“Never trust a skinny chef” is a phrase I have heard many times over the years, and am often asked if I ever eat the delicious food I make.
What’s my secret?
Plant-Based Foods and Intermittent Fasting.
There are SO many levels of Intermittent Fasting, but it seems like people think, “OMG, she doesn’t eat for seven days in a row and only drinks water!!!” Negative. No one in the world would want to be around me if I EVER went a week without food. I’d probably be plotting how to turn my closet door into a five-course meal if that was the case.
People often talk about how much they love food and could never fast (I used to be one of them), but to say my life completely revolves around food would be a huge understatement. Between cooking and baking all day as a chef, I also write cookbooks and develop a large amount of recipes that are shared here on my site. I’m CONSTANTLY surrounded by food: making food, talking about food, writing about food, dreaming about food, waking up in the middle of the night and concocting new recipes in my head, watching food shows, making food videos, and researching recipes…I’m literally drowning in food on a daily basis. My life is like the movie “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” with food raining everywhere.
My success with Intermittent Fasting doesn’t involve the number on the scale, since my goal weight was reached before starting IF (Intermittent Fasting). In 2017, extreme stomach pain landed me in the doctor’s office. I remember being curled up in a ball in tears because I was so hungry, but terrified to eat because I didn’t know what was causing so much pain. After multiple tests were run and I was sent to a specialist, I was diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Gastritis, and SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) all at the same time after multiple tests were run and several medications that didn’t work or made me feel worse. This was on top of dealing with an autoimmune disease (psoriasis). Turns out that fourteen years of birth control and being put on antibiotics 4-5 times a year for chronic sinus infections for 10 years completely destroyed my gut health, alongside a diet packed with processed sugar and loads of unhealthy junk food. The only thing the gastroenterologist suggested that I look into after the diagnosis was to try the Low FODMAP diet, and sent me out the door with a pamphlet on Celiac Disease (which I didn’t have). From there, I went down multiple rabbit holes learning about nutrition and health.
So, the first thing I cut out was gluten, and my psoriasis cleared up immediately in less than one week!! Changing the quality of my food made a huge impact on how I felt, and the weight slowly started to come off as I began to feel better. Once I lost 30 pounds and got to my first weight goal, I started having digestive issues again and decided to cut out dairy and alcohol. Another 10 pounds fell off and my goal weight was achieved, but my diet was incredibly limited and I was STILL having gut issues and unpleasant reactions to foods. I missed eating regular foods on occasion. A lot. I dreamed of the days I could make Chicken Cordon Bleu from scratch at home or enjoy a plate of cheese ravioli drenched in alfredo sauce without paying the painful consequences from eating it.
When I first started IF, I was thrilled to be able to eat those regular foods that I loved so much again. Pasta? Yes! Bread? Yay! Cheesecake? Get in my belly!! Unfortunately, I started to overdo it too quickly with the old foods that upset my gut, and started having the symptoms again. I had also started getting lax with my eating window, expanding it longer and not giving my system a chance to heal properly.
So, I jumped back on the non-existent wagon with consistent 12-13 hour fasts on a daily basis. I noticed a HUGE improvement within 3 days. My stomach felt better. I had more energy. I slept better. My hormones started balancing out and my moods were very even-keeled and stable, as opposed to the highs and lows I was so used to experiencing. Although my weight didn’t change, I started losing inches off my waist and hips, and went from a size 8 to a 4. My arms started to get more toned, even though I hadn’t worked out in a few months. My bloated gut started to gradually reduce, and I was able to drink wine again without breaking out in hives.
The funny thing is that I technically started fasting as a teenager, but didn’t know it. My dad jokingly described me using the word saddlebags (at 5’7 and 122 pounds), and I freaked out because I thought that meant I was fat…you know, those irrational teenage hormones went completely bonkers. That’s when dieting started. After severe caloric restriction and binge-eating every time after I crashed, I heard about my dad’s business partner who ate whatever he wanted until 3pm and lost weight. So, that’s what I did. I went to bed at every night feeling extremely hungry, but stuck to it. Even though what I was eating was completely unhealthy (waffles and cereal for breakfast, pizza and double-orders of French fries for lunch, candy bar and chips for snack), I lost weight. Fast forward into my twenties, I started gaining weight as soon as I hit the age of 21- can’t possibly imagine why. After experimenting with Weight Watchers, Calorie-Counting, Paleo, Keto, Vegetarian Diet, Vegan Diet, Food Combining, Plant-Based, 3 Day Diet, SlimFast, Low FODMAP Diet, Whole 30, Anti-Inflammatory Diet, Liver Detox, Anti-Histamine Diet, and several other diets over the years, this is hands-down the best lifestyle I have adopted. Having my first child skyrocketed my weight, and I have years of experience with yo-yo dieting. I was overweight for my height and build after having children and started battling health issues.
