Losing weight…as a chef

They say never ever trust a skinny chef…

Being a person who lives, breathes and sleeps food you’d think I would know the consequences of eating the things I eat. I know exactly how everything is made and the way butter and cream are used like water when cooking French style. I see how salt and seasoning goes into everything and part of my Diploma even had a course dealing with nutrition and health. Does that stop me from wolfing down KFC and take away burgers? Nope. I know how chocolate is made, right down to how cheap commercial chocolates are pumped full of vegetable fat and sugars. Does that stop me from looking away when offered desserts and cakes? Nope.

At chef academy we would cook EVERY DAY and take everything we cooked home in Tupperwares. Now remember I was trained in the classic French style of cooking, where butter is king and wine is manna from heaven. Having quit my job in the corporate sector I also cancelled my gym membership in order to save money whilst being a student. No gym + loaded fancy food = a rather fast increase in how small my mirror got. The other problem is that I started drinking beer, before chef academy I was strictly a whisky drinker. No wines or beers or ciders touched these lips…being surrounded by young, stressed and crazy chef students changed all that.

So here I was, years later. I happened to grow accustomed to being large-ish. (I’ve always been a big guy in terms of body shape but the problem was the large fit shape had suddenly started looking like a pear with broad shoulders). I walked past a mirror once and had to do a double take and reverse as I didn’t believe what I was looking at. It was then and there, about 3 months ago, that I decided to make a change and take responsibility for my health and nutrition.

See the problem with being a chef is that you have to taste everything before sending it out to a guest. I have a personal motto I tell guests when I present menus, “I do not serve anything that I myself would not enjoy”. I’m a firm believer in a chef cooking for themselves first whenever creating a dish or recipe. If you don’t enjoy it yourself then why the hell serve it to someone else? So the dilemma lies in that I love what I cook…and what I cook isn’t exactly healthy. I’m also the head of pastry at work and have to come up with decadent sugar packed desserts. I have always had a bit of a sweet tooth so you can imagine the agony of it all. I had to sit and work out a strategy for this mission. To counter the temptations in the kitchen I came up with a cunning plan to trick my body: I’d have a large breakfast early in the morning.

When I was a gym freak years ago I learned that the best time of the day to work out is at sunrise before having a meal. This forces your body to utilise your body’s fat reserves for energy as your stomach is empty. So 5am every morning I go to gym, even if I knocked off work later the night before. I also learned when I was a gym nut that working out for longer than an hour in the morning is overkill and your body hits a plateau. So 45 minutes is all I do. 20 minutes on the stationary bike and 25 minutes doing weight training. Immediately after that I have a bowl of muesli or oats (oats or oatmeal is the best breakfast you get, it is low GI and is packed full of things your body needs as well as providing fibre. Fibre is essential to a weightloss eating plan as it keeps you regular and helps your body absorb nutrients better as well as helping you move impurities out of your body as you go to the bathroom more often). I also have fat-free plain yoghurt and an apple, the yoghurt is a great source of protein and calcium and the Apple provides vitamins and more fibre. I also drink a protein shake and whilst waiting for our lift to work I drink coffee (coffee is a diuretic, meaning it causes you to relieve yourself more often…which is a good thing as it means you release impurities and you have more room to drink more water.)

Speaking of water, I also drink 6 bottles of 500ml water a day. Unfortunately where I work in the bush our water is undrinkable. So I get to work on a full stomach and even the smell of bacon can’t tempt me. The problem with gym, though, is that it makes one very peckish and you get hungry often. To up your metabolism you have to eat 6 small meals a day (thats the weird irony of weightloss…to lose weight you have to eat more, not less). The meals, of course, should be healthy and good for you. I snack on nuts and dried fruit as the morning goes by and at lunch time I try eat some chicken breast or fish. I try eat smoked salmon as it’s packed with Essential Fatty Acids and Omega which help keep your mind alert and helps your system. I also use olive oil to cook and not vegetable or sunflower oil, similar to salmon it also provides EFA’s. I avoid processed starches such as pasta, white rice and bread and if I can I try make some brown rice. I try keep away from potatoes, even baked ones. Potato starch is easily absorbed by your body, try sweet potatoes instead. If you really crave potato then baked potatoes are the best. I have an obsession with avocado at the moment and add this to the meal. Avocados are full of good fats that help your body and also add fibre.

At 2pm after serving lunch I head home to rest for dinner shift later. This is where I have to fight cravings and other bad habits. Where I work we have a store where we can purchase food, snacks and drinks. I’ve had to learn to stop myself from grabbing things like pasta and potato crisps. Processed starches cause your body to gain weight as the starches are easy to absorb. They also cause your body to produce more insulin which leads to spikes…which cause your body to retain more weight around the belly and hips. Its why soft drinks and beer are so bad for you. Even too much fruit juice can be bad for you as fruit has sugars and the juice, unlike with whole fruits, doesn’t have the fibre that counters the sugars. I down a protein shake again and then take a nap for an hour or two. Sleep is your best friend when trying to lose weight. Your body can only process and repair the damage your workouts do when you are asleep. The protein shakes provide the building blocks needed to repair the muscles.

At 6pm I head back to work to serve dinner. I’m usually famished but I don’t eat until I’m in the kitchen. I dont eat starches after 6pm, even the good ones. As you sleep at night your body carries on absorbing what is in your stomach. The later you eat the more weight your body stores as the food in your stomach isn’t being burnt, you are sleeping and not working it off. Starch (and sugars) are a double-edge sword as they also causes insulin spikes…meaning your also gain more weight. I eat meat and vegetables only after 6pm, I will taste the dessert and sauces before serving them but that’s it. When I get home at 10pm after dinner shift I down another protein shake and try fall asleep.

So the constant eating and avoiding of temptation over the past 3 months has led to me looking like this now…

image

Once a week I do have a “day off” where I have some beers and treats but I don’t over do it. Its not easy but if someone who works in a world surrounded by things that whisper your name and ask to be eaten can do it, anyone can.

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