When COVID-19 forced chef and restaurateur Michael Schulson to stop his schedule forever, the 61-year-old had no choice but to find a change. So he lost 35 pounds in two and a half months.
When your entire career revolves around food – preparing, preparing, cooking, performing taste tests – it is not easy to maintain a constant weight or healthy habits. Especially when you consider the hallmarks of the restaurant business: long, exhausting days that you spend on your feet; shaky hours of work that mess up your sleep patterns; and a limited selection of healthy restaurants late into the night (not to mention the waning energy to prepare your own meal).
While this could give a very simplified, perhaps stereotypical picture, chef Michael Schulson, CEO and founder of Schulson Collective, a network of restaurants in Philadelphia (with some other outposts on the east coast) admits that much of it is true.
"We try food all day and all day," says Schulson of his work schedule before the COVID-19 pandemic. (He was preparing to open his newest restaurant, and has continued a series of nearly constant openings of more than 10 seats over the past decade.) "Before I knew it, I was up to £ 210 in weight." he says, he only realized that something had to change when he saw a photo of himself with his friends after a day on a trip to Costa Rica. "That was totally the aha! Hold on, ”he says.
As fate would have it, this was around the beginning of March, when the novel corona virus gained momentum in the United States. The subsequent self-isolation was exactly the impetus he needed to make the necessary changes to his lifestyle.
How Michael Schulson Sustainable healthy habits made
During the first few weeks of this health trip, Schulson was still able to be in his restaurants and hold tasting meetings to get the menus right, but with a big difference. In the past, "we could try 10 dishes three times a day, and I took four, five or six bites each, but I reduced that to one bite at a time," he says.
In addition to the need to perfect meals, Schulson and his crew often hopped to places like LA, New York, and Italy to look for ingredients and dishes to get the right product. But when COVID-19 hit, that kind of jet setting was off the table.
While Schulson's isolation forced some changes, he also had to set up his own game plan. He says he learned a lot from previous (failed) diet experiences he needed to find a sustainable solution. In the past, he tried restrictive diets that included everything from certain soups to drinking aloe water and apple cider vinegar. As he lost weight, "it was very difficult to keep up every day, especially for someone who likes to eat and have fun," he says.
He knew it had to be different this time: "I said to myself:" I'm done with these diets. "I had to eat healthier and cleaner, and be careful about the size of my portions. I had to come up with something that worked seven days a week and 365 days a year so I could maintain that lifestyle."
This resulted in a light breakfast after a morning run, a turkey sandwich or salad for lunch, and a simple, healthy meal for dinner (something that would also comfort his two children a little). Oh, and dinner? It happened at a normal hour, like 6:30 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. instead of its typical 9:30, 10 or even 11pm. Meal time before the pandemic. The lesson: No extremes – just small, feasible improvements.
Courtesy of Image
Add training to the weight loss equation
Schulson found it a little easier when it came to sports. He was always a bit of an athlete – he enjoyed indoor cycling classes and even tried CrossFit – so he could use these roots for motivation.
Fortunately, Schulson also has a well-equipped gym with a large cable machine, TRX suspension trainers, resistance bands, medicine balls, dumbbells, kettlebells and a barbell with weight plates as well as the peloton tread and bike.
He started running the treadmill miles most of the morning. With a certain aversion to cardio, this quick job made the most sense to him, Schulson explains. After that, he usually completed a 30-minute strength workout that focused on specific muscle groups (i.e., back, shoulders, legs), followed by a 10-minute core workout using the peloton app. Most afternoons he often took a long walk – up to 18,000 to 20,000 steps a day – and topped off the evening with another kilometer-long run. His workouts were quick (as he liked them!), But effective and above all manageable. Some experts believe that pushing in short bursts of activity like this is optimal for health and fitness all day long – especially for working parents.
Lessons learned that will stand the test of time
The best thing about all the practices that Schulson introduced during quarantine to improve his health is that they can be easily maintained long after the world is back online and his discouraging schedule is picking up speed. And frankly, he knew that if it stayed that way, it had to be.
"I always get emails. I always get text messages. I always get calls – so I have to take an hour and a half in the morning to do a spin course and train, it just doesn't work for me with children and work always, ”he explains.
A beneficial side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is that Schulson is now actually enjoying cooking at home. While simple, healthy meals are still the name of his family's game, he found that he preferred to cook at home because he didn't spend all day in his restaurants.
However, the biggest benefit of Schulson's journey to restore his health and the associated quarantine is learning to enjoy the variety. Before the quarantine, he admits that he was always the first to work in the morning, even if he really didn't "have to be there". Now he says he understands "it's okay if you spend more time with your family. It's okay to find some time for yourself."
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