A Conversation with Suzanne Somers

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Interview with and recipes from Suzanne Somers. This interview with the ageless beauty gives lots of insights to eating fabulous foods and losing weight, hormones and supplements, and more.
suzanne somersSuzanne Somers is one of the most multi-faceted celebrities of our time, achieving extraordinary success in a variety of creative arenas. So varied are her accomplishments, that it is safe to assume many of her fans don't even realize the many venues in which Suzanne has excelled.

First, there's Suzanne the actress who made her screen debut as the mysterious blonde in the white Thunderbird in George Lucas' 1973 classic American Graffiti. But after that auspicious beginning, things were slow for the budding actress. In fact, things got so bad that Suzanne briefly considered abandoning her dreams of stardom in order to start a cooking school out of her California home.

Fate stepped in, however, in the form of a television show called "Three's Company," in which Suzanne skyrocketed to stardom and won the hearts of America as Chrissy Snow. The rest is history. Three's Company went on to become one of televisions most beloved hits and it still enjoys a healthy life in syndication today.

Suzanne is currently in her third season as the co-host of "Candid Camera" on CBS-TV, but show business life between "Three's Company" and Candid Camera" has never been dull. Along the way, Suzanne hosted Fox's "The Late Show" on a rotating basis, starred in three network television specials, her own daytime talk show "The Suzanne Somers Show" and another television series "She's the Sheriff" which ran for three seasons and is still seen in syndication. Her role opposite Patrick Duffy on "Step by Step", which ran for seven seasons had probably brought her as much fame as that of Chrissy.

But there's so much more to Suzanne Somers than Suzanne the actress, or even Suzanne the nightclub entertainer, who regularly wows audiences in Las Vegas, Monte Carlo and Atlantic City.

There's Suzanne the author who has penned seven books, two of which, Suzanne Somers' Eat Great, Lose Weight and Suzanne Somers' Get Skinny on Fabulous Food, appeared simultaneously on the New York Times bestseller list in the top positions. These two books have inspired millions of people to start "Somercizing," Suzanne's low carbohydrate eating plan that has people realizing that staying lean and healthy doesn't have to mean deprivation.

Suzanne the Chef does all of her own cooking, something she says, stems from a love of the art which began in childhood. The recipes in Suzanne's books are delicious, regardless of whether the reader is trying to lose weight or not.

Suzanne SomersAnother side of the multi-faceted Ms. Somers is her work on the subjects alcoholism, addiction and recovery. Through her books, "Keeping Secrets" and "Wednesday's Children" she shared her own painful experiences as the child of an abusive, alcoholic father and offers help for adult survivors of abuse. Her personal and compassionate insights into these difficult topics have led to yet another career as a sought after public speaker.

Suzanne's latest book, "365 Ways to Change Your Life" emphasizes the importance of living one day at a time. Her insights are designed to help her readers through rough times and make the most of happy times, with daily affirmations, wisdom and insight.

Then there's Suzanne the entrepreneur, who markets her own line of jewelry, a top seller on TVs Home Shopping Network. She's also the owner and spokesperson for the wildly successful line of personal fitness products.

It seems like there is nothing Suzanne Somers can't, or for that matter, doesn't do. My interview with Suzanne began while she was in her car, returning from spending the day at an archaeological dig near her New Mexico home. She says she loves sifting through the ruins where "the ground is oozing with so much...incredible things," and that she's been pursuing the hobby for years.

But out of all Suzanne's roles, she seems to truly value that of wife and mother foremost. Married to Alan Hamel for over 30 years, a feat which in itself must be some kind of Hollywood record, her books are peppered with family photos of their three children and five grandchildren (yes, this gorgeous woman is actually a grandmother!). Any time she speaks of her family, her voice takes on an extra degree of animation.

My conversation with Suzanne was terrific. She's so full of energy and so knowledgeable on such a wide variety of topics, I could have listened to her for hours. She radiates optimism in every opinion she offers. Not the mindless, cheerleader kind of optimism so prevalent in today's politically correct society, but the kind of optimism that empowers people to believe in and actually achieve their goals. After all, she practices what she preaches, and look at all that this amazing woman has accomplished.

{pagebreak} Cheri Sicard: Hi Suzanne. It's great to talk to you, and I especially wanted to talk to you because I want to bring your books to our readers' attention. Your plan has unfairly been lumped in with a lot of low carb plans that are so much more radical. When in fact, your program is a lot more balanced and sane.

Suzanne Somers: Yes, it is. A lot more fun too.
Before I gained weight, my son used to call me Mr. Ed. He said, it's embarrassing Ma, you out-eat all my friends.

Cheri Sicard: That's true. I have been on it, and you really get a wide variety of foods. We've all seen you on lots of talk shows talking about your books or doing cooking demonstrations, but I think one of the first questions our audience would ask is, "Do you really do your own cooking at home?" Suzanne Somers: Oh yes. You know, when I was a little girl I had a storybook called Suzy's Cookbook. I thought it was written about me. I also had been given a little electric stove with little pots and muffin mixes and things. So, I was always cooking. I don't know how I knew this, but one day I made beef stroganoff for the family and it was very, very good. Shortly after that I made a spice cake and it was very, very good. I remember making up a tomato sauce and it was very good. Pretty soon I was the family cook.

