During her freshman year at Princeton, Oz wrote a book titled “The Dorm Room Diet,” which advises college students — and anyone else — on how to live a healthy lifestyle through the standby method of diet and exercise. This past summer, four years after her book was first published, Oz released a second edition that includes a new chapter on recipes.
Oz chose to re-release “The Dorm Room Diet” in response to reader demand for a recipe chapter, she explained in an e-mail. All of the recipes are vegetarian “as a way to open students’ eyes to some very quick, simple, delicious (and cheap!) vegetarian options they can enjoy while living on campus,” she added.
“I’ve been very passionate about learning all I could about the U.S. food industry over the last two years,” she said. “I thought it would be worthwhile to share this knowledge with readers who were clearly interested in getting healthy.”
But four years ago, her writing was motivated by a different reason: her own childhood struggles with weight problems. Right before coming to Princeton, Oz lost 10 pounds through the methods she details in her book.
Losing the weight, Oz said, made her realize that she could be a source of information for her generation by writing in a “friendly, approachable voice” and relating it to the college environment.
“When I recognized college would represent the beginning of my adult life, I was finally able to put the information I’d had my whole life into practice,” Oz said. Oz’s father and grandfather are both cardiac surgeons, and her mother and grandmother are holistic nutrition advisers. “It became a part of the emotional transition between living at home with my parents and being on my own as an adult,” she added.
During the process of writing her book, Oz said, she spent about an hour each weeknight and four to six hours during weekends writing and editing.
“I wrote the book ... when I was still really getting to know what life at Princeton would be like, so finding time to write was a challenge but also something I felt very passionate about and made a priority,” she explained.
Bianca Bosker ’08, a friend of Oz’s during her time at Princeton, said that she was “so impressed and inspired” by Oz’s book project.
Bosker first learned about the book project “one evening while we bonded over our shared love of cooking, something that was hard to do in Princeton’s dorm kitchens,” she said.
“Daphne and her book were a great source of information on how to eat right, sneak in exercise between study sessions and keep from coming down with colds,” she added.
Although Oz was not involved in any environmental clubs at Princeton, the final chapter of “The Dorm Room Diet” also includes tips about sustainable and conscious living, and it claims that students have the “power to change the U.S. food industry by voting with their wallets (or prox cards) three times a day,” she said.
In 2008, universities and colleges throughout the United States spent $4 billion providing food products for their students and staff, Oz noted, a fact that prompted her to ask, “Why not channel that purchase power toward renovating our food system so that healthful food becomes both widely available and affordable?”
To that end, Oz recalled, she worked with the staff at Ivy Club, where she was a member, to improve the club’s vegetarian options.
While the University does a very good job of providing a wide range of foods on campus, there is “always room to improve,” Oz said.
As for her advice to current Princeton students, Oz said, “Live by the motto ‘substitution where you can, moderation where you can’t’ — meaning, if you’re happy to have an apple instead of a store-bought brownie, that’s a great way to limit your processed-sugar, fat and carbohydrate intake.”
But, she warned, “don’t skip on a small slice or bite of a friend’s birthday cake just so you can say you didn’t indulge. The point in creating a healthy lifestyle ... is to never feel deprived.”
Oz said the new edition of her book has received an “overwhelming response” so far.
“The material we’re discussing has not lost relevance and is as useful to students in college today as it was four years ago, especially with the new and updated material we’ve included,” Oz said, noting that she has been touring and publicizing the book through various media outlets.
As for Oz’s next step, she doesn’t plan on writing a sequel to her book. “I think what made the book a best seller was the fact that it was written from a fellow student’s perspective,” she said. “If I tried to replicate that now that I’m not on campus, I don’t think I could achieve the same relevance.”
But that doesn’t mean that Oz is prepared to leave writing entirely.
“I was married in August of this year and am ready to move on to the wedding and newlywed market, so that’s what I’m working on now,” she said.