Conversation with Connie Guttersen ’85

Author balances healthy, flavorful foods.

Conversation with Connie Guttersen ’85

Author balances healthy, flavorful foods.

The Sonoma Diet By Connie Guttersen ’86
Meredith Books

As author of the latest wildly successful diet book, Connie Guttersen ’86 practices what she preaches. Even when she’s on the road promoting The Sonoma Diet, the busy mother of two chooses a balance of healthy, flavorful foods to maintain her svelte figure. A longtime nutritionist, Guttersen’s diet plan evolved from her work and a desire to give people a healthy, inclusive method for achieving balance at the dinner table.

How did you first become interested in weight loss?

Growing up, my father was an avid dieter. He tried every protein diet and all the shakes. He always felt really bad and the diets never worked. My mother would cook these wonderful Italian meals, and we would sit around the dinner table eating while he just had a shake. He was miserable the entire time, and I thought there has to be a better way. Even then, I knew it was important to figure out a better way to lose weight and feel good about foods.

After having babies I found myself wanting to get back in shape and lose some of that extra weight. I didn’t want to go on a diet. I love food too much! So I started working with the chefs and I put into practice everything I had been trained to do. Helping myself to lose weight was much different than counseling other people because I didn’t want to feel deprived.

The Sonoma Diet incorporates so many foods — even wine. What inspired such a diverse diet plan? 

I went to work for the Culinary Institute knowing a lot about science and not much about food. When I first took the job, I didn’t even know how to cook! They sent me to Hyde Park to get bit by the bug, and that experience really opened the door to food and flavor. I also have a great role model by living in the wine country where the food is similar to Mediterranean fare, but with Asian and Latin flavors, too. The Sonoma Diet takes that great cuisine and plugs it into a diet plan that is effective and satisfying.

How does the diet work?

It incorporates the best and most recent science about smart food combinations, such as putting together brightly colored and leafy greens with healthy fats to enhance antioxidant benefits, and combining lean meats with citrus to boost iron absorption. Instead of counting calories or points, the Sonoma Diet uses the plate and bowl concept which is an easy way to keep control and becomes second nature. The diet goes beyond the idea of low carb or low fat. Instead of eliminating breads, I stress the importance of whole grains like wild rice, brown rice, quinoa, even popcorn. And instead of giving up fats, the diet incorporates the healthiest, most flavorful fats like olive oil and nuts. These fats have been shown to have positive benefits for diabetes and heart disease. The trick is keeping it all in balance.

With 500,000 copies in print and a spot on The New York Times Bestseller list, the book is very successful. What sort of feedback are you getting? 

I am thrilled to get letters every day from people who are doing well on the diet. We have a focus group that we monitor and tens of thousands of people who joined our website ( The obesity epidemic is worse than ever, and is especially affecting kids. I was tired of seeing fad diets that failed people like my Dad, and were often not written by nutritionist. I felt it was my responsibility and something I needed to do. It has been great to help people lose weight, get healthier, feel great and enjoy food more than ever before.