You may have heard the name Stacey Morris on the web, or on social media.
Or you may have heard about her via the very successful makeover stories from DDP Yoga.
She and Arthur Boorman were two of the first very successful/true to life weight loss stories that came out of DDP Yoga (come see how many other transformations there have been!) they lost massive amounts of weight via DDP Yoga along with food/lifestyle changes.
What is DDP Yoga? A new spin on yoga that is designed to be easy on the joints (low impact), increases flexibility, builds strength as well as burning fat. The creator Diamond Dallas Page pegs it as: “It Ain’t Your Mama’s Yoga”. Tough name with a tough workout, but a workout that anyone can do, including anyone who has bad joints, or a bad back or limited flexibility. It’s not just stretching yoga moves; it’s centered around low-impact moves held in place with intensity in order to get your heart rate up. Personally I was drawn to this because of Stacey and mainly because of Arthur who like me, has (or should I say had) weak knees. The best part is being able to do it in your own home; no pricey gym membership needed or fancy workout gear.
Stacey’s story will sound familiar to many, many people struggling to lose weight since childhood. At age 29, weighing in at 306 pounds with a 5-foot 8-inch frame, she was both shocked and daunted by the number on the scale. Daunted, she recalls, to the point of being resigned to that size for life.
In Stacey's first book "Clean Comfort" she shares with us her personal weight loss journey, her own awakening how she came to grips with her feelings which helped her on her journey:
“Fast food was my salvation….I could get a bag of the goods without ever leaving the drivers’ seat of my car. And eat it in peaceful privacy, with no one watching or judging me. Sometimes I’d turn the radio up to drown out the sound I didn’t care to listen to: my jaws grinding away mechanically…the grinding was a distraction from the rage, and the sorrow and the loneliness I pushed back into the dark underground cavern of unacknowledged feelings.” pg. 17.
Powerful words, packed with honest, unbridled emotion.
In Clean Comfort it's pretty apparent how honest Stacey is in sharing her story; nothing is held back; it's those dark emotions that are some of the hardest demons to face and acknowledge to help you take that first step towards your weight loss journey.
Presently Stacey writes for her personal website: StaceyMorris.com where you can find more details about her journey, find "clean" recipes, and shares her triumphs & challenges of weight maintenance that she currently faces.
Stacey writes a blog on health and wellness for the Huffington Post.
Her YouTube Channel has videos of sanity-saving tips, plus AMAZING recipes created by Stacey & Chef Bill (her boyfriend):
Since DDPYoga was such a staple in Stacey's life, you can now catch her on DDPYOGA Radio every Wednesday at 9 p.m. EST.
I received a lot of questions from my readers, so this is a longer than normal interview and I am thankful that Stacey happily answered each and every question!
I received a lot questions from my readers, so there might be a little more than what you’re used to—people are very curious about your successful journey!
What was it that led you to DDP Yoga?
It was completely serendipitous. I wasn’t looking for anything fitness or weight-loss related, though it was that cliché time of year for weight-loss: early January! I tuned in to watch Oprah’s famous “falling off the wagon” confession because I could relate so well to that. To my shock, Carnie Wilson was a guest and she looked thin, radiant, and happy. I’ve long considered her my genetic twin because we’ve struggled with obesity since childhood, so seeing her in that state gave me a surge of hope. Carnie briefly mentioned her change hinged upon meeting a man named Dallas. I did a Google search and the rest is history.
You seemed to stay with DDP Yoga for the long haul – what made that routine stick?
What that boils down to is DDPYOGA and Diamond Dallas Page entered my life at the right time. I was ready. That meant I was ready to take an honest look at my life and health and how out of control I’d gotten. That day in January 2009 when I learned my weight was 345 pounds was a very sobering moment. But feeling shame or disgust is not enough motivation. If it was, I’d have lost weight long ago. I needed to be honest with myself about why I was misusing food, face my emotional demons, and take some direction from mentors.
And did it inspire you to change your diet too or was your diet first?
I tell clients I counsel on transformation not to tackle it all at once because it’s too overwhelming. At 345 pounds, I had a long road ahead of me, but I focused on what needed my most immediate attention. For the past 20 years, I pretty much lived on junk food. My food choices were taste-bud-driven. Of course, they still are, but I’m no longer ruled by that premise; I also eat for nutritional value. But back to the beginning: I knew from all my past ‘failures’ that to be too strict would backfire. Instead, I eliminated my most damaging binge foods because they were both emotional triggers and ridiculously caloric. That was the only firm rule in the beginning. Just cut out the trance eating and eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’ve had enough. I could do this more easily because I’d hooked into a support system and had people in my corner helping and encouraging me. I also was willing to take a look at things in my life that were causing me pain and discomfort and therefore driving me to the refrigerator. I was willing to make the mirror the first stop instead of the fridge. It was a long overdue visit.
