Virginia Willis in AARP

AARP: The Best Weight Loss Goal is No Weight Loss Goal

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Virginia Willis in AARP


Chef Virginia Willis Talks Life Guardrails, Health, and Wellness in AARP Magazine

(ATLANTA, GA)      Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field, and Rita Moreno rule the cover of AARP Magazine this month, promoting “80 for Brady”, their new film about four fans and their trek to see their football hero Tom Brady,  but inside the pages, you’ll find one of their biggest fans, Chef Virginia Willis.  In an essay titled “ The Best Weight-Loss Goal is No Goal”, Virginia chronicles how a focus on wellness rather than weight loss has helped her maintain a 65-pound weight loss for more than two years.


Healthy Aging

“To be featured in the same magazine as four of my Hollywood idols is a thrill, and it’s an even bigger thrill to see older women having long and vibrant careers. They’re inspirational!,” says Virginia, 56, whose philosophy about aging plays a key role in managing her health, wellness, and career. “You’re never too young or too old to start thinking about living a better life.”

In the AARP story, Virginia describes her personal trek of successes and setbacks in the weight loss arena and one particularly painful and humbling career experience that served as the tipping point that led to a commitment to making fundamental, sustainable lifestyle changes.

When Virginia realized she needed to lose 65 pounds, the task seemed scary if not impossible,“65 pounds, really?!”  She decided to aim for healthy and strong.

Chef Virginia Willis photo by Andrew Thomas Lee
Chef Virginia Willis photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

Life Guardrails

To reach her wellness goal, Virginia developed practices that would later become her “Life Guardrails for Real Life Self-Care and Weight Loss.” She started walking for exercise and slowly changed her relationship with food, shifting to using food for nourishment rather than to numb feelings or deal with stress.

“Real guardrails keep your car out of the ditch. In the same way, my life guardrails help me stay on track. My three main guardrails are to eat healthy, exercise, and practice mindful behavior every day. With habit, repetition, and consistency, I gradually lost 65 pounds and have kept them off for 2 1/2 years. My goal is to share with others that they can do this, too. ”

You won’t find deprivation, or even a list of “don’ts” for that matter, in Virginia’s guardrails. The guardrails are positive, proactive, and practical by design. Virginia’s healthy eating guardrail includes lots of fruits and vegetables in her daily diet, but she’s not afraid to enjoy an occasional  Buttermilk Biscuit or bowl of Chocolate Pudding.  “ You can still eat foods that are delicious — even sometimes indulgent and decadent — and lose weight. I am a real-life example that this can be done, as long as you stay mindful of what you’re eating.”

Healthy Recipe: Lower Fat Carrot Cake by Chef Virginia Willis

Lower Fat Carrot Cake

For day-to-day eating, Virginia amped up plant-based foods and leaner proteins. She routinely modifies classic recipes to cut down on fats or sugar– without sacrificing flavor. “Who wants to eat sad food? It’s got to taste good!” You’ll find her Lower in Fat Carrot Cake recipe in the magazine. She tweaked the ingredients by replacing some of the oil with crushed pineapple, but no one would ever guess it’s better-for-you baking!

Virginia has found that meditation and journaling enhance her ability to remain mindful throughout the day and she emphasizes that physical, mental, and spiritual wellness are all important. An avid walker, Virginia uses her time on the trail to exercise and socialize. “I keep daily walking dates. It creates accountability – and I get to see my friends, be outdoors in nature, and exercise.”

@VirginiaWillis Instagram QR Code


Virginia is the first to admit that even with guardrails, the path to wellness is challenging and no one is perfect.  She also believes that if you stay on the path more often than not, you’re doing all right.! Look for tips, techniques, and real-life recipes on her Instagram feed. This month for February, the theme is #LoveYourself! See you there!

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Bon Appétit Y’all!

Virginia Willis


Let’s cook something up! If you are interested in hosting me for a speaking engagement, event, cooking class, or a book-signing, let me know! Send an email to and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.

I am not a doctor, RD, health professional, or WW representative. I am simply sharing what works for me. My blog is for informational or educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals.

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Virginia Willis cookbooks 







Please note that this post may contain affiliate links.

Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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