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Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Rainbow Diet

By Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel

When I was a little girl, I loved to read fairytales. During the course of my childhood these stories began to shape my consciousness and inspired me with the magic of possibilities. I devoured books and looked like I devoured a whole lot more - I was an obese child. Reading was wonderful as it transported me to a world of miracles; however, the downside was that I became sedentary and hungry for wish fulfillment.

Growing up as a child of two holocaust survivors, I did not lack for food. As my parents were European, they believed in the Rubenesque body and that my physical health depended on me eating all the time. Not eating what was on my plate hurled my parents into mourning. Obedient and an only child, I kept on eating when I was no longer hungry. I lost my natural shut off mechanism. The result was an obese child whose friends called her by a variation of her last name, Eisenfat.

The summer before I entered high school my parents shipped me off to summer camp for the first time. That summer was the turning point of my overeating and sedentary lifestyle. That summer I re-parented myself—intuitively. I began to think independently and broke away from the beliefs that were handed down to me to think and decide for myself. Parents, no matter how loving, could be wrong. That fundamental step of re-parenting helped me to metamorphose from a caterpillar to a butterfly.

The next step I intuitively took was eliminating toxic foods, like sugar, candy, ice-cream, and cake. I ate fruits and vegetables instead. I liked colorful berries. Then a week later I tackled portion control. I didn’t skip meals, rather I ate about a third less.

Camp meant physical activity: walking from the bunk to the lake to the dining hall to the bunk to the playing field to the dining hall to the bunk. Then there was swimming, or should I say learning to swim, various sports and even nighttime activities. The pounds were just melting away. I realized that just like in the fairy tales, I too had the power! I felt lighter, more attractive and sociable. I didn’t read much that summer.

Reflecting on this experience, I realize that a fairy tale shaped my consciousness about food and happiness. My successful weight loss regimen was a combination of mind, body and spirit. It was the rainbow diet born from the Wizard of Oz, one of my favorite stories and movies.

Today I teach the rainbow diet in my stress-reduction and wellness workshops. There are many wizards out there selling quick diet fixes, genies in a bottle, some of them deadly. Each one of us has to embark on a personal journey, the yellow brick road—yellow symbolizes the intellect—to discover courage, our true heart feelings and intellect: the lion, the tin man and scarecrow. By the way Dorothy does a lot of walking in her journey and that’s one of the best ways to exercise and keep in shape. All one has to do is put on a good pair of shoes and walk out the door. Trainer elite Frank Mikulka advises, “Exercise speeds up the metabolism. Lift weights, lift your spirits.”

While on our journey, we encounter good witches and bad witches. These are our own personal witches. The good witch symbolizes our positive self-talk which is motivating and empowering. The bad witch symbolizes our negative self-talk which tells us we can’t do anything right. Each one of us on during the course of our journey has to distinguish between these two voices, the bad witch and the good witch and focus our attention on the positive message.

The Wizard of Oz boils down to the power of perception. At the end of Dorothy’s long journey, she realizes, “There is no place like home.” We begin and conclude our search with home—the body and the spirit. Each one of us needs to make peace with the self. Somewhere over the rainbow is actually at home, where we are living our true life, not looking for fantasy, but rather lifting the veil of illusion. Alyssa Benovitz, MS, RD, says, “Home means the individual diet plan that works for you.”

The premise of the rainbow diet is: “You’ve got to have some rain to see the rainbow.” Sadness is a part of life, but what we do with that pain, how we weather the storm, calibrates our total happiness. Knowing that there will be calm after the storm, believing in the rainbow, restores positive feelings and belief in our inner light. To decompress from stress we need to be able to redirect our attention—flexibly—from negatives to positives.

Stress causes many of us to overeat as food is comforting for body and soul. Research shows that sugar and fat are particularly comforting. However, that is all well and good for acute stress. When it comes to chronic stress, this kind of eating plan will make one obese and unhealthy, perpetuating the cycle. Therefore it is important to redirect stress by re-interpreting the stressful scene with compassion for the perpetrator. Also, it is important to exercise it away, burn off the stress hormones that will trigger this eating episode, by walking, weight training, dancing, doing yoga or sports.

After you have made peace with yourself, the warring voices in your head, the illusions in your life, you are now ready to see the rainbow and experience it with your five senses. Eat a rainbow diet of fruits and vegetables—all the colors of the rainbow—to make sure you ingest the healthy phytochemicals. Benovitz, says, “It is a quick guide to eating healthy. You know that you are getting the necessary vitamins and minerals.” She is not talking about eating orange cheez doodles here. Decorate your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables, lemon or orange wedges, sprigs of parsley or dill. Fish, chicken, meat or cheese do not need to dominate the plate, rather they should occupy a lesser starring role.

A helpful hint: use a smaller plate.

When you decorate your plate with a rainbow array of fruits and vegetables, decorate the place where you eat simultaneously: a bud vase, a place setting, a cloth napkin or a candle in the evening. Play music in the background. This sends a message to your brain that you are worth it. Feed both the body and soul; send yourself a loving message.

Tips for the Rainbow Diet:

  • Get to the root cause of your personal stress. Re-interpret your perception to transform negatives into positives. Writing helps you get down deep.
  • Memorize an affirmation that has special meaning to you. When you memorize you can take it with you wherever you go—easily available in times of crisis. In fact, put one on your screensaver.
  • Get rid of negative self-talk. Instead, say, Conceive. Believe. Achieve.
  • Re-parent yourself. You don’t have to accept everything you were taught or told. You are no longer a dependent child. Find what works for you.
  • Decorate a plate with a rainbow array of fruits and vegetables.
  • Decorate your table to dine, not graze.
  • Follow the yellow brick road—don’t drive; instead walk, skip, jog or dance

Follow the rainbow diet to fresh air, warm light and a true awakening. Turn stress into strength and live your authentic life. Rediscover the truth about yourself through your own personal experience. Don’t wait for a house to fall on you!

Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer at Brooklyn College. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WLIE 540 AM in New York City and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: