Getting REAL with Bethenny Frankel
The scoop on her new book and the other Real Housewives of New York
-Julie Ryan Evans
As a self-proclaimed reality TV addict, I can say without reservation that The Real Housewives of New York – and its sister shows in Orange County and Atlanta – is by far the best reality series ever. Really.
One of the best things about the New York series is Bethenny Frankel, who isn’t actually a housewife … not even a wife, but she brings a hilarious, frankness to the show amidst some others – if you watch, you know who I mean – who take themselves way too seriously.
I recently caught up with Frankel, who, incidentally, was sitting poolside in Miami as we chatted, to talk about her new book, NATURALLY THIN: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting.
What makes her qualified to give out diet advice? She’s not a nutritionist nor a doctor but rather a woman who has struggled with food issues all of her life, like so many of us. But what started out as a hobby-making healthy food taste delicious-turned into a lifelong career for her. She was runner-up in Martha Stewart Apprentice and is founder of her own natural-foods company, BethennyBakes. She also attended the National Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. And if you need any further credentials, just check out her amazing bod, which she bares in swimsuits on the series.
When I spoke with Bethenny, she was just as real and funny as she is on the show. And in true Bethenny form, she didn’t hold back a bit with her answers.
Why did you decide to write Naturally Thin?
I’m a very impulsive, gut-instinct kind of person; the book kind of wrote me. I was, like, “I’m mad as hell, I can’t take it anymore, I’ve been living a whole life of obsessive dieting and up and down and food noise,” which I talk about in the book – turning your food noise into a food voice-and it’s like enough already. I’m in my 30s, and enough of counting every morsel, every exercise, every calorie. I had hit the wall.
So I decided I was going to go on a trip to Italy and make my diet a bank account. I was going to have it all but decide in what quantities and when. It just opened up a whole world where I broke free. I unleashed my skinny girl.
It’s now 10 years later, and I’m easily 10 to 15 pounds thinner and worry so much less, and work out 10 percent of what I used to. On that trip I figured out this ticket, this key, and I wanted to tell everyone. That’s how the book came about.
Have you ever been actually ever been overweight?
I’ve definitely been 25 pounds heavier. I wouldn’t call that massively overweight; I wasn’t obese. But I was certainly not comfortable, and I was puffy. I wasn’t naturally thin, and had I not been completely and massively obsessed, I probably would have been much heavier. But I was gripping on with white knuckles, trying to always maintain and working out five days, then not eating, then making a mistake and eating french fries, then killing myself and eating cookies and … working out more. It was very obsessive, and that’s the core issue.
What’s the most important thing you want women to know about their diet?
The most important thing is that your diet is a bank account, and if you want chocolate cake for breakfast then you should absolutely have it. But then you have to balance that with what you eat at lunch. It’s not what you eat now; it’s what you eat next.
All of the rules kind of fall within the guide of the bank account – whether it’s Eat Real Food or Cancel Your Membership to The Clean Plate Club or Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself, which speaks to the fact that you can eat fried chicken and French fries and chocolate cake or whatever you want, you just can’t binge and get to that emotional place where you’re good because you didn’t eat or bad because you did eat. Because food isn’t your best friend or you enemy, it’s just food. You need to be able to walk away from it and know that it’s going to be there again.
I’ve seen you quoted as saying that you want to help Oprah lose weight. Have you heard from her?
No, I’m hoping to be on her show. It’s not that I want to help her lose weight; I want to help her not have so much food noise and not to always be trying to find a plan even though she says she’s not on a plan anymore. She’s always planning to not be on a plan. I want to help her to realize how to live within the life she has and the schedule she has.
Do the other housewives subscribe to your theories?
Yes, Ramona buys into my rule that if you want a cheeseburger today then have a salad tomorrow. Jill buys into my rule Taste Everything, Eat Nothing; Lou Ann is an eat-real-foods type person, a more Mediterranean type of diet; Alex is also very similar “how to make it work in a busy schedule” – so, yeah, they do.
You recently beat out Cameron in Us Weekly‘s “Who Wore it Best” feature. How did that feel?
