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Registered dietitian, author and national speaker Zonya Foco (above) polls the audience about their milk preferences during the taping of "The Power of ONE Good Habit" at the Meyer Theater at Monroe County Community College Thursday. The show focused on simple things that people may change in their diets, such as adding fiber.

Plucked from the audience, Temperance resident Kevin Amy (right), 11, assists Zonya Foco with a demonstration about the importance of fiber during the taping of an American Public Television special.

— Evening News photos by VALERIE TOBIAS

Zonya's in the News:
Healthy Habits

By: Michael Neary, story updated January 20. 2006 11:05AM

Spooning vegetable shortening into the palms of a woman she invited on stage, Zonya Foco administered what she called a "doughnut lobotomy." illustrating painstakingly just what goes into a doughnut, she made the treats thoroughly disgusting to the people who nearly filled the Meyer Theater at Monroe County Community College.

Ms. Foco, a registered dietitian and an author, delivered her performance Thursday night — a show that was taped as a live-audience pledge program for national public television. She called the program "The Power of ONE Good Habit."

Dissecting a doughnut was part of conveying as much knowledge about the foods we eat as she could in a two-hour presentation. And if doughnuts and pop had become revolting by the end of the two hours, the glistening bins of fruit and vegetables behind Ms. Foco had become alluring.

Ms. Foco said her goal was to help people make lifestyle changes rather than embark upon crash diets. Standing in front of the audience dressed in a smart red jacket and black slacks, she delivered her messages with body language and lots of humor, eliciting both groans and laughs throughout the evening.

She began by telling about her own ill-fated crash diet in high school, when she was a cheerleader who needed to lose 20 pounds in a few days. She called the quick diets followed by eating sprees "yo-yo diets" that led her, for about six years, to a pattern of eating that, she said, came close to an eating disorder.

Her advice — to chip away at bad eating habits and to think in terms of years rather than weeks — came packaged in turns of phrase that placed common food items in strange new lights.

Whole milk, she said, was filled with "cow fat globules." Beans of various kinds were helpful "little cholesterol sponges." Broccoli was a good "colon-scrubber."

"You'll never think of broccoli the same way again," she said.

Throughout the evening she sprinkled in statistics about changing eating habits. Giving up two doughnuts a week for fruit could lose a person six pounds, she said, and trading a liter of pop for water could shave off 40 pounds.

She also returned several times to what may have been her most serious message: "We need to not be duped by food companies that just want to make money."

Ms. Foco noted, for instance, food manufacturers' strategy of saturating their products with food coloring to appeal to children. Studies have suggested, she said, a possible connection of food-coloring consumption to attention deficit disorder.

Ms. Foco's presentation also leaned toward the graphic. Joking about obtaining a human gastrointestinal track from a cadaver, she pulled out — with two audience members on stage — a multi-colored model of such a track that stretched 24 feet across the stage. She used it to illustrate, among other things, the value of eating whole grain rather than pasty white pasta and bread.

"The whiter the bread," she said, using another catchy phrase, "the quicker you're dead."

The audience was enthusiastic, thanks in part to some priming by master of ceremonies Richard Paul, a public speaker and ventriloquist from Macomb.

"You remember what you're going to do with that standing ovation?" he reminded the crowd, shortly before the end of the show.

Mr. Paul brought some humor of his own to the stage as he revved up the audience at the beginning of the show.

"We want to be better than Dr. Phil, right? We want to be better than Oprah, right ... !" he said before Ms. Foco made an appearance.

The crowd enjoyed the show but also seem absorbed by the substance of Ms. Foco's work.

"She looks like she has the right idea," said 58-year-old Rose Rozner of Monroe before Ms. Foco arrived on stage. "It's not about weight loss but about lifestyle change."

After the show Ms. Foco signed copies of her book "Lickety-Split Meals for Health Conscious People on the Go," sold outside the auditorium.