How this award-winning chef combined his cooking skills with data to lose 35 pounds

Chef Andy Husbands used his culinary skills to make his favorite meals less caloric but equally delicious. Here's how he did it.
Image: Andy Husbands
Charting his daily weight fluctuations helped Andy Husbands see a ongoing, positive trend that helped him stick with his weight-loss goals.Adrian Lam/ NBC News
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By Julie Compton

Since his mid-30s, award-winning BBQ chef and reality TV star Andy Husbands had packed on 35 pounds while juggling 90 hours a week between his three busy restaurants in Boston, including the popular Smoke Shop BBQ. Husbands began to worry about his health, and wondered whether he’d be able to keep up with his newborn twin daughters as they became toddlers.

“I want to be able to be active, and I want to not be out of breath, and I want to feel energetic, and able to do what I need to do,” Husbands tells NBC News BETTER.

Husbands had been trying to lose weight for years without much success. In June of 2018, he decided to start tracking his eating habits through the popular weight loss app Lose It!, and use the data to understand what he was doing wrong. He then used his cooking skills to adjust how he ate.

“For me, being able to be really present and be able to understand and watch what I do, it helped me put the whole picture together,” says Husbands.

Here’s how Husbands lost the weight.

He tracked everything he ate

As a chef, Husbands knew how to cook healthy meals, but didn’t realize many of these meals were still high in calories. Tracking his food intake gave him insight into the number of calories he was actually eating, he says.

For example, Husbands would eat yogurt with fruit and nuts for breakfast. He thought it was a low-calorie breakfast, but tracking his calories helped him realize this was not the case.

“As you track it you’re realizing ‘Oh, these nuts are super high calorie,’ you start realizing some of the things I was doing well, I wasn’t,” he says.

He used his cooking skills to get creative

Husbands used his chef skills to make his favorite meals less caloric but equally delicious.

“I love creativity, I love trying new things and making up stuff,” says the chef.

Every morning, Husbands makes a unique low-calorie breakfast. He combines cabbage, green beans, and asparagus, and steams them together with one of his favorite seasonings (soy sauce, Sriracha, tomato sauce or salsa).

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Next, he selects a low-fat protein like deli ham or turkey, tofu or chopped hard boiled eggs, and adds the protein in the steamed vegetables.

“A super filling breakfast packed with nutrients to help start the day off right,” says Husbands.

Here are some other tips he suggests:

Hamburgers: Replace a quarter to a third of the beef with ground mushrooms. “It’s still meaty — still getting that burger I love, but taking away a little bit of the calories you get from that beef,” says Husbands.

Meatballs: Use ground turkey instead of beef. “It’s not only high in protein and lower in fat, it’s also more cost effective,” he says.

Pasta dishes: Fill your pasta dish with roasted vegetables, such as broccoli and asparagus. “So it’s balanced more as a veggie dish with pasta rather than pasta with veggies,” says Husbands.

Salad dressing: Cut salad dressings in half, and add vinegar or lemon juice for flavor.

Snacks: Keep fresh cuts veggies in the fridge for when you’re hungry between meals.

“I always have fresh cut carrots and dill pickles in the fridge; very low in calories and the perfect pick-me-up when you want something to crunch on,” says Husbands.

Use lots of seasonings: Add extra flavor to your dishes with seasonings or fresh herbs like basil or thyme. “I use seasoning on almost everything, and especially love adding a little spice such as Sriracha and chili garlic paste to my dishes to make the flavors pop,” says Husbands.

He does exercises he loves

Husbands joined a local title boxing club in Boston, where he lives. The workout, which combines boxing with kickboxing, helps him burn about 800 calories a session, he says.

“When I do burn those 800 calories, I’m able to splurge a little bit on my eating, maybe have something a little more high calorie, and so that’s nice,” he says.

Andy Husbands and his wife and daughters after his 35-pound weight loss.Courtesy of Andy Husbands

He tracked his weight loss fluctuations

Husbands began to keep a chart of his daily weight fluctuations on his bathroom wall. He says the chart helped him see that his long-term weight was trending downward regardless of day-to-day fluctuations. Being able to see the trend encouraged him to stick with his goals even if he felt discouraged by his current weight, he says.

“It’s not one day you need to worry about — it’s a consistency,” says Husbands, who compares the trend in his weight loss to batting averages in baseball. “Just because somebody doesn’t bat well the one day doesn’t mean they’re not going to bat well the next day. So you really look at over a couple of weeks of where you’re at, and you can see on my graph, it really goes up and down, but it does skew going down.”

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He plans his week

Husbands has a hectic schedule. To make sure he sticks to his health goals, he plans his meals and workout routine for the week in advance every Sunday night. He says it’s part of his mantra: Plan to succeed and prepare to fail.

“It’s my day off, so at the end of the night I’m usually just sitting down, looking at my emails, looking at my calendar, ‘OK, where do I have time to work out? What am I thinking about eating this week?’” he says.

Husbands, who recently turned 50, shed the weight in less than a year. He says he feels “fantastic.”

It’s not one day you need to worry about — it’s a consistency.

Andy Husbands

“We all know we’re supposed to work out and do cardio — we all know this,” Husbands says. “And I knew I was doing it, but I didn’t know, was I doing it enough? I thought I was eating OK, but I didn’t really know. Once I got the data, once I got the information, it was like ah ha! And that’s where it was like boom! It really happened.”

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