I often tweet about food online and how I make various dishes and what-not. I give my recipes away for free on this blog and on social media and I try not to be one of those “my recipes are my secret” chefs as recipes are only one component of being a good cook. Technique and skills can be taught but most come with natural ability. So that adage that a chef never gives his recipes away shouldn’t really be important to a good chef…and I’ve tried to always look at myself as a good chef. One thing I don’t share online, though, is tales about my personal life unless they’re related to my profession. I will mention the people in my life here and there and post a pic of them but that’s about as far as I go. With my brand having grown so fast and been profiled in the media so often, I find having some parts of my life kept confidential helps keep me sane (something very rare in us chefs! Hence it being so important to me!)
Why such a deep and serious intro to this blog entry? Well, because this entry is about my partner. A lot of ladies who follow me on Twitter assumed I was single, I don’t know why it matters if I’m single or not but hey, apparently it did. We’ve been dating for a few months now and it’s been an awesome journey filled with laughs and the usual relationship stuff. She makes me laugh in ways I didn’t think were possible and so I thought to myself, whilst watching her sulk in the gym parking lot, how I need to write about this journey she has decided to embark on. The journey so many woman embark on. The journey that a lot take seriously, much to my humour, and a lot give up on. The journey that, sadly for her, she has to do whilst dating someone who plays with food for a living and sometimes uses her as a (very willing) Guinea Pig for new recipes. The journey that has spawned a whole industry of fad diets and insane meal plans. The journey to lose weight. Being World Anti-diet Day today seems rather appropriate too!
I’ve made it no secret that I despise fad diets and meal plans that force you to give up entire food groups. Yes, that means I’m no fan of the Atkins diet nor the latest fashionable spawn of it, the Banting diet. I’m a professional and my job is to please my customer and I have banting-friendly recipes and meals but when it comes to actually sitting down and discussing the diets themselves I am not easily swayed. Gym and eating all the food groups and eating thing naturally and avoiding processed food and drinking lots of water has always worked. There really shouldn’t be a need to cancel entire food groups from your life, it takes the whole enjoyment of what I do for a living away and it also isn’t much of a life! But I’m biased, I’m a chef. I could sellout like those chefs who only cook for certain markets like vegans and gluten-free eaters but I doubt I ever will.
On that note, I began a weight-loss journey myself last year October. I weighed in at 115kg when I left Ulusaba, the lodge I worked for in the Sabi Sands. In January this year I was an agile 92kg. I’ve put on a few more kgs over the last few months due, in part, to my reconnection with alcohol and specifically beer. Something I had given up for 3 months from October to December.
When my girlfriend met me she was excited about dating a chef, a weird phenomenon I have yet to understand, ladies who are attracted to you simply because you cook. Luckily she claims to have been attracted to other things and the cooking came as a bonus. I told her dating a chef isn’t really all that but one prerequisite was that she needs to cook for me too now and then. After many weeks she eventually cooked something for me…but let’s leave that story for another day. So with time she has noticed her waistline growing slightly larger and certain clothes not fitting anymore. Her mom called her a boerewors sausage once when she saw here wearing a certain pair of pants! (I promise I didn’t laugh). I am not the fault of the weight gain, ironically, its her obsession with junk and alcohol. You’d think having a chef for a man would mean you’d be more discerning about what you eat. Nope, not my woman. I think it’s actually made her even more rebellious. Whenever we’re together she’ll go on about how she’s craving this or that bad food. Me telling her how nasty the meal she wants is doesn’t help one bit.
So early this year we decided it was time to stop the nonsense. We put our heads together and agreed it was time to stop the nonsense and focus on our health. We got the prerequisite protein shakes and water bottles and meal plans…hell, we even went shopping for gym outfits. I got her a pair of white and pink gym gloves and we began trying to be healthy humans for a change.
