“I Won My War With Food”

TV icon Al Roker reveals his secrets for keeping off 140 pounds: a whole-life makeover—and no more dieting! 

Ellen Byron
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Al Roker, Won War Food, Diet, Celebrity
Photo credit: NBC

For years Al Roker’s weight yo-yoed as he bounced from diet to diet. He’d lose over 100 pounds, then succumb to his love of junk food and gain back every one. Al’s struggle with binge-eating took a huge emotional toll. “It was a feeling of failure,” shares the 58-year-old Today regular.

Finally, Al had gastric bypass surgery in 2002 and went from 340 pounds to 200. But when his mother became ill about eight years later, Al turned to food to cope and quickly gained back 40 pounds.

That was the last straw. Al sought help from dietitian Melissa Bowman Li, RD, LDN, whose program focuses on unprocessed “clean foods” like whole grains, veggies and lean proteins. Thanks to this diet and rigorous workouts, Al’s weight now hovers around 200. (Ask your doctor before trying any new diet or exercise program.)

Al details his weight-loss triumph in his book, Never Goin’ Back. “If you plan for chaos, you can’t get derailed,” he says.“I like the way I feel, I love the way I look and I don’t want to lose that."

Al’s quick comeback!
“When somebody says, ‘I thought you were funnier when you were fatter,’ I always say to them, ‘Gee, and I thought you were smarter before you opened your mouth!’ ”

“My binge triggers—and how I conquer them!”

Feeling sad or stressed
Heavy Al’s reaction: “Junk food will make it better!”

Whenever Al was thrown on an emotional roller coaster—like when his mother became ill—he’d seek comfort in food. A self-described “closet eater,” Al would eat junk food while driving alone to the hospital to see his mom.

Slim Al’s solution: “A nice walk will make it better!”
“I find when feeling either emotional or stressed, jumping on my bicycle or hitting the gym seems to be an answer for me,” Al says. “Sometimes it’s just as simple as putting on my coat, leaving the office and going for a walk.”

Long work hours
Heavy Al’s reaction: “I wonder what goodies are in the break room?”

A grueling schedule meant Al often needed something to give him a “jolt of wakefulness”—and he often grabbed whatever junk food was nearby. “When you’re sleep-deprived, you tend to eat more and make poorer choices.”

Slim Al’s solution: “Maybe I’m tired—not hungry.”
“Even though I can’t change the amount of sleep I get, I recognize when I’m hungry that it may just be I’m tired,” Al says. In fact, a Mayo Clinic study found that losing sleep can affect hunger hormones. So when you’re craving a treat, ask: Am I hungry—or just tired?

Being on the road
Heavy Al’s reaction: “Plane food doesn’t count!”

“For a long time, I viewed eating on the road as if it didn’t count, as though the calories I was consuming wouldn’t be added to my total,” he says. So during flights, he’d order goodies like ice cream.

Slim Al’s solution: “Flying is when I relax.”
Al now orders salad (no dressing) when on the road, and brings snacks like almonds. He also views flights as “a respite from my frenetic life. I use the time to catch up on my sleep, movies and favorite TV shows.”

March 2011