If you had to boil it down to one defining moment that catapulted you into your weight loss journey, what would it be?
The Carnie Wilson moment was pivotal. The next big moment was weighing myself a month into my new way of eating. Keep in mind I had not dieted. And truth be told, that month I didn’t exercise either; it was enough just to deal with the food. Imagine my elation when I stepped on the scale and learned 20 pounds were gone! That was a major motivator to keep doing what I was doing. Clearly I was on the right track. Never before had weight loss been so painless. I’d been dieting since age 9. Dropping weight without dieting felt like the biggest deluge of manna from heaven I’d ever received in my lifetime. I was back at my doctor’s office for the weigh-in, because my home scale didn’t go past 300, but I didn’t care – I was positively overjoyed.
Above I shared a little from your book:
“...the grinding was a distraction from the rage, and the sorrow and the loneliness I pushed back into the dark underground cavern of unacknowledged feelings.” That’s quite a powerful sentence of emotions there. Can you share with us what was your first step in meeting those ‘dark underground cavern of unacknowledged feelings’? pg. 17
I imagine this was one of your first steps in truly liking who you were—meeting those demons head on?
It was a very important step and for me, it preceded the weight coming off. Most of those years at 300 pounds+ were spent in various soul-searching ways that included group and individual therapy, spiritual retreats, writers workshops, past life regression, energy work…you name it. And of course, lots of self-help books. The best ones were interactive, IE, Iyanla Vanzant’s “One Day, My Soul Just Opened Up!” because it had writing exercises at the end of every chapter. Any substantial healing requires a certain level of self-inquiry. I knew things were not right in my life, with my past…and I knew that a diet was not what I needed. At the same time, I was in an unhappy place and not really willing or able to give up the binge-eating and all the comfort foods that kept me sane. But I was willing to explore my life from a spiritual and psychological standpoint and that was a very good and crucial beginning in loving myself and in meeting the demons head-on. In a nutshell, I had to embrace honesty, and that was a gradual process.
And do you still battle with it today? The demons or as you put it:
“…as an emotional eater, it was imperative that I face my demons and get to the root of what was sending me running from reality…”pg. 19
Oh sure, it never fully goes away, demons come and go, so do irritating people and situations. Only now, I don’t run away from them. I have an honest look at my feelings and see what sort of action I need to take to deal with them. Sometimes it requires an honest discussion with someone, or the need to set a boundary.
I know from reading your book Clean Comfort it was Diamond Dallas Page who convinced you to drop gluten and cow dairy from your diet.
You state in your book “…the only time I ever saw lasting change was when I cut gluten and cow dairy from my diet. That’s how I eat now, and I’ll never go back….” pg. 20 So this was the starting point food-wise in your new way of eating?
No, the starting point was dropping the really destructive binge-foods. And eating in more moderate amounts vs. until I was stuffed. That was a nice, do-able first stage for me. I could not have done the gluten and dairy elimination in the very beginning. I had a variety of crutches I needed to lean on without the binge foods and one of those crutches was cottage cheese! I LOVED it. All those years of dieting kind of
programmed it into me. But DDP is a very persuasive force of nature. And I was kind of afraid of him (which was a great motivator!) and when he made it known he wanted me to go off cow dairy, I knew there was no grey area. It was about month three of my transformation and I was feeling more energetic and stronger by that point, so I had the motivation to give one more change a try. I was convinced that I
would be miserable without cheese and thought at the time I’d try this dairy-free experiment for a month just to appease him. Then I’d politely explain that it didn’t work for me and, ooops, gotta go back to dairy. Instead, to my utter amazement, my energy levels soared and the weight came off very naturally and without struggle. Same effect when I gave gluten the boot also.
Clean Comfort by Stacey Morris
I’m an avid DDP Yoga user myself, it's how I met you, and loved your story.
What I love about DDP Yoga is how easy it is to use right at home, and it does help stretch all those muscles you don’t normally get to stretch. Plus it's truly a workout. Some yoga exercise CD's don't really give your whole body a good workout physically and mentally (mentally being relieving).
With that said, was the yoga hard for you in the beginning? Was it your only form of exercise?
I loved DDPYOGA from day one because it was so do-able. Which doesn’t mean all the positions were easy to execute. At 345 pounds many of them were awkward and needed modifying so I could do them. But overall, I could get through a workout, and I noticed that I got stronger and more flexible with each one. DDPYOGA is my primary form of exercise, but I also long-distance walk and do light weights at the gym. It’s a nice way to ignite my sluggish, middle-aged metabolism.
