NEW YORK—Running the Loews hotel empire takes a lot of stamina for Chief Executive Jonathan Tisch, especially at meal time.
With a travel schedule that keeps him on the road two weeks a month, the 50-year-old New Yorker has lunch at high-profile spots like the Four Seasons Restaurant almost every day and has a heavy rotation of breakfast meetings and cocktail parties.
That means a special greens and chicken salad at Fresco, a New York lunch spot for politicos, and a Cobb, no avocado, at nearby Michael's, an eatery favored by media executives. He doesn't eat at those cocktail parties -- OK: white wine -- and if he slips up on a few French fries, it's an extra half-mile to his daily run.
"You constantly have to keep an eye out," he said.
In the battle of the bulge, few need to be as vigilant as the American chief executive. Like everyone else, they want to be more svelte, but between boardrooms groaning with goodies to first-class airline meals drenched in cream sauce, CEOs face one diet-buster after another -- and they're starting to get pretty creative at dodging them.
For instance, Citigroup Inc.'s Sanford Weill has given up bread, while Donna Karan has switched to raw foods. Hotel marketing CEO Paul McManus now swears by a hypnotist named "Dr. Val" in Brooklyn, N.Y. And for meals aboard his Gulfstream V jet, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban brings on his favorite snack -- a McDonald's salad, sometimes with salsa instead of dressing.
Whether it's working any better for them than the rest of the country's 55 million dieters remains to be seen. With two out of every three Americans overweight -- the worst it's ever been, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta -- weight-loss clinics that cater to management, like Pritikin in Turnberry Isle, Fla., say high-ranking executives now account for about 25 percent of their business.
Meanwhile, chefs are scrambling to keep up with quirky special orders, and everyone from Opus One in Detroit -- cafeteria to the Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. set -- to the Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, Ore., says that new low-carb menu items are helping boost lunch business.
So, with New Year's dieting resolutions still relatively fresh, we decided to check in with waist-watching executives to see how they were faring. Thanks to all the help money can buy -- personal nutritionists, chefs, office gyms -- many maintained a fighting trim.
But there were backpedalers, too.
Lifestyle guru B. Smith -- whose "B. Smith Style" program is rerun on TV One Inc., the cable television venture for African Americans recently begun by Comcast Corp. and Lanham-based Radio One Inc. -- gained a dress size trying to juggle her television programming, running three restaurants and designing an array of home items.
And a personal trainer and two gyms didn't help the hefty Lee Cooperman, CEO of the hedge fund Omega Advisors, who vows to stick with the South Beach Diet he started Jan. 1.
Power dieting is hardly new, of course, and CEOs were fighting fat even back in the days of the three-martini lunch.
Indeed, as early adopters, they helped put diets like South Beach (a low-carbohydrate plan favored by Bill Clinton) and Slim-Fast (diet shakes once endorsed by ex-Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda) on the map. And CEOs were among the first to sign on to the Zone Diet, which calls for keeping carbohydrates, protein and fat in specific ratios.
But as the carb-counting craze of 2003 mounted, dieting in the executive suite changed from an embarrassing chore to a status symbol.
Now, instead of competing over business lunches to see who can order the priciest wines or most cutting-edge entrees, executives say the new rivalry is to see who can eat the least. Lunch talk often revolves around what diets people are on and what the parameters are.