'Food cop': To celebrities in Los Angeles, her word is law on healthy eating

August 18, 1991|By Seattle Times

She's the enforcer of Hollywood, but her clout is in food, not film.

With her long blond hair and super-svelte shape, Yolanda Bergman has the glamorous looks of a movie star. She isn't one, but she advises many of them in her real-life role as the "food cop."

That's the nickname she's acquired and the name of the book she was in Seattle to promote the other day. In "Food Cop" (Bantam Books, $24.50, with Daryn Eller), Ms. Bergman supplies the same eating advice she dishes out to her clients in Los Angeles.

As a personal food "coach," Ms. Bergman lists a string of movie and music luminaries among her customers -- Bill Murray, Carrie Fisher, Martin Sheen, Linda Ronstadt and Kate Jackson, to name several -- all looking to lose weight or gain healthier eating habits.

NTC Stars or not, they get the food-cop treatment from Ms. Bergman, whose modus operandi is to fling open a client's refrigerator and flush out the nutritional horrors lurking inside.

In Carrie Fisher's fridge and cupboards Ms. Bergman says she found a junk-food banquet: Coca-Cola, chips, lots of fried foods and "candy everywhere." Ms. Fisher, star of "Star Wars" and its sequels, wanted to shed a few pounds for a new film and had enlisted Ms. Bergman to help her out. A full-time chef did Ms. Fisher's cooking, so Ms. Bergman introduced both of them to the secrets of low-fat food, and Ms. Fisher got back in shape.

Paul Stanley, lead singer and guitarist with the rock group Kiss, was another junk-food junkie. "This was a man who could go a whole day on nothing but cookies, cake and candy; if a bowl of whipped cream was the only thing in the fridge for breakfast, no problem, he'd polish it off," writes Ms. Bergman. "But he came to me because he wanted to change his ways -- and he did."

A former ballerina, Ms. Bergman once had her own food problem. "When I was 15 I was 25 pounds overweight," she says. She got trim by age 19, mainly through "starvation," she says. She fought off fat through her dancing years, but it was only after marriage and motherhood that she discovered a healthful, low-fat and satisfying food format.

She entered an exercise class at Jane Fonda's Workout Studio in Beverly Hills and soon was teaching the class herself -- with Ms. Fonda as one of her students. "Jane works out hard," Ms. Bergman says, but declines to comment further about her famous former boss.

Ms. Bergman left Ms. Fonda's to become a personal exercise trainer, evolving into a food coach after clients kept asking for healthful eating tips.

Looking at her today, you'd never guess Ms. Bergman ever carried an ounce of fat. Lean is an understatement when describing this woman, who's dressed in a tan miniskirt, white tank top and blue denim jacket.

She works at staying thin, but doesn't starve herself, especially at dinner. Describing her typical eating day, she emphasizes it works for her but wouldn't suit everybody:

Breakfast: coffee and a fat-free muffin.

L Lunch: nothing. "I hate lunch. My day doesn't fit lunch in."

Dinner: perhaps some chopped red bell peppers and jicama with salsa while she's fixing dinner. "For dinner, I may have about three chicken breasts. Or if we have swordfish, I'll have half a pound to three-quarters of a pound, plus a big pot of steamed vegetables and a baked or steamed potato or rice. I always have second helpings at dinner and, like most people, I munch at night -- usually grapes or other fruit.

"I took all my neuroses and turned them into common sense," she says of her eating philosophy. Her theme is low-fat eating, featuring mainly poultry and seafood, fruits, vegetables and whole grains such as brown rice and whole-wheat pasta -- all cooked with no fat or next to no fat.

Her recipes include a non-fat clam chowder, non-fat salad dressings and a non-fat pasta sauce.

But Ms. Bergman is not a trained dietitian or nutritionist, and it shows. For instance, she implies in her book that vitamins added to cereals are inferior to naturally occurring vitamins -- although scientists say they're chemically the same. Still, her bottom-line message -- low-fat eating with lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains -- generally matches up with what nutrition experts are saying today.

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