A Hollywood Nutrition Expert Just Revealed Her A-List Clients’ “One Common Challenge”

Updated: Jan. 05, 2024

Los Angeles-based dietitian and author Kim Shapira reframes how resolutions should serve us—and the advice she gives clients who are trying to lose weight quickly.

At this time of year, we used to get saturated with chatter about New Year’s resolutions. Maybe the pandemic made us all appreciate the status quo a little more, because these days it feels like not setting a resolution is the more ubiquitous trend.

And since over the years data have shown that an overwhelming majority of resolutions are targeted toward weight loss, where does that leave us in 2024—has greater self-acceptance made us happier and healthier?

Kim Shapira, MS, RD, has answers. Since years before health “coaches” existed and registered dietitians had social media followings by the thousands, Shapira has been helping her nutrition counseling and dietetics clients understand their individual stories with food and eliminate emotional eating. With a Master’s in human metabolism and clinical nutrition and a bachelor’s in kinesiology from Tulane, Shapira has long been a go-to for celebrities and athletes whose livelihoods depend on their fitness—talk about the kind of pressure that takes a lot of self-compassion to cope with.

In fact, longtime client Kaley Cuoco has opened up about how growing up in television informed her self-image in the foreword she wrote for Shapira’s book, This Is What You’re Really Hungry For: Six Simple Rules to Transform Your Relationship With Food to Become Your Healthiest Self (BenBella Books, 2023).

Shapira has also spent her career working with hospitals, addiction centers and private clients, and this week she spoke exclusively with The Healthy @Reader’s Digest about the struggles with food and self-image she’s discovered so many of us share in common.

The Healthy @Readers Digest: There are a lot of health coaches and even registered dietitians out there, but your credentials and philosophy stand out. What were you observing in your practice that made you feel as though the message in your book was necessary for right now?

Kim Shapira: Thank you. One thing that I observed in my clients was a strong focus on losing weight and striving for perfection. One thing that I work really hard to instill in all of my clients is that the goal is never to lose weight, but to keep it off, and that’s going to require real change, and a commitment to change.

The Healthy: Where do you stand on New Year’s resolutions?

Kim Shapira, MS, RD: I love taking the time and focusing on wins from the previous year—creating a highlight reel on all the things that we’ve accomplished. I think when we look back over the previous year, we surprise ourselves.

I also love looking at the future one year from now, like a highlight reel as if it’s already happened. We have such short-term memories we can’t even remember what we ate yesterday. Making a resolution in theory sounds like a great idea, but I’m not sure it’s sustainable. And then this leads us to feel bad. I’m more into finding joy in the journey, and accepting that not all the moments are great, but then I can’t handle them.

The Healthy: We know you’ve worked with Kaley Cuoco. Are you able to share names of any other celebrity clients you’ve worked with? You don’t have to share specifics, but what are the experiences, challenges, or pressures you’ve led them in navigating that we might be surprised are relatable for a lot of people?

Kim Shapira: I have many different types of clients and a lot of them work in Hollywood. I would say one common challenge they face are having meetings and lunches that are around food and alcohol. I like to give my clients permission to drink sparkling water and to make food choices regardless of what anyone else is doing. There’s a lot of pressure to have a drink if everyone else is having a drink.

I love the idea of my clients being trendsetters and drinking what feels right for their body, rather than feeling pressure to drink. And I think the same goes with food. We’re not always hungry at all the meetings, or sometimes we’re hungrier than others at the meetings. It’s important to honor what you feel.

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The Healthy: In your book and in a course you teach, you discuss what you call “the Six Simple Rules to Heal Your Relationship With Food and Actually Lose the Weight for Good.” What are the six rules—and should weight loss be the goal, or is there another way to frame what we’re striving for?

Kim Shapira: I think weight loss can be a goal, but I think learning how to maintain it is actually the real goal. So whether you need to lose weight or you already lost weight or maybe you just are trying to find peace around food, we all end up being in the same place. We just take different roads getting there. I use my six simple rules to coach my clients to manage this:

  • Rule #1: Eat when you’re hungry. Take your normal portion and cut it in half, then put this half on hold. Wait 15 minutes to see if you need more food.
  • Rule #2: Eat what you love, and make sure the food loves you back.
  • Rule #3: Eat without distractions. We eat because the food is in front of us. We eat for emotional reasons. We eat because we’re hungry. We even eat because we’re craving something. The goal is only to eat when you’re hungry and as much as you need now, trusting there will be more food when you need it.
  • Rule #4: Get 10,000 steps every day. Remember the goal is to maintain your weight loss, and we need to have an active lifestyle to do that. If you’re only averaging 3,000 steps, that’s OK—you have some work to do and you have a long life to get that work done. Just slowly start adding steps every day. Find ways to do it that are fun for you.
  • Rule #5: Drink eight cups of water every day. Water is how we naturally detox all of our cells. If we are dehydrated, our body has to work hard and won’t lose weight. The stress of that could cause us to gain weight as well as impact our body, fat, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. One percent dehydration is about two cups of water, and it feels like having the flu. It’s an easy fix: Drink up.
  • Rule #6: Get seven hours of sleep a night. The average American gets 6.5 hours, but we need between seven and nine to feel well. It’s important to be on a schedule and go to sleep around the same time and wake up at the same time. When we’re tired, we have very little motivation to take care of ourselves, and we end up making poor choices. When we’re tired, our body feels stressed, and when our body feels stressed, it holds onto weight and alters our hormones. Sleep is essential to being well.

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The Healthy: There have been recent reports that binge-eating is a more pervasive issue than perhaps the evidence shows, and many people believe that in the act of binging that maybe their behavior is undisciplined, but they don’t realize that it can be categorized as “disordered.” Can you speak to this?

Shapira: I would not say that binge eating behavior is undisciplined. In fact, I think it’s a trained behavior. Our mind is always trying to help us survive each moment in the more pleasurable way. When we have discomfort in our life or in our body, our mind gives us solutions, and if we found what was more pleasurable than the way that we felt, we remember this. Binge eating can even happen when your blood sugars are too low—our mind is recognizing that our body and our basic survival is threatened.

One thing we can do is to make sure we eat when we’re hungry and learn to trust that we will eat again soon. Most people eat between three and five times a day and have about 21 meals a week. If you’ve been on a diet or you’ve restricted yourself, you don’t trust that you will eat again soon or feel safe. It’s up to us to work on that piece.

The Healthy: In 2024, what’s one idea you want your clients and readers to understand and internalize for themselves?

Shapira: Taking care of yourself is easier than you think. Habit stacking can be fun and working on the relationship you have with your body is the single most important relationship you have. Do not worry about perfection. Strive for progress.

The Healthy: What’s one self-care practice you refuse to skip?

Shapira: Good question! I have many non-negotiables, but moving my body every day is one practice I refuse to skip. Sometimes I’m tired and so I might go for a walk and sometimes I’m very energized, and I feel like I can lift weights and take a spin class. I always just focus on what my body is feeling and honor that. I move my body every day to the best of my ability, and if I don’t for whatever reason, I know that I will tomorrow.