Losing weight…as a chef. Part 2

A few months ago I posted an article about my dilemma. Well, to me it’s a dilemma, to some people that I’ve met it’s a blessing in their eyes. I had one guy I met whilst moving my furniture into a long term storage facility last month ask me if he could have my body. After doing a double take and giving him a funny stare I figured out that he was complimenting my physique and that he wishes he looked like me. I laughed it off and told him how he could have it…as long as he had enough food to maintain it.

My dilemma is thus. I’m a big guy, I wasnt always a big guy. I was a chubby kid til I hit puberty then my dad’s genes kicked in and I got skinny as ever. Then I started working when I was 20 and slowly but surely, with constant gym and the discovery of fancy foods I got to the size I am now. When I got to Chef school after 6 years of corporate life, I was around 100kgs. I worked out 5 days a week and ate healthily. I packed on about 20kgs of fat and nonsense whilst I was at chef school. With the insane hours we kept and my new discovery of beer (before chef school I despised beer, I only drank wine and whisky, being a student again and hanging around students changed my preferences very fast! ). I attempted to lose weight by jogging in the mornings but as I’m sure you’ve seen, big guys don’t exactly make for the most elegant of images when jogging on the street. Even though I was an athletics captain at school I truly dislike running. I swear there are constant treadmills in hell. Anyway, I digress…

When I started working at the lodge I work at now I was so excited to find out that there is a staff gym in the village. Without any plans or idea as to what I’d be doing everyday I started working out again. My body ached for weeks. It had been 3 years since it had been in a proper gym. I would do everything and anything I could get my hands on. I cycled, I did weights, I did cardio. I tried it all but improvements were slow. I would work out during my breaks, which are in between my kitchen shifts, between 3 and 6pm. My ungodly working hours didn’t help either. I’d often miss 3 or 4 days and then start over again. I had to make this smarter and more efficient.

In my first post I went into the detail of what I’ve been eating and doing. As many physical trainers will tell you, losing weight is 30% physical activity and 70% dietary intake. You literally are what you eat. You’d assume a chef would be a master at this, we have the freshest and most easily accessible products around us daily. We can eat when we like. We can maintain that eating plan to the letter. Ha! Never. Its actually the opposite. Since we have all the food we’d ever need we tend to get bored with the fresh stuff and it’s the greasy nonsense we always seem drawn to. I have yet to meet a chef in all my years in this industry who makes themselves a salad for lunch. Because of the physical nature of our job we tend to crave starches a lot. So how did I tackle all these things?

I stopped going to gym in the afternoons. I work out on an empty stomach first thing each morning at 5am. I stopped my intake of processed starches. So no more pasta, no more white rice, no more pap (a stiff maize meal porridge which is the staple in Southern Africa, similar to polenta). I started drinking 3 litres of water a day (I found that taking one big bottle of water to walk and just refilling it as the day goes by worked better than going to the tap with a glass over and over). I avoid red meat as much as possible and try eat fish and chicken mostly. I stopped eating dinner after 7pm and would eat dinner at 6pm before going to work. I stopped eating processed cereals and changed to granola and muesli. I started eating more nuts and a fruit 3 times a day. I will admit, my vegetable intake is still bad but I’m getting there. I also changed from flavoured yoghurt to plain yoghurt (a study was done to show that some yoghurt have as much added sugar in them as soft drinks).

But my weakness will always remain alcohol. Its one of those things we chefs seem to always struggle with. We enjoy our wines and booze especially during our downtime. Working in the hospitality industry means you live with the people you work with. Whenever you have any free time all people want to do is drink the night away. I think it’s a symptom of the stress caused by the amount of hours we work. I’ve tried to cut down and have been pretending to not be home when my colleagues come knocking on my cabin door. Haha. I even switch my lights off to make the whole effect work. I dont taste everything I make anymore unless really necessary. At chef school we would get marked down if we didn’t taste our food and I swear that’s part of the reason I packed on the kilograms! With time and experience I’ve learned to gauge my seasoning and I know my recipes well. I try avoid eating anything I’ve cooked! Hahaha. I’m not even joking. Cooking the classic French way, which is the style I was trained in, is not exactly the healthy way. Butter and cream and wine in nearly everything. Yep. The Frenchies indulge.

I work out for 45 minutes every morning. Mostly weights and a little cardio. I figure that being on my feet for 11hours a day is enough cardio. I then have one cup of coffee each morning whilst I down my multivitamin and protein shake (oh, these are very important, I have 3 of them a day in between meals.) To increase your metabolism (which will mean your body burns fuel faster) one needs to eat often. At least 6 small healthy meals a day. I have 3 small meals and 3 protein meal replacement shakes. They truly make a difference, as does a good multivitamin. I went 2 weeks without my vitamins as I had run out of stock and I could physically feel the difference. I also try get some essential fatty acids (EFA’s or Omegas) by eating salmon and olive oil now and then. That helps too.

Anyway enough about all that. This is the way I currently look. Having lost 20kgs in 5 months. I weigh in at 105kgs now. Excuse the shameless selfie but if Obama can…


My colleagues think I’m nuts to stay away from all the awesome ingredients we have at our disposal. One of the crazy parts of being a chef is that you tend to hate cooking at home unless it’s for an audience. If you live alone it’s just crap, junk and even more crap. I used to have 2 sandwiches for dinner most days or take home leftovers from the kitchen for dinner. I also used to have a full English breakfast everyday after serving the guests. Yes it’s fun to indulge and to show off Instagram pics of fancy dinner and lunches you’re about to it but the irritation as you walk past a mirror or try on new clothes has gotten too much for me…and my family history of diabetes aint cool either.

I’ll post an update once I reach that goal.

One thought on “Losing weight…as a chef. Part 2

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