One of the biggest improvements I have personally seen with Intermittent Fasting and Plant-Based Foods is my mental health. I have battled anxiety and depression since I was 11 years old, with more emotional ups and downs than stability. Within a week of IF, I saw a huge difference in my emotions staying stable and even not having PMS symptoms! I was able to drastically decrease my anti-anxiety medication! Only the future will tell with how my hormones will continue to be stabilized, but I look forward to continued progress.
Before going to culinary school at the age of 33, I didn’t know how to cook. Everything I made came from a can, a box, or thrown in the microwave from the freezer. My non-foodie husband didn’t marry me for my cooking skills, yet he ended up with a chef. My recipe library is FILLED with recipes: quick and easy, from scratch, Keto, Paleo, Plant-Based, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, etc. It is truly the melting pot of recipes, but Intermittent Fasting is what gave me the freedom to overcome emotional eating, heal my gut, and make food “window-worthy” to easily maintain my weight loss.
Overall, my diet is 95% plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, healthy fats, seeds, legumes, gluten-free whole grains) with more flexibility for whatever I want on occasion. My goal is to keep experimenting with my eating windows as time goes on and my body heals. It took years to create the damage, so it’ll take some time to heal. I’m still currently sticking with daily fasts, but eat 5-6 times a day during my eating window to fuel my training. I would love to help spread the word of how a “skinny chef” is able to maintain a healthy weight while still creating delicious meals and desserts!
I do not count calories, carbs, fat, protein, etc. However, I do make sure to eat good quality foods most of the time and drink almost 1 gallon of water per day. I still have a glass of wine, martini or mai tai on occasion, depending on the week and what we’re up to. The flexibility of this lifestyle is extremely sustainable, and the “schedule” can change depending on our life schedule.
I am a huge believer in Bio-Individuality; which means every body is different. Just because something works for your neighbor’s best friend’s mom’s cousin, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. After reading about the Blood Type Diet, a lot of missing puzzle pieces came together to explain why certain foods (mainly gluten and dairy) affect me with my Type O blood. Find out what works best for you with research and experimentation, and you will see how much the quality of your life will improve mentally, physically, and emotionally! It’s a triple win!
Currently, here is what my daily fasting schedule looks like:
12-13 hours of fasting, eat 3 meals and 2 snacks in an 11-12 hour window
Most of what I focus on with food is what I mentioned above, eating Plant-Based Foods 95% of the time. To break it down, I eat; fruits, vegetables, legumes, gluten-free whole grains, seeds, nuts, healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, avocados, grass-fed butter, etc.). However, I do allow occasional indulgences…which is what you see a lot of in my recipe library on this site. This keeps me somewhat sane when it comes to being able to enjoy food. I’m sensitive to gluten and dairy if I consume it too much, which is why I limit these to very rarely.
Do I drink alcohol? YES!! Fitvine wine is my favorite, because I can buy it in the grocery store (or online), and it has very little sugar, carbs, and all the other toxic additives that are in so many wines, and I have 1-2 glasses per week. If I’m at a restaurant, I’ll typically pick a wine from Europe, since many of the chemicals and pesticides used on our foods here in the U.S. are banned in Europe. When it comes to cocktails, I love a good martini or margarita.
When it comes to exercise, I exercise for my mental and physical health more than any other reason. Since I have gotten into training for Triathlons, Duathlons, and other Road Races, I focus a lot on endurance training. Physically, I feel stronger, more alert, and able to keep up with my kids and daily activities without getting worn out. Emotionally, I feel calmer and happier. This is HUGE for me, since I have struggled with anxiety and depression since childhood. Consistency is key, but as long as I’m doing some form of exercise on a regular basis, it pays off dramatically. I absolutely love the BeachBody workouts, and have done many of them on and off since 2008. My best advice for exercise is to find something you don’t absolutely hate to do, and mix it up if needed. Exercising just 3 times a week for 30 minutes will be beneficial!
My Training Schedule:
Monday: Push-Ups and Pull-Ups (5 sets each of 10 reps), Yoga (30 minutes)
Tuesday: Squats, Lunges, Deadlifts, Calf Raises (3 sets each of 10 reps), Yoga (30 minutes)
Wednesday: Long Run ( 8-12 miles), Yoga (30 minutes)
Thursday: Push-Ups and Pull-Ups (5 sets each of 10 reps), Yoga (30 minutes)
Friday: Squats, Lunges, Deadlifts, Calf Raises (3 sets each of 10 reps), Yoga (30 minutes)
Saturday: REST or Yoga (30 minutes)
Sunday: Bicycle (30 minutes), Easy Run (3 miles), Yoga (30 minutes)
Here are some of my favorite books about Nutrition and Intermittent Fasting!