In a world of tough love and boot camps, Libby Weaver lets you eat dessert. Therein lies her popularity.
There's also the fact that she's so darned nice. She wasn't, in her 16 years of seeing clients, the type of nutritionist who would roll her eyes at someone for not sticking to her goals. Instead, she felt really bad for people because they had so much going on and were eating to make up for it. And, as a biochemist, she knew there could be other things keeping them from losing weight - chronic stress, hormonal problems and a host of other issues.
She's branched out since then, trained someone else to take care of the patients. And she's become a bit of a phenomenon.
She writes columns for several publications, goes on tour through New Zealand, where she's based, and her native Australia, giving talks on topics like sustainable weight loss and has written six best-selling books, including two "real food" cookbooks. Her latest book is The Calorie Fallacy.
She calls herself a "holistic nutrition specialist". It's a career many aspire to in this era of glossy-maned women telling us how to live our best lives, but not all meet with the success Weaver, suitably glossy-maned, has. This may have to do with the fact that she has a PhD in biochemistry, but also that she is able to explain complex biochemical processes in simple language. She certainly considers it a strength.
"I feel it's what I was born to do," she says.
But she's also learned things from clients.
"I met one woman who said she always sat at the back of my classes and heard me say we should eat more green vegetables. She thought, I'm no good at eating less, but I could eat more. So she decided to eat green vegetables with two out of her three daily meals, and she lost 40kg. She taught me that."
Eating more to lose weight - this is the kind of story Dr Libby fans devour. She's all for eating for pleasure, says you can't expect a pleasure eater to switch to bland food. Not in the long run.
She's realistic about goal setting.
"If someone is eating takeaways every day of the week, you can't expect them to start eating organic, home-cooked food every day straight away."
She encourages you to set smaller goals - not eating takeaways till Friday, and then having whatever you want on the weekend.
Her cookbooks feature several rich-looking dessert recipes, like beetroot chocolate mud cake and raspberry macadamia torte with chocolate ganache.
"The beetroot chocolate mud cake is very good for the digestive system."
Cake that's good for your digestive system - what's not to like? This is at the heart of Dr Libby's philosophy: eating for nourishment.
She doesn't believe in counting calories. Portion control, yes. The Calorie Fallacy questions the well-worn idea that if we burn more calories than we eat, we will lose weight.
"Our most common concept of weight loss is based on something that was developed in 1918. This was just after the First World War, when food was mostly real. Today, we have so much more processed food that the human body literally can't break down."
Not everyone agrees. The health world is full of conflicting advice, and it often gets nasty.
"At a health conference, half the audience will be paleo [following the paleolithic diet] and half will be vegetarians. And they'll judge each other."
She wants the world to be a kinder place. "Every piece of long-term change that happens for someone, happens through kindness. I want to help them be kinder to themselves. They may have never gotten to the bottom of why they don't take care of themselves. Food is just the obvious way we don't take care of ourselves, because our clothes will fit tighter. Others are alcoholics. People cope with emotional pain in different ways and I'm very aware that people eat to cope."
She wants to bring the shift away from losing weight and back to nourishment. She wants us to not choose the takeaway because it won't nourish us.
Does this woman have any vices?
"I don't see it that way. If I want something, I'll have it. I rarely drink alcohol, but I will have a glass of wine with friends. I've never liked sweet food, even as a kid."
Sugar has a lot to answer for, she says. "Most vegetables have a bitter taste base and we're so used to sweet things."
But don't worry, you can retrain your palate. "When it comes to food, nature gets it right - eat real food. When I look at little kids, their eyes are wide open. They still see the wonder in the world. I try to get people back in touch with that wonder. Life is precious - you are precious. Treat yourself accordingly."
SEE DR LIBBY
Click here to learn more about Dr Libby's New Zealand Tour – The Road to Sustainable Weight Loss.
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