Why Oprah producer Sheri Salata had to quit to get healthy

By | June 4, 2019

When it came to dramatic health transformations, Sheri Salata knew every trick in the book.

As the executive producer of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Salata, who grew up outside of Chicago, worked with the daytime-television queen for more than two decades. She had a “front row seat” to every diet trend, fitness craze and wackadoo wellness secret that ever passed through Oprah’s studios, Salata tells The Post.

“Nobody had more information than me,” says the cheerful blonde 59-year-old, also the former co-president of the Oprah Winfrey Network.

But while she had an endless roster of the world’s best health professionals at her fingertips — and a salary that put the latest solutions within reach — her high-pressure job left her unable to have the “reckoning” she needed to turn things around.

As Salata writes in her new book, “The Beautiful No: And Other Tales of Trial, Transcendence and Transformation” (Harper Wave, out today), “I could recite the tenets of best-life living backward and forward. I could produce the hell out of transformation. I just continued to avoid producing the transformation of my own life.”

By the end of her time with Oprah, Salata was 100 pounds overweight, single and burned out — emotionally and physically. She was constantly self-medicating with Big Gulps of diet soda, chips and dip and frozen pizzas. Most embarrassingly, she says, she couldn’t stop smoking, no matter how much TV doctor Mehmet Oz called her out on it.

“With his miraculous olfactory sensitivity, he could sniff out cigarette smoke and diet soda from a mile away,” she writes. Whenever he was in the studio, she says, she’d run and hide.

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In the years following her 50th birthday, Salata began feeling the pressure to make her next half-century even better and healthier than her first. With Oprah’s blessing, she left the network in 2016 to focus on her health and start her own lifestyle company, The Pillar Life. Then, she began her personal exploration into the exercise, diet and mental-health fixes that she had produced on TV for years.

As she discovered first-hand, some of the most expensive fixes didn’t solve her problems. Dropping $ 8,000 on liposuction was nothing more than an excruciatingly painful experience with minimal results — “tawdry in its pointless gruesomeness,” she writes. And rigorous, three-day-a-week personal training at a gym from a “gorgeous, tiny, acrobat-like wunderkind” to the stars left her with osteoarthritis in her knee.

But, through nearly three years of experimentation, there were a few stand-out solutions that worked for her — including swapping that pricey personal trainer for a yoga mat, and using it for more easily manageable, 15-minute yoga sessions each day.

Here are a few other ways Salata — now living in Napa, Calif. — has lost 50 pounds, and gained sanity and happiness.

Detox cleanse

The first stop on Salata’s health journey was Desert Hot Springs, Calif., for an eight-day juice cleanse, complete with daily colonics. “I thought it was fantastic,” Salata says of the We Care Spa, where typical packages like the one she tried cost up to $ 7,559.

After a week-plus of no solid food and visits to a trained colon hydrotherapist where she “watched the carnage” empty from her body, she lost about 12 pounds. The process jump-started her diet goals and forced her to focus on her body’s needs, instead of the needs of those around her: “It was all very much about me,” says Salata, who says the role of a producer can be a selfless one. “That was crazy, new territory.”

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Though she’s returned several times since when she needs a drastic nudge, Salata adopted the less-rigid strategy of intermittent fasting, where she holds off eating breakfast till around 11 a.m. and doesn’t eat anything after 7 p.m. She’s also adopted a veggie-centric, plant-based diet, and believes her new vegetarian way of eating accounts for “dozens” of the 50 pounds she’s already lost. Plus, she says, “it feels energizing!” to swap out meat and dairy for vegetables — including some she’s now growing herself.

Oprah Winfrey consults with Sheri Salata on a 2011 episode of her show.
Oprah Winfrey consults with Sheri Salata on a 2011 episode of her show.George Burns

IV vitamins

When it came to getting her health in check — including a bout with skin cancer, the long-term effects of stress and high cholesterol — Salata turned to a naturopath, or doctor of alternative medicine. Her goal now is preventing diseases and ailments that will hold her back.

Intravenous vitamins, in particular, have given her the energy and immunity boost she needs to stay healthy and active, she says. She loves the celeb favorite “Myers Cocktail” — a mixture named after Dr. John Myers, the doctor who concocted the injectable liquid of vitamins B, C, calcium and magnesium. Though there’s no trial-based research to back up the rave reviews, Salata believes the IV treatments, which she gets every couple months when needed, help her keep up with her exercise. “Especially if you’re tired and run down, you feel more energized,” she says.

Sharpening her skill set

Learning the right way to slice and dice helped Salata prep the massive amounts of veggies she’s been eating. “It can be very daunting for a non-cook to be staring at bags of vegetables if you don’t know how to wield a chef’s knife,” she says.

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Now, she buys all her produce on a Saturday or Sunday and spends a couple hours washing, slicing and cooking her haul so she can quickly toss veggies into a meal or snack on them during the day.

“How many times have you skipped a salad because you just didn’t have all the [vegetables] ready?” she asks. “This way, you just have it all ready go to.”

Salata and Winfrey in October 2015, the year before she left Oprah Winfrey Network.
Salata and Winfrey in October 2015, the year before she left Oprah Winfrey Network.Jared Siskin/patrickmcmullan.com

Sex therapy

Salata’s love life took a back seat as she built up her career, and with it, her sexual mojo. Never married and not one for online dating, but open to love, she paid a visit to her friend and sex therapist Laura Berman, who recommended everything from experimenting with sex toys to meditating on how she would like to feel with her ideal man.

Salata’s “homework” included “private dancing . . . in my bedroom in front of a mirror, stark naked” to “get comfortable with the sensuality of it.”

Even though she hasn’t found love, tapping into what makes her feel sexy has helped her feel attractive inside and out, even on the days when her weight-loss journey has felt slow and steady.

“If I walk into a restaurant full of men . . . I feel much more attractive in the true sense of the word.”

Living | New York Post