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 pauladeen.com.
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 pauladeen.com 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 http://www.libbiesummers.com
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