Thank You, Chef Chang. You Remind Me Food Is Meant to Be Enjoyed. - Mercy Medical Center

Thank You, Chef Chang. You Remind Me Food Is Meant to Be Enjoyed.

Posted on: September 10, 2013

After my recent disastrous week, I decided to make some changes and began reaching out for support when I needed it. I am happy to report that this week, I lost 14.8 pounds. IN A WEEK! Talk about a comeback! I peeled that bad week right off and took an additional seven pounds off in the process.

However, even though I had a great week, I haven’t stopped thinking about the ongoing process of weight loss. I have been watching a documentary series on Netflix called The Mind of a Chef. Narrated by Anthony Bourdain, it focuses on the travels, philosophy and thoughts of the famous chef David Chang. He is the owner and head chef of the well-known New York restaurant, Momofuku.

Cooking Shows: a Food Connection of Love, Not Addiction

You may ask yourself – when you are on a full-fast diet, why would you spend downtime watching a show all about food? I liken it to my love of flying. Although I haven’t been able to fly in quite some time due to health and financial constraints, I still love to watch aviation programs, read magazines and go to airshows. So, shows about food and famous chefs is a way for me to stay connected to something I love.

Yes, I said it. I love food. Here I must delineate the difference between my love for food and my addiction to food. Using food as a coping mechanism is bad. It’s bad for me, bad for my health, bad for my family. We have discussed this at length.

But I can’t just stop eating. As far as I know, I am predestined to eat almost every day for the rest of my life. So, the struggle here is to break the mechanism that causes me to use food as a crutch, but not forsake food altogether. In fact, I intend not only to keep my love of food alive, but to INCREASE my love and appreciation for it.

Back to the documentary series… I am watching Chef Chang tour Japan to demonstrate the many types of ramen and the major role it plays in Japanese culture and cuisine. No, not the sodium-laden packages of ramen you ate in college. I am talking about fresh-made noodles, perfectly prepared, cradled in a broth that may contain 20 ingredients and take days to prepare. Thin slices of different proteins, herbs and even an occasional poached-egg garnish the top. It was likened to barbeque in the United States where you have vast variation by region and the elevation to a true food art.

So, many of you are thinking, “Ahh! A bowl of carbs! Bad!” Well, I did some checking. Did you know Japan has almost one-TENTH the obesity rate of the U.S.? In fact, Japan is tied with Korea for the lowest obesity rates in the world! And did you know that ramen is the number one “fast food” in Japan? There you can find ramen shops with the same or higher frequency of McDonald’s restaurants here.

In addition, they don’t serve small bowls of this stuff. They are huge portions, even by U.S. standards. Now, obviously the entire average diet comes into play. I can’t just say it’s okay to eat massive amounts of carbs all the time. But I started to think on the idea at length (when I wasn’t scratching my arms and itching for a bowl of ramen). Strictly from a layman’s perspective, I suspect the Japanese can get away with a giant bowl of carbs and staying thin because of their diet as a whole. It is very low in processed sugars (fructose for instance), and many of the rice options are not processed carbs. They have enough fiber to balance things out. (Note: don’t take any of this as professional advice on dieting; this is just the ramblings of a fat man obsessed with ramen).

But this whole idea started me thinking about myself. More specifically, myself after the diet. I don’t have to stop loving food. I don’t have to spend the rest of my life dodging noodles and skipping dessert. I can definitely be more aware of eating. I can make sure that when I have something decadent, it is balanced out with the rest of my weekly intake.

Watching people who have amazing passion for food and cooking is inspiring. Knowing that I am changing my behavior so that I can still enjoy food is very motivating to me.

Changing the Nature of My Relationship with Food

I am the primary cook at our house. I love to cook, and I love seeing happy faces when I make something my family can really enjoy. I have made everything from hard candy to pastries, and there is very little I won’t like undertake. Just last night, I made chicken Parmesan from scratch. It was a lot of work, but I really enjoy creating something delicious. I just couldn’t eat any.

Halloween is right around the corner, and we always have a lot of family over for trick-or-treating. Part of my tradition is to make a ton of food to feed everyone who drops by. Usually that involves me spending most of the day darting outside to administer some TLC to brisket in the smoker.

I totally love smoked brisket and would be lying if I said I didn’t. Days before, I have to trim it, make a rub for it and prepare it. Then, hours of making a mop sauce for it, plus hours of prepping the smoker, tending the heat, soaking wood, adding wood, mopping the meat, etc. It is literally a labor of love. If I had to give this up forever, I just don’t know if I could continue my OPTIFAST journey.

But I don’t have to give it up. Whether it is a steaming bowl of ramen or some thin slices of brisket, I can embrace my love for food. In fact, because I need to make sure that I am balancing my intake, it makes those special meals that much more special.

With a sensible diet of moderation and occasional restraint, an increase in physical activity and a complete break from using food as a coping mechanism when I am overwhelmed, I imagine I can enjoy food more than I ever have. The key is breaking that habit of abusing food instead of enjoying it.

Just as Happy Thinner But Able to Do More

I have told myself (and others) that I was generally happy being fat. Truthfully though, I can look back and see that I was happy being thinner, also. And I could so much more physically!


This is me about seven years ago. I weighed around 265 pounds here. Not skinny by any stretch. But did you notice what I’m doing? I was going to a convention with a good friend of mine, having a great day and then flying us back from western Pennsylvania at night. It was a day I treasure. I got to show my friend what it is like to fly in low over the city of Cleveland and marvel at the lights as we landed at Burke Lakefront Airport.

Go back a little further.

This is me a little over 10 years ago. I weighed around 225 here. What an awesome day! It was my sister’s wedding, and my son was in his first tux!

Was I happier? I don’t know if I was happier, but I definitely was happy – and thinner. I was more physically able to do things. I loved food and I loved to cook. I just hadn’t yet fully embraced abusing food.

So, after a rough week last week of introspection and planning changes, I feel for the first time that things are going to be okay. With help and patience, I can surgically remove the part of myself that uses food and leave intact the part of me that loves food and cooking.

I look forward to feeding everyone on Halloween. I cannot wait until I can have a real steaming bowl of ramen. I am anticipating a late night Taco Bell run (just not a REGULAR late night Taco Bell run!). I am truly eager about the first time I can enjoy and not OVERindulge.

In the meantime, I am following my weight management plan, working on my alternative methods for coping with stress, and finding things to do with my extra time.

Hmmm… I think there might be a season of MasterChef I haven’t seen yet.

If you are just joining us for guest blogger Eric Buwala’s weight-loss journey, take a moment to browse his complete collection of archived posts. Are you ready for a Stark County, Ohio-based weight-loss program designed to help you improve your health? Contact Mercy Weight Management for more information.

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