Purim recipe inside'I had a lot working against me - but also working for me'

How weight-loss guru Ilana Muhlstein rose from ‘big’ to huge social media sensation

The dietician, best-selling author, mom and TikTok queen is a self-made success story – and now she’s teamed up with Gal Gadot

Dietician, author and social media influencer Ilana Muhlstein. (Courtesy)
Dietician, author and social media influencer Ilana Muhlstein. (Courtesy)

Ilana Muhlstein’s plate has always been full, and that’s exactly how she likes it — both literally and figuratively.

As a child, the 34-year-old wife and mother of three turned to comfort food to cope with the incertitude brought on by her parents’ divorce and multiple moves. At 8 years old, she began attending “fat camp” on her doctor’s advice — a program she pursued for the next seven summers that didn’t yield many long-term results.

Today, Muhlstein is 100 pounds lighter than her highest weight (“At 13 years old I had 215 pounds on my five-foot-two inch frame and was a size 20,” she writes on her website), and helps thousands to lose weight as a registered dietician in private practice in Beverly Hills and at UCLA.

She also serves as a member of the American Heart Association’s Executive Leadership Team, has teamed up with Gal Gadot to plug a healthy version of the ultimate comfort food (mac and cheese), and is about to launch the very first product of her new housewares line — a wine glass that has subtle etchings at the five (one serving), eight, and 16-ounce marks, designed for mindful consumption to facilitate consumers’ progress toward their health and wellness goals.

She is still a “volume eater,” only now she fills her plate with lean, nutritious, flavorful, protein- and fiber-rich food and vegetables. And she does it all while building a positive online community as NutritionBabe.

The social media influencer captivates her 1.9 million TikTok followers with fun, educational cooking and shopping tips and kitchen hacks while dishing out mouth-watering recipes with dashes of humor, encouragement, and a hearty helping of Jewish pride.

“My mission is to show people that a healthy lifestyle is easier and much more attainable than they think,” says Muhlstein, a best-selling author and sought-after public speaker who has been featured on GMA and in Popsugar, Reader’s Digest, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Shape, Prevention and other publications, while also serving as a guest contributor.

Muhlstein’s own weight-loss journey began the summer before she started ninth grade. Set to attend a large high school with many new social opportunities, she began to shift her mindset; rather than focusing on what she ate, Muhlstein changed the way she thought about food and her body.

Ilana Muhlstein as a child, and now. (Courtesy)

“I was definitely in a cycle of blaming my parents and genetics, and pity parties,” she reflects. “It got to the point where everyone was throwing their hands up and saying, ‘We’re doing the best we can, it’s got to come down to you. We’re not going to get you to where you want to be.’ That was very powerful. I think a lot of people sit around and use excuses as a means of not pursuing the things they actually want.”

“When I got that, I took ownership,” she says. “I realized then that I have obese genes and a family that’s obsessed with food, I don’t love many vegetables, and there’s always so many cookies in my house and long Shabbat dinners — I have a lot working against me. But I thought, what do I have working for me? That was ultimately the click that everyone needs to have. On a daily basis, I hear women say, ‘But I’m in menopause. It’s so difficult to lose weight.’ One hundred percent. It might be harder for you. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible.”

To help herself shed pounds simply, sensibly, and sustainably, the teen developed 10 core principles that would ultimately revolutionize her own life as well as hundreds of thousands of others.

In college, Muhlstein applied her personal program and lost 100 pounds. Upon earning a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics from the University of Maryland and a master’s in applied nutrition from Northeastern University, she was hired by UCLA to lead a 12-week weight-loss seminar called the Bruin Health Improvement Program.

Ilana Muhlstein (left) and Gal Gadot have joined together to promote Goodles, a high protein mac and cheese company. (Photo courtesy David Fishof)

Geared for employees desiring to lose 40 pounds or more, the population was sizable and demographically diverse. Muhlstein recalls the 10 semesters she taught there as “the best career experience” she’s ever had.

