Sarabeth Levine recently started selling Morning Cookies in her bakery. Besides being scrumptious, the cookies won't wreck your diet because there are only three Weight Watcher points per cookie. Losing weight is hard enough and being surrounded by delicious treats in a bakery doesn't make it any easier. I caught up with the lovely Sarabeth Levine to discuss everything from cookies to weight loss.
JZ: Do you love your job?
SL: I do. It's not a job. It's home. I love my bakery and could not imagine not coming in here. They are going to have to carry me in here everyday when I'm 95!
JZ: You are far from that!
SL: I know but I have the conversation with my husband a lot. We joke about it. He's 80 and runs the jam operation. He looks fantastic and works a lot.
JZ: How many restaurants do you have now?
SL: We have 10 restaurants. Four of them are in the city; we have the bakery, a restaurant in the Lord & Taylor here as well as in Westchester and two on Long Island. We also have a restaurant in Key West. On October 25 we are opening a restaurant in Tokyo.
JZ Tell me about the Morning Cookie. How did it come about?
SL: I decided I wanted to make a cookie that was no more than three Weight Watcher points. I wanted it to be healthy but didn't want it to taste diet. My cookies aren't very sweet so I used my regular cookie recipe with the same sugar and butter but I cut down on the white flour and added some whole wheat flour, oats and shredded wheat. I call it my morning cookie because it's great when you have it with coffee. You feel like it's a treat but it's not really bad for you. I posted the recipe online. I share everything. The only recipe I keep secret is for my orange apricot marmalade. That's only because it was given to me in secret and it's how I started my business. Aside from that, I share every recipe because I want people to enjoy my food even if they live far away and can't make it to one of the restaurants.
JZ: What triggered you to lose weight?
SL: My daughter got married 10 years ago and when I saw the pictures from the wedding I told myself I had to lose weight. I was literally eating everything in the bakery and my body was dragging. I went to Weight Watchers and lost all the weight and then I thought I was a big shot and could keep all the weight off and do it by myself. Within two years I gained all the weight back. I was always gaining and losing 10 lbs here and there. This time all the weight really just came back. I joined Weight Watchers again with my friend Arlene. This was in May 2011 and I could hardly walk to the meeting or walk up stairs. The first 30 lbs came of quickly but the last poundage took longer. I really stuck with it and went to meetings every week.
JZ: How do you not eat everything in the bakery?
SL: Sometime when I'm tempted to eat something I will tell myself that I don't want it right now. If I do eat something, I will just take one bite. A bite is a point. I don't want more than one bite. I'm never ever going to allow myself to gain the weight back. The best part is that I feel good.
JZ: What advice would you give to someone who wants to get in shape?
SL: You have to know when to stop It's really important to document what you eat. Because we eat mindlessly
JZ: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started in the business?
SL: I'm happy I didn't know then what I know now because maybe I wouldn't have done it. Not that it's negative but the whole business is a very big undertaking.
JZ: Your restaurants are always all packed. What's your secret?
SL: Isn't that fantastic? The restaurants don't all look the same but they have a feeling. They all do the same breakfast menu. If it isn't broken don't fix it. People know when they come in they will find my oatmeal and pumpkin waffle. Once you commit to something and get a following you keep making it.