One day 12 years ago, I had to be wheeled in a wheelchair out of the kitchen where I worked as a chef. Diagnosis? Heart failure. At 467 pounds, I was told to lose weight or I would die. Though I had no idea what to do, that experience did serve as my wakeup call that changes needed to be made.
My youngest son Christian was just like his me, having reached 305 pounds by age 15. My wife Rachel, who was more than 200 pounds, also battled her weight. I wasn’t sure how it had happened, but it seemed like all of a sudden we had become an obese family. And I blamed myself.
The Stellas prior to their 507-pound weightloss.
As a chef, I rarely cooked at home, which contributed to our weight gain. But once we started cooking as a family, everything changed. Over the course of the next 18 months, I lost 200 pounds, and then over the next 10 years continued to lose another 65 pounds. My health problems, which included heart failure, sleep apnea, knee issues and spinal stenosis among other things, all disappeared with the weight. And to this day, I take no medications. Christian and Rachel also lost a tremendous amount of weight — 165 pounds and 77 pounds respectively — and have maintained their current healthy weight.
The Stellas after losing a collective 507 pounds.
So how did we do it? Here are the three best things I can recommend to get your family to eat healthier and, if needed, to lose weight and lead healthier lives.
- Head outside. Start shopping the outside aisles of the grocery store—that’s where all of the wonderful, fresh, nutritious food is. Once we started forgoing processed foods and useless sugars for fresher, healthier options, the pounds started coming off like magic.
- Have fun. By making cooking fun, the food you make will be more exciting. Rachel and I started having fun in the kitchen, cooking up a storm everyday. My sons, tempted by the good times and great food we were creating, also joined in. Plus, even the most finicky kids will be more apt to try something (like a new vegetable) if they had a hand in making it!
- Come together. Even if you don’t have time to cook together, this one is a no brainer! Eating together as a family sets the stage for not only quality time, but it also allows parents to lead by example when new foods are being introduced. When your children see you trying a new food, odds are they’ll be more open to trying it as well.
Soon after employing these tactics in our home, my family was down 507 pounds. We’ve kept it off, and we’re healthier and happier than ever.
George Stella, a professional chef for more than 30 years, is the official spokesman for the Junior League’s Kids in the Kitchen program, which aims to help kids lead healthier lives by encouraging family cooking time.He has appeared on numerous television shows, including two seasons of his own show, Low Carb and Lovin’ It on the Food Network. His family continues to work together today and has written five healthy eating cookbooks. For more information, please visit StellaStyle.com.