One of the best things about being a chef is tasting all the meals you cook. But for Duncan Letham one of the worst things about being a chef was exactly that: tasting all the meals he cooked.
The Scotsman turned to a culinary career in his early 30s, later than most aspiring chefs, because he was passionate about food.
Unfortunately, that passion led to his weight ballooning to 120 kilograms.
Working as a chef manager in aged-care homes and universities in England, the dishes he was asked to create were not always nutritious. Hamburgers and chips dominated the menus and, though there was always a healthy alternative, Letham, now 43, was more likely to choose the option high in fat and sugar.
‘‘There’s tasting and then there’s tasting,’’ he says.
‘‘You just didn’t stop, even when you’re not hungry you’re just eating. When you get to a certain level of fatness, you just don’t care any more.’’
Things got worse when he, his wife and six children moved to Australia five years ago. After a stint in Wollongong, the family moved to Queensland.
But after relocating, Letham secured a job in a kitchen in Sydney. His family was already settled north of the border, so he started staying in the city permanently and flying to see his loved ones.
During that time he hit his lowest point and his highest weight.
‘‘I was just emotionally and mentally low due to lifestyle, not finding a way forward to get my health back to where it should be,’’ Letham remembers.
He had lost his passion for cooking, was depressed and missing his children terribly, so at the end of last year he quit his job, reunited with his family and decided to take control of his health.
He started slowly, removing processed food from his diet and riding his pushbike.
Over time Letham figured out what worked for him. He stopped eating carbohydrates at night and built up to exercising for an hour and a half every day.
In seven months he dropped about 30 kilograms and has lost another 10 since.
In January, he and his family moved back to Wollongong and he started his own personal training business, Back to Basics.
Though he says he would never return to a cooking career, he enjoys preparing healthy meals for his family, like fresh servings of lean meat and vegetables.
But the best thing about adjusting his attitude, Letham says, has been regaining his self-worth.