One of the media’s most popular formats, kind of a modern update of the previous century’s fascination with rags to riches legends, is the “I lost [some triple digit figure] pounds, and I feel fantastic!” story.
Ideally, it is focused on a celebrity and it’s even more compelling if the massive weight loss was triggered by a radical new diet suitable for publication in a best-selling paperback, available in online infomercials and featuring edible products pre-packaged, ready to eat, and if ordered in the next 20 minutes offering free shipping!
So the tale of British celebrity chef, Tom Kerridge, who turned his life around by losing some 160 pounds, appeared to be headed in the usual direction: He stopped eating meat and now he’s living the good life — and his new vegan-fusion restaurant is going gangbusters. Because that’s the typical story arc of such tales.
This one’s different, however.
As the story was recounted in the London-based newspaper The Times, Kerridge was approaching his 40th birthday and decided to “take stock of his life.” So far, his bio implied, he’d done pretty well for himself.
“At the age of 18 he’d stepped off a Gloucestershire council estate and into a kitchen,” the story related, “and after two decades of borderline demented grafting, he had succeeded in establishing himself as one of Britain’s most accomplished chefs.”
Kerridge operated a “gastropub” called Hand and Flowers. He won a Michelin star in 2006 and a second in 2012. He was a regular on several cooking shows: Great British Menu, MasterChef, and Saturday Kitchen.
As the article continued, however, there was a problem: “He was fat. Really fat. Massive, approaching 30 stone.”
For those who aren’t Anglophiles, “approaching 30 stone” translates to about 420 pounds, which definitely qualifies as “massive.”
“I’ve always been a big, big lad,” Kerridge said. “A big bloke. But almost tipping 30 stone? I realized that if I continued doing what I was doing, I wasn’t going to be here when I was 50.”
Up All Night — Every Night
So now comes the moment of truth: What exactly did Kerridge do to accomplish his impressive weight loss? Guess what? It wasn’t all about eliminating animal foods. Instead, by targeting the real cause of his weight gain, he reversed his adult trajectory of piling on excess weight.
But what caused his massive weight gain? Here’s how The Times story phrased it:
“It boils down, more or less, to one thing: booze. Kerridge could drink like a Viking.”
As a participant in an industry “full of party animals and hard-drinking mentalists who’ll stay up drinking all night,” he had earned a reputation as the last man standing.
“The biggest drinker in an industry full of big drinkers,” he bragged.
Kerridge said he would drink every night with his staff.
“The moment that service finished, the moment that we cleaned down, that’s the moment it would start. We would drink six pints, eight pints, maybe even hit double figures. You’d have a fast, hard 18-hour day in the kitchen, then do some fast, hard drinking before going to bed for three and a half hours and then get back up and go back to work again.”
He claimed that downing 15 pints at a sitting — that’s just shy of four gallons of beer — was “no bother; no bother at all.”
At this point in the story, most of us would suggest, dude: You might wanna dial it down with the fast, hard drinking every single night. And consider getting more than 3½ hours of sleep at a time. That might be a sensible place to start.
Surprisingly, as these stories usually go, that’s exactly what Kerridge did.
Oh sure, he started researching different diets from calorie counting regimens to Atkins-style programs, but as a chef, none of those “cuisines” appealed to him.
“In the end,” the story related, “he looked at a plate of steak and chips [and] worked out that if he were on a low-fat or low-calorie diet, he couldn’t eat any of it. But if he were on a low-carb diet, he could at least eat the steak.”
“And then I realized that, on a no-carb diet, there’s no restriction on the amount of protein you can eat,” Kerridge said. “So instead of steak and chips, I could have two steaks.”
He quickly banished potatoes, pasta, bread and cake and in their place substituted omelets with bacon, chopped salads with feta, anchovies, and spicy chorizo and “joints of roasted meat with crispy skin.”
That’s all good, but let’s not overlook the fact that he also “knocked booze on the head,” and hasn’t had a drink in more than three years.
Clean, sober and cheerfully enjoying the full range of animal foods.
It’s a happy ending to a touching story of redemption.
Of course, Kerridge didn’t just turn his life around, he helpfully created an entire program for others to follow suit, as his new “Dopamine Diet” book is now available from Absolute Press for only £20 (about $25).
Only one problem. As a celebrity author, it might be hard to convince the rubes to shell out twenty-five bucks for your miracle diet when you’ve admitted that your problem was less about eating foods that don’t trigger dopamine production (a neurotransmitter involved in what psychologists call “reward-motivated behavior”) and more about guzzling gallons of beer seven nights a week.
But even if you’re not downing 15 pints in a sitting, maybe you should ask your bartender if the Dopamine Diet is right for you.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and columnist.