Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Chef's approach to eating lighter, losing weight, and getting in shape .... Part 2

This is the continuation of an earlier post.
You'll want to read Part 1 before continuing here.


Anyway, I embarked on my own mission to find a way to not only lose weight but also put on some muscle and get healthy. You do know that losing weight and improving your health do not necessarily go hand in hand, right?
I decided I would find a way to achieve my fitness & health goals without ripping all the decadent pleasures from my life.
The really weird thing is that I actually did it. I lost the all the excess weight I had put on and then some. I toned up and put on more muscle mass by far than I had ever had in my life before and I entered into my 40's in the best shape of my life.

Of course, it wasn't simple. It could have been much easier had I known then what I know now. However I took a much less direct path, filled with plenty of trial and error on my way to a healthier, trimmer body. There was the aforementioned bad advice fom those trying to sell products and gimmicks. There were the diet plans that work for a short period of time if they work at all and usually left me feeling hungry and deprived.
Then there were the various processed diet foods and weight loss supplements. Now those actually worked. My wallet lost a bunch of weight from buying them. My belly may have been hanging over my belt but my wallet had six pack abs.

It took a little while for me to realize that what I thought was my greatest obstacle in losing weight, my career and passion for fine food, was actually my greatest stength. I understood food and how to work with and create flavor. I also knew which products and cooking techniques were fattening and which were healthy. I could make healthy, lighter food taste good.
Correction, I could make it taste GREAT.

I also realized that when you have been working in my profession long enough you develop and understanding of how people eat and relate to food. Simply stated, people often don't realize what they are hungry for. I know that sounds a little odd but I'm going to ask you to trust me about this for now.

What we do as restaurant and catering chefs is not as simple as make delicious food and the people will come. There are techniques we use to gently nudge the way you eat this way and that.
Sometimes we use such methods so that you feel full and satisfied at the end of your meal while not having to give you too much of the “center of the plate” item which is generally the most costly item for us to serve.
We also do little things to encourage you to order more food from us than you may have done without our nudging.
If we are serving a buffet or catering event where we are paid a set price no matter how much the guests eat, it's in our best interests to guide you to eat less or eat the items that don't cost us as much to serve while still making everyone feel like they have gotten their money's worth. Let's face it though; if you were really getting your money's worth then we wouldn't have a very profitable business model, would we?

The unfortunate part of this is that whether we are trying to get you to eat less or eat more, we are pretty much never trying to get you to eat healthy. When it comes to making you feel sated while keeping costs low, salt, fats, sugar and simple carbohydrates are an easy out for many professional kitchens.

However I realized that these very same techniques that are all to often used to get us to make poor dietary choices can also be used to guide us toward eating better. In essence I found that I could use my powers for good as well as evil.
So that is what I did, even if just on myself at first. I was able to eat well, that is, really enjoy the food I had and in portions that didn't leave me hungry all the time. I was able to do it conveniently because even I, a cooking professional, don't have time to spend making involved meals for myself all the time.
I was still able to go out and treat myself to fine food and drinks without having to ask the waiter for steamed vegetables and sauce on the side. Not that either of those is a bad thing, but when I go out for dinner, I like to experience the food the way the Chef intended. In fact for me, that's often the point of going to a restaurant. Besides, as much as I believe in delicious yet healthy food, I can assure you that there is no such thing as a decent, low-calorie crème brulee. And to me, a world without crème brulee just isn't a world in which I want to live.

------------ To be concluded -------------------

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