This chef had no energy, struggled to take the stairs, and knew something had to change. That’s when he decided to turn his life around. Discover his favourite healthy recipe creations and the weight loss tips he wants everyone to know about.
“Being at my heaviest was exhausting, embarrassing, and lonely,” says Bryan Nader, executive chef and retail manager for Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Not being conscious of his intake while at culinary school, Bryan noticed his weight started to creep up. “You’re eating and tasting all the time,” he says, “I wasn’t aware how many calories I was consuming in a day.”
As a chef, with a gruelling work schedule, he struggled to fit in time for healthy eating and exercise. “I tended to go for processed and prepackaged foods,” he says. “There was no time for exercise!” Coming from a family of runners, and not being able to participate with them anymore took a toll on Bryan, “I felt as though I was an outsider,” he explains.
Bryan grappled with overwhelming feelings of shame and embarrassment when going out in public. “I felt as though people were staring at me, and if I were to speak with someone, I felt they didn’t see me, rather they saw how big I was.”
For anyone who has wrestled with overweight and obesity, such declarations of emotions are familiar and deep-seated. And not to mention, the physical toll can be hefty. Bryan had little to no energy, struggled to take the stairs at home, and became anxious about the impact on his health.
He knew he needed to make serious changes.
Resolute in his mission to lose weight, Bryan, like many, resorted to extreme measures to rid the weight quickly. “I started eating less, depriving myself of certain foods, exercising at a level that no one could maintain and counting calories,” says Bryan.
He soon came to the realization that this approach was far too rigid and unsustainable, “I couldn’t keep it up, so my attempt backfired. I ended up caving and ate large portions.” A relapse was inevitable.
Bryan certainly didn’t give up, though; he was determined to regain his health. “My next attempt – I was smarter about it,” he points out. He delved into nutrition topics to better understand the link between food, exercise, sleep, and hydration.
Bryan also partnered with a dietitian and acknowledged “a restrictive diet was not the way.” Rather, he was in pursuit of an approach that would make him happy, healthy and allow him to enjoy the foods he loved – his tenets for long term success.
Bryan enthusiastically explained how a focus on regular self-care has been pivotal to his health and weight loss success. “I joined a gym, and went daily,” he affirms, “and finally started to jog, and then began running.”
He mindfully participates in his own meal planning and enjoys “cooking real food at home.”
“I portion out my meals,” he describes, “and use my freezer to store them for later use.” His recipes have seen transformation too; creating ones that are “lower in fat, and using ingredients that aren’t going to add a bunch of sugar to a dish,” he explains.
6 of Bryan’s Recipes and 4 Tips For Healthy Eating
- Southwest Burrito Bowl
- Beet Ceviche
- Stuffed Acorn Squash
1. Eat the Rainbow
“I make sure that I’m eating at least 7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, ” says Brian.
Here are a few ways you can, like Bryan, rekindle your love affair with this essential food group. “I bbq, smoke, braise, sauté, and roast vegetables with flavours that balance them out.
If I am adding fat, it’s a small amount, and it’s a good fat, such as extra virgin olive oil.” Soups have offered Bryan a means to load up on vegetables. “I double them up, so I can increase my intake.”
2. Get Chummy With Whole Grains
“Whole grains and ancient grains have become my friends,” says Bryan.
You can make simple, smart swaps and enjoy whole grains – especially nowadays – with so much variety. “I substitute quinoa and Kamut for rice,” says Bryan. Subbing a portion of white flour for whole grain in baking is one of the easiest changes you can make in the kitchen.
And Bryan confers. “I add whole grain flour to the recipe and remove some of the all-purpose white flour.” Draw out the most flavour from your grains by cooking them in stock or broth, instead of water. Batch cooking whole grains is a straightforward and accessible way to save you time during the hectic week.
3. Shift the Focus to Plant-Based Proteins
“I eat proper portions of protein,” Bryan notes, “so if I’m not eating fish for protein, I’m using eggs, beans, and tofu.”
Start your journey towards a plant-based diet by adopting simple, realistic changes that you can build up. For example, replace cream cheese with a serving of hummus on whole-grain toast or keep a handful of nuts and seeds nearby to help combat afternoon hunger.
Beans are so versatile and make great additions to wraps, in soups, on nachos, and in salads. If you’re feeling adventurous, a veggie burger is definitely worth a try!
4. Drink More Water
Bryan made a significant shift by “hydrating with water and not coffee,” he explains.
Getting in eight glasses of water per day is tough. In fact, requirements may be more if you’re breaking up a sweat or drinking alcohol. Enhance the experience by infusing with fruits, vegetables, or herbs – berries, citrus, and mint are great options to experiment with.
Today, Bryan is happier and healthier; having dropped 200 pounds over eight years. His non-restrictive approach enables him to enjoy treats, and there is no such thing as banned foods. Bryan’s philosophy is quite simple – he lives by the 80/20 principal, “I eat well 80% of the time,” he explains, “so that on holidays and birthdays when I do eat sweets, I’m still okay.”
The 80/20 principle is no fad diet; it’s an approach that can be helpful towards sustainable weight loss. Those who have suffered on rigid fad diets find this approach flexible and doable.
Bryan was inspired to put in the work to accomplish this journey. He attributes his success to “Remembering where I came from,” he says, “and the work that went into it.” Initially eager to complete the journey swiftly, Bryan realized “I didn’t put the weight on quickly, but instead I gained it over the years, so why would it take any less time to remove it.”
In his current role, Bryan partners with community outreach programs and shares his newly acquired knowledge and experience to educate patients, low-income families, and his colleagues on healthy eating on a budget.