As a classic Southern chef, my life used to revolve around food.
Between my busy filming schedule (for my cooking show) and demonstrations at food and wine festivals across the country, the weight seemed to pile on. On top of that, I had a baby at 43 years old, totally unexpectedly, and I never lost the baby weight.
My eating habits certainly weren’t helping things either. Because I’m a chef—and therefore always creating new recipes—I’d constantly serve my family over-the-top dinners like chicken burritos loaded with sour cream and cheese, with something like a decadent peanut butter pie for dessert.
When I didn’t recognize myself in a photo, I knew I needed to change something.
I had been in Canada doing television appearances and cooking demonstrations. One morning, I was doing a television appearance and I happened to be on the same show with actor Ted Lange. My publicist took a picture of us together, and I could not believe how much weight I had gained—that picture set off a spark in me.
But I was in a bit of a predicament: My job and passion were based on food.
I decided that if I was going to get healthy and start eating better, then I’d have to recreate my career too. I pushed myself to create a brand new (healthy) recipe every day for the first three months—and by doing that, I discovered a new passion: healthy cooking.
I didn’t follow any special diets—I wanted to lose weight on my own terms.
Because I already knew a lot about food, I wanted to challenge myself. So, starting May 1, 2017, I cut out gluten, refined sugar, and processed foods, along with anything and everything fried. I kept close track of my macronutrients: Each meal had a combination of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates, too. I also drank water—lots and lots of water.
I started paying more attention to the timing of my meals, too. I ate three meals a day, along with two snacks, and I made sure to eat every two and a half to three hours to keep my metabolism revved (and make sure I didn’t get hungry and resort to unhealthy snacks).
Here’s what a day of eating typically looked like for me:
I started working out, too—six days a week, actually.
Lara Lyn Carter
At first, I was doing 30 minutes of cardio paired with some circuit training. But after the first month, I bumped it up to 45 minutes of cardio split up between a few different machines (the elliptical, arc trainer, and step mill are my favorites).
Doing different types of cardio helped me lose weight, but I started to really notice a change in my body when I began lifting free weights. I was actually building and defining muscles: I could actually see definition in my legs and the “flabby” parts of my upper arms became toned.
I finally reached my goal weight in October 2017—I lost 48 pounds in five months.
Losing weight has been amazing for both my career and my health.
Lara Lyn Carter
I equated dieting to boring salads and being hungry all the time, but challenging myself to create new recipes has helped keep me interested (and on track).
I made a point to recreate all of my favorite dishes with a healthy spin. Take my favorite pound cake for example: I make it gluten-free and without refined sugars now.
In fact, I’ve created so many healthy recipes (more than 400 of them) that I put them in a book—my first healthy cookbook, Skinny Southern, is coming out soon. Honestly, I don’t miss my old ways of eating at all.
That’s not to say my journey has been easy—some days, I still struggle with finding the time to eat something healthy or get a workout in. For those days, I rely on quick workout videos online I can do anywhere (even in a hotel room when I’m traveling). I also make a point to meal prep and plan ahead on Sunday afternoons to make sure I’m never without healthy meal options.
Making a huge change to my body—and my career—at 46 was a huge step. But it’s also given me the biggest rewards, including a new love for what I do, and I’m so glad I took that step.
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