Gina Neely goes back to the basics - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Gina Neely goes back to the basics with 'Back Home with the Neelys'

"It wasn't really about vanity for me, more so me feeling good within." "It wasn't really about vanity for me, more so me feeling good within."
Neely and her husband at the Orpheum Theater Memphis March 2012. Photo credit: Nicole R. Harris Neely and her husband at the Orpheum Theater Memphis March 2012. Photo credit: Nicole R. Harris

(WMC-TV) - Author, celebrity chef, restaurateur, wife and mother Gina Neely is speaking open and candidly about fame and family.

In her first interview before her new book tour, Neely described the sentiment behind the third book she wrote with husband Pat.

"Cooking is like an action of love. I'm taking my time. I'm stirring that love in that pot," said Neely.

She says "Back Home With the Neelys" goes back to the basics.

"Because now, food is processed so many different ways. You never know what you're getting, but back then they knew what they were getting because it was coming out of the ground."

Neely says life has changed so much since August 2006, when a Food Network producer tapped the couple to appear on TV. She says they leaned on each other a lot when Down Home with the Neelys kicked off in 2008.

"I was fortunate enough to have a partner there that when I didn't feel like it or didn't feel good about it, he could pick up the slack and vice versa."

She remembers making the mistake of reading a blog.

"And they were like, 'I hate her voice, it's too squeaky.' It just killed me. I was like, 'Oh my God, they hate me on TV.' My manager was like, 'Don't ever read another blog just keep online shopping. That's what you love to do, just shop.'"

She and Pat had to learn fast, what she calls on-the-job-training.

"We wrote our first cook book on the road. On the airplane, wherever you were you were just writing notes, trying to do it, trying to get everything done. Everybody's kind of pulling at you.'"

After the second book, the couple opened their New York City restaurant, Neely's Barbecue Parlor, and Neely took the George Foreman Grills Weight Loss Challenge.

"My cholesterol was a little high and I was starting to think, 'God, what can I do to change that?' My manager called and was like, 'I have this great opportunity for you.' I was like, 'Look at God.' I said, 'Okay, let's do this. They said I had to lose 20 pounds in 12 weeks. I was like, 'Wow, look at God. He thinks I'm a miracle worker too."

Neely gave Action News 5 the inside scoop on her body transformation, which includes three 500-calorie meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner and a daily workout and light snacks in between meals.

"It wasn't really about vanity for me, more so me feeling good within."

This is partly how she dropped from a size 8 to a size zero.

"The key is to eat and speed the metabolism up. Doing exercises. If you can't get to a gym, do lunges around the house with a basket. You can take gallon water jugs and just lift those."

Last year, the Neely's closed their Memphis restaurants and food at FedEx Forum. For the first time, she shared what she misses most about running the Memphis restaurants.

"I miss the people I would see every day. I had this one lady who would come in and she would say her boss drives her crazy and I would sit there and crack jokes with her. She was like, 'I just come here for this relief therapy. You should really be a comedian.'"

She encourages women to have "me" time each day and to spend at least one day per year putting health first.

"I use my birthday as my anniversary date so I know to get my mammogram, teeth, everything done. That's my cleanse Gina time."

As a woman who seems to have it all, she has this advice for other women.

"Get back to the church, get back to helping, get back to giving, get back to opening your heart and loving and sharing. That will come back to you double-fold. Trust me. I've seen it happen. It happened for me.">

The Neelys kick off their book tour Tuesday, April 8 at the Wolfchase Barnes & Noble in Memphis, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Gina's Regimen:
Breakfast: Two egg whites with spinach and mozzarella cheese.
Snack: Protein shake.

One-hour gym workout or walk or run the bridge.

Lunch: Salad with grilled chicken.
Snack: Hummus with pita chips.

Dinner: Salmon with grilled asparagus, and a salad with blueberries and strawberries with a balsamic vinaigrette.
Snack: Greek yogurt to help with digestion.

"Back Home with the Neelys" Book Tour

Tuesday, April 8, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.: Wolfchase Barnes & Noble
April 29, noon to 2:00 p.m.: Bartlett Sam's Club
May 3, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.: Mendenhall Road Kroger

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