“Teaching… really helped me refine my principles and narrow in on those that are most successful for the greatest amount of people time and time again,” she says. “If I had stayed in a silo just researching weight loss and trying to apply it to myself, I would never have been as successful. I’ve loved counseling people and learning what works for clients along my journey because it’s just so much more joyful when you can do things with others.”

At UCLA, Muhlstein merged her 10 fundamental weight-loss principles with 75 “how-to” anecdotes touching upon such topics as improving overall lifestyle, navigating social events and parties, and more. She called her program the 2B Mindset, and today it is affiliated with Beachbody, a fitness and nutrition company with 2.8 million subscribers. To date, Muhlstein has coached over 300,000 people worldwide to succeed in their weight-loss journeys, both in-person and online.

Ever the entrepreneur, Muhlstein recently unveiled a North American meal delivery service based on the 2B Mindset called Ilana Meals. She also invests in a number of food, fitness, and wellness ventures, and is working with another Jewish superwoman, Gal Gadot, to promote Goodles, a high-protein mac and cheese company.

“I take a lot of pride in being an influencer and champion for change and shining light on products that are so much better for our health and our wellbeing that actually taste good,” says Muhlstein. “In 2019, I got involved as an investor and nutritional advisor at Goodles and afterward Gal Gadot came on board as the spokesperson. To be associated with her is a dream. She’s now a large owner so it’s great that we get to work together on this amazing product.”

While many of the products Muhlstein works with are vegetarian or vegan, meaning some kosher observers will find them to be acceptable even without rabbinic supervision, she’s worked to help Goodles receive kosher certification, and her meal delivery service is set to be certified kosher in the near future.

“It’s very hard to get a company to realize the value of becoming kosher certified,” she notes. “It’s something I constantly try to convince companies to do because it makes my life better and easier and allows me to share the products with more friends and family and influence another 10 percent of my [Jewish] followers. But not everyone sees it or has the financial means to prioritize it.”

Muhlstein identifies as Modern Orthodox and proudly shares her passion for Shabbat and Jewish holidays on social media.

Ilana Muhlstein and her dad David Fishof, founder and CEO of Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp. Fishof lost 60 pounds with Ilana’s help. (Photo courtesy Noah Muhsltein)

“Judaism plays a massive role in my life,” she says. “I’m the grandchild of three Holocaust survivors and probably think about the Holocaust every single day. I believe being Jewish helps my overall mental health as well. People ask me all the time how I stay happy. Being part of a Jewish community where my kids always have a playdate, where I know that I’m off of social media for 25 hours a week, where I’m spending quality time with relatives and friends, and having a calm, sit-down, enjoyable meal at least twice a week, it definitely makes me happier and gives my life so much more meaning.”

With a second cookbook and “life-changing” new product line set to be released later this year, Muhlstein is grateful for the “incredible” team that supports her, including her husband Noah, who helps manage both the business operations and their busy family.

While her TikTok videos are seamlessly presented, Muhlstein still experiences occasional life challenges. Like she did when she was a teen, she continues to conquer them head-on.

“Every good thing is going to have a sense of ‘hard,’” she says. “It really is about choosing ‘hard.’ I knew that it would be hard to lose weight, but I knew internally it was much harder to stay overweight. To this day there are a lot of hard decisions and compromises to make. But you make them because you’re working towards a larger goal. And that goal is so much better and brighter.”

Sweet Purim Sauce

Illustrative: Al Arz Tahini is a great choice for Ilana Muhlstein’s sweet Purim sauce. (Courtesy)

“This sweet tahini dip is great with a tray of sliced cucumbers peppers and carrots for healthy snacking while delivering mishloach manot packages,” says Muhlstein. “Or you can make it as a sauce for roasted vegetables and grilled chicken for your festive meal.”

1 teaspoon lemon juice
3-4 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon of date or maple syrup
3 tablespoons of tahini

Mix all ingredients well, and enjoy!

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