In the beginning of your weight loss journey did you have a set eating plan? I know now, these days you pretty much eat clean. Did it take you baby steps to get to that point when you first started out? And lastly, who/what/where did you learn about your eating style?
A big part of my long-term success lies in that I have allowed my eating to be an evolution. Which is a natural process if you leave it alone, listen to your body, and don’t over analyze or micromanage things. In my dieting years, I’d have these charts and lists: This is what you will eat and in these quantities. And you will lose X number of pounds by this month! Very harsh stuff under the guise of being positive structure and motivation. I realize that my body (you know that intricate thing that regulates your heartbeat, blood pressure, and body temperature) knows far more than I do about the process of healing and returning to balance. I believe our bodies are crying out to be in balance and will go to great lengths to help us do that if we just lend a bit of a hand and then get the heck out of the way. So I did not have a ‘fixed’ eating plan in terms of being told how much to eat. I knew there were groups of food (mostly junk and fast food) which were doing me no favors so I strongly avoided or eliminated them. There were groups of healthy foods (like kale and cauliflower) I’d steered clear of most of my life and I had to learn to compromise and eat them some of the time. And there were middle road foods (like eggs and potatoes) that I genuinely liked and they were my salvation because I could enjoy them and be healthy (if I paid attention to quantity). Suddenly the dieting paradigm seemed ridiculous and I began to feel more and more comfortable trusting my body and my taste buds to guide me. My taste buds once ruled me completely. Now they are part of a consensus – they’re no longer in the role of dictator. I choose foods based on nutrient content and carb-protein composition. In the beginning, accountability was especially important. It helped me zero in on if my choices were proper and forced me to be honest and transparent with my food. I had a wonderful mentor in Terri Lange, known as the Godmother of DDPYOGA. I’d e-mail her the food I ate everyday and she’d either say ‘great!’ or make suggestions about how it could be more balanced or healthier. Terri’s the one who gently suggested I needed to be eating more greens. I’m not a veggie lover by nature and she made me aware that in order to be balanced, I’ve got to eat them anyway. Life’s not just about pleasing the taste buds, though that will always be a key component for me.
You share with us in your book how you went through many diets to lose weight. What was the worst diet? Most crazy?
Several come to mind: The most unpleasant were the ones that eliminated food and instead had you surviving on powdered egg mixes or protein drinks. They would last all of two days because my body and mind would be ravaged from the deprivation. Another instance was an extreme crash diet that a doctor gave to my father when I was in fifth grade. My dad and I would diet together (and fall off the wagon together too). This diet consisted of NO fat and very little carbs. I remember looking at the diet sheet and getting excited because mashed potatoes were allowed, but the doctor pointed out the portion size was a quarter cup…and no butter. I vividly remember another crash diet I embarked on at age 16 when I was so full of self-loathing and and just wanted to look like the other girls in class. Breakfast was green beans and stewed tomatoes. Lunch was poached chicken breast and more vegetables. Dinner was fish and a piece of melba toast. My strategy was to couple this meager food intake with intense treadmilling because I wanted the weight off yesterday so I could finally be happy. That first day, I was literally light headed and dizzy after the treadmill. I remember steadying myself against a wall as I got out of the shower, shaking as I got dressed, then marching right to the kitchen where I relieved myself by diving into the bread box and making toast and butter.
Was it true that you lost 100 pounds two times and gained it back two times?
I lost and regained 100 pounds twice during my 20’s. Both times I was following Weight Watchers, which I don’t fault as a bad diet. Weight Watchers actually taught me a lot about portion control and how to eat food in the real world sensibly. I just wasn’t ready for deep changes at the time. I thought losing weight would be the magic wand to wave away all of my pre-existing problems. Of course, that didn’t happen and I hadn’t built up the proper emotional coping skills so the weight came back, plus another 100 pounds by the time I was in my 30’s.
On your website StaceyMorris.com you share that you’ve tried many fad diets. Which one was the craziest? Any that made you sick?
