Michelin-starred Chef Tom Kerridge On How Chasing The Buzz Of Lifting Heavy In the Weights Room Cut 12 Stone Off His Weight

When Tom Kerridge almost cracked the bathroom scales at 30 stone, after years of indulging in fatty food and booze, he knew he had to change his life. The double Michelin-starred chef started doing heavy squats and deadlifts in the gym.

He committed to calorie-burning morning swims. And he began making smarter choices in the kitchen. As a result, Kerridge transformed himself from a 30-stone party animal into an energetic, 18-stone weight-lifter.

The 46-year-old has a growing culinary empire – including The Hand and Flowers in his home town of Marlow and Kerridge’s Bar and Grill in London – and with his new BBC show and recipe book called ‘Lose Weight & Get Fit’, Kerridge has some hard-won insights on how you can hit those New Year body goals...

*RSNG Why do you now find gym training so interesting and addictive?
TOM KERRIDGE, CHEF *
‘Going to the gym has filled a massive gap for me. It used to be all about food and drink and partying so I needed to replace that with something healthier to fixate on. And the gym gives you targets. I have found that really important.’

‘I need targets to try to beat because I just want to get better at everything. I am the same with my career. But now I can focus on this instead. I like to push myself, get better, aim for new things. The gym is great for that.’

‘I can lift pretty heavy because I was carrying so much bodyweight before’

*RSNG What do your typical gym sessions looks like?
TK, CHEF *
‘I love to go to the gym and focus hard. I do about 15-20 minutes cardio warm-up on the cross-trainer, on the bike or a run on the treadmill. And from that I go into push and pull exercises, like shoulder, arms and back. I also have a leg day. I never miss leg day. Squats and deadlifts.’

‘I can lift pretty heavy because I was carrying so much bodyweight before, so I was strengthening my legs subconsciously all along. The gym is a good (exercise) choice for bigger guys.’

*RSNG What is the heaviest weight you have lifted?
TK, CHEF *
‘For squats it is 463lbs (210kg) – at that weight, it takes quite a lot of effort just to lift the bar. For deadlift, it was 408lbs (185kg). But you need to be so focused, particularly when you do something heavy, as it then becomes dangerous. I have got injured before.’

‘Physically I could lift it, I was in the space, but mentally I had a lapse of concentration and I got injured. I don’t lift that much anymore but I still like pushing myself each day.’

*RSNG After you hit 30 stone, how did you first go about losing weight?
TK, CHEF *
‘I used to swim every day. When I first went on the weight-loss kind of thing and changed my life, I went for swimming because you are on your own and it gives you great thinking time too. But then it got to the point where work got busier and travel became a big thing. Quite often you would go somewhere and there wasn’t a pool there.’

‘So you go, right, how can I keep doing exercise? So I started looking at going to the gym. I met with a personal trainer and started looking at what could I do, how do I move the weights, how do we keep going?’

*RSNG How has your new strength and fitness changed you?
TK, CHEF *
‘The mental state of taking on sport and going to the gym or swimming has been a great one. The energy levels it gives you are amazing. I have to do it or it becomes… not unbearable but I become irritated. But it’s great for the mind too.’

‘Everyone gets that thing where you have a problem that you need to solve and you can’t, so you get annoyed. Missing the gym is that same bitter frustration for me.’

*RSNG When do you normally train?
TK, CHEF *
‘I fit it in wherever I can. But in terms of performance, I have found around 11am is best. My alarm goes off early anyway, so I am still getting up at 5.30-6.30am every day, but then, if I go to the gym at 11am, your body has been able to wake up, you have had breakfast to fuel up, and you have had time to get into the space.’

*RSNG Do you often watch sports too?
TK, CHEF *
‘Oh yeah, I have always been a massive sports fan. I love watching pretty much every sport. Rugby. Football. I love the skillset. I like watching people do things they are brilliant at. It could be sport or a baker or someone making pasta – anyone brilliant at what they do, I love it.’

‘So much of it is mental – many diets work quickly in 3-4 weeks but the issue is after that people get bored’

*RSNG You like making healthy twists on popular recipes like fish and chips. Is that part of the secret to a sustainable healthy diet?
TK, CHEF *
‘So much of it is mental. So many diets work quickly in 3-4 weeks but the issue is that after the initial period of time people get bored. So the mental state is about refocusing on what you can enjoy, rather than worrying about what you can’t.’

‘You mentioned my healthy fish and chips and, yeah, you think, wow, this is lovely and easy to make. You just cook the wedges, stick it in the oven, you don’t even peel them. For the fish you just put breadcrumbs on top, and stick it under the grill, rather than worrying about batter and deep frying it. But you’re still going: these chips are great, they are crunchy and crispy.’

‘So you have cooked yourself something easy and healthy and it has also taken away the craving.’

*RSNG Your television shows and recipe books are hugely popular. How does it feel to see other people learn from your own health journey?
TK, CHEF *
‘I am fortunate with how people contact you through social media – or bump into you in the street – and they say: you really influenced me or helped me. It is amazing to think that people have read my books and that they have helped change their lives.’

WHAT NEXT? Try Tom Kerridge’s healthy steak tacos with burnt corn salsa, from his new book Lose Weight & Get Fit, by following the recipe here.

Lose Weight & Get Fit by Tom Kerridge, published by Bloomsbury, is out now priced £22

Photo: Cristian Barnett

Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.