight, and more specifically the struggles around losing weight. It all famously started back in 1988 when she walked onto her talk show stage after her 60-pound weight loss, toting a wagon full of the fat she juice-fasted off for four months. (Of course, she later regretted the all-liquid diet!) After years of trial and error, these days she's taking a much healthier, balanced approach to dieting.
Last year, she became a spokesperson for-and investor in-Weight Watchers, and this fall, her O That's Good! food line of soups, pastas, and mashed potatoes will hit supermarkets. She also recently published Food, Health, and Happiness, a cookbook/memoir that delves into her new food philosophy.
Being the curious food editor that I am, I decided to follow in O's footsteps, mixing recipes from her book with products in her food line-all in pursuit of living my best life for a week. Here's what I discovered:
Oprah starts her day the way we all wish we could.
Surprise! O's morning routine doesn't involve slamming a smoothie while running into work 10 minutes behind schedule, only to discover she made it into the office with two different earrings on. (What? Just me?)
She revealed in FHH that she spends her first five to 20 minutes awake in silence, then prays, meditates, walks her pups, and exercises for 45 minutes. Then she digs into some of her breakfast cookies or my personal favorite, "The Usual," a piece of toast piled high with avocado, tomato, turkey, and egg.
Since I struggle to get enough shut-eye as it is, I tried a truncated version of her meditation routine by spending my first 60 seconds awake simply lying in silence-and not checking my phone immediately for once. It was a surprisingly rejuvenating habit that I've kept up since.
Note to self: Set alarm two hours earlier and get a dog. Or five. That appears to be working for Oprah.
Soup has a soft spot in her heart.
Chapter one of O's book is dedicated to all things soup. When Oprah was a kid, her mom's salary as a maid meant they couldn't afford the Campbell's soup her favorite TV show's characters scooped up during family dinners. (The show was Lassie, for those who are interested. You know you are.) Now that Oprah has some extra change for groceries, she opts to make Basic Tomato Soup from scratch, and on special occasions, she garnishes it with garlic croutons or sautéed mushrooms and goat cheese.
In fact, Oprah is so into soup, she included four multi-veggie varieties in her new food line!
There's baked potato and cauliflower (creamy and made for cold winter days); broccoli-cheddar and butternut squash (surprisingly cheesy); tomato-basil, celery, and carrot (thick and bisque-like rather than brothy); and butternut squash, sweet potato, and carrot (I found this one to be my favorite of the bunch-sweet yet satisfying, although a bit high in calories for dieters at 190 per cup).
Personally, I associate premade soup with the "diet" sodium-bomb versions I forced down while trying to drop a few pounds before my high school prom. But with all the added veggies and fairly decent nutrition stats among Oprah's line, I wouldn't feel bad about grabbing one if I didn't have time to stir together a batch of soup from scratch.
Oprah prefers her food sexy, aka spicy.
Oprah dug through her recipe collection and teamed up with a handful of chefs for the meals featured in her new tome. One of the six spotlighted chefs, Eduardo Chavez, taught her how to add more "sexy" to her recipes with some additional spice. Oprah notes her preference for all things h-o-t several times throughout the pages, including next to the recipe she actually calls "Sexy Breakfast," which involves scrambled eggs topped with a homemade roasted salsa made with jalapeños and serranos. All those peppers certainly woke me up in the morning, but half a serrano and half a jalapeño before 9 a.m. sounds like a recipe for heartburn to me.
What sounded sexiest after that was a big glass of milk. But my metabolism was happy, I guess?
Oprah must have a refrigerator that's almost as big as her bank account.
My Oprah eats week coincided with our in-state football rivalry. Rather than indulging in copious amounts of greasy chips and sour cream dip or cupcakes, I decided to whip up her Heirloom Tomato and Corn Salad to share. A drizzle of homemade summery tarragon vinaigrette and crumbles of goat cheese really made this veggie-forward recipe taste like a treat, but the $30 price tag for all of the ingredients made it slightly tough to swallow. I'm all for fresh ingredients and layers of flavor, but when the tab for a side dish costs more than a complete dinner at a restaurant, I have a tough time talking myself into cooking.
Oprah's new moderate mindset comes with a healthy dose of universal lessons.
Oprah's latest version of healthy doesn't come cheap, although it does come with some wise words that extend beyond the dining room table. Even after the official experiment wrapped up, I did keep some of Oprah's lessons top of mind:
1. "If what you eat is mediocre, it will always leave you wanting."
Translation: Skip the diet food. Also, replace "eat" with pretty much any verb and this is a true statement about nearly everything.
Oprah's advice in action: When faced with dozens of choices at the artisan cheese shop, I opted for a decadent triple cream brie for a cocktail party I was hosting rather than the reduced-fat goat cheese that used to be my go-to. Rather than nibbling on reduced-fat cheese all night, I felt satisfied with splurging on three bites.
2. "Now that I've finally internalized the rules of clean eating, I let myself break the rules. I don't do it often, and I never do it mindlessly; the goal is to make my indulgence intentional. I aim for deliberate. I plan for decadence."
Translation: Is it your birthday? Eat that slice of cake without one crumb of guilt.
Oprah's advice in action: At a one-time-only five-course tasting menu that I sat down to with pals after a strong hour-long rowing circuit, I nearly licked the plate the apple tart once sat on. Now that's balance I can live with.
3. "Food is supposed to be about joy, not suffering."
Translation: Fuel your body with food that makes you feel good, inside and out.
Oprah's advice in action: The protein-topped salad lunch I snagged from the deli today makes me feel like I can take on the world. That mountain of fries I tried to climb last week (and depriving diet food, on the other end of the spectrum)? Not so much.
That final point is the one that makes me think that Oprah may have finally found her happy weight and her happy (sexy, soup-filled) place. Turns out, it isn't impossible to do the same.