Mind you, we would drink 3 bottles of wine between the two of us easily on one night. I would finish a 6 pack of beer maybe 2 times a week and have a glass or 3 of wine every other night. We wouldn’t drink to get drunk though, I think our alcohol tolerance levels got pretty high. We wouldn’t go out either, if we did, we would sneak in some vodka into movie theatres and dash our slush puppies. Yes, I kid you not. When drinking also comes laziness, instead of my usual routine of cooking dinner or lunch, we would go buy take out. I live pretty close to Soweto and we’d drive there to go buy greasy food (awesome for hangover Sundays!). If we were chilling at home instead of behaving and having home made snacks, we would buy junk and sweets (jellybeans are our weakness) and we’d be two lazy couch potatoes. Life was good and awesome! Then clothes stopped fitting and with pictures being taken of you frequently you start noticing the difference.
A few weeks ago we began the gym plan “properly”. I put the word properly in inverted commas because the journey has been a hilarious one. I’m fairly focused when it comes to my meal and protein shake plans. Yes I’ll slip now and then and grab the odd burger or fries but I’m fairly focused. On the other hand, she complains like a kid who just heard that Santa Clause isn’t real the day before Christmas. Whenever I wake her up on weekends for gym it’s always an half hour negotiation mixed in with a few swear words and lines such as “you don’t love me” and “I don’t need a boyfriend because mine hates me”. Then the usual evil look and last swear word before she gets up to dress for gym. That’s just the getting up part. This is soon followed by more complaining about how weekends are for relaxing and how hungry she is and how I could make her go to gym dying of starvation and that she wants her mommy. All of this will then be followed by her opening the fridge and fixing herself something to eat…even though I preach on about how its best to work out on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. When we get to gym, eventually, there is the negotiation in the car and my apologies for waking her up so early and that I’m not doing this to her because I hate her. Mind you, I’m not the one who keeps complaining about my weight and body shape, but I digress…So we now sulk and walk into the gym and I’ll proceed to explain what exercises we’ll be doing that day. She hates everything we do at gym so you can imagine her reactions at this point as I tell her what machines, weights and cardio we’ll be doing that day. Whilst she swears under her breath she’ll sit on the gym floor and proceed to tie her shoelaces. This takes about 5 minutes. Yes, I’m not kidding. She has this whole process of tieing her laces which fascinates and astonishes me. It’s like watching a person with OCD with a box of jelly beans and separating them in colours and eating them colour by colour…or biting the heads off all the jelly babies in a packet before eating them! I’ve threatened to record her one day. I swear she does it on purpose. She denies this though.
So the actual gym and working out part begins. Every exercise is followed by a “I hate this” or “you’re mean to me” or sometimes a “I don’t want to do this one because I don’t want to look like a man”, that’s all good and well but the fun truly begins when she starts with the hunger complaints. She will describe how she wants a burger and then proceed to describe what kind of burger it should be and what sauce should be on it. All whilst sweating away whilst on a gym machine. Fries, burgers, pasta, Mac and cheese, pizza, sushi…name it, she has described it all to me whilst working out. I can’t help but laugh sometimes.
So our basic meal plan involves us cutting down on processed food, on easy carbs (white rice, maize meal, white bread, cakes, sugar, brewed alcohols), we try avoid red meat and yellow cheeses and anything with excessive salt or fat. We also drink protein shakes first thing in the morning and just before bed. 4 small meals throughout the day completes our schedule. It’s all about getting the metabolic rate up. The more constantly you eat and the healthier your meals, the better for your metabolism and the faster your body processes fuel…meaning a leaner body and eventually loss of body fat. Tie this in with gym, 3 litres of water a day and added vitamins and fruits and veggies and in 3 months I lost 22kgs. The theory works because I’ve lived it…but watching her struggle with it is hilarious. I laugh because I know how frustrating it is to know you can’t eat something and there it is in front of you, smelling and looking good. It doesn’t help that she sees everything I make for clients and we chefs always make a little extra when we cook, so there’s always a little left over.
In between the swearing and crying the journey to that “flat stomach, small waist and thick bum but not muscular thighs!” continues and she hates me laughing whenever she sulks but when I stop teasing her she complains that I’m silent and that
I need to motivate her. You can never win with these women!