Cheri Sicard: Almost by instinct.
Suzanne Somers: Yes. What's that about? I don't know. I always knew how to cook and at one point in my career where I had done nine television pilots before Three's Company and they all failed, I just got discouraged. I thought this obviously is not going work for me. I had made the decision to reconfigure my kitchen and take in students and teach cooking. Right before I was going to do that, and I mean right before, I got a call from a show called Three's Company and that sort of interfered with my becoming a cooking teacher.

Cheri Sicard: The rest is history.
Suzanne Somers: The rest is history. I guess the powers that be said, well "I had better interfere right now." I walked into another whole area.

Cheri Sicard: Now it seems like it's come full circle. Today you are very influential when it comes to food and cooking.
Suzanne Somers: Yes and it's authentic. Everything about the weight loss books is very authentic. I did do them as a result of my gaining twenty pounds. I had never gained any weight in my life before that, and I was really trying to find a way to not have to spend a lifetime dieting. It's been the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I eat a lot. I eat three times a day and I snack.

Cheri Sicard: So how exactly did you develop Somercising, your eating plan.
Suzanne Somers: I told you about the little cookbook and cooking for my family and thinking I would teach cooking when I thought my career wasn't going to take off. Then Three's Company came along. Around age 40 I put on twenty pounds. I had always had a perfect metabolism. But, my metabolism betrayed me as it does most people, except a very rare few who will always be thin. Everybody seems to get hit at middle age with the metabolism slowing down. So what I was eating before, now was putting weight on.

Before I gained weight, my son used to call me Mr. Ed. He said, it's embarrassing Ma, you out-eat all my friends. I always had a huge appetite, but all of a sudden this huge appetite was really working against me.

{pagebreak} Cheri Sicard: So you started dieting?
Suzanne Somers: I started dieting. I dieted, dieted, dieted and tried all the diets and I would lose and then I would Suzanne Somersgo back to normal eating and would put it on and then some. It was that merry-go-round. I would have to hide from the public when I gained weight because I just didn't want to be photographed like that. I was too young, I felt, to move into character work.

I eliminated all the sugars, obvious sugars, and I ate carbohydrates separate from protein. It took two months and I thought this is not working for me. I saw no success at all. Then at the two-month mark, one day I woke up and the melt had happened.

Cheri Sicard: So what do you do when you want to get away?
Suzanne Somers: For years I have been going to the South of France to cool out. I am not as well known in France and I can kind of meld in. Sometimes, when you are in the public eye, you just really need to just be part of the crowd, and look at other people rather than other people look at you. I was always going over there. I made a lot of friends over the years and I would always look at what they were eating. All of them were skinny. I would think that I would like to eat like that. Why can they eat that and I'm being good and I'm the one who is gaining weight? Then I would look more closely at their plates and I realized that they naturally don't, as a general rule, have carbohydrates with protein. And if they do, it's a very teeny little -- some little potato concoction that the chef layered. What we used to call scalloped potatoes and our mothers put two huge spoonfuls on the plate, they do about the size of a quarter, a little pyramid of scalloped potatoes. So, I started paying attention to that.

When I came home, right before I wrote Eat Great Lose Weight, I started looking into food combining. I started reading and talking and interviewing nutritionists and a thread was starting to form for me which is -- a protein digests in a different rate of speed than a carbohydrate. When you put them together it creates a halt in the digestion. If you have a perfect metabolism it can metabolize it and flush it through, but when your metabolism slows down all the energy you need to get you through the day is now being used to metabolize these foods that don't want to be together. That's what the gas is about, that's what the bloating is about and that's what the fat storage is about.

I did trial and error on myself and it took two months. I eliminated all the sugars, obvious sugars, and I ate carbohydrates separate from protein. It took two months and I thought this is not working for me. I saw no success at all. Then at the two-month mark, one day I woke up and the melt had happened. It was as though a whole me had dropped off. Now I understand what was happening. I don't particularly gain water; I don't have water retention. The people that have water retention are the ones that call me and say, I lost 12 pounds in two weeks. I say, okay enjoy that success, but when you think you've plateau-ed you are not really plateau-ing.

What's happening is your body is starting to eat off your own fat reserve. That's what was happening with me during those two months. I was eating off my own fat reserve. So, it wasn't visible until all of a sudden. It felt like it was overnight. I am sure it was a gradual thing, but one night it was just like my neck was thinner, my chest, my arms, my abdomen, my hips, my legs and my clothes were loose. Now I know that that is just the phenomena of eating this way. Most all of my letters say I hit a plateau and then one morning I woke up and the melt had happened.

Cheri Sicard: That's great. That gives people hope because plateaus are one of the hardest things to get to.
Suzanne Somers: Yes, once you hit a plateau you think it's not working and then you start to say, oh it's not working and think I'll have this piece of cake.

