Thursday, February 2, 2012

“Fat Chef” Presumes That Chefs Have It Harder When Trying To Lose Weight

I’m not so sure….

The new show Fat Chef, on the Food Network, begins with the premise that overweight chefs are cursed. Apparently being around food all day is just too much. I’ve got news for them. EVERYONE is around food too much and it has nothing to do with being a chef. They are probably the same food addicts that the rest of us are. (Hold on...lemme get another handful of nuts.)

Office workers or window washers have the same problem. I was among my skinniest EVER in cooking school, because I was so sick of eating a full-on three course meal (that I had cooked) every single day. I totally learned the difference between TASTING and EATING. I’m not mitigating the problems that are caused by being in a professional kitchen, but I’m just saying there could be a show called Fat Water Heater Mechanics or Fat Lighting Specialists, but I’m guessing the Food Network wouldn’t be the one airing it.

Anyway back to the fat chefs…there are some really unattractive shots of this large chef - shirtless, eating and stirring something really fatty – gravy? chocolate? I guess it’s a bad sign when you can’t tell which is which.

I already know the end of the story though, because I saw Chef Mignano on Nightline last week. He is such a nice lovely guy and he revealed that after strenuously dieting and exercising, he had lost 100 pounds. (He still has a hundred or two to go.) BUT he is no longer diabetic AND he has eliminated his need for medication - just through diet and exercise. Way to go! I was happy that I had seen this story before I watched Fat Chef. I love to know endings in advance. Then I don’t worry the whole time that he’s going to drop dead of a heart attack.

Back to the actual show…They’re going to follow 2 people each week “who work in the food industry” and watch as they attempt to lose 25% of their body weight.

Am I completely off base here? I really feel professional chefs have an advantage over other people in preparing food in a healthy way. THEY KNOW HOW TO COOK! They know how to make food taste good - WITH or WITHOUT fat, sugar and tons of extra calories. 

Where’s the first place that “experts” go when they’re making over a family’s bad eating habits? The kitchen! They try to teach people how to cook real food and get away from junk. Well…the chef already knows that. I’m sorry, I don’t feel extra sorry for people surrounded by food who are trying to lose weight. EVERYBODY EVERYWHERE in this country is surrounded by food. (Why are my pretzel chips so stale?!!)

The chef I saw on Nightline, Long Island pastry chef Michael Mignano, is the first victim…subject.

Mignano says he snacks on what he bakes all day long and he doesn’t have time to sit down and eat a proper meal and he has a long drive home. Boo hoo. Then he stops at McDonald’s after work and stuffs his face. Does this really take a rocket scientist? Just stop eating junk and eat 3 meals a day??? IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BEING A PASTRY CHEF! (Hold on, my pizza and wings are here.) Accountants (and bloggers) do the same thing. Stop blaming your profession. Oy, this is annoying. He lists all the things that are wrong with him at 36 - diabetes, sleep apnea, asthma.

At the same time we also visit with Melba Wilson, famous Harlem chef. (Sylvia Woods is her aunt.) WOW, that’s cool.

Both these chefs work so hard. They certainly don’t lack for energy and get-up-and-go. Melba’s problem, she says, is not tasting all day but packing in tons of food when she gets home at midnight each night. 

We learn that Michael is 509 pounds. (I’ll be right back after I’ve gone out for a run.) Some trainer guy, Robert Brace, is his savior. He makes a plan for him. He wants him to lose 127 lbs. in 16 weeks. This is what he has to do:

Diet: 2500 calories/day
Prep meals in advance
Every four hours eat a balanced meal of leafy greens, lean protein, eggs or fruit.

Okay, that’s basically what everyone should be doing...with a reduction in calories, perhaps. Oh, and he has to exercise 6 days a week. AND he’ll have his assistant taste his desserts.

Maybe I was wrong about this show. Maybe a picture Michael on MY fridge is just what I need to get serious. Poor guy, he seems so sweet and nice.

Melba learns from HER trainer, Christine Avanti, that she should:
Eat 1500 calories/day
Eat, small, frequent meals to stabilize blood sugar
Exercise 6 days week
Keep tastings at work to a minimum.

Michael has been on his plan for 2 weeks. The biggest change is that he’s not as bloated anymore and his shoes are really loose. He uses 25 pound bags of flour to exercise with. I’m not getting the feeling that this is all that hard for him. He just needed a reality television show to come knocking to give him a reason to lose weight. He lost THIRTY pounds in a week and a half.

Oh wait, this is getting weird. Michael’s wife Destiny tattles on him when he cheats a couple of times. (I’m REALLY not trying to be mean, but Destiny could be on a plan too. Instead, she seems to be super judge-y of Michael when he lapses.) Oh gosh, a commercial for $2 mini parfaits from Baskin-Robbins. I wonder if they’re still open. I’ll be right back.

I’m still not getting what being a chef has to do with this. I’ve never seen Biggest Loser, but I’m supposing that this is what it is.

