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Chef Jamie Leeds Shares Her Weight Loss Journey



Recently, I saw an old friend who walked right past me. “Hey,” I called, “It’s Jamie!”  First, there was shock and then my friend and I were laughing and celebrating.  This happens to me a lot these days. Over the past year, I’ve lost 140lbs.  So either people don’t recognize me, or they’ll ask me what’s wrong, am I ill?  But the truth is that I feel better than I have in years, like a new person.  So, during the recent Jewish holidays I’ve reflected on this big change in my life.

Up until last year at this time, I was overweight and had become increasingly hobbled by arthritis, in my knees and feet.  It was so painful to walk up stairs or stand for a long time, and I couldn’t imagine skiing or running with my son.  My body reflected the stress and strain of over 30 years in kitchens and running restaurants.  I was paying the price for three decades of being on my feet, under pressure, and working day and night with food.  I was in chronic pain and my days consisted of working all day and going to bed by 7 p.m. every night. It was time for change, drastic change, so that I might enjoy life once again and continue to grow personally and professionally. So, after considering all my options, I settled on the Duodenal Switch (DS) surgery, because it showed the most success with people not gaining the weight back.

And now, one year later, I am pain free, my arthritis no longer bothers me.  I had also been pre-diabetic and now that has disappeared as well. I feel great! I visit a medical doctor every six months and I receive weekly therapeutic support as I adjust to this new body. I have so much more energy! I’m able to engage more with my employees and guests at Hank’s.  t’s wonderful to be back in the kitchen working with my chefs and kitchen staff. I’m really part of the team again, building the excitement for hospitality and success with my staff.   can envision more positive change and growth for Hank’s. Now that I’m not exhausted and burdened by excess weight and physical pain I have the stamina to connect more with people and accomplish new goals.

And yes, there have been challenges. Right after the operation I could only eat small amounts of food. Very small. Before the operation I could eat maybe 30 pieces of sushi. I love sushi.  And now, I can eat only about five pieces. I can still eat everything, I just eat smaller amounts. So, I haven’t been hindered from going out and researching other restaurants and tasting the food of other chefs. I do however eat more vegetables now and find myself adding them to new and traditional recipes. Just the other night, at a private dinner for the winners of a charity auction for the March of Dimes, I made stuffed mushrooms and filled them with carrots and onions, rather than sausage. (Though I did love the tasty fat on my molasses braised short ribs that I also served).

Oh yes, and fashion has become a fun challenge. Before, I usually just wore my chef’s coat and pants to work. I didn’t develop much of a sense of personal style. But now, I have to go out and buy all new clothes. I’m out and about more and I need a new wardrobe that fits and reflects this new body and renewed energy.  Though sometimes I still wonder who is that person in the mirror and will she really fit into those tiny pants?  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve done a double take walking past my reflection in a mirror or store window. “Who is that? Oh!  It’s Jamie.”

To read more from Chef Jamie Leeds, check out her blog: http://hanksoysterbar.com/hankerings/.