Oh, I loved Atkins because he allowed bacon and cheese! And me being the lover of rich foods that I am, well, that’s all I heard. I stopped listening to the other stuff, like be sure to eat vegetables too. Probably the craziest thing I did was the prescription drug known as Fen-Phen. Whose idea was that? Fortunately I didn’t stay on it more than a month, and though I’ve never had an EKG, don’t believe I have heart damage as a result of using it. But I felt like I was on speed. I took it during the Thanksgiving holiday and remember barking orders at everyone, moving them through the buffet line and being more interested in overseeing the logistics of the meal then eating all the holiday delicacies. That would have been great except for one thing: my lack of interest in food was DRUG INDUCED!”
pistachio pudding, pg. 101
What I loved most about you then and now, was your steadfast determination on your health journey. It was the YouTube video that showcases your determination to lose weight that inspired me on my weight loss journey (for those that don’t know I’ve lost about 50 pounds so far). Did you have times on your journey where you wanted to give up? I’m sure you did. What made you get back on track?
I’ve had a lifetime of giving up and falling off the wagon. I honestly think I learned all I could from those experiences and they hold no value for me. I’ve had some shaky moments, and sure, the food does call me when I’m stressed or irritable. But I have a lot in place to help me: those coping mechanisms I mentioned above, a support community, good friends, loving partner, being of service to others. There was one moment in the fall of 2009 when I was breaking up with my then-boyfriend and moving from a home I’d loved dearly. Stress is something I handle fairly well, but sadness can send me reeling. I wanted to disappear into piles of food. The first thing I did was call Dallas and admit that to him. No more hiding. Seeking help and being honest are where it’s at.
In your famous YouTube video (“From 345 pounds to a Size 8”), there was a photo that showed you finally being able to fit into an airplane seat without the need for a seatbelt extender. Were there other moments of clarity like that one that really meant a lot to you and made all that hard work worth it?
Oh there were so many! The first year of my transformation was magical because of all those moments. It felt like I was coming back from the dead; and in a sense, I was. I was positively GIDDY the day I discovered I no longer needed a seatbelt extender. And ditto for the day I fit into a theater seat comfortably, was able to cross my legs, wear high heels again, shed my all-black wardrobe for a rainbow of colors, put a pair of denim jeans on again, and go to a spa and wear the robes THEY provided rather than the 4X robe I used to bring with me to the spa.
Tell us about your way of eating now? How did you get to where you are now with your eating? Was it a learn-as-you-go type deal?
It was a definitely a learn-as-you-go evolution. I put parameters in place without being too rigid. Just by experimenting and liking how I felt eating certain foods such as lentils, rice pudding made with coconut milk, avocados, and chia seeds I realized I was becoming ‘Veganish.’ But I love meatballs and burgers way too much to ever be a vegan! I eat eggs just about everyday, and lentils. I love the way Bill makes crispy salmon fillets. And homemade lentil vegetable soup is one of my staples. There’s a recipe for it in “Clean Comfort.” A few things I avoid besides gluten and cow dairy are processed foods and cured meats because they’re loaded with sodium and nitrates.
from the chapter A Walk on The Wild Side: quinoa chocolate cake with whipped chocolate-coconut cream frosting, chocolate mousse, chocolate-banana ice cream.
Besides losing weight from the way you eat, tell us about the other benefits you achieved by eating clean.
I have a lot more energy, obviously because I’m not carrying all that extra weight, but also because my body’s not in a continual state of digestion. Before the weight came off I was sluggish and ‘sleepy’ all the time, as one friend put it. Digesting food takes an enormous amount of energy and since I was sending food down the hatch with scrupulous regularity, it took a toll on me. Also, my blood sugar levels and cholesterol have improved. Even sleeping is easier now! At 345 pounds, it was hard to find a comfortable position lying down. I surrounded myself with a life raft of pillows in bed to ease the discomfort. And rolling over in bed was a major chore. Not fun.
remodeled eggplant parm, eggplant latkes, buffalo shrimp
So many questions from fans, I’ll just list as many as I can:
Favorite comfort (clean) food now?
Sweet: Chocolate Quinoa Cake with Coconut Cream Frosting.
Savory: Chef Bill’s New England Clam Chowder.
What does your workout routine consist of?
After you lost all that weight, do you have to keep up a fairly strong maintenance workout program?
It’s not as rigorous as you may think, though I am very faithful to it. I do some form of DDPYOGA five days a week. Mostly it’s the medium-length workouts such as “Strength Builder” or “Below The Belt.” But once a week I’ll do a marathon DVD such as “Psycho Extreme” or “Double Black Diamond,” both of which are an hour in duration. I love long walks for cardio, usually about 3 miles. In extreme heat or cold, I’ll head to the gym for a 50-minute bike ride, followed by some light weight lifting. I’ve loved lifting weights ever since seeing “Pumping Iron” at a very influential age, so I keep it in my repertoire because I find it empowering and it’s good at my age to keep the muscles primed and in use.
Those days you get down, do you ever ‘kind of’ go back to your old way of eating?
