Why I'm No Longer a Fat B*stard
Gregg Wallace knew something had to change
By Gregg Wallace
July 5 2023
There was a particular moment in my life when I decided something had to change. It was 2010. I was filming MasterChef in India with my co-presenter Jon Torode, the year Dhruv Baker won. I was in my hotel room and looked in the mirror and just saw this huge Gregg Wallace. It was the final straw. I made the decision to lose weight, to live a little differently, and I’ve never looked back.
Up to that moment, I had been getting bigger and bigger. I had started disliking my size, especially my belly. I suppose my shape was partly because of my background. I was brought up in a pub culture, the blue-collar boy born in the Sixties, when the social centre was the pub. So there was a lot of beer drinking and it wasn’t an era when men really cared about their body shape. And their health didn’t really matter either. It was a blokey culture. Men were supposed to swig beer and smoke and body image didn’t come into that.
But TV changed all that for me. I became a commodity in a very image-conscious industry. And there I was, on the telly, getting bigger and bigger. I’d spend the day filming, go to the pub, have dinner, and maybe return to the pub. But at that moment in India, I decided to do something.
Today, a mainstay in my life, something I do almost all the time when I’m not filming, is to coach people about weight loss and health – because the questions people ask are the ones that I asked. The worries people have were my worries. And having been on a journey of very considerable weight loss – about 4.5 stone (63lbs) – I can answer those questions and deal with those worries.
I’m sure they are the concern of a number of Boisdale customers, people who love and cherish the luxuries of life, who feel they need to guard them against attacks from nannying, hand-wringing friends. So let me tell you: there is life after weight loss, and it’s actually even better.
Those big questions or concerns are almost always about the threatened loss of enjoyment, the sacrifice of life’s pleasures. Don’t you deserve that piece of chocolate on the sofa, that bottle of wine? Do you have to sacrifice the finer things in life to be slim, to be in good shape, to have a healthy body you can be proud of? The answer is an enormous, italicised, highlighted in orange and green, No.
I have a strategy. And it does not involve not drinking at lunchtime. Going out for dinner or lunch without drinking is like bathing with your socks on.
First, let’s deal with eating in restaurants, with a specific example. Say I’m meeting a friend for lunch at a well-known Indian restaurant. Here’s what I’ll order: I’ll eat prawns (protein but little fat); roti, not naan; and I’ll ask them not to brush the bread with ghee. I’ll have some meat from the tandoor (not something covered in a sauce made with vegetable oil and ghee), then some rice and lots of vegetables. And I’ll have just as delicious a lunch as everyone else there, except what I’ve ordered won’t make me fat.
Elsewhere I fill myself with protein, but will have a fillet steak – not wagyu and not a rib eye; and new potatoes and spinach – not chips and onion rings. And it’s an affogato for dessert, not banoffee pie. Such small changes, and they are small, have worked wonders for me.
What if it’s a posh restaurant with a tasting menu and you can’t dictate or tweak your order? Well, I say it’s okay to indulge once a week, so do that and enjoy it. My mate, the chef Michel Roux Jr, admits there’s a lot of butter in classic French cookery, and he himself would be concerned if a customer ate in his restaurant, Le Gavroche, two or three times a week.
And what about alcohol? I’ve learnt from the Italians – from my wife Anna, and from her father, Massimo. Anna taught me to think about what I want from drinking, which for me is the feeling of euphoria you get, the enhancing of the flavours of food, the way the music sounds better, how conversation flows naturally. I actually get all those sensations by my second drink, so I slow down considerably after that. Do I want to stay in the happy place, or end up somewhere else? And do you know, my father-in-law Massimo, if he’s had a bit of wine the night before, at breakfast the next day he orders a caffè corretto – one with a little spirit on the side. No one in Italy bats an eyelid, even at eight in the morning.
Then what of exercise? Your weight depends on what you eat and drink, not the exercise you do. Get the food and drink right and exercise won’t make any more than five per cent of difference to your weight. Drinks, indulgence, fun, friendship, and self-worth. And no one’s stopping the tills ringing!
Gregg Wallace is an English broadcaster, entrepreneur, media personality, writer and former greengrocer. His website is www.showme.fit