Liz Josefsberg is uniquely qualified to dish out dieting advice. The 46-year-old South Orange, NJ, resident spent more than a decade working at Weight Watchers, where she coached celebrities such as Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Hudson, Katie Couric and Charles Barkley. And she herself battled for years with her own weight, eventually dropping 65 pounds by cleaning up her diet, exercising and focusing on healthy habits such as drinking enough water and having a daily stress-relief practice.
“You can’t just count calories and expect this weight-loss thing to last,” says Josefsberg, who details her holistic diet philosophy in her new guide, “Target 100” (BenBella Books).
The book begins by detailing Josefsberg’s own struggles. She visited her first diet center at age 14 and had an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise throughout her teen years. In her 20s, as an actress on Broadway, she was constantly on a quest to be skinny. She crash-dieted and exercised intensely to help her land roles, but if she didn’t get a call back, she’d go on emotional eating binges and gain back any weight she’d lost before an audition.
In her early 30s, her weight ballooned as she struggled to balance raising two young boys with living a healthy lifestyle. At 5-foot-4, she tipped the scales at 210 pounds.
“I couldn’t exercise in the way I had in the past, which had been one of my go-to weight-loss tricks,” says Josefsberg, whose sons are now 9 and 12. “I couldn’t even run for one minute and I had run marathons before. I was actually crying, saying … ‘How will I ever get back?’”
She turned to Weight Watchers for help. The diet behemoth’s community motivated her to lose weight by holding her accountable during meetings. She liked the support so much that she got a job as a receptionist with the company in 2012. Meanwhile, she continued to gradually lose weight by changing small habits, but without depriving herself of favorite indulgences such as wine.
“I wanted to spend a year eating and drinking and enjoying my life, and losing weight more slowly,” she says. “A lot of people make a huge mistake, where they ‘diet’ and jump into this lifestyle that they’re never going to be able to sustain.”
After a year on the program, she’d dropped to 140 pounds and was a trim 4/6 dress size, the same as she is today. But as successful as she was on Weight Watchers, she also felt there were some shortcomings.
“There were a lot of foods [on the diet] that were low in points but … they were unhealthy — low-calorie, low-fat [but highly processed],” she says, noting that the company now places more emphasis on whole foods.
She also couldn’t ignore the research linking weight loss to things beyond diet exercise, such as sleep and stress and, at the time, Weight Watchers did not take such a holistic approach to dropping pounds.
So in 2013, she went her own way. She became a certified nutrition exercise specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine in Arizona and started taking on private clients.
Josefsberg took all she’s learned over the years to create the “Target 100” plan. It’s based on six pillars: Eat fewer than 100 carbohydrates a day, drink 100 ounces of water a day, relieve stress for 100 minutes a week, get 100 minutes of movement a week, sleep an extra 100 minutes a week and exercise at least 100 minutes a week.
“What’s wrong with the weight-loss industry is that it’s all about nutrition and exercise, but these other things like sleep and stress reduction and hydration are so critically important,” she says.
Josefsberg’s plan follows a trend away from fast crash diets and daily pilgrimages to the scale. She prefers a special type of scale that takes into account things like body fat, bone density and muscle mass and says generally old-fashioned scales shouldn’t be given much credence.
And, she encourages her clients and readers to take it slow, like she did. Each week, the plan introduces just one new goal, with tips on how to implement it. Altogether, she says, hitting each target will make the others more doable in the long run.
“The end goal,” she says, “would be for you to open your eyes to the fact that there are other things that are affecting your food choices.”
The 100 club
Even Liz Josefsberg’s famous clients need innovative tricks to help them drop the pounds and keep them off.