Keeping it Healthy

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Keeping it Healthy

By Libbie Summers

Paula Deen Online Food Editor, Libbie Summers, recently had a chance to sit down with Bobby Deen at his home and discuss healthy eating habits, exercise and his new role as the creator and head of Bobby Lightens It Up.  A new section launching in October on

LS:  First of all, thank you for making me a coffee this morning…let’s just get into it, but I have to warn you a couple of questions might be personal.
BD:  If it’s too personal, which I never have encountered, even from you, I’ll let you know…but I’m not worried.

LS:  So, we had a big video shoot with your brother, Jamie, last week at your mom’s condo on Tybee Island.  There are a number of photos of you there when you were….let’s just say…not your most svelte.  I barely recognized you.  When were these taken and was this when you were your “unhealthiest”?  Was anything out of the normal going on in your life?
BD:  (laughing and cringing)  Thanks a lot for pointing that out, Libbie!  Definitely yes.  It was 1988 when we moved to Savannah from Albany, GA.  I had 3 months left before high school graduation.  I moved here with no friends.  It was the worst thing that had happened to me.  I was miserable.  In Albany, I would have been graduating with kids I had gone to school with since Kindergarten.  I knew everyone there.  I was also dating a really nice girl at the time.  Savannah was a giant culture shock to me…a big city….we came from the country.  I was used to driving around in pick up trucks, going hunting.  Shooting deer and birds. I didn’t have anything to do here…and I didn’t WANT to do anything.  I didn’t want to socialize with people.  I didn’t want to make friends.  I didn’t want to go to school.  It wasn’t a conscious decision, but kind of all I did was sit around and eat.  I weigh 185 pounds now and at the time of those photos, I weighed 225 pounds. 

LS:  Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to take control and get healthy?
BD:  The whole exercise thing and my current lifestyle didn’t happen until after 30 years old.  I think in your twenties, at least me anyway, I was in a difficult spot just trying to figure stuff out.  I didn’t know what in the world was happening.  We were building this business that as far as I knew then was a road to nowhere.  A mix of that and being around heavier food…having to eat…and not knowing that you can work in a restaurant and still eat healthy.  So I think maybe it showed in my personal appearance.  I think I look like I feel in stages of my life.
LS:  I think that is very well said for everyone.
BD:  Definitely for me.  I think you can look at me now and know how I feel.  I feel great.  I’m happy and I have good things going on in my life.  The same for most people.  If your happy and healthy, it totally shows.  Look at my mom.  If you look at pictures of my mom when we were at 311 West Congress Street or 45 Eisenhower, you are looking at a woman who is physically working really really hard…struggling…it showed.  Look at my mom now.  She has blossomed.  She is so beautiful.

LS:  So, coupled with maturation, what was it that helped you make a healthy change in your life?
BD: The “What” is a “Who”.  I met a man by the name of Sam Carter.  He is the strength and conditioning coach at Savannah College of Art and Design,  an Ex Marine and all around good guy.  He not only helps me with my daily training, he keeps my mind focused on good things.
LS:  Ex Marine?  Is he tough on you?
BD:  You better believe it.  He whoops my butt.

LS:  Does it help you to work out with other people?
BD:  Yes, without a doubt.  I’m a competitive person.  If other people are in the gym working out hard, it pushes me to do better.  I have a great gym here at the house, but I don’t use it that much. 

LS:  Your mom has started working out every morning.  Are you working out with her at all?
BD:  No, I haven’t yet…but I am REAL proud of her. 

LS:  On the new Food Section of launching in October, you handle a feature section called Bobby Lightens it Up…what is this all about and what made you want to do it? 
BD:  I’m real excited about this, because I LOVE my mom’s food.  This feature section will take some of my favorite classic recipes of hers each month and “Lighten” them up to cut some of the fat without sacrificing the flavor.  We get so many people asking for mom’s recipes a little healthier, so I’m hoping everyone will love these versions as much as I do.  It’s a really fun thing to get involved in and I get to taste everything!  Of course, my mom has the final say!

LS:  What is a typical food day for you?  How many meals a day do you eat?
BD:  I try to wake up in the morning and eat oatmeal.  Actually, I’m guilty of under eating which I have to watch…it’s as bad for you as overeating.  There have been days when I have gotten out of bed, gone straight to work (which is not as physical as it once was…it’s not like I’m breaking rocks), go to the gym, run 3 miles, workout real hard for an hour, go to a Jiu-Jitsu lesson, come home and I haven’t eaten anything all day long.  When I catch myself doing that, I make sure I don’t over eat at night.  I consciously go get a big tuna steak, make myself a little salad and have a side of cous cous.  I don’t have a big sweet tooth at all, so I don’t even think about that stuff which helps a lot.

LS:  Do you drink fresh protein shakes?
BD:  Yes.  I drink a lot of protein shakes.  Especially with fresh blueberries and bananas.  Stuff that easily blends.  I not only love the taste of blueberries, but all the health benefits they have as well.  EAS is a sports drink company that does whey protein shakes (no sugar).  I like their product.  I do it with water, not milk.  Add the berries or whatever seasonal fruit is available…Again, I love blueberries so I add a handful of them usually.

LS:  Do you take any vitamins or supplements?
BD:  The only thing I take is Krill Oil.  My doctor recommended it for me.  It is high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids and really seems to help me with my sore joints from years of sports and running.  I’m 39 and there were mornings when I woke up and my joints were really hurting.

LS:  What is the easiest thing someone can do to help them eat the right things?
BD:  Keep the preparation easy.  I don’t complicate my food.  I like big flavors in simple dishes.  Especially for me…since I am here by myself most nights.  I don’t want to spend a bunch of my time preparing a huge meal just for me.

