Gregg Wallace has said he was “absolutely horrified” at his appearance when first watching old episodes of MasterChef that were filmed before his dramatic weight loss, but that changed into “immense pride” at his achievement.
The TV star, 55, shed four stone through healthy eating and exercise and criticised “ridiculous” diets for deceiving people into thinking there are shortcuts to losing weight.
He is supporting the Better Health campaign launched by Public Health England, which offers free tools and apps to help people eat better, get fit and lose weight, as evidence indicates being obese or excessively overweight puts people at greater risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19.
He told the PA news agency: “I’m really anti-diets, I’ve never been on a diet in my life.
“I really don’t want anybody to ever be hungry, I think that’s a terrible thing, or uncomfortable, or set themselves unrealistic fitness goals. It’s a routine, getting into a routine of living healthier.
“The issues I faced when I was trying to lose weight is we just don’t have the right information. People that were overweight as I was, we weren’t greedy, we’re not stupid, we just didn’t know.
“And we wrongly, or I did, thought that in order to lose weight we had to diet which meant you had to be hungry. No, you don’t, you really, really don’t.”
He continued: “Telling people they have to stay on the straight and narrow is just going to frighten people off from attempting it.
“But it’s how we perceive healthiness, how we perceive healthy eating, this is why I do urge people towards this NHS Better Health, because it’s full of the advice I’ve just been giving, it’s a friendly helping hand in the right direction.
“It’s not lecturing and telling you that you have to live on lettuce leaves and you can’t drink alcohol cos it’s unrealistic, these are why diets are unrealistic.
“What is this one where you have to starve yourself three times a week, or you’re only allowed to eat between 3 and 4 in the afternoon, what is that all about? That is just crazy. No-one is going to maintain that, are they?”
“Those diets, there is a saying and it rhymes with ‘duck fat’. It’s just ridiculous.
“I think why it is, is people are looking for a quick way of doing something, or a way that they can still have their pizzas, their curries, their beer, their wine and somehow they will still lose weight.
“They are lying to you! What do you do when you stop? What then happens? And why would you want to have discomfort in your life?”
He continued: “It doesn’t have to be like that. I’m not lying when I said I lost four stone. At the moment we are showing clips of all the old MasterChefs going back 15 years, it’s called A Recipe For Success, you can clearly see I used to be a fat bloke so I’m not lying.
“I didn’t take a magic pill and I was not abducted by aliens. I ate out, I went to rugby matches and drank beer, I had the odd takeaway and I stopped at the odd fast food restaurant. That’s alright, as long as you’re not living on it.”
Reflecting on seeing his previous appearance on screen, he said: “First of all I looked at it and I was horrified, absolutely horrified and then I was struck with an immense sense of pride and wellbeing.
“I did it, it’s great. I don’t need to lose any more weight now, I just need to maintain. But I know what it is, it’s about teaching yourself over time, healthy habits that become part of your everyday life.”
Asked if he thought the Better Health campaign was at odds with the Government’s Eat Out To Help out campaign urging people to return to restaurants, he said: “I cook a lot and I eat out, I don’t mind people eating out if they know how to cook.
“I don’t want them eating out because they don’t know how to cook. And there is a massive difference.
“Eating out is fun, I love eating out, as soon as Le Gavroche opened I was there with Michel Roux, drinking white burgundy and eating a terrine, and I’m a good cook.
“By all means, if you know how to cook, you go out, everyone needs to go out, what I don’t want people doing is eating out because they don’t know how to cook.”
Gregg Wallace is supporting Public Health England’s Better Health campaign. Visit nhs.uk/BetterHealth for free tools and support.