“Jeff Rossen! Shame on You!”

Today show correspondent Jeff Rossen on how a stranger’s brutal honesty helped him devise a weight-loss plan that works for him

“Jeff Rossen! Shame on You!”

Illustration: Jori Bolton

Being on television is a really cool job. I get to work on stories I’m passionate about, I get to travel the world and my mom thinks I’ve “made it.” The flip side is that strangers think they know me well enough to be brutally honest when they see me in public. A common critique? My weight.

So I was intrigued when, one morning in 2015, the Today show came to me and said, “Hey, we’re doing a weight-loss challenge. Do you want in?” Hint, hint.

At the time I weighed 210 pounds. With my height of six feet, that meant, officially, I was overweight. Fine … I was 213.

I agreed, and went on national television for a very public weight-loss challenge that required that I eat well and work out. The point was that if a schlub like me could do it, anyone could. I struggled. And struggled. But I eventually lost the weight (keep reading to see how much).

A few weeks later, while walking through the Atlanta airport, I passed a pizza place and couldn’t resist. I ordered a slice and sat down. I’ll never forget it—within minutes a woman walked right up to me and said, “Jeff Rossen! Shame on you! You’re going to put that weight back on!” Ouch. I had a few more bites and chucked it.

Turns out the woman was onto something, but I had to admit a few things about myself before I could understand what.

I’ve learned that the gym is not for me—I will never have a Channing Tatum physique. But I also discovered that I can moderate my relationship with guilty pleasure foods. This doesn’t mean I turned into some nutrition guru who treats his body like a holy temple. Instead, I channel the critical airport lady.

For example, when a friend and I were in the mood for ice cream, I gave in to the demons and bought a cone of my favorite flavor, mint chocolate chip. I took a bite. Delicious. A second. Heaven. I savored the mint ice cream and the tasty bits of dark chocolate. A third bite. Oh, my God, this is so good. Fourth bite. And then I threw it in the trash. My friend was horrified. But here’s the thing: I knew that I would be sad when I finished that ice cream. I would want more. You always want more. And I would be just as sad after I ate two ice cream cones.

If I’m going to be sad no matter what, then why not just get it over with? I still enjoyed the experience of that sublime mint chocolate chip as the taste lingered in my mouth for the next 15 minutes—it pressed the pleasure button. Yet I only consumed a tiny fraction of the cone’s total calories.

Thanks to this kind of mindset, I went from 213 pounds in 2015 to my current weight of 185. It’s not a battle I’ve won or even need to settle. I’m still going to eat pizza (in moderation). But if I start to slip again, I’ll just take a walk through the airport and hope I run into one of those extremely honest strangers.

Jeff Rossen’s new book, Rossen to the Rescue, tackles weight loss and other dilemmas, and is available now.