Michael’s mom (also in need of some intervention) comes into his bakery and says she wants to see for herself how much weight he’s lost. That seems so controlling. He steps on a scale that just happens to be there. He’s lost almost 50 pounds. Then she cries at how happy she is for his success. I’m sorry, but these women in his life bug me. They certainly don’t have 300 plus pounds to lose, but they should not be casting the first stone…if you get my drift.

Melba, meanwhile, is not doing well. At week 6, she’s lost less than 7 pounds, instead of the 25 she should have if she’d followed the plan. (At least she didn't GAIN weight.) Melba is not that interested in losing weight because it’s so hard. Does she NOT notice the television cameras in her FACE (and worse)? For that reason alone, one would think she should step up. AND, when asked, she says she hasn’t done one iota of exercise in the last week. I guess we’re seeing the one step forward and two steps back kind of thing that often happens on the path to any hard-fought goal. We learn she’s “self-sabotaging”. Thank goodness we have a scientific word to explain her behavior.

The next commercial features a kind of beefy guy talking about The Food Network’s South Beach Food And Wine Festival. Who is Jeff Mauro? Oh, he was a finalist on the Next Food Network Star.

Michael goes to see his doctors and even THEY buy the whole excuse of his profession. He’s lost 65 pounds, his blood pressure is down and, as I gave away already, he is diabetes-free. Awesome. I like him.

Meanwhile, Melba is still not doing well. (This is taking place over Thanksgiving, which is her busiest time.) Christine doesn’t get her and her monster work schedule and Melba is fed up.

Michael is mad because he throws out his back as he’s increasing his workouts. He gains a few pounds, but he stays on track. 

Melba says she wants to beat this on her own and she wants to get rid of Christine. She’s being so difficult. It doesn’t take a genius to see where that’s going to go.  Nowhere good. 

Melba is actually arguing with US about how little weight she’s lost. And now she’s surprised that she hasn’t lost weight without Christine. REALLY? She calls Christine back to help her. She says she was wrong. Christine says she MUST work out 2 hours a day. She does and she finally starts eating sensibly. (I’ll see you in a sec. I gotta get on my exercise bike...but my Totino’s are ready…)

Michael beats his kids in a race. Good for him. Then THEY (the kids) make him weigh himself. I’m uncomfortable with that. Leave him alone. But I guess whatever he’s doing is the right thing.

Melba say 16 weeks ago she was 300 pounds and now she’s…darn they’re not saying, she plays with her son more…and, SO, how much did she lose????? Another commercial for more Baskin and Robbin’s stuff. (I’m glad I bought the six-pack for the freezer.)

Final weigh-in. Melba comes out and thanks a bunch of people and Christine too. Truth be told, Christine is kind of a witch. Melba finally gets on the scale and she’s lost…33 pounds. They cheer because she weighs 267. She says, “I don’t want to say I’m there yet.” Ya think? Now I’m just being mean.

Michael started at 509 pounds. At his final weigh-in, we hear about all his problems at the start and everything he did to lose weight and get healthier. Yada, yada, yada, hurry up. There’s his wife and mother (neither one thinner, by the way), kids and employees and he gives a really long speech and HOW MUCH DID HE LOSE??? He thanks Robert, whom I like. He now weighs 409.8. He lost 100 pounds. Wow, that’s impressive.

COULD Michael have lost weight without Fat Chef? Maybe, but why should he? This way, he got professional support and his business got tons of exposure. I’m not sure I need to watch this show again, because I believe everyone has food issues, not just chefs.

What I learned specifically about chefs from this show isn’t how difficult their environment makes it for them to lose weight, but how incredibly hard they work. So many people are sitting all day which is a huge hindrance to losing weight. These chefs are standing, running, DOING all day long, which has to be a great complement to cutting calories and formalizing exercise sessions.  


Abandoned By Wolves said...

I know you don't care for Alton Brown, but it's interesting that he managed to lose 50 lbs in about a year while still doing all the gigs that presumably made him fat in the first place. He shared his "secrets" (common sense, portion control and some dietary discipline) in the "Live and Let Diet" episode of "Good Eats".

Sue said...

You're right, James, he's not my fav, but that IS admirable. I had no idea that he had that much weight to lose, but that really is a good sensible way to approach it. That makes me even MORE annoyed with him. ;-)

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

How about the old adage, "Never trust a skinny chef?" :-)

I'm always skeptical of weight loss shows because they don't emphasize gradual weight loss and adjustment of habits so the dieters can learn slowly to adapt to a new lifestyle. Instead they start with more extremem diets and exercise programs. I think really obese people should not be stressing out their joints with intense exercise right away. (I hate you Jillian Michaels...)

I remember Kathleen Daelmans had a show on FN once. She was a formerly fat chef who learned how to cook healthfully. Maybe we need more of that on TV.

Tracy said...

I had the same response as you did to the women in Michael's life, especially his wife.

Sue said...

I certainly could have used that quote, but it's so politically incorrect these days.

I always wondered how many of those people on those weight loss shows had heart attacks (OR wrecked knees) and they just didn't show it. Actually, their knees were probably already wrecked, so that doesn't count.

Hi Tracy!
I'm glad I wasn't the only one who felt that way. Michael seems like such a nice guy, he should have lots of support at home.