Chefs tend not to be the most weight-conscious professionals. "We drink too much, we eat throughout the day, five to six days a week, 12 hours a day – it's very hard to be healthy as a chef," says Mike Isabella, chef and owner of Graffiato in Washington, D.C. That's why the Fit for Hope Challenge, a 12-week weight loss contest involving more than 15 chefs in the Washington, D.C. area, is such a telling feat. The contest, which was created by Isabella as a benefit for the American Cancer Society, ends this Tuesday, September 24 with a final weigh-in and gala that includes food from each of the contestants' restaurants. The leading chefs have come up with recipes, workout regimens, and mental tricks to keep their cravings at bay and shed the pounds. We talked to the current leaders of the contest about their strategies, tips, and how we can all avoid temptation (we included before and after images for a few of them, too).
Original weight: 254 pounds
Final weight: 217.5 pounds
Total loss: 36.5 pounds, 14.4 percent body weight loss
Mike Isabella is the owner of Kapnos, Grab and Go, and Graffiato, an Italian restaurant with Mediterranean influences in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The restaurant offers dishes such as king crab legs with sea urchin and guanciale, roasted potato gnocchi, and chicken thighs in pepperoni sauce. Before opening Graffiato, Isabella was the Executive chef of Jose Andres's Greek-Mediterranean restaurant, Zaytinya and appeared on season six of Bravo's 'Top Chef.' So far' Mike has lost a total of 36 pounds and 14.17 percent of his body fat, putting him in second place overall.
His strategy: Don't deny foods, replace them.
"Some of the highest-quality foods are beautiful heirloom tomatoes and other seasonal produce with some nice spit-roasted chicken. So, for me, it's not about saying no; it's about choosing the right things to eat."
His vice: Work hours.
"I just opened two new restaurants, so initially I couldn't spend as much time at the gym as I would have liked, but now I'm working out more, maybe three or four days a week.”
His healthy food: Peanut butter and celery.
"Peanut butter and celery is something I could eat all day every day."