Food and Fitness, Uncategorized

Making it up the incline!

An incline we are all familiar with

An incline we are all familiar with

I’m good enough, I’m strong enough, I’m smart enough, and dog gone-it people like me.

Ok I know…..its a rip off from Stuart Smalley, but these words couldn’t be more appropriate for how I feel now. I say now, because when I was overweight, I wouldn’t believe those words. I still struggle with them, but each day I am believing them more and more. These are feelings that I get more and more each day as I continue to make the climb out of the valley that was my prior existence. The climb up an incline that can be steep at times and even make you fall back a bit.

The incline that I speak of is the continued growth and changes that I am going through physically and mentally. The incline that will, what I believe, lead to my calling. The calling that will potentially lead me to bigger and better things. The incline that will result in true happiness.

I belive this climb began for me about a year ago when I met Chef Philip Dell. He is one of the chefs, and ultimately the winner, of the episode of Chopped that I appeared in.

During the taping of the show, there was plenty of down time for us to just stand around and talk about our weight loss experience. When we were talking about how much weight we lost and how we did it, it came out that I was the “newest” at my new weight. Chef looked at me and told me “So you’re just re-learning yourself”. Those words couldn’t be any truer.

You see,when you’re obese, you get use to a certain way of living. You become accustomed to the challenges that you have to deal with. That’s just how it is. When you make the decision to lose the weight and finally start down that path, things start to happen in your world that you wouldn’t expect or plan on. For me, it was the opportunity to appear on Food Network’s “Chopped.” As hard as I worked to get ready for the show, I never would have thought that not winning could feel so good. Why? That’s because I was able to really start my climb up the incline and start to realize that I am all those things I mentioned above.

I’m good enough. Being obese, I can’t count the times that I would not believe that I was good enough. Always doubting my skills as a parent, husband, friend, and for me, most importantly a culinary artist.

I would constantly, and I mean constantly, doubt my skills in the kitchen. Even though friends and family would say positive things to me about my food, I didn’t believe in myself. I would say thank you, but inside, I was thinking it looked like crap, the flavors weren’t there, all that stuff  that goes through a chefs head when serving.  Then I would start to doubt is this was the right thing for me. Did I make the right decision? Did I not really belong in the kitchen?  The doubt and second guessing was self-perpetuating due to my lack of self-esteem because I was over weight. Of course you don’t realize it until you lose weight and reflect back on it.

Now, things are different. When I am in my happy place (in the kitchen listening to 80s big hair metal) I strut my stuff with a certain level of confidence. The foundation of the confidence is based in one sentence that Chef Marcus Samuelson said to me during the show. When the judges were telling me why I was chopped, he said “You can see the passion in your food.”  Yup still get goose bumps thinking about that. Having a Chef of that caliber say that to me, is one of the biggest complements I have ever received

I’m strong enough. I’m not necessarily talking about physical strength, although  I am much stronger. I’m talking about emotional and mental strength.

I have spent most of my life keeping things inside. Burying my feelings and emotions because I felt that they weren’t really that important. I would try to do things to distract myself from what I was feeling. If it was making a joke, or laughing it off, or just having a few too many drinks. It was just the way it was for me. I have said in prior blogs, there was a certain “image” that I wanted to portray of the happy-go-lucky guy. No cares, no worries.

I think about how that was portrayed in my food. Always dark and heavy. Usually buried in thick sauces or stuffed with something heavy. I wasn’t really celebrating the food for what it was. I would use the plate for the canvas that it was but the food I put on the canvas, now looking back, was pretty much how I was feeling. Dark and heavy.

I think about my food now. How I continue to learn new things, and try new techniques. Celebrating the flavors of what I am making. Recently a neighbor of mine  hooked me up with some wild pheasant. It’s been years since I prepared any wild game, and when I did, I always remember it being very saucy and rich. I wanted to change that. I reached out to Chef Dell and he gave me some pointers on smoking it. So I took his advice and as the bird was in the smoker, the creative juices started flowing. I recently got some acorn squash from our CSA. So in typical Chopped fashion, I just started to break it down to cook, not really knowing what the hell I was doing. Then like a 2×4 across the face, it all clicked. The end product was Cherry wood smoked pheasant over a roasted acorn squash polenta with a cherry maple reduction. The cool thing about it, there was no added cream, fat or butter to the dish. All things I would have added in the past. Although there are still a few things to work out flavor wise, I was pretty happy with the plate…….a feeling that is still some what new to me.

Smoked Pheasant with roasted acorn squash polenta

Smoked Pheasant with roasted acorn squash polenta

I can see myself expressing myself more in my food, and also more in my life. Although I still have some growing to do, I am more free to express myself and my feelings, especially the very emotional ones. The hard ones that bring a tear to my eye. This is again is still some what new to me.

I’m smart enough. Ok maybe not really. Are we ever really smart enough?

I continue my weight loss journey, and probably will for the rest of my life. When I say I’m smart enough, I mean that I realize that this is not a one and done type of thing. This is an ongoing adventure. One with twists and turns that is leading me up an incline to a new and better place.

This continuing growth and maturity, is helping me realize that I don’t have to accept things for the way they are. That I have the ability to change them. Just like I did with my weight. That wasn’t done by anyone else but me. I made the decision to change my situation.

I say all this with the complete understating that I am not done with any of this. This climb I am on will continue and I am determined to make sure of that. Although there are times, like now, where I am completely overwhelmed with my responsibilities to work, my family and my friends, I know I have to keep pushing. There are things happening all around me that I know I can have or do have an influence on. Things like, motivating my daughter as we run in a 5K together, the elementary student who came up to me wanting me to try his sandwich because he also wants to be a chef, or someone telling me how much I inspired them as they work to make themselves better. It’s all part of the climb. The climb up an incline that was created when I made the choice to lose the weight and make a change.

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