How Chef Art Smith Conquers Type 2 Diabetes

A whole life makeover is this chef’s recipe for diabetes success.

Melba Newsome
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Art Smith was living a chef’s dream. He had been Oprah’s personal chef, won two James Beard awards, wrote a best-selling cookbook and owned two critically acclaimed restaurants, Art & Soul in Washington, DC, and Chicago’s Table Fifty-Two. He became a bona fide celebrity after a breakout appearance on Top Chef Masters.

But despite his success, Art wasn’t happy. He weighed 325 pounds and had developed type 2 diabetes, the disease that killed his father. “I knew if I didn’t take care of myself, I wouldn’t be cooking very long!” says Art.

So at 49, he vowed to be fit and fabulous by his 50th birthday. With the help of a personal trainer, Smith changed his lifestyle and his diet. Eighteen months later, he has completed two marathons, gotten a handle on his diabetes and shed 120 pounds! How’d he do it? Read on!

Take a good, hard look
Knowing he’d need a little tough love to change, Art hired Az Ferguson, author of The Game On! Diet as a coach. But before making a single suggestion, Ferguson spent two weeks observing what Art ate and his activity level. “I would eat peanut butter sandwiches thinking they were healthy, but I would eat three!”

Why it works: Many people aren’t aware of their food intake, but you don’t need to hire a coach to keep track. Just write down what you eat. Doing so can double your weight loss, according to a study from Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. 

Stop skipping meals
“Chefs have this bad habit of skipping meals then eating and drinking too much late at night. Az taught me that it’s important to have lots of little meals, starting with breakfast,” says Art.

Why it works: Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found people who skip breakfast are 4.5 times more likely to be obese, while those who start their day with a healthy meal are better able to dodge bad-for-you foods later on. Plus, a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating small meals every three hours helps the body better use insulin.

Move to the groove!
“I exercise for an hour about five days a week,” says Art. He’s become such a devotee of the gym, that he even holds “treadmill” meetings: “Believe me, honey, 30 minutes on a treadmill weeds out those who really want to see me, and those who don’t.”

Why it works: Exercise helps control type 2 diabetes by improving the body’s use of insulin and reducing body fat—not to mention the added benefits of less stress and a healthier heart!  

April 2013