“I’ve struggled with weight my whole life,” Liz Josefsberg said while opening her laptop to show me photos of herself 65 pounds heavier. It was my first appointment with the celebrity health and wellness expert and author of Target 100 and its sequel, Target 100: Crush the Plateau (out January 2020), and I was apprehensive. She’d worked at Weight Watchers for 11 years and helped stars like Jennifer Hudson, Jessica Simpson, Katie Couric, and Charles Barkley achieve weight loss goals. I assumed a slick, no-nonsense drill sergeant would walk into my house and callously clean sweep my calorie-filled cupboards while I looked on in shame.
Instead, in walked a gentle pixie with a pretty reddish bob and a refreshing honesty about her own weight loss journey. “I was a yo-yo dieter,” she said. “My inability to keep weight off once I lost it baffled me."
Liz took up a career in weight loss after working as a top-notch Broadway actress. She left Broadway due to the constant pressure to maintain artificial thinness. Eager to find a healthy way she and others could lose weight, she began studying at The National Academy of Sports Medicine, where she earned personal training and nutrition exercise specialist certificates.
I wanted to see what she could teach me—a busy mom, writer, and pre-school teacher—about dieting that I didn't already know.
She taught me a lot.
She taught me to make my weight loss program work for me. Liz's theatrical mind and creativity has informed her work as a health coach, and she believes everyone needs to improvise their weight loss programs to fit their needs. “People don’t succeed by following a one-size-fits-all diet plan,” she said. “No one is going to last eating food they hate or doing exercise that isn’t fun for them. Eventually they will give it up." Her goal in Target 100 is to give people starter guidelines and worksheets that help them design their weight loss programs to incorporate foods they love, exercise they enjoy, and more.
She taught me to allow myself my favorite foods—in moderation. "Sometimes I can’t resist a glass of wine,” Liz said. “Last night I had one, but I’m not beating myself up over it." She assured me my love of chocolate and pasta wasn't the be-all, end-all, either. Liz pointed to Jennifer Hudson as an example of how to balance the good foods with the guilty pleasures. “Jennifer’s favorite foods are sushi and wings," Liz said. "She learned how to eat what she loved by starting with avocado and cutting back on rolls.” It's about balance, not all-or-nothing eating.
She taught me I need to retrain my brain. Our society has greatly impacted how we eat. Take added sugar. "It has been added everywhere," Liz said. "Most Americans are entirely unaware that it has been added to things like fruit-flavored yogurt in amounts greater than one should consume in a single day. Inadvertently, we are taking in the sugar, getting the dopamine brain reward, and then searching for more once the high ends. We have triggered an addiction without even knowing how or why." After Liz showed me articles and brain images that revealed sugar and cocaine light up the same receptors, I was convinced. I went on a sugar detox. My first three days induced a killer migraine, but after that, I felt rejuvenated.
She taught me that counting calories isn't the way forward. If I counted calories, I'd eventually rebel against the constraint. "The better way is to examine your habits, patterns, and behavior," Liz said. "Counting calories can lead someone to eat very poor-quality foods while still remaining in their 'budget.'" To encourage people to eat quality foods, Liz prescribes a carb count of under 100 grams per day. “Keeping the carb count to under 100 forces people away from processed foods and sugars because those ingredients are listed under carb counts," she said. "My whole goal is to force them into more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These foods keep us fuller longer and keep us away from the addictive sugars.” It was challenging, but most of the time, I managed to keep my carb count to under 100 grams per day by understanding ingredient labels and adopting new routines like chewing gum so I wouldn’t grab food mindlessly.
She taught me that it's better to be consistent than perfect. I wanted so badly to move beyond my roller coaster rut that I listened to Liz’s “live a balanced life” philosophy with fervor. I texted her pictures of menus when I was out to dinner, and she replied with sensible choices and an eye emoji to show that she was watching me. She encouraged the “three-bite rule” for dessert. It was exciting—I was eating healthfully while still enjoying food. I stopped thinking of my mom's lasagna as a "bad" food. If I paired a delicious square of it with plenty of veggies, ate right the rest of the day, and exercised, then I was on track. “No extremes," Liz said. "Consistency beats perfection."
Over a number of months, I spoke with Liz in therapy-like sessions. She became my confidant. Our meetings didn’t end the moment the clock ran out unless one of us had to drive our kids’ soccer carpool. If I needed to talk, she listened.
My road was sinuous, but I lost 23 pounds, and I felt much better. But my journey continues.
And so does Liz's. She may be a sought-after guru, but she still has the same issues we all do, especially as middle-aged women. We posed for a photo, and afterward, she pulled her shirt out of her jeans because “it looks more flattering this way,” and we retook the picture.
A thriving business owner, an author, a consultant to major weight-loss companies and celebrity clients — it might appear that Liz has reached the pinnacle of success, but I think she’s only just begun. “I was out running and noticed vibrant, yellow flowers that had bloomed overnight, and I thought, 'I can do that, too,'" she said. "And so can you.”
And that’s the most important lesson she taught me.