By Alessandra Bulow
After gaining 50 pounds during his 10 years as a judge on Food Network’s hit show “Chopped,” chef Chris Santos decided it was time to challenge himself to overhaul his eating habits when he wasn’t in front of the camera.
In June, Santos started a new plan and now, five months later, he’s down by 30 pounds and recently revealed the secret behind his dramatic weight loss.
The weight came on “gradually,” Santos said in an interview with People on Nov. 7.
“Over the course of 10 years I gained 50 pounds, which is a ton of weight, but if you think about it, it’s five pounds a year, which is less than half a pound a month,” he said.
After working 12 to 14 hour shifts at his restaurants — he has four in New York and one in Los Angeles — Santos said he would use food to soothe himself after he got home.
“That was my time — that was me time,” he said.
Santos told People that he would often turn to comfort foods like cheesesteaks, pizza and cheeseburgers. And instead of making healthier choices or preparing something at home, he would order delivery to his New York City apartment
“It would never be anything good,” he told the magazine. “If GrubHub had a category called unhealthy, that would be the one I would be clicking on every time.”
In June, Santos decided to change his habits and give intermittent fasting a try. Intermittent fasting, also known as the 16:8 diet or time-restricted feeding, is a weight loss method that allows people to eat (almost) whatever they want within an eight hour period, and then requires them to fast for the remaining 16 hours of the day.
Santos drew inspiration from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, whose diligent diet has motivated many people to try the 16:8 method. Seeing that Johnson has been able to have a humongous amount of food on his cheat days may have also helped the chef realize that he didn’t have to give up all of the foods he enjoyed.
“And you know, if it works for The Rock, then I got to give it a shot,” Santos told People about his mindset at the beginning of his weight loss journey.
Santos said he started with the 16:8 method three days a week, then built up to six days a week, with one cheat day — and it worked!
In addition to changing the times of day that he eats, Santos said prepares a simple but filling protein dish like grilled salmon or chicken when he gets home if he really needs something to eat late at night after work.
“I’m still eating on the later side, but eating something that’s a much smarter choice,” he acknowledged of his new routine.
Santos also credits his girlfriend, actress Natalie Makenna, with also inspiring him to adopt healthier habits, like taking up running. The chef ran his first 5K recently and said he’s psyched to continue on his weight loss journey.
“Look for ‘before and after part 2’ when I’ve lost another 15 to 20!” Santos captioned his first before and after photos on Oct. 21.
Though he hasn’t been filming “Chopped” since adopting the intermittent fasting eating plan, Santos says he’s excited to show off the results to his co-stars when production resumes early next year.