Ilana Muhlstein and the 2B Mindset Non-Deprivation Diet

As far back as Ilana Muhlstein can remember she struggled mightily with her weight. As a morbidly obese child whose weight was the center of her family’s focus, she took comfort in sitting on a stool in front of the TV mindlessly eating to stuff down feelings about her chaotic family life and her parents’ multiple break-ups and reunions. “My stability,” Ilana tells me, “Became my stool in front of the television inside the kitchen with the pantry to go through. There were no family meals. It was just me and a bunch of snacks or takeout food.”

When she turned 8, her family doctor sent her to weight loss camp where she had to get weighed and measured, take before and after photos, and participate in 12 hours of cardio a day. With small-portioned meals, she always lost weight. But as soon as the school year restarted, she was back on her stool in the kitchen and gained it all back.

As is the case with yo-yo dieting, Ilana explains, “I could rely on losing some weight each summer. But I kept gaining the weight back, and more, which is what most people do with yo-yo

Diets.” She adds, “By the time I was 13 years old, I weighed way over 200 pounds, and I was a size 20.”

Going into high school, Ilana was determined to “get it together.” Without parental support, Ilana was on her own. Her parents also struggled with their weight and Ilana decided to change her life, her lifestyle, and her mindset.

She knew that limiting portions didn’t work well for her. She confesses to being a “volume eater.” “I like to eat a lot,” she shares, “So, I just have to focus on water first and veggies. I also tried to keep my mindset towards something positive; what can I eat, versus, what can’t I eat.”

That positive mindset along with other tools is what Ilana used to formulate her wildly successful 2B Mindset program. She’s got a book, an upcoming cookbook, a line of table and house wears, and a healthy meal delivery service. And she’s currently piloting a healthy Kosher meal delivery service. She proudly announces, “The meal delivery service is all throughout the country. We’re in 43 states and growing.” Unfortunately for this Kosher journalist, the Kosher service is only in Los Angeles at this point.

I ask her about the quality of the Kosher meals, having suffered through years of Kosher airline meals and wedding entrees. She honestly reports “The flavor is unbelievable. They taste incredible. It’s by far the best Kosher takeout in Los Angeles.” However, she does admit that they need a bit of tweaking. “They need a bit more veggies,” she notes. “I always want to add in more veggies. It’s the dietician in me.”

Yes, in addition to being an author, internet influencer, and successful entrepreneur, Ilana Muhlstein is a registered dietician. When she decided to turn her passion for healthy eating into a career, she knew she needed to boost her credibility and decided to enroll in a master’s program in nutrition.

The 2B Mindset program

As a devout calorie counter, I mention that there are no caloric values on any of her recipes. “We don’t count calories,” she asserts, and she questions my “devout” status, “I’m surprised that you can say ‘devout.’ Calorie counting is one of those things that I find not to be sustainable.” I sheepishly admit to not always being as diligent as I think I am.

Her straight-forward philosophy strikes me as brilliant. “I decided early on if I didn’t want to do it forever, I don’t want to do it,” she adds, “I didn’t even know calorie counting existed when I was a teenager and started to lose my weight. There was Weight Watcher points, but you had to have a textbook and a chart to look stuff up. Okay bread is 80 calories. You had to use pen and paper so that was something I didn’t ever try as a kid.”

Her way of self-monitoring is getting on the scale. “I do love the scale,” she smiles, “If I focused on filling up my plate with half veggies at lunch and tried to transform my carbs from being silly ones, like banana bread, to a fiber filled one, like a banana, and had protein at all my meals, I went on a scale and saw what was happening.”

Ilana lost her first 75 pounds without ever counting calories. She taught weight loss classes at UCLA prior to creating the 2B Mindset program and actually tried recommending calorie counting apps like “My Fitness Pal” to her students. But she discovered that monitoring the calories didn’t help people keep the weight off. In fact, it kept people’s mindsets on deprivation. “They were always feeling deprived.” Ilana reasoned, “They felt lost at events and parties. They couldn’t track their calories at a restaurant. So, they just wouldn’t track at all.” She also brings up the calorie counters who munched on three Oreos, calling it dinner, and justifying that it was under 400 calories. (Okay, I admit it. I’ve done it.)

Track Track Track

No counting calories. But Ilana is a firm proponent of food tracking. Her program includes food tracking forms, and she highly recommends keeping a food journal. “Just writing down your food every day, despite calories or macros or points, you’re going to lose weight, because you become more mindful of your eating choices.