There are times I allow a little extra comfort where food is concerned. I’m human. I’ll allow it, eat it with consciousness and not in a trance, and I enjoy it. No guilt or remorse necessary. However, I know it’s crucial I stay aware of my motivation and my emotional state and outlook. Eating a little extra is one thing, but self-destructing and eating till I feel sick is another. I won’t allow myself to do that anymore…and when it flashes across my mind, I know it’s time to sit down, take a look at what’s behind the urge, and deal with it. Simple measures like nipping a crisis in the bud is really what it takes. See? There’s no magic answer that makes all the ‘yuck’ go away forever. Life’s a series of ebbs and flows, ups and downs. It’s OK.
Your boyfriend, Bill Duckman is a foodie and a chef.
Did he help you create some of the recipes in your book?
Yes, Chef Bill was very instrumental in creating a lot of the soups and entrees. He has years experience as a home cook and worked in the restaurant industry for many years. Bill was given lots of amazing recipes from chefs he worked with and some of them, like “Eggplant-Chego” are made over with clean ingredients for the book.
What is your favorite recipe from the book?
Oooh, so tough to pick one favorite, so I’ll give you a few: Baked Apples, Gommy’s Buttermilk Pancakes, Espresso Bean Smoothies, Crab Cappellini, Cauliflower Hash, and Pistachio Cake with Whipped Cream.
Anything you want people to know about “Clean Comfort”?
You’re adamant about saying it is not a diet book.
Right! It is my story of struggle and triumph, plus a loose outline, or blueprint of how others can find their own way. And I want to be clear about the recipes and food. Obviously, the point of the book is to offer good-tasting food, many of which mimic classic comfort foods. But I’ve never done the deceptive thing that some dieting entities or weight-loss related cookbooks often do: make the declaration that my recipes are EXACTLY like the real thing. I wouldn’t insult anyone’s intelligence by saying that. As I say in the book, I knew I couldn’t keep everything in place food-wise and expect change. So does the Chocolate Avocado Mousse taste like something Julia Child would make? No, because it’s avocado-based and not made with heavy cream. The Creamy Tomato Soup is made with Chevre and not heavy cream. And the banana ‘bread’ in the book (The Reformed Elvis) is made of garbanzo beans. I’ve had to adapt my palate to the cleaner ingredients. Which meant I had to make a decision: What was more important to me, the taste and texture of real bread, or keeping the weight off and feeling better? That said, there are many recipes that are just plain good tasting, and I get mail all the time from happy readers. Some crowd favorites: Football Cornbread, Black Bean Brownies, and Greek-Style Potatoes Lyonnaise.
Will there be a second book?
Yes! And a third. Bill and I are working on Bean Comfort, a book of lentil-based recipes and Sweet Comfort, a larger collection of desserts and other clean sweets.
Is there a favorite junk food that you occasionally cheat on?
Fried chicken. And I’ve always been very open about that. I’m not an ice cream or pizza lover, but fried chicken and I will always be an item. The difference now vs. my eating days, besides making sure I really want it and it’s not an emotional craving is, I eat it with a side of vegetables or lentils instead of mashed potatoes and biscuits. And it’s washed down with hot water or herbal tea. Hot liquids are my secret weapon because they are so good for digestion. I drink them all the time. It’s something I learned from Deepak Chopra’s book, “Perfect Weight.”
Any proud moments you’ve had in your life that you never thought you could do after losing all that weight?
I’ve ridden a few roller coasters, walked a 29-mile marathon, and gone parasailing.
All were exhilarating. And the only one I’ll probably repeat is the marathon. Oh, and I finally mastered a difficult DDPYOGA position known as “Black Crow!”
Thank you so much Stacey.
We all appreciate you taking the time to answer all the questions, and we appreciate you opening up about your story.
Thanks for having me, Dawn…you and your readers asked great questions!
Below is my favorite recipe from “Clean Comfort": Pistachio Cake with Whipped Cream
Follow Stacey on Twitter & Facebook
Get updates from her website
Pistachio Cake with Whipped Cream
from Clean Comfort by Stacey Morris
Makes 1 round layer cake
1 can Great Northern Beans, drained
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons coconut oil (note: it’s normal for coconut oil to be solid at room temperature, except in warm-weather months)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 box sugar-free pistachio pudding
Preheat oven to 350 and spray a round cake pan with cooking spray.
Blend all ingredients in a food processor thoroughly.
The pudding mix may make the batter overly thick, if this happens, add a bit of water.
Scrape into prepared cake pan and bake for 25 minutes or until center feels firm to touch.
Let cool, then cut into slices and top with coconut whipped cream.