MANILA, Philippines – We’ve all been there. We say we will exercise but we end up eating cheese nachos while watching television. We say we will eat a healthy meal but end up going to a fast food chain beside our offices and order a two-piece fried chicken meal. We say we will opt for a better, healthier lifestyle – but we don’t.
Is it really that hard to say “no” to that pack of French fries and go for a green salad instead?
“I was 21 years old and was 240 pounds during my heaviest,” Erwan tells Rappler in an interview at Hatch 22, a restaurant he is part owner of.
His love affair with food started in his early years. His parents would feed him the best foods and by the time he was 8 years old, he was already cooking them on his own. At that young age, he knew he wanted to be someone in the food industry and to get there, he needed an experienced palate.
The downside to his love affair with food was weight gain. As he ate, he got heavier and eventually lazier – opting for microwavable food and no exercise. He also started eating at random hours like 2 in the morning. Before he knew it, he was obese.
Wake up call
At 21, he took a seasonal job in Greece as a conflict manager for a high capacity hotel. He was recently single and was bunking with Greeks and Russians. “All these Greek guys were stacked and muscular. I started really feeling uncomfortable with myself and how I looked,” Erwan says. “They would force me to work out in the gym without my shirt. They would make me do other things that made me feel uncomfortable.”
Though some might say that it was a form of bullying, Erwan says it helped him realize where he was – size wise. One day, he looked himself in the mirror and he told himself that it’s time for a change.
With their villa right by the beach, he started swimming 2-3 kilometers a day just to get his daily activities back. He experimented with different diets by reading several books and he found out that they seemed to have one common principle: high protein, low carbs, low starch, more vegetables, and animals. After applying all that he learned, he lost 60 pounds in just 3 months.
“I didn’t realize it was that easy to lose weight. You just have to live in a structure with discipline.”
Cutting food intake
“How hard is it not to buy that pack of French fries?” Erwan asks. Most of us would say that it’s near impossible to say no. Erwan says it should be easy. After all, it’s a switch. You just don’t buy it and don’t eat it.
“It’s only hard because you’re making an excuse for it to be hard,” he says.
He admits that the toughest part in losing weight is giving up starch. After all, our society is so ingrained in eating starchy food, despite knowing that excessive intake of starch contributes to diseases like diabetes and heart conditions.
“What flabbergasted me is that the food pyramid they are still using in the States says that you should eat 12 portions of grains per day,” Erwan says. The outdated food pyramid developed in the 60s is actually unhealthy for people living in this day and age.
Erwan is mainly on a vegetable and animal diet these days. He will eat a massive rib eye steak with tomatoes and green beans and he will be full – and happy even without rice. He admits that there will be days when he will crave for bread or sweets. No harm done in indulging yourself a bit – but you must know when to stop.
Sugar is what Erwan calls the number one enemy. “If I tell you to get rid of everything with sugar from your home, you will probably end up throwing half of your pantry,” he says.
“There’s no problem popping one piece of Ferrero Rocher. But don’t eat a whole slab,” he adds. The problem with sugar is that it’s addicting. If you’re unable to stop yourself, Erwan recommends going for fruits for dessert. “What I do is I put raisins in the freezer and I suck on them like candy. I call raisins nature’s candy.”
Erwan also has a ‘cheat day’ once a week – Sundays. It’s the only day when he gets to drink beer and spoil himself with donuts, tapsilog or tocilog, well-made soft shell tacos, and beer.
At 26, Erwan’s day will not be complete without a workout – something he does 8-12 times a week. “Even if I have only an hour of free time in a day, I’d squeeze a work out in,” he says.
His day always starts by drinking a glass of water, putting his gym clothes on, and a short, intense work out. This gets him ready and pumped up for his whole day filled with busy activities such as running 4 restaurants which he is part owner of. He’s also a triathlete.
Losing weight is easy if you’re obese. It only takes a couple of changes. But Erwan says the hard part comes when going from weightless to fitness. A lot of people go from obese to overweight and their family gives them a hundred pats on the back, telling them to stop because they’re already skinny.
“That’s crap,” Erwan says. “Once you’re fit, that’s when you need to start mitigating the food you eat with the sports you do. The more you are fit, the harder it is to maintain because your body is used to more activity.”
Fat kid inside
Erwan is not a chef. But the food he makes will make you think that he’s had professional training. His interest in cooking and business at a young age paid off. He picked up all the cookbooks and bar books and read them like novels – not like recipe books. All the reading evolved into a mental data base of recipes. “I see chicken and cinnamon and it reminds me of a Moroccan dish. What else would go with it? It’s more like understanding the educational aspect of food in terms of flavor interaction,” he says.
The name, he adds, is actually a cute way of saying that fat people will always be fat. When you lose all that weight, eating one meal can make you feel as if you gained weight right away. “I know people who have lost traumatic amounts of weight who also feel the same. After eating, they feel like they need to run 10-k right away,” he says.
Erwan started his blog because he initially wanted to get to know the pulse of the food market in the Philippines, only to realize later on that he could use it to help people who are struggling with weight. “I started focusing on the healthy eating habits and cooking. Showing people it’s not scary, it’s not a sacrifice. It’s something you can do on a day-to-day basis,” he adds.
His food videos that are done on the fly (he cooks then writes the recipe after, not the other way around) have acquired a wide audience both here in the Philippines and abroad.
Now, Erwan is taking it a step further. After working on it for two months, Erwan has released an animated video that will tell you all you need to know to lose all that excess weight and get healthy in just 5 minutes.
Wanting to do his part in helping people avoid diseases due to their current lifestyles, Erwan says people should be motivated to opt for healthier choices and to exercise. They should be inspired to want it for themselves.
Watch the video here: