Q+A: "Biggest Loser" Devin Alexander Wins At Healthy Living

Devin Alexander found success on a big TV show interestingly titled, The Biggest Loser – for those who haven’t seen it, the American program is about weight loss, though it does sound like a Mean Girls spin off, doesn’t it? Soon, her healthy cookbook made the New York Times bestselling list, and it appeared she was not a loser but a “winner,” truth be told…

It’s amazing to get food down in terms of calories. But how is your cruise menu also healthy?

I feel like many people confuse “low calorie” with “healthy,” and the two are not always the same! I wanted to focus on lower calorie menu items, but complete health as well! The dishes on the menu at Devinly Decadence are all under 500 calories, nitrate free, corn syrup free, and artificial sweetener free! I wanted to uphold a standard of excellence for my restaurant, which included making my own sausages when we could not find ANY that were nitrate free. Most of my menu is also filled with high fiber and high protein foods to keep you feeling fuller for longer on less calories (the key to successful weight loss). I even have a “Detox to Devinly” Drink menu that’s served all day at the bar outside the restaurant, as well as in the restaurant.  I serve everything from Chocolate Chip Pancakes with a Strawberry Tapenade (that are low in sugar) to giant salads with crispy noodles (that are baked, not fried) to a Cowboy Beef Tenderloin with Light Skinned Sweet Potato Chips (my take on Steak Frites) and even a Raspberry Lemonade Smoothie that is stocked with a full 14 grams of fiber!

What other concerns do you have beyond calories: sugar, protein and other counts?

I’m ALL about adding flavor while decreasing calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, etc. where possible.  Because at the end of the day, if food doesn’t taste good, people aren’t going to eat it!  So for me it’s flavor first. From there, I cut out as much of the bad stuff as I can while making substitutions that keep the taste! I am also a girl who believes in a balanced diet, which means getting in that protein! I love to add a solid portion of lean protein to my meals to keep my guests (and myself!) full and happy.  Not every dish I make is low in everything…but that’s where my geeky science mind comes in.  For instance, you can’t have potatoes without salt – they just won’t taste good.  So there are times that I only salt the bottoms of the potatoes in a dish like my “Sweet Potato No Skins.”  Since the salt will be the first flavor that hits your tongue, it will register as much saltier – and when the potatoes are topped with a light cheese and nitrate free turkey bacon bits, you’d never taste the salt on the tops either.  I try to be clever so I can cut on the sly!  I think that’s why people respond to my food.

Based on your experiences with The Biggest Loser, when is it OK for people to stop losing weight? As in, when do you know you look best?

Everybody is different…so it’s so individual.  I’m not a doctor, so I can’t really advise on this.  For me, however, it is ALL about balance. I’ve weighed much more than I am today, and less as well. The true key to living a happy and healthy life is to treat your body well by giving it the nourishment it needs, and then feeding your soul with what IT needs! I’m a foodie.  I am and will always be. Balance is vital! In my case, that balance means indulging in something chocolate-y every once in awhile and having a drink with my friends, guilt-free.  Though I once weighed 200 pounds, I don’t need to worry about my weight.  I eat things that give me calorie bang for my buck and when I “cheat,” it’s guilt free.  I know that if I’m indulging in a piece of chocolate peanut butter cheesecake or something insanely calorie dense, I don’t need to eat a ton…and it’s really not a big deal.  It’s just not when it’s eaten with intention and as a treat, not a way of life.


How would you recommend someone maintain weight under your cooking style?

It’s not all about calories – it’s about portions.  I think it’s too obsessive to count calories every day for the rest of your life. Once you learn what portions your body needs (while considering fats, carbohydrates, proteins, etc), you can easily throw meals together using all sorts of different foods! It takes some practice in the beginning but sets you up for a lifetime of success. Another surefire way you can help yourself maintain is to find makeovers of your favorites. I have 8 cookbooks full of mine! Are you Italian and always craving pasta like me? Find my stuffed shells in my book The Most Decadent Diet Ever and keep yourself from running to the nearest Italian restaurant.

What is a food that never tastes good no matter how much you work on reducing the calorie count, and what do you love about it for your cheat moments?

Two things I have never been able to quite nail down are apple pie and vanilla cupcakes.  Vanilla cupcakes are essentially butter cupcakes if you really get to the bottom of the flavor. Without it they simply do not taste the same! Same with apple pie, the amount of butter in the crust just makes it impossible to completely makeover. I do make a mean Naked Apple Tart for those of you who love the gooey-ness of apple pie filling! But if you are all about that crust I have not yet found an amazing remake. Fortunately for me, there is nothing I absolutely LOVE that I can’t make a fitter version of. Ask me for brownies, mac and cheese, nachos and even a chorizo lasagna, and I’ve got you covered!

This article originally appeared en español on my ELLE Spain blog.

ELLE Spain discontinued their freelance blog journalism program in 2016. I have republished it on NicoleRussinMcFarland.com once again so my journalism may live on. I am grateful for the experiences I had from 2011-2016 writing for my personal Spanish language blog, revista ELLE for providing the blog, and the time from all of my interviewees.