A Lot To Lose: The Food Nazi

Stars Flock To Beverly Hills Nutritionist

Like millions of other Americans, 45-year-old Lani Netter has decided it's time to finally get serious and stay serious about dieting

"How unfair would it be for me to get a heart attack or something," the former model tells Correspondent Richard Schlesinger. " I've got a 7-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old boy."

When she had her 110-pound figure, she had it all. She traveled worldwide for modeling shoots and caught the eye of the man she married, a man who is now a Hollywood producer.

Her troubles began during her second pregnancy. Complications nearly killed her and her daughter Grace.

"I had a lot of emotional scars from facing death, almost losing my daughter," she says. "No one understood what I'd been through."

Not surprisingly, Lani found comfort in food and started getting heavier.

"The writer's wife came up to me at a premiere and said, 'You're expecting again!' I was like, 'No, I'm not.'"

An Interactive Menu Planner
If you want to follow the nutritional principles of Hermien Lee, try getting some daily menus from the National Institutes of Health's interactive menu planner.
Now Lani fears that her extra weight has put an extra strain on her marriage.

"I do worry about my marriage sometimes," she says. "There's a lot of temptation out there. And I get very concerned. And I realize that I better get busy."

Lani expects to get the help she needs from a popular Beverly Hills nutritionist who is so hard to ignore that her clients call her "the food Nazi."

In her mid 80s, Hermien Lee is one part drill sergeant, one part psychologist and one part kindly grandmother. Her staying power – in a town that eats up and spits out all sorts of diets-of-the-moment – seems remarkable.

For more than 20 years, her clients have included celebrities such as Ann Margaret, Sandy Duncan, Robert Wagner and Joan Lunden.

Her secret is really no secret at all. She prescribes a well-balanced, low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet - the kind nutritionists and concerned parents have advocated for years. The trick is, this diet ever ends.

"This is not an exercise in reducing, it's leaning how to eat," Lee says. "You look at changing your habits. The Americans are looking for magic. They're looking for a magic bullet. There ain't none!"

Hermien's diet plan for Lani calls for a daily total of eight ounces of lean protein, three cups of vegetables, three servings of fruit, three slices of bread, and two teaspoons of fat.

Hermien talks tough but she practices what she preaches. An admitted sugar addict, she says she was overweight herself years ago. She lost 60 pounds and has kept the weight off for 25 years. But she admits it's difficult.

"Unless you find something more important that you can use for stress instead of your mouth, you're not gonna win. It's as simple as that," she says.

So for $600 dollars for 14 weekly sessions at her office or home, Hermien's food-fixated clients not only get the benefit of someone who's been there but someone who really is there, on call, 24/7, ready to talk them out of temptation.

And they also get some words to live by:

  • "You're getting boxy and not foxy, if you know what I mean."

  • "If you're willing to wear it, eat it."

  • "Remember, first bite, you've lost the fight!"

She's failed on other diets, but Lani is determined to succeed this time.

After three months, she's 25 pounds slimmer and still dieting.

The former model was back before the camera again, hoping for a comeback.

"I just look at food for fuel," she says. "I just have to look at it in a different way; I don't need to run to it now for comfort."

It's a lesson she's learned from her nutritionist, who's reached her own milestone.

Lee has since reached her own milestone: she celebrated her 85th birthday this year. And as she does on this day every year, she allows herself sugar – anything she wants with sugar.

July 2002 Update

Lani has lost another 5-10 lbs. and says her weight fluctuates. Her goal is to take off 10-15 lbs. by the end of the summer.


© MMII, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved
  • Emily Cartwright

More From 48 Hours

Comments