“I have so much trouble tracking my food,” I tell her. “I know it works. But I just can’t seem to make myself do it.” 

“It’s funny,” she laughs, “People will do anything but that. They’ll do super hard workouts or really intense fitness classes, and they’ll throw out their backs, and it’s really expensive. They do all these things before they’ll just write down what they eat in a day. It’s almost like a sense of honesty that people have to come to.”

I fess up to having a rough time with the honesty in this case and share that if I eat something bad, I just give up and don’t want to write down anything for the rest of the day.

“That’s so unproductive,” she gently advises, “Because it’s in those moments that you have to write it down, so it doesn’t reoccur. If you don’t write it down, it’s gonna keep happening.”

There Are No Bad Foods

And once we err, the negative self-talk tends to take over. Ilana recommends taking the blame off yourself and putting it on those triggering overly addictive over processed foods. We discuss a binge on chocolate covered M&Ms and she stops me cold. “You’re not the problem. They are. They’re the problem. They’re made with so much sugar, salt, and fat, and millions of dollars of marketing and research to make them so addictive. So, once you pop, you can’t stop.”

She urges dieters to recognize that foods aren’t “bad.” But keeping certain foods in the house in an open bowl, may not be good for them.

Delicious & Simple

She’s super excited about her new cookbook, Love The Foods That Love You Back. “It’s like every page is going to unlock the next mindset step,” she asserts. The recipes are simple (and I can attest to that, because I am a devout non-chef and I’ve been loving these easy to prepare dishes.)

“People need to realize, okay, portobello mushroom caps, tomato sauce, and cheese. It’s easy, simple. Then you make it. You eat it. And you’re like, wow, that was actually quite satisfying and filling.” She lays out her mindset process, “Then you go on the scale the next day or later and you realize you actually lost weight. And that gives you confidence, like, I don’t have to restrict to lose weight. I have to eat more of the right things to lose weight which is actually more sustainable.”


I inquire about my personal passion, desserts. Ilana declares, “I always say treat, not cheat. Don’t focus on cheating because it puts you in that negative self-talk place. I recommend you give your body what it needs before you give your body what your feelings or cravings want. 

So, desserts work. But I’m a big believer of eating your meal first and getting full and satisfied. Then you’ll be in a better place in terms of self-control to have one piece of something and move on. If you go in hungry and the first thing you eat is sugar, you’re down a vicious highway of addictive eating patterns. And no one goes from a brownie back to a cucumber.”

Nutrition as a Parenting Tool

Ilana grew up modern orthodox on the upper west side in Manhattan with family members who always struggled with weight. One of her oldest memories is sitting at a Shabbat table with her dad who took a big slab of challah slathered in mayonnaise and chrain (horseradish), topped it with gefilte fish and basically consumed a 400-calorie appetizer. When he looked across the table at his 9-year-old obese daughter making the exact same thing, something clicked in him. Modelling good eating habits is everything. She’s committed to doing that with her three kids who are 9, 5, and 2. 

In fact, Ilana is currently working on a kids’ nutrition program. “I’ve always wanted to do this,” she earnestly explains, “Based on my background, my mission is to curb the child obesity crisis in America.” 

“Nutrition,” Ilana insists, “Is a key parenting tool. A lot of parents get so distracted with piano lessons and chess lessons and a million other things. And that’s all great. But if your kid doesn’t eat well, then you’re not really setting them up for long-term success. Having a healthy relationship with food and learning healthy habits and seeing parents model healthy eating habits can really set a kid up for the rest of their lives.”

2B Mindset: The Basic Principles

Water First

Water helps keep you full so you can make better food choices throughout the day. You should drink half your weight in ounces at a minimum each day.

Veggies Most

They help keep you full and satisfied so you can

make better food choices throughout the day!

Out of Sight Out of Mind (OOSOOM)

Put tempting foods away where you can’t see

them. So, you can stay focused on your goals!

Keep Two Hands on the Wheel

Keeping your hands busy holding a cup of tea

or water at a party helps keeps you safe from


Dinner and Done. Find Other Fun

Nighttime eating can be challenging. Find a post dinner

activity that is productive, not destructive,

so, you can stay focused on your goals!


It only takes a few minutes each day and the

more information you input, the more insight

you’ll have into what works for you—and what

will empower you to stay on track.


(Story originally published in

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