Burning Questions

The eliminated chef has no regrets about his final dish.

Apr 27, 2011

Of course I have a father who has suffered liver failure, and I have seen first hand the influence food and food choices can have on anyone with compromised health. Food choices are not just relevant for those struggling with obesity, but influence even those that may be OK in weight, but compromised by disease. The choice we make about what we eat, is a choice that has staggering effect on our lives. Few of us understand this, and so, most of us pay a big price within our lifetime. The smart amongst us make difficult choices, many that do not seem as sexy and easy, but benefit from those by having better health. Some do what is easy, eat what is comforting and addictive, but truly bad for the body, and pay a price that we should never have to.

Once you have seen this vicious cycle and the effects of diet on health, mind and body, you cannot cook the same way for another. I do not always practice what I preach. And that is my struggle with health and wellness. It is this struggle that makes me absolutely clear on what I need to do to ensure another person battling obesity does not get offered messages that are muddled and unclear.

I love fast food, I love junk food, I love sodas like Coke, 7UP and orange soda. Just by giving up soda as a mainstay of my diet, in less than six months I lost over 43 pounds. If I can now give up french fries and ice cream, I could lose the remaining 15 pounds I am still hoping to lose to be at my optimal weight. It is not easy, and it is not something one can do alone. One needs the support of loved ones, friends and strangers alike. If we can live in a society with few distractions, we would cheat less, and fare much better.

Bravotv.com: When your client told you what she wanted, did you consider using meat at all?
SS: When my client told me what she wanted, I had a conversation with her about what a veggie burger was. She made it clear that she did not like the leather/fake-meat textured veggie burgers out in the market. We spoke about how a true veggie burger is not about being a meat substitute, but that it was a burger with a different profile altogether. It had a similar structure in terms of how it is eaten. But it could never match the taste of a meat burger. I thought I had made it evidently clear. I even remember telling her about coming from India, where vegetarians or non-vegetarians, have no interest in making vegetables into a meat substitute. We look at vegetables as players on their own right. We do not think of manipulating them to be something they are not. I asked her about her favorite vegetables, I made a note of them and insured I bought them to put into what I would make for her.
Most of all, I wanted to be mindful that the really hard part of dieting is the deprivation you feel when you are still hungry. Deprivation sets you up for failure. Part of what I hoped to impart was the message that if you eat a tiny bacon burger, you will only want more of it. By having a regular-sized vegetable burger in a whole wheat pita pocket, your portion feels normal and you feel fuller with the same number of calories, maybe even lesser. It is a not a bad thing to feel full, the question is: how do you get there and still lose weight? Learning to cook and eat in new ways is crucial to success. Vegetables are a great way to bulk up your portions and still lose weight. It is naive to think that major weight change can happen by simply eating tiny portions of what you already love, there has to be some growth and experimentation to find new things you love that are healthy for you. The trick is to make your mind and your palate happy with what you are eating. Then food again becomes a reward, a pleasurable thing, not just a guilty pleasure.