If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you will know about my constant fight with the visual cliche of what a chef looks like. No, not the current one where a chef is someone who will have tattoos everywhere, a big beard, ride motorbikes and dress in black, no, that one is a battle I have since given up on and accepted. I am that cliche. I’m referring to the cliche that chefs should look like they enjoy eating the food they make…or you should never trust them.
Before heading to chef school (over 10 years ago now) I was fit and trim. I worked out 5 days a week and the only alcohol I drank was spirits. I despised wine and thought beer was piss coloured fizzy liquid brewed in hell. How the times have changed. A wine certificate later and years of guzzling beer at 2 am with chef buddies after dinner shifts changed all that. Add the constant rich food and irregular sleep patterns to the mix and you have the perfect recipe on how to create a spare tyre around the abdomen of an adult human. It has been an on and off battle with the bulge ever since. Sometimes I’d win…but most times the bulge would come out victorious.
I started a strict gym regimen at the end of 2018, after I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes (thanks for the genes dad!) and that was when I accepted that now it was do or die for my health…literally. I started working out 4 days a week at the gym closest to me and the weight was actively falling away. I’ve always been a rugby player sized guy, at one point one of my friends tried to make me change my brand name to “Chef Bicep” (thank heavens I don’t listen to everyone) but my focus was always to lose weight and maintain a healthy body and not to be try be a Marvel Hero. Loads of cardio and minimal weight training and after 5 months I was close to my goal weight and size…then they decided to shut down the gym. Permanently. My mom passed away, I broke up with my ex and I was travelling all over the country promoting my book (authors and book people can drink! Yerrrr) and the stresses of running my business also piled on and all the gains and improvements went straight out the window. Nice Lesego, nice.
Fast forward to 2020, the year of plenty, the year we all claimed would be our greatest, the year we said we will change and fetch out best selves, the year we all entered with such positive hope and glee…the year of a small invisible guy called COVID19. Ahhh, 20Plenty, you bastard. Not even through a 3rd of the year and we’re already praying for it to end. Current status: Day 21 of Lockdown in SA.
At the start of the year I sat myself down and scolded myself like I was speaking to an unruly child. I asked myself if I really wanted to die of something I could maintain and look after. I raged to myself about my neglect of my mental and physical health. If you follow me on twitter you will have noticed a certain change in how I started to tweet. I would ignore negative energies and people and topics, I stay clear of drama and anything that is not worth my time and peace of mind and I try focus on the things I’m good at…namely food and things that make me happy, like music and movies and dogs. I also started to try help others where I could and whenever I could actually help. I’ve always been that way naturally but this time I had decided to make a concerted effort about it. I also decided to enforce my policy of not working on Mondays, no matter what. I switch my phone to flight mode and zone out. Only people who have my WhatsApp number can reach me (a problem, coz I nearly missed an important client event on a Monday…but after that, the client understood not to contact or schedule me for Mondays). I also decided to protect my peace when it came to relationships and dating (I’ll leave this topic alone for now)
It wasn’t just the mental stuff I started changing and focusing on. I also started to slowly build a home gym. With the closest gym to my place being a 20 minute drive away I accepted that the solution to my lack of a gym was to just build one. I’m lucky enough to live in a 4 bedroom freestanding house. The other rooms are mostly for my catering equipment storage but one of them was my study and the room I used to sit and write my first cookbook Dijo. I had agreed to start writing my 2nd book but I gutted the room and turned it into my gym anyway. Little did I know how much of a genius move that was.
I installed a home gym machine, one of those contraptions that work out legs, biceps, shoulders, triceps etc. It came in box and took me 2 whole days to put together. The salesman told me it would take me 2 hours. Note to self: Never ever trust salespeople. I also bought one of those door gym things, something called a Revo Tevo Power Tower and a few other gym contraptions and weights. I bought them before the Corona stuff began. My ancestors must clearly be looking out for me coz towards the beginning of the lockdown in SA gym equipment was sold out everywhere. Everyone was scrambling to get the things they needed to work out at home.
So how have I put the stuff to use? I work out everyday for at least an hour. Gym is a struggle in the beginning because there aren’t any immediate visual changes, so you become a bit despondent at first and you tend to want to quit. My gym is down the passage…the passage that I have to walk down to get to my kitchen, so it is in my eyesight whenever I go get snacks or food and the bloody guilt trip (literally) works every time. With liquor stores shutdown, the temptation to drink booze is out the window, I don’t drink fizzy drinks. All I drink is rooibos and water (I tried green tea, never, ever again). My plate is 50% vegetables, 25% starch and 25% protein. I don’t count calories, I just watch what I put in my mouth. I’ve avoided deep fried foods, I’ll admit I have slacked here and there when cravings have spoken or I needed to cook something for my recipes or Youtube channel but I make sure it’s only once a week. I’ve avoided processed starches and eat barley, sorghum, sweet potato, baked potatoes and brown rice. No maize meal or white pastas. Tuna and seafood are a constant for lunchtimes but most times I just have a stir fry or grilled veggies. If I eat bread, it is low GI wholewheat seed bread. If I’m not in the mood for porridge in the mornings, I mix a mixture of sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, coconut flakes, nuts, pumpkin seeds, raw oats, sesame seeds and raw peanuts into a bowl of yoghurt.
Other proteins I eat are lean red meat (which is rare, I’ve only had red meat 2 times during this lockdown), mostly chicken and chicken liver (I have a current obsession with chicken liver, I don’t know why). Everything I make is made from scratch, no processed foods or canned food unless its tuna or chickpeas. The beans and legumes are my favourite…but I’m thankful I live alone coz wow, the after effects are something else. I drizzle olive oil on at least one of my meals each day, for the omega oils. I take a multivitamin supplement in the morning along with a daily bowl of porridge made from mabele mixed in with a little bit of raw honey. I drink 2,5litres minimum a day. I have a 2,5litre water bottle that I make sure I down by the time I go to bed and I try spend at least an hour playing my garden with my puppy Porridge. If I feel a craving for snacks, I down a protein shake and drink a cup of tea. That normally fills me up so much I sometimes have to skip the next meal.
One thing I started to notice was my body getting bulky again (something I know body builders would love…but which I wish I could stop) so I’ve recently included skipping in my daily routine. It’s hell! Porridge thinks its all a game and tries to hop with me, so I’ve decided to switch to running laps in my yard. I haven’t measurevd the lap out yet but will do so later today. Anyway, onto the results. So after about 5 weeks of working out, 3 of them being in lockdown, this is what I’m looking like now without a shirt. Going to keep at it until the body fat is at a level I can’t fold it any more, lol. I’ve also found myself getting bored with some of my routine so I try switch things up with gym routines I find on Youtube, some are hilarious and fun.
Not too bad at all for someone who has only left their house 5 times in the last month. So far, so good.