Confessions of a Fat Chef
An interview with Chef Jennifer Bucko Lamplough.
My great friend and co-author of The Healthy Carb Diabetes Cookbook (American Diabetes Association, 2008) and Healthy Calendar Diabetic Cooking (American Diabetes Association, 2004), Jennifer Bucko Lamplough is a talented chef who can make healthy food taste delicious. Despite her in-depth knowledge of healthy cooking, Jennifer has struggled with her weight since high school. I've always wanted to help her lose weight, but we both knew she would tackle the issue when she was ready. Over the past two years I've seen her embark on a journey to understand why she was overweight and to learn how to shed those unwanted pounds. Needless to say, she was ecstatic when she was a chosen to be a participant on the new Food Network show, Fat Chef. Although I can't say I love the show's name, this has been a wonderful experience for my friend. She has lost over 50 pounds and has changed her life dramatically. I hope the following interview will inspire you — and give you the motivation to tackle your own health issues.
Q: You have said you felt like a "fraud" because you authored healthy diabetes cookbooks but were overweight. Were you not eating foods and meals from your cookbooks?
A: I was making and eating meals from my healthy cookbooks at times, but one of my biggest issues was portion control. I never kept junk food in the house, but I overate the healthy food I cooked. I also frequently lost focus on meal planning, which is a really important component of weight control. When I didn't plan my meals, I'd end up going through a drive-thru, ordering in, or just grazing all night without really eating a meal.
Q: Prior to the show, what was your biggest problem with unhealthy eating?
A: I am an emotional eater. I never really had a sense of what it meant to be hungry or full — I just ate to eat. Most of the time I ate to deal with my emotions.
Q: What was your eating plan during the show for weight loss? What were the biggest challenges?
A: I ate about 1500-1700 calories a day. My eating plan focused on reducing carbs and eating a balanced diet made up of lean protein, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats. I also completely cut out alcohol with the exception of a glass of wine on a few special occasions. I actually focused on following a diabetes-friendly diet because, in my opinion, it's the healthiest one out there. Balancing carbs, proteins, and fats with portion control and physical activity was and is the key for me.
Special occasions were one of the biggest challenges for me. Eating and drinking are very social activiites, and it was hard not to participate in the festivities the way everyone else was. Although I was frustrated, I tried to shift my focus away from food and alcohol — and towards enjoying the company of my friends and family.
I teach Culinary Arts at Robert Morris University and I have to taste my students' food in order to grade them. I have anywhere from 12-20 students making an average of 4-5 dishes each. That's a lot of tasting and a big challenge for my weight loss goals. I had to work really hard with my health consultant from the show to come up with a solution that would balance my job and my new healthy lifestyle. He wanted me to spit out my students' food after I tasted it, but I refused. You'll have to watch the show to find out how we settled it!
Q: Did you keep a food diary or track what you were eating?
A: Yes. I use loseit.com (still do). I track all of my food and exercise. It's really important to be 100 percent aware of what you are putting in your body and what you are burning off. I also wear a heart-rate monitor when I workout to ensure I can calculate the accurate number of calories I burned.
Q: Can you explain your exercise regimen during the show?
A: I worked out two hours a day, six days a week, with the goal of burning at least 1,000 calories per day. I would usually work out for an hour in the morning before work, and then for another hour after work. I did a combination of cardio — usually interval running — and strength training with a personal trainer or in a "boot camp" class. I credit a lot of my success to this class. These days I still go at least three times a week. I am still working out six days a week, but usually for an hour instead of two.
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Years before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, The Other Half came out of a doctor's appointment with a diagnosis of "borderline diabetes" and an ADA exchange diet sheet. His health insurance agency followed up on the diagnosis with a glucometer and test strips. After a year or so of trying to follow the diet plan and test his glucose levels, things appeared to be back in "normal" range, and stood there until a couple of years after my own diagnosis. Shortly...