How Food Writers Eat So Much Without Gaining Weight
Five food pros discuss how they stay in shape while eating and drinking practically everything.
When I first started writing about food, I never understood how someone could eat and eat even when already stuffed. But eat I did, and as I chowed down on butter-heavy French cuisine, award-winning desserts, and the best burgers in the city, my waistline grew as my daily energy dwindled. I knew it was time to change things if I was going to keep this job and stay healthy.
I signed up at my local YWCA and started binge watching Top Chef while pumping away at the elliptical, taking total-body workout classes and doing some basic weight training. I also changed how I looked at food. I vowed not to eat day-old pastries, feel obligated to clean my plate at a restaurant, or cook rich foods at home. When eating out for work, I would sample things, keeping the philosophy of, "I can always eat that again"-which is true in most cases. Ultimately, these methods have worked for me, but it made me wonder how other people who eat fatty yet delicious food for a living keep up with their health and stay in shape. So, I asked five people in the industry from coast to coast to weigh in (not literally) and spill their secrets.
Denise Mickelsen, food editor of 5280
"When I took the job as food editor at this local Colorado magazine, I realized in order to keep my pant size the same I'd have to step it up beyond my normal Pilates classes. So I subscribed to Daily Burn, an online network of on-demand workouts you can stream from anywhere, and now I can fit in at least 30 minutes of cardio five days a week in my basement before going to work. On the weekends I might go running with my dog or hiking, too. Admittedly, it's tough to keep up with Denver's burgeoning dining scene while maintaining my workout schedule-I go out to lunch five-plus times a week and sometimes eat two dinners before I can call it a day. Let's just say I bring leftovers home to my husband a lot. I also tend to cut back at breakfast when I know I have a particularly heavy eating day ahead of me. Most weekdays I'll start off with a green smoothie."
Raquel Pelzel, cookbook author, food writer, and recipe developer
"On any given day you might find me testing recipes for a cookbook, going to dinner with friends, or checking out what is new and noteworthy to eat in my Brooklyn neighborhood. For me, the first step to staying healthy is how I eat at home with my kids. I cook 90 percent vegan when I cook for myself and my boys because it's important to control what I eat when I can. I go for a lot of grain bowls and leftover salads. I also try to incorporate exercise into my daily life whenever possible. I'll run and swim at my local gym and take Pilates classes. It's about having the best intentions to be healthy and doing things that make you feel good on a regular basis."
Scott Gold, author and bacon critic for extracrispy.com
"One of my jobs is to eat bacon all over the country, and yes, that's a real career path. And if I'm going to stuff my face with fatty bacon, and dive into the New Orleans food scene, you can bet that I have some ground rules. I basically only eat out for work or to celebrate a special occasion. When I was a restaurant critic, I was this close to getting gout because I was eating in restaurants five days a week, minimum. So, when I don't eat for work, my wife and I cook lots of whole grains, veggies, and seafood, usually Mediterranean, Japanese, or Creole. Full disclosure: One of my claims to fame is that I have eaten nearly every part of a cow and most parts of a pig-all in the name of research. Now, as the bacon critic for extracrispy.com, a breakfast-focused website, I've learned to maintain control. I limit my bacon consumption to three to five slices on a tasting day. Exercise, specifically vigorous and regular exercise, has got to be part of the equation for me as well. It sometimes sucks, but I always feel better because of it. Bare minimum I go for a long walk every day, but I try to get in an hour-long bike ride in the park whenever possible."
Heather Barbod, restaurant publicist for Wagstaff Worldwide
"When I was working in New York City, I constantly ate at clients' restaurants to give feedback on the food and meet other journalists. Now that I've moved to San Fransisco, not much has changed, but prioritizing my workouts has helped keep me sane and fit. I'll schedule a later work dinner so I can hit the gym after the office before heading back out. Physical fitness is such an important part of my mental and physical health, and it's a huge stress release. I've found that running is the best way to get away from it all and focus on me for a bit, but if I'm in the need to be social and exercise in a team environment, I'll head to CrossFit. I try to eat more consciously, as well. If I know I'm having a tasting menu for dinner, I keep it light during the day before the meal and the day after, too. When ordering from a cocktail menu, I choose drinks that don't have added sugars. And, because often big work dinners involve getting just about everything on the menu and eating it family style, I make sure to keep portions light and not go overboard."
Sarah Freeman, freelance spirit and food writer
"My work specializes in booze, and I have a lot of research to do. To combat all those extra, empty calories, I take boxing classes. I have a limited time to get to the gym and want to maximize it, and boxing can burn about 600 calories in an hour. I'll also supplement the high intensity of boxing with yoga. Part of staying fit has to do with paying attention to what I'm eating, too. Over time I started to pay more and more attention to not just how much I was eating, but the quality of it. So even if it's a super-rich dish, if it's made with good ingredients, I still feel pretty good about eating it."