Why Life with a Chef Doesn't Mean Gaining Weight

Our writer shares four tips on eating well she learned while living with a chef

It’s always the same, slightly inappropriate question when someone finds out I’m engaged to a chef: “How do you stay skinny?” It might be an undignified subject, but I understand the curiosity. Plus, I’m slim like Kate Winslet, not Kate Moss. We can talk woman to woman.

Here’s the deal: Since getting involved with a chef, I haven’t gained a pound. In fact, I’ve lost a few. At first I blamed puppy love and nerves. Then I assumed it was spin class. Now I know it’s something else, something simple: I’m eating better.

Here are four reasons—confirmed by my fellow “relationchef” partners—why it’s easy to eat right with a chef:

1. You learn not to overeat. If you stuff yourself all day, you won’t get to appreciate whatever he’s making for dinner. I’ll never forgive myself for being too full the night my fiance decided to make impromptu spaghetti Bolognese. Even when he works late (which is always), we still want to engage in a post-work, succulent sandwich ritual together, so I’m always leaving room for something or another.

2. Chefs eat real food, Michael Pollan-style. Like most chefs, mine is a bit of a food snob. That doesn’t mean we spend exorbitant amounts of money at Whole Foods (we don’t). It means he likes things fresh, unfussy, seasonal and, ideally, homemade. Almost everything we eat is made from scratch. Chefs don’t do fads—they can’t comprehend things like sugar-free ice cream. Anything fat-free, carb-free or flavor-free is no friend to a chef. There are no secrets in the food we consume, and I believe that has made all the difference.

Even the wife of French superstar chef Eric Ripert isn’t bathing in cream and calories. “We eat healthy at home!” Sandra Ripert insists. “Fish, organic fruits, veggies. … When Eric cooks, it’s usually at our summer home and usually on the grill—yummy and healthy.”

3. Ever read Why French Women Don’t Get Fat? Chefs eat like French women. They eat nicely and mindfully. They don’t eat their feelings. Their idea of dessert is a fig with a dollop of creme fraiche. They don’t just inhale their food. They give themselves a moment to enjoy, ponder and analyze whatever they’ve consumed.

“A chef’s thoughtful approach to food is very contagious,” says Molly McDonald, wife of Bradford McDonald, chef of Crabtree’s Kittle House in Chappaqua, N.Y. She has maintained a flawless figure since their first date. “I was always a healthy eater, but after I met Brad, I basically stopped buying premade things and started paying attention to everything I ate … and it’s done wonders for me.”

4. Despite what you see on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, temptation isn’t everywhere. It’s not like you’re being wined and dined every night of the week. Chefs are always working. They don’t have time to restaurant hop or cook elaborate five-course dinners when they’re home. Even Sandra Ripert is eating at Chez Nobody. “Most of the time I am eating on my own at home with my 6-year-old,” she says.

Here’s the skinny: If you live with a chef, you’re usually lapping up last night’s leftovers—greens and proteins—at the best table in the house, in front of American Idol. And that’s pretty scrumptious too.

Alyssa Shelasky is engaged to former 'Top Chef' contestant Spike Mendelsohn of Good Stuff Eatery and 'The Good Stuff Cookbook.' She is the creator of www.ApronAnxiety.com, where she documents life in a 'RelationChef' and all her misadventures in the kitchen.

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