Cheri Sicard: The other time is stress. For a lot of us stress really sets off eating binges. I know you have gone through some very stressful times in your career. How did you handle that
Suzanne Somers: Well, stress definitely blocks estrogen receptors, especially at my age, which means your estrogen levels drop even lower at this age. That's where the weight gain comes, when your estrogen level lowers. I understand from a physiological standpoint, but you really need a doctor to explain it and even then you will never understand it. So, this is lay person talking to all my readers who are at the same place I am.

I have figured it out! I am sailing through this period, this passage of my life. I am enjoying it probably the most I have ever enjoyed my life.

When your estrogen levels drop it's your body's signal that you are no longer in childbearing years. Well, as you are losing your hormones, that also means your bones are going to get brittle. You know what I am going to do for you (this is the body talking), being that your estrogen is dropping I am going to pad you up around the areas where you are most likely to slip and fall and break those brittle bones that are happening because you have no estrogen left in them.

{pagebreak} Cheri Sicard: That explains a lot.
Suzanne Somers: So what has to happen along with Somercising, is hormone replacement. My next book is going to be about this. I have figured it out! I am sailing through this period, this passage of my life. I am enjoying it probably the most I have ever enjoyed my life. I have my hormones balanced. Most doctors are giving women synthetic hormones, which just eliminate the symptoms, but it's doing nothing to actually replace the hormones you have lost. Without our hormones we die. In order to have quality of life at this age on, you really need to replace what you have lost. You do that by blood tests. Blood tests will indicate if you are a little low on this, you need a little more of that. You balance it out that way.

Stress effects it, so when you have a high stress period your progesterone may go down or your estrogen may come down or go up. Everybody is different. It takes a little more work than slapping on a patch or taking synthetic hormones. But the results are really the fountain of youth, I think. It's just amazing how good you feel when you are balanced. Couple that with Somercizing, which re-trains your metabolism to work at optimum, and I find that you can stay in really great shape at this age. Really feel good, look good and be in control of your weight rather than your weight being in control of you.

It just requires that shift in thinking that I keep talking about. You can't continue doing things the same old way. They are no longer going to serve you well. You have to commit. I think the biggest word is commit. I hear women say to me all the time, and men -- I want to, I want to. I always say you can want all you want and that's all you will get is want. What you have to do is commit and say: today I am going to do this and commit to it. It's amazing when you decide that this is the day I am going to do it, it starts happening. Then it gets easy.

Cheri Sicard: How much actual exercise do you do? What's your personal fitness routine like?
Suzanne Somers: Contrary to what everyone thinks, I am not a fanatic. I do work out when I'm not on the road, three Suzanne Somerstimes a week for 40 minutes. I happen to have the benefit of having a son-in-law who was the former Mr. France and a trainer. I like being his benefactor and I like the way he works. When he shows up at my house I feel too guilty to send him away. He keeps me on track. I have a tendency to be a little lazy.

I actually have never been to a gym. I just don't have time to put on a little outfit and go to the gym and work out and clean up and come home. That's a half a day!

The way I most enjoy exercising is hiking, like out on the dig like I was on today. Alan and I have a tandem bike. I like just moving and having it be enjoyable. I think that's a shift in thinking too. You just have to do something. You don't have to be a fanatic; you don't have to do three hours in the gym.

I actually have never been to a gym. I haven't had time. I have been working for the last 25 years. I just don't have time to put on a little outfit and go to the gym and work out and clean up and come home. That's a half a day. I don't think that many people can go other than the really young without families and obligations; that's about the only group that can go.

Cheri Sicard: I bet you are the only person in Hollywood that can say they've never been to a gym!
Suzanne Somers: Probably, but you can get it by moving in an enjoyable way. If you are eating this way, it keeps you toned up.

Cheri Sicard: The last question I have is that a lot of people know you through your television shows and your books, but they are missing part of the picture. You're so diversified, how do you keep it all together?
Suzanne Somers: I find that one of the most curious things is that I have fractionalized audiences. I have people who only know me from the books. That is fractionalized too because there is one group that only reads about abuse and the effects of alcoholism and then there is the other group that is only about the weight loss. Then there are people who come to nightclubs. Then there are the ones who only know me from television. Then there is the Home Shopping group. Then there are the ones who know me from fitness. Then there are the people who know me from the lectures. What I am really trying to do, what I need to accomplish at this time, is to fill in the gaps.

There is a general knowledge that I am multi-dimensional, that when you are creative you do a lot of things. I am very passionate about the effects of addictions on families because that's what happened to me. All my books have dealt with the passages of my own life. You can kind of just follow what I'm going through by the books that I am writing. I find that people are coming along with me. What I really need is for people to know that I don't just do this, I do this and this and this and this. We all have creativity in us and we all are multi-dimensional and we are all interested in a lot of things and that women are fabulous. We can handle a lot of things. This being is a woman is not for sissies.

Cheri Sicard: I agree.
Suzanne Somers: My most recent book 365 Ways to Change Your Life is to me, my crowning glory. I love this book. I wrote it. It came out of me like butter. I think all it needs is a groundswell, but when women read this book they will know what I am talking about because we are all going through the same thing.

Cheri Sicard: Well Suzanne, it's been great. Thank you very much for talking to us.
Suzanne Somers: I appreciate your interest. Thank you.