The New York Chef turned his life around by rethinking his approach to food.
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Credit: Claudia Totir

Confession time: I hate dieting. I hate having certain foods be “off limits,” (making me, to be honest, just want them even more,) and I hate having to think about or keep track of, say, my carbs, sugar, or saturated fats.

That’s why I don’t do it. Instead, for the most part, I try to set myself up for a lot of good behavior, food-wise, and hope that balances everything out. I exercise. (I’m one of the lucky ones who likes running—or at least, I like how it makes me feel enough to do it regularly.) I cook a lot of my own food, and eat lots of leafy greens and veggies.

New Year. New Food. Healthy eating starts here, with the Cooking Light Diet.

Of course, I also like to eat out—and love rich food like burgers and barbecue. And I’ll happily snack away an evening in front of the TV. And just after all those holiday indulgences, I’ve been feeling more sluggish than ever. Which is why I figured it was time for a reboot.

That’s when Seamus Mullen’s Real Food Heals book dropped in my lap. Mullen is a New York City chef and restaurateur—you may have seen him on The Next Iron Chef or Chopped— and he has an amazing story. A few years ago the stress of running his restaurants was taking its toll on his body. He was overweight, eating terribly, and had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. He was on a host of medications and in bad shape.

Thankfully, he figured out a way to turn things around. He started eating better—cutting out sugar and gluten—and exercising, and the combination had a powerful impact. Now he’s free from symptoms of the rheumatoid arthritis, staying fit, and he’s encouraging others to eat well with a new cookbook full of recipes that fit well with the Cooking Light philosophy: Lots of fresh greens and vegetables, a reasonable amount of protein, low in sugar and salt.

Looking for something quicker? Try the Cooking Light 3-Day Detox.

The book itself also includes a short, 21-day “reboot” plan. It cuts out sugars (no juice or dried fruit either), keeps carb intake moderate (150 grams per day), and most difficult for me, admonishes “No processed foods or snacking.” So there goes the potato chips. Though Mullen is much more interested in tempting readers into healthy eating with delicious-sounding recipes, the reboot is a way to try to start watching—and eliminating—ingredients that he sees as detrimental to a healthy lifestyle.

In other words: it’s a diet. (He might not call it that. I do.)

But despite my natural aversion, I’m in. It’s 2018 and I’m ready for a change. I’m sluggish, I’m slumpy, and I need to do more than just hope my good behaviors outweigh my bad ones. Mullen promises that at the end of the reboot, when I switch from “being a carb-burner to being a fat-burner” it’ll change the whole way I feel. I’m just hoping that I can stick to it long enough to make it work without backsliding.

But one comfort: I’m going to be cooking from Mullen’s Real Food Heals a lot throughout the process. And his recipes are delicious. There are egg dishes to make my weekend mornings happy, a pan-seared mackerel in caponata that looks delicious, a whole section on gorgeous salads, and some roasted root vegetable recipes I can’t wait to try. I feel like this whole thing is going to be easier armed with a bunch of foods I can’t wait to make.

Part of Mullen’s plan includes a morning workout before eating anything. He suggests Tabata—which is a type of high-intensity interval training (or HIIT) workout, that is short—it only takes about 16-20 minutes—but definitely intense. I know I should try to switch things up from running, and you can do the Tabata routines at home (which fits well with my other goal: To stay away from the gym.) So I’ll be making the exercise a part of my reboot as well.

I’ll check back in later this month and let you know how it’s going. Wish me luck!