Devin Alexander is committed to helping America make good food choices without sacrificing taste.
The chef of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” and host of PBS’ “American Chefs on Tour” has also authored eight healthy cookbooks, with a ninth — “Devinly Delites” — on the way. She’s also launching a new restaurant on Royal Caribbean Cruiselines featuring more than 200 remade comfort food dishes, with a chain on land eyed in the future.
Alexander, who has maintained her own 70-pound weight loss for more than 15 years, clues us in to how she lives a deliciously decadent life, guilt-free.
Do you still see yourself with weight on?
I don’t (thank god!). I feel better in my 40s than I’ve ever felt in my life. In recent years I’ve been saying that I wish every woman could feel as good as I do. I spent so many years struggling — first too heavy and being brutally bullied, then trying to be too thin. For the past 17 years, I’ve maintained the same 5-pound range without the obsession. I gave up a crazy ideal and I’ve been so happy! I wish I could teach that transition to every woman out there who struggles at all.
What was the most amazing moment on “The Biggest Loser”?
Every finale is mind-blowingly awesome and inspirational if you ask me. Though I have lost the weight myself, I still find it so uplifting to see the world through the contestants’ eyes when they get on the scale for the final time. If everyone could live with the passion the finalists have in that moment, people would be so, so powerful. My absolute favorite thing about the show, though, is that it’s proven that anyone can lose weight. While it’s true that genetics do, and always will, play a role in our health and our level of fitness, people can no longer sit on the sidelines (on their sofas) thinking that their fate has been decided. We watch the contestants “steal” control back from so many tough situations and know that we can overcome, too!
How do you stay healthy while traveling?
I go out of my way to be active, especially when there just isn’t time to work out, per se. I walk airports a lot — if I arrive early, instead of sitting down with a snack after I get through security, I literally speed-walk the terminal. I also have business meetings over walks or other workouts — sometimes executives think it’s a bit odd that I suggest we meet for a walk instead of a drink, but you’d be shocked at how many end up excited that that’s what we did. I also always get a refrigerator in my hotel room and stock it with healthy foods if I’m anywhere for more than a day. I also carry food (cherry tomatoes and tangerines are two of my faves because they don’t require refrigeration). I also make sure I’m drinking a ton of water on airplanes. I find that if I don’t drink at least a bottle of water an hour, I’m wanting a lot of junk (the water keeps me full, plus it’s really easy to get dehydrated on planes, which is bad for your skin, too).
What’s the biggest trick in your “The Biggest Loser Cookbook”?
Cook for yourself! It’s so hard to eat “Devinly” (healthy yet indulgent) food in restaurants for a pile of reasons. Sure, you can order the dressing on the side and skip the crunchy noodles (and avoid everything else that tastes great) or hope that they respect your wishes to use no butter or oil on your egg white omelet. But, if you cook the amazing recipes in “The Biggest Loser Cookbook” or any of my recipes, you’ll see that you can truly have your cake (and flavor) and eat it, too!
What’s your favorite recipe your “The Most Decadent Diet Ever” cookbook?
This question is impossible to answer. I love so many of the dishes. Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Stuffed Shells, Buffalo Wing Plate with Blue Cheese Dressing and, of course, my Chocolate Not-Only-In-Your-Dreams Cake (chocolate flourless cake). There’s a Sweet and Spicy Pork Tenderloin, Lemon Thyme Chicken Kebabs and Chocolate Chocolate Brownie Cups that I know a number of friends and family make a ton, too.
What’s it like having your own restaurant on Royal Caribbean Cruiselines?
It’s a total dream! I created a restaurant full of America’s favorite comfort foods, all under 500 calories — and not because the portions are wimpy. I’m a foodie. I’m wired to love food today just as much as I was when I was overweight. So I create dishes that are surprisingly large for the number of calories. The team I’ve worked with at Royal is amazing and has really let me push the boundaries (by making so, so many recipes from scratch, for one). I don’t think it’s a secret that it’s easy for people to gain weight on cruise ships (part of what drew me to working with Royal Caribbean). Now, people can actually go on Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Quantum of the Seas (and soon Anthem of the Seas and Oasis 3) as a fitness destination. Eat at Devinly Decadence and enjoy their state of the art fitness facilities and even Flywheel.
Any tips for holiday desserts?
I am a big dessert girl. Always have been. For one, I cut all of the artificial junk out of my desserts. I make killer pumpkin pie bites without corn syrup or sweetened condensed milk (which has a lot of corn syrup in it). I also make gingerbread truffles out of ground dates, molasses, gingerbread spices, etc. You can’t taste the dates at all. I also make a Devinly Whipped Topping that tastes a lot like Cool Whip but it’s 100% natural made mostly from egg whites sweetened with agave nectar — I promise it tastes amazing.
Any advice on being Devin?
I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned is that people who “charge life” look younger, feel younger and stay happy. We all need to have dreams (I like “dreams” better than “goals” because you can’t fail at a dream). It’s easy to get stuck, whether it’s weight or we hate our jobs or we’re in a bad relationship, but the days are precious. I wake up every day and read a vision of what I want my life to look like (and what I know it will some day). It starts me on the right course, putting everything that matters to me at the forefront. There’sso much more that I want to do in life, but I’ve been lucky enough to have found some success because I “went looking” for it!