Winning a losing battle

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2012, 12:14pm

When celebrity chef Harlan Goldstein visited his family in New York earlier this year, he was hit with a sobering realisation. "You're a walking heart attack," his sister said.

Goldstein weighed 134kg at the time. Although he was a member of a gym, he hadn't been training especially hard, and because of his status as a culinary celebrity in Hong Kong, he was always surrounded by the finest, most scrumptious, food.

"The lifestyle of a chef - always tasting food - can lead to easy weight gain, obviously," he says.

The words of his sister - who practically raised him - struck a chord. So on his return to Hong Kong, he told his two trainers about his desire to lose weight. The trainers, Parfait N'donda Gnorol and Alvin Cooney, two veteran fighters at Impakt gym in Central, told him they had just the challenge.

"They said they had another client, this big-shot banker, who was also looking to lose weight," Goldstein recalls. "And they suggested that we did a Biggest Loser-style challenge to see who could lose more weight."

Goldstein met with the banker and they decided to take on the challenge - on the condition that money was put on the line. After all, what's a bet without cash?

The banker - who started the challenge at 135kg - initially suggested HK$5,000. Goldstein scoffed at the chump change, calling it a waste of time. He then suggested a significantly larger sum, one that took the banker a few minutes of consideration before accepting.

"I won't say exactly how much, but let's just say it started with an eight and is a very lucky number," Goldstein says.

The challenge started on July 27, and went for six weeks. Despite working out - doing cardio, weight training, circuit training - five days a week and losing 13.5kg, Goldstein lost the competition. The banker lost 15kg. Happy he shed the weight but not happy he lost the cash, Goldstein asked for a rematch, with yesterday as the deadline. The banker agreed.

Goldstein made no mistake this time around, losing another 11.5kg to finish the challenge at 109kg. The banker actually ended up gaining 2kg to finish at 122kg. Goldstein's 25kg total weight loss gave him a resounding victory.

"This had nothing to do with the money; it's everything to do with health and fitness - and that's worth a million bucks for me," says Goldstein, who is considering donating his winnings to charity.

So what changed this time around? Goldstein says he still trained the same way as in the first competition, but ate a lot healthier.

"I did a lot of research on healthy foods, and foods that burn fat," he says. "I came up with several dishes that I eat three to four times a week."

He was so satisfied with the result of his low-calorie, healthy meals - Goldstein claims the key to weight loss is 80 per cent diet and only 20 per cent workout - he will bring his "weight management menu" to his restaurant, Gold.

These dishes, set to debut at Gold in December, include a "fatbuster mocktail" that features a blend of green apple, celery, cucumber, lemon juice, parsley, ginger, and a spoon each of chia seed and spirulina, a nutrient supplement known for promoting fat-burning.

There's also a soup filled with organic vegetables, and a tasty slow-cooked turkey with quinoa, a type of seed that has all sorts of health benefits.

Goldstein says he worked really hard to find the right balance between "tasting yummy while being low calorie and healthy" for his dishes, which he hopes will help Hongkongers lose weight if they choose to do so.

These past few months have been life-changing, Goldstein adds. He now eats healthy food all the time - he's cut out alcohol and sweets completely over the past few months - and is confident he will get down to his target 103kg by January.

"There are days when it's very tough, when I just see a chocolate cake and I want it really bad," he says. "But then I just think about my health and my goal and I'll end up eating an apple instead."