Montel Williams is 51, has six-pack abs, a new wife and multiple sclerosis. He's equally fine with all of it.
Living Well, the title of his new book, released earlier this year, seems fitting to describe the life of the Baltimore native and the Emmy Award-winning host of The Montel Williams Show.
Williams' book, which is subtitled 21 Days to Transform Your Life, Supercharge Your Health, and Feel Spectacular, details his 21-day plan for transforming your life and health through diet and exercise, and includes personal stories, expert interviews, recipes and workouts.
Williams devised the "Living Well Plan" -- a combination of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish and a program of frequent, moderate exercise -- to help tackle the painful symptoms of MS, an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Williams has had the disease for eight years.
"With this regimen I've put forward in my book, I've been able to mitigate some of my symptoms," Williams says. "So it's time to share it."
Williams is the author of seven books, a motivational speaker and the founder of the Montel Williams MS Foundation and the After-Care Program. The latter aids troubled guests after they appear on his television talk show.
Here he discusses his new book, his thoughts on America's obesity issue and more.
You've released Living Well DVDs and penned motivational memoirs. What do you hope readers will take away from this book that they haven't from your other productions?
This book is about how to transform your life. The DVD series, which I released a year ago, brought together six of the top life coaches from around the world. What I wanted to do was motivate people to make a change in their life. This book is about a lifestyle change when it comes to what we eat. The past 2 1/2 years, I've been guinea-pigging myself with a certain regimen to see if I could mitigate the symptoms [of MS], and I've done just that.
You've had your talk show since 1991, established the Montel Williams MS Foundation and the After-Care program, and supported charitable organizations. What led you to your chosen life path?
There's not one thing. Living is made by what you earn. Success is made by what you give. In the book, you discuss your MS diagnosis. The doctors told you to prepare to die. You went through depressive episodes. Other than changing your diet, what helped you get through those tough times?
My initial reaction with MS was just as devastating as anybody -- a death sentence. We know a little more now -- that it will decrease my life span and it's a progressive disease. There is no cure for it, and there's nothing that can slow it down. The truth is, I'm like a ticking time bomb, and I dealt with that for a minute. Then I had to put that into perspective. I had to deal with the fact that the disease and medication causes depression. But what I've been so hopeful about is that I wasn't on a journey for naught. I was reaching for things that could make a difference, and every time I made a little difference, I realized it made a bigger difference. So I just kept making little differences at a time and, collectively, I've reduced the impact of my symptoms directly through diet.
So what's some of the best life advice you've been given?
Unfortunately, I haven't gotten a lot of great life advice from a lot of people. I think the best advice I've gotten, and I hate to sound pompous, is the advice I keep giving to myself every day. When I wake up in the morning, I ask, "What did I do yesterday that's worthy of talking about today?" Before I go to sleep at night, I ask, "What did I do today that's worth talking about tomorrow?" And when I answer those things, that's what sets the tone for the entire day. If I wake up in the morning and I did several things that were positive, I start my day off positively.
You tied the knot (last October). How has your wife helped you cope with MS?
She's been an integral part of my disease since we met. She wasn't afraid of it and embraced all aspects of it. I walk funny. I don't sleep right. A lot of strange things that I do, most people don't do. I take three needles a day. She deals with all those things and is extremely supportive.
There is an obesity issue affecting Americans today. How do you think this book or you, yourself, will help combat the problem?
So many people are wasting ... so much of their lives not paying attention to what you put in your face. We look at obesity from a vanity standpoint. I'm trying to look at our weight from a health standpoint. Look, you can wait around and die or you can start being proactive. I can make a choice to sit around this weekend and eat nothing but slop and feel miserable this whole week, or I can eat correctly and feel better.
What can we expect from you in the next year or two?
Well, with the Living Well Plan I'm the extreme. I do everything in the book 10 times more than you would. I'm giving people parameters. I don't expect anybody to attempt to be me unless you really have a reason to do it. I'm 51 years old and have a 30-inch waist. And I'm carrying a six-pack every day. Why? Because I'm exercising. I'm working out. I'm a walking example of what I'm trying to do over the next year; I want to give people who want to try this regimen the tools.
WILLIAMS' LIVING WELL CODE
Combine these steps and you can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, several forms of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and other conditions.
Base your diet on a rich variety of vegetables and fruits, especially in their fresh, natural and whole states.
Include healthy carbohydrates from whole grains, and healthy fats and protein from foods such as fish, beans and nuts.
Minimize saturated and trans fats, sodium, processed foods, added sugars and cholesterol in your diet.
Be mindful of your calories in and calories out, to work toward a healthy body weight.
Don't skip meals, deprive yourself or go on fad diets.
Get regular physical activity -- at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
Williams' Top Foods
Rainbow foods: a colorful palette of fruits and vegetables, the brighter the better
Antioxidant superstars, such as blueberries, blackberries and beans
Leafy and cruciferous veggies, such as greens, broccoli, kale, spinach and arugula
Super-fish: salmon, sardines, cod, herring, mackerel and oysters
Extra-virgin olive oil
Bottled ice water