LS:  Do you ever eat fast food? 
BD:  Yes, twice a year.  I love Chick Fil A.  I actually had a McDonald’s double cheeseburger and fries a couple of weeks ago in the airport.  I guess that is it for the year for me!  But Libbie, it is important to note that my life is a balance.  I don’t neglect myself the things I love.  You can look at your working out a couple of different ways.  For me, I work out really hard because I want to live the life that I want to live.  For example, I love Mexican food.  If I want to go have a great Mexican dinner, I’m going to do it.  If I want a burger from time to time, I’m going to do it.  That is the reward for busting my butt.  I will tell you that I have learned as you get older it is so much easier to put on weight and so much harder to take it off.

LS:  What is your food vice?
BD:  French Fries

LS:  Thank you for taking the time this morning to talk with me.  I know I made you late for the gym.
BD: Don’t worry about that.  I had a great time and I love talking with our readers.  I hope I inspired a few.
LS:  You inspired me.
BD:  Suck up.

Libbie Summers is a yacht chef turned stylist who specializes in innovative ways to present food. She serves as a Food and Prop Stylist for Paula Deen and Head Food Stylist for Paula’s Best Dishes. Libbie lives in Savannah with her pulchritudinous husband, Josh. Her website lives at

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By Managed Servers on November 23, 2011

Just thought I would let everyone know that he Chili was fantastic! Thanks for the recipe

By Juder on October 11, 2009

I think that paula has started something big here guys!

Bobby and Jamie can just take it tothe finish line…I would love to see Bobby open up a restaurant using his mama’s recipes but lighter and even have a couple old stand buys make her way for those that want it the regular way!

good luck Deen family!  Hope to see a restaurant opened here in NYC soon! It would be packed everyday! Reservations would be a must! wink

By Lisa on October 11, 2009

We are making Jamie’s chili as we speak….

By Juder on September 26, 2009

Hi Lisa, if anyone writes a comment after yours you will get the message that someone has responded.

By Phil P on September 23, 2009


By lisa campbell on September 15, 2009

My mom was like your mom if it had butter on it ,it was good for you . Her favorite was bread butter and tomato sandwiches . My doctor said i needed to loose 78 lbs I have managed to loose 17 .But i to love to cook .I love your families cook books . I have tried to cut some of the calories in those some ok and others not so easy. Are you going to come out with a cook book .

By Nona Estabrook on September 14, 2009


By lisa campbell on September 14, 2009

I am so excited to see the “new” lighter recipies.  I always find myself watching PD and loving the program and ya’lls input.  Can’t Wait to see what is in store for those of us who love butter but NEED to lose some weight.  wink wink

By Juder on September 13, 2009

Can’t wait to see some of your recipes Bobby.  I have lost almost 110 lbs. on Weight Watchers.  I’ve kept it off since summer of 2002.  I am in 30’s now so eating healthy is a way of life for me.  I worked out so much at the local YMCA that I now have worked there for almost 2 years. A cookbook of the lighter versions of your Mom’s recipes would be great.  Just a thought.  Also could possibly have the nutritional value of each recipe so we can figure out the points. Thanks Cindy

By Cindy Greene on September 12, 2009

I can’t wait to see Bobby’s web site.  I love Paula Deen and her recipes.  A lighter version coming from Bobby makes them even better…haha

By Teresa Parrish on September 12, 2009

please do not use anything with articial sweetneer or products that are man-made supposedly good but are not. Be all natural and organic with the subsitutions.

By christine on September 12, 2009

i love paula deen thank you for the light section for recipes, I’ve tried so many light recipes and the flavor is lacking seriously will a cookbook be coming out?

By denise on September 12, 2009

Had Paula Deem food for the first time a year ago in Mississippi.  I am from Washington State so i never thought I would be able to have it again.  Glad I was wrong and am super excited to see some lighter Paula Deem recipes.  Thanks Bobby for the personal notes of yourself.  Glad you turned it all around.

By Dee Maxwell on September 12, 2009

Wow! It seems like you have everyone excited about the “Lighten Up recipes! very cool!  do you think some of these might be incorporated at the Lady & Sons?
Can’t wait to see your new ideas.

By Debbie Walters on September 11, 2009

Hey Boby! Would love to see Mashed Potato/Hash Brown Casserole trimmed down!  I use “Alice Jo’s Spaghetti Sauce” to make lots of different dishes and am able to trim it down myself.  It makes a wonderful sauce for Lasagna!  Made four LARGE dishes yesterday!  Vicky D

By Vicky D on September 11, 2009

Hey Bobby, I’m glad to see that you are coming out with lighter versions of your Mom’s recipes. I totally agree that the older you get the harder it is to lose weight. Thanks fo the heads up about the Krill Oil. I am 39 also and know what you mean about soreness in the morning.

By Erik Oehling on September 11, 2009

Glad to see that Bobby is doing this!  I am a personal chef in Fredericksburg, Texas and I like to cook healthy meals for my clients and I have used some of Paula’s recipes (Pepper Steak; Mashed Potato Casserole, to name a few) because I like good simple cooking, which she does!  Thank you, Bobby!  Can’t wait to see what you do!  Vicky

By Vicky D on September 11, 2009

Audrey, I am so sorry about the “ex” marine statement.  I went back and listened to the tape with Bobby and he in fact did say “former” marine.  That was my bad when I transcribed the interview.  I apologize and thank you for correcting me!

By Libbie Summers on September 11, 2009

YAY!!! I’m so excited about this….love me some southern food, but hate the calories that come with it smile

By KB on September 10, 2009

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