Leeza Gibbons on fitness, weight loss and the freshman 15

You know her as a TV personality and radio host, but did you also know that Leeza Gibbons has struggled with her weight and divorce? Read on for her inspiring take on facing challenges head-on!

Leeza Gibbons

Leeza Gibbons

Leeza Gibbons is many things: TV and radio host (Entertainment Tonight, LeezaAmerica Now, the PBS weekly My Generation), speaker, activist, businesswoman (she has a successful scrapbook line), wife and Mom. She can now add New York Times bestselling author to the list.

Her new book, Take 2: Your Guide to Creating Happy Endings and New Beginnings, focuses on just that — second chances. “We think our lives are never going to get any better, and the book is about a second take to start over for any reason,” she says. I had the chance to chat with Leeza about growing up and how she keeps those famous legs in such great shape.

Q: I’m a fitness writer, and I always like to know what people did for physical activity growing up.
A: “I grew up in South Carolina and it was wide open neighbourhoods. I think all kids of my generation were quite active. We didn’t have the challenges of sedentary kids being at risk of being obese like we have now. I was the head cheerleader and the only one on the squad who couldn’t do the splits, so I figured if I was in charge I wouldn’t have to call for that move. It was a very supportive environment. Being with a group of other women has always been the place I go to for raising my spirits.”

Q: You mentioned that college was a little tougher. You gained the freshman 15?
A: “It didn’t take long for the chocolate chip cookies in the cafeteria to go directly to my hips. I settled into a lifestyle of being time-starved and the thing I cut from my schedule was exercise. It didn’t take long to realize that it was making me unhappy.”

Q: How did you make a change?
A: “There are no short cuts. It’s just taking a step towards taking care of yourself. When women are experiencing any kind of heartache we either don’t eat at all or we overeat. We seek escape in familiar ways and the most familiar is food. When I was upset as a child, my mother would start making a chocolate cake that I called the ‘crisis cake.’ It was the process of making the cake with my mother that was very therapeutic. I’d sit on the counter and we’d make it together and talk about whatever was bothering me, and by the time the cake was ready my issue was resolved. The problem was, we still ate the cake.”

Q: Exercise is a great way to combat the desire for junk food. What do you do to stay fit now?
A:Stretching is my sanity. I also do lots of walking. Those are my non-negotiable workouts that I always make time for. I like to say motivational mantras to myself while I’m walking. Nothing beats consistent walking. Just take 10 minutes a day and work on building it from there. It can make such a big difference.

Leeza Gibbons rehearses for Dancing with the Stars which she appeared on in 2007.

Leeza Gibbons rehearses for Dancing with the Stars which she appeared on in 2007.

My go-to equipment is my stationary bike, free weights and a punching bag. I do like to mix it up and keep my routine from becoming boring. If I get bored I know I’m going to abort the effort. On the days I lack get-up-and-go, I’ll just commit to five minutes and I usually get so immersed in the feel good flow that I’ll put in the rest of the time.”

Q: Do you feel pressure to keep your body looking a certain way from being on TV?
A: “When I was on Entertainment Tonight in the late 90s I was doing a lot of cameos on TV shows, and everybody felt that skinnier was better. I have consistently been around a size 4 to 6, and I showed up at a wardrobe department and the stylist yelled out, ‘We’ve got a fatty on the set! See if we have any size sixes.’ I was horrified. And I wish we didn’t live in a world where women felt they had to shrink to fit in. We’re a youth and weight-obsessed culture. We want the quick fix, but if we could shift and look at what is giving us real serenity and core happiness then those other things would come as a by-product.”

Leeza Gibbons on a recent rafting trip

Leeza Gibbons on a recent rafting trip

Q: What does your diet look like?
A: “I eat lots of healthy foods like salmon and green leafy veggies like broccoli and kale. I’ve had to back away from the drug known as sugar in my life, which has continued to be a real challenge for me. I’ve had to look at things like frozen blueberries and strawberries to become my ‘candy’.”

Q: Let’s chat about the book. Where did the motivation for it come from?
A: “The book is about things like being lit from within. We often give up on ourselves too quickly. Like getting depressed or divorced or fat. We think our lives are never going to get better and it’s about a second take to start over for any reason. For me, my mother died, my oldest child went off to school, I got divorced and I left my job. I knew I had to create a new version of myself. I wasn’t broken, but I just needed to become a different version of myself. I needed to learn new steps to my life’s dance. I’m all about baby steps, so that when you put your head on the pillow there are little things you’ve done that you can be proud of.”

Follow Leeza on Twitter for more inspiration.

James S. Fell authors the nationally syndicated column “In-Your-Face Fitness” for the Chicago Tribune and interviews celebrities about their fitness regimens for the Los Angeles Times. Get your FREE METABOLISM REPORT from James.


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