Maye Musk is quite the multi-tasker: an internationally renowned model (five decades) with two MS degrees, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (MS, RDN), a businessperson (her nutrition business spans forty years in eight cities and three countries), dedicated mother of three (one of those children is named Elon) and fun-loving grandmother of ten.
With all that going on, the LA-based Maye has to keep up her health. Lucky for her (and for us) that she knows how to take care of herself, and admits that, while doing the right thing may be simple, it’s not always easy.
Her book, Feel Fantastic, free on her blog, is a comprehensive look at good health habits from every angle. The Canadian-born, South-African-raised Maye was probably the first dietitian to be featured on a cereal box and the only dietitian to have taken the registration exam in three countries, once in another language. She was awarded the Outstanding Nutrition Entrepreneur of the Year award at the American Dietetic Association’s annual conference in 2006.
Here, Maye shares some of her insights on nutrition and how to stay on the straight and narrow. And she’s not just talking academics; she’s right down in the trenches with us.
“Right now, I’m a size 6,” she says, “and it’s really, really hard to be a size 6.”
How did your life as a model lead you to become a dietitian?
I was 15. I was told that by 18, I’d be over, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. I looked for ways to lose a few pounds but couldn’t find an easy way. I was a size 8 as a teen, and I was a science nerd. I decided to major in dietetics. At least I would have a profession as well as being able to figure out how to lose a few pounds.
That seems like a tall order academically!
I couldn’t be the “dumb model,” because my pride wouldn’t allow that. I had to study quite hard and learn the sciences.
You’re always ahead of the curve, Maye! You seem like you were multitasking long before the term was in vogue.
I got married and had three kids. During my pregnancies, I would teach at my mother’s friend’s modeling school and judge beauty competitions. It kept me in the business. After my third child, I did mainly runway while they were at school.
In South Africa, there weren’t many mothers who were working, except for the ones in my family. The women in my family were working all the time. We love our work so that makes it more fun. I think I’d have gotten bored otherwise.
What’s the difference between being a dietitian and a nutritionist?
A dietitian is someone with a four-year BS degree and one-year hospital internship. And then you have to do continuous education credits every year to maintain your RDN status. A nutritionist is not an accredited profession, but a dietitian is accredited. Usually doctors only refer patients to dietitians. A dietitian follows science and cannot make any recommendations that are not shown to be beneficial through published research work.
What is the most basic, practical and important advice you can give to our readers?
We have to restrict our high-calorie food intake and eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. We just have to. You have to say no to almost all treats. You have to say no to fried foods and you have to say no to huge portions.
Do you struggle with temptation?
All the time. All the time! Every time I see sweet foods and desserts. I just look at them and I’m sad. I’m sad that I can’t eat whatever I like, but this is short-lived as I’m happy to fit into my clothes.
The advice is so simple but the follow-through is so hard!
It’s common sense. Don’t get too hungry. Don’t get too full. And choose the right foods.
So how do we make this work?
We have to be responsible for ourselves, and it’s really hard. You have to plan ahead. It’s the only way. There will be muffins and donuts on every corner. Eating salad and fruit is messier, takes longer to eat and is less portable.
When I get hungry, it’s a bad feeling. When there are no healthy choices available, I will eat badly. Then I’ll get mad at myself for not planning ahead. Pack something before you go out, for instance, a whole grain peanut butter sandwich and some prunes, or a banana.
Those fat-burning supplements and appetite suppressants on the drug store shelves seem like a tempting quick fix. What’s your take?
I would be scared of anything that could affect the brain. If it’s taking away your appetite, it’s affecting the brain. And if it’s increasing your metabolism, it’s affecting the heart. That is terrifying. The basic research on supplements shows that there are no benefits and there could be harm.
What do we do about losing those stubborn last ten pounds?
You have to be extremely strict. You cannot, for any reason whatsoever, think you deserve a treat, because if you do, it’s a slippery slope, and you won’t be able to lose those pounds.
It takes about three weeks to form a habit. By the end of those three weeks, you should have lost about six or seven pounds. This should encourage you to drop three or four more pounds.
The last ten are very difficult, because you have to eat so much less to drop weight. I have patients who are 250 pounds. They drop weight so quickly in the beginning, and then it slows down, which is discouraging. You have to push past that.
As you get closer to your ideal weight, you have to eat so much less in order to reach that ideal weight.
Why do different scales give us different weight readings?
Your weight will differ on different scales and at different times. If you lose 10 pounds on one scale, you should lose them on all the scales.
Do you subscribe to the theory that corporations are adding things to our foods to make us fatter?
Corporations are not forcing us to eat their products. If you are not eating processed foods, it would be difficult to get fat, because you’ll be eating fruits and vegetables, yogurt and whole-wheat breads.
Fat absorbs flavor, increasing the taste of salty and sweet foods. Brownies are delicious, for instance, because they are high in fat, sugar and flavoring. You can eat them even when full. But then you’ll be disappointed in yourself that you ate them. It’s a downward spiral. And now your clothes are getting tighter.
My advice: Do three weeks of absolutely no fatty snacks or treats whatsoever. You will feel your energy level and self-esteem increase, while your weight decreases.
Do you believe in a cheat day?
No. I won’t splurge unless my weight is at the right weight. As a model, I have to maintain my size 6.
Any motivational words for our readers who are struggling?
The first thing you can do is tell yourself that you will not touch junk food for three weeks, because you don’t gain weight on fruits and vegetables. You will drop seven-to-ten pounds in those three weeks. You will be happy with the weight loss, which will motivate you to continue. Otherwise find a dietitian in your area on www.eatright.org.
Find out more about Maye here.
Get vital nutritional information and ideas on Maye’s blog.
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