Diet focuses on kicking unhealthy habits

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Julia Havey weighed nearly 300 pounds. Her husband was having an affair. And a tumor on her neck that she was convinced was cancerous had just been diagnosed as nothing more than a lump of fat.

Julia Havey
Julia Havey, seen here last month in her Brentwood, Tenn., home, hopes to help 1 million people lose weight for free. McClatchy Newspapers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Julia Havey weighed nearly 300 pounds. Her husband was having an affair. And a tumor on her neck that she was convinced was cancerous had just been diagnosed as nothing more than a lump of fat.

"I was beyond humiliated," said Havey, 48, of Brentwood, Tenn.

What Havey didn't know is that she was about to face one more humiliation that would change her life forever. After another argument with her husband, she went to buy a candy bar "to soothe the pain." As she was leaving the convenience store with her "fix," a homeless man started yelling at her: "Girl, you have too much food in you!"

When he noticed he had an audience and people were laughing, he kept saying it, each time more loudly. Havey couldn't get the words out of her head. The candy bar offered no comfort.

"His words really resonated with me," Havey said. "I started thinking about what foods I was eating too much of, and hands down it was ice cream. I decided to cut that one thing out. I started losing weight, and I didn't feel deprived."


That was in 1994. Havey now weighs 150 pounds, and her book, "The Vice-Busting Diet" ($8.47), has been endorsed by TV health-show host Dr. Oz.

For those who have resolved to lose weight this year, Havey is offering her diet program for free online at . People can download the book as well as motivational audiotapes and a "self-discovery workbook," all aimed at helping people understand why they're overweight and the best way for them to slim down. The materials are valued around $300.

By eliminating the cost, she hopes to reach her goal of helping 1 million people lose weight.

"I want to be able to help anybody who really wants to change," Havey said. "I was left by my husband because I was too overweight. He wasn't attracted to me. I know the heartache that comes from being overweight."

Q: How did you lose the weight?

A: After three months of not eating ice cream, I had lost 30 pounds. That's all I did. I just stopped eating ice cream. I cut out my biggest vice and replaced it with something healthy. For me, that was frozen bananas and frozen grapes.

I was a career dieter, and it was the easiest thing I had ever done. So then I thought, "I can do something else."

I thought, "What's my second biggest vice?" and it was fast food. So then I cut that out. Then I gave up soft drinks. Then I started exercising. It was a methodical decision. I just cut out one thing at a time.


Is that basically the premise of your weight-loss program?

Yes. It's limiting one unhealthy vice or habit at a time. What's missing from other approaches is lasting lifestyle change. People are always expecting me to give them a menu of what to eat. That's a diet. Instead of telling people what to do, I tell them what not to do.

What makes your program different from the others?

You don't take on a new change until you've mastered the first change you've made. Anything short of that is a diet. That's why diets don't work. It's way too much too soon. People can't stick with them. It's impossible.

How many diets did you try before you created your own?

Oh my gosh, every single diet you can name. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig. In my senior year of high school, I even went on this crazy diet where I just ate tuna, cantaloupe and Pepsi Light. I lost a lot of weight, but I gained it right back. My entire adult life has been a cycle of going on and off diets.

Why are you giving your diet away for free?

I am on a mission. I want to help reverse the obesity pandemic. Too much food is literally killing people.


How has losing weight changed your life?

I look better than I have looked in my entire life, and I am 48 years old, so I know that you're never too old, and it's never too late. I was a very sedentary person before. I knew every TV show that was on. I go and I work out now. I have the energy and zest of a kid. It's not about being able to wear a thong bathing suit. It's about having the physical fitness to live a quality life.

What are the biggest obstacles to losing weight?

Soft drinks. Fast food. Television and a sedentary lifestyle. Portion sizes. If people never had soft drinks, never ate fast food, exercised an hour a day and controlled their portion sizes, we wouldn't have an obesity problem.

What's the easiest first step people can take?

Replace soda with water. That's the first thing I would tell people to work on. That's a change you want to make for the rest of your life.

What do you tell people who can't imagine giving up ice cream or whatever their vice is?

For a lot of people, abstinence is easier than trying to eat foods in moderation. The diet industry loves to tell us we can have these foods in moderation. If we could do that, I don't think we'd have an obesity pandemic going on in this country.


What types of exercise do you recommend?

The best form of exercise is the one that you'll do. I love golf. I love elliptical machines. You can actually love exercise, but maybe not the kinds of exercises that I love.

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