Great. But, you know, it’s that next week I look like a hag. It doesn’t really feel that good because it’s her, but because that dress cost me $250 on eBay, and I bought it in the wrong size and had it tailored to fit me, and it retailed for $1,700. That’s what felt good. I’m sure tomorrow she’ll look better than me … I just love that I got that dress for $250.
I buy everything on eBay. I’m the MacGyver of fashion. I buy the wrong size and tailor it; I buy the wrong color at a sample sale and dye it. I don’t pay retail. So that’s what’s the most fun about that for me.
Are the clothes you wear on the show from eBay or do they have a wardrobe for you?
No, they don’t have a wardrobe for us. I buy everything on sale. I buy nothing retail. Ever.
Are you going to do another season of The Real Housewives of New York?
I mean they’ll ask us, because that show is a very big success, and I’m sure I’ll do it again.
How has the experience been?
It’s very toxic, challenging and very invasive, but don’t hate the player hate the game, and don’t bite the hand that feeds you … it’s been a commercial for everything that I’m doing, and Bravo totally brands you and lets you be who you are.
Why do you do it? Why do you put yourself out there?
When I was offered it I was the spokesperson for a health magazine at Pepperidge Farms, and I turned it down for two months. My agent and every single person, except for a friend, said don’t do it. You already did The Apprentice a few years ago, and you escaped that. But a few months later I was sitting in an airport, and I was like, you know what, it’s Bravo, and a lot of my peers whom I respect are on that network, and more importantly, I know myself, and if I act as myself, and I just be myself, it will work out. So I decided to roll the dice, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I’ve gotten other TV shows out of it, and it’s been really wonderful. Zero regrets. I’m absolutely grateful.
Do you think anyone on the show is portrayed incorrectly? Are Alex and Simon as crazy as they seem?
Alex and Simon are exactly as they seem. Simon may play it up a little bit more in certain areas because he knows it works. Ramona is EXACTLY true to form. Jill is exactly true to form. LuAnn is the queen of appropriateness and has a whole appropriate agenda she tries to adhere to. So if there’s anyone who might have more of a façade going on than anyone else, it’s LuAnn.
Yeah, she’s the one I can’t figure out. On one hand, she seems down to earth, then she pulls out this whole call-me-the-countess thing.
Yea, well, I think it’s her own personal identity crisis that she thinks the most important thing about her is that she has some fictitious crown that doesn’t even exist. I think she has no idea that it would be much more interesting if she just acted like a human being who happened be a countess rather than acting like a countess who might be a human being.
Are you really friends with the other housewives?
I’m really friends with Jill. I’m definitely friendly with Ramona. And I have a business relationship and mutual respect and camaraderie with Ramona and Alex and Simon and Jill because we all started this together and really fought for it. It’s really me, Jill, Ramona and Alex and Simon. We really bring it, we’re really honest about it, we really talk about it. It was supposed to be some train wreck of a show, and we built it when we were getting paid so little. And so we’re all sort of together in it and proud of it.
So people ask me if I’m really friends with Alex and Simon, and it’s not like I go out with them. But, last night, Jill watched next week’s episode with them, and I called them and told them about my book sales that are crazy. So they’re all really excited for me, and we’re all rooting for each other. It used to be I resisted them, and now, I’m like, “Good, great for the show.” Thank God for Alex and Simon.
Speaking of jokes, what did you think of The Real Housewives of Atlanta?
I thought it was phenomenal. I know NeNe, really, and I’ve gone out with her a couple of times. She’s a complete cartoon and a character, and thank God for that girl Kim, too, because she’s good television. Sheree is a disaster and a complete beating, and the other ones are completely irrelevant.
I think their show is great; I think it’s frankly better than ours. It’s edited better; it’s produced better. It’s just a better show.
Are you dating anyone?
I date a really good-looking model and a chef on the show this season.
Are you dating anyone now?
Yes, but no one I’m ready to share.
Will he -the one you’re currently dating – be on the show this season?
The one I’m dating right now will not be on the show.
For one of Bethenny’s receipes from the book, click here.