Ever heard the old adage “Never trust a skinny cook?” I have to tell you, when I turn on the t.v. and there’s a cooking show on, I don’t want to see someone more thin than me whipping up a chocolate cake and flaunting their size 5 figure while tempting me with their 3000 calorie delicacies. I want to watch a Paula Dean or a Chef Tell. I want a grandparent figure whose very presence seems to call out, “Come over here sugar and let me fatten you up a bit. You’re too skinny. Somebody needs to feed you.” I expect to see delicious food being cooked by people who look like they’ve tasted their own food a time or two….and really enjoyed it.
Well, lets just say “the times they are a changin’ ” and chef’s are getting smaller and sexier. I’m a little miss-trustful (and honestly jealous as all get out) when I see skinny little Sandra Lee of Semi- Homemade or sexy Giada of Food Network fame, making the kind of rich and tasty deserts that once put me in size 20 pants. They look like they’ve been living on carrot sticks and running marathons. When fat people cook I’m undivided. Food – Good! When fit people cook it makes me feel all confused and guilty. I’m not sure whether to drool over the chocolate cake or go run a mile. Hmm, maybe my discomfort is a good thing. A kind of counter balance.
After recognizing my discomfort on the subject I asked myself a question. Are the fit foodies a fraud? Are they all merely front men (and women) for some chubby culinary genius? Are they actors who can talk the food talk, but walk the celebrity diet and fitness walk? Can you love rich foods, cook them, consume them, and not be a size 3x?
Well, prompted by the above pics of Rachael Ray, I began to do a little research. Here is a girl who hasn’t always been thin. Maybe she was eating her own cooking. So how did she lose the weight and how does she keep it off?
For Rachael it’s all about the running. When a throat surgery left this chatty t.v. chef, who was used to talking non-stop for 12 – 16 hours a day, unable to talk at all for 3 weeks she had a lot of pent-up energy. She got bored and she began to run! “I used to say I would never run unless I was being chased by someone with a gun,” Ray told People Magazine. “Now I’m a little obsessed with it!”
But what about the food? Did Rachael trade in her hearty meals made with generous portions of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) for the “lighter side”?
“I don’t categorize food as bad or a guilty pleasure,” she says insisting that she has lost the weight without giving up any of her favorite foods. “I don’t believe in counting calories; eat in moderation and you won’t have to worry about the numbers. I eat pretty much everything. Flavor is really important. If you peeked into my fridge and pantry today, you’d find almonds, cashews, goat cheese, Pecorino, salami, bacon from upstate New York, olive oil, pasta, tuna, an open bottle of white wine, tomatoes and beans. Being from an Italian family, Rachael embraces what she refers to as a “Mediterranean diet”. She drinks gallons of water and eats lots of whole foods. She eats lots of salad and greens but also regularly enjoys pasta or steak for dinner, accompanied by a glass of wine. “I would never, ever remove that from my life—the most essential part of my day is a proper dinner,” Ray says adding. “ Truly relaxing during meals and enjoying the foods on your plate also matters.”
Silver fox Todd English has a personal trainer who puts him through an hour or two of “high velocity” exercise several times a week, according to the New York Times. Running in place, lifting weights, and jumping rope are all apparently part of the routine.
Jamie Oliver of “Naked Chef” and “Food Revolution” fame has built his career out of stressing the importance and joy of foods presented in healthy and natural forms. Through his television shows, books, culinary school, and political activism he has taught millions of people how to eat better and live better, even encouraging folks to grow their own foods. None of my research suggested that Jamie has any organized type of exercise program, though there was comment about him having ambitions to start one. Jamie says that he feels fortunate to have access to home-grown foods and the knowledge to prepare them in a healthy manner and that he wishes everyone had that. He admits to loving all kinds of food but focuses on staying away from over processed ones. As long as the ingredients are fresh and the portions are an appropriate size Jamie considers that healthy eating. It seems to work well for him.
How does someone who is “paid to eat” lose weight? Chef Amanda Freytag, judge on Food Network’s Chopped, was featured in the January 2012 issue of Fitneess magazine after having dropped 11 pounds and 7 inches. Having built a career as on creamy sauces and buttery cuisine the tendency toward weight gain was natural. The losing? Not so much. Fitness magazine put together a team of experts to help Amanda out. What steps did Amanda take to lose the weight?
Amanda started small with 15 minutes on the stationary bike and 30 second of strength moves with 7.5 lb dumbbells. Eventually she was doing each move until ”failure” (could do no more). Since Amanda travels a lot her trainer also gave her a list of exercises that require no equipment so there would be no excuse for not working out. On that list - Bridge, Burpee, and Three Legged Plank.
Amanda’s dietician encouraged her to put in prep time in the kitchen while she had the time available. Cutting up veggies and preparing complex carbs like quinoa and brown rice ahead of time makes for quick meal prep at the end of the day. “Now I can steam broccoli, warm a serving of rice, and grill salmon for dinner in less than 10 minutes” says Amanda. That certainly negates the no time excuse.
Amanda’s dietician also put her on the path to healthier snacking. She taught her to ask questions first and snack later. The questions? Are you really hungry? Is it thirst instead? Are you fighting the need for sleep? Is this stress eating? If hunger really is the problem then a low-calorie snack of complex carbs was recommended. Below are a few of the snacks suggested, each under 200 calories. If a snack is yummy enough to please a professional culinary judge, it’s worth checking out.
Amanda is living by the three bite rule these days. Since her nutritionist taught her that the first and last bite hold the greatest pleasure she is limiting treats and official food tasting to just 3 bites. The exception – veggies. She fills up on plenty of healthy veggies. In order to stick to this plan she never shows up to a tasting starved. She eats greek yogurt with fruit about an hour prior to her tasting events.
The chef I enjoyed reading most about was Amanda Freitag . Probably because she is more like me. We are on a journey to become more fit and sexy. She is no supermodel. Her weight is around 175 lbs after having already lost some. She isn’t just maintaining. She is fighting for her figure.
I’ve decided I like to watch healthy chefs on t.v. After learning that they have to think about it and work for it too, it inspires me. I can have the pasta, but I need to eat in moderation and I need to remember to keep the portions and the exercise in balance. Bobby Flay said he runs so he can eat whatever he wants. That makes sense. If I exercise and train my body to want proper amounts I can enjoy food without the guilt. The counter-balance is based on truth. If you’re gonna eat hearty foods, move that body!