An Essential Change
Fifteen years ago, the scene around the Stella family dinner table looked bleak. There was usually a stack of pizza boxes. Empty soda cans and bottles were thrown into a recycling bin between our feet. Then there was us…all twelve hundred-plus pounds of us.
My wife Rachel found herself at over two hundred pounds. My son Anthony, pushing 230, bordered on obese. My younger son Christian was already obese at the age of fifteen, weighing over 300 pounds. Wheeling around my kitchen in this great big captain’s chair I salvaged from the side of the road, I sat more comfortably than when I used my actual wheelchair—but I was hardly comfortable—it’s hard to ever be comfortable at 467 pounds.
I had become familiar with the emergency room by then. I’d been struck by my first heart attack way, way back when I was young and athletic, but now morbidly obese, I was the definition of risk to have another. I was falling apart. A third bout of pneumonia in little over a year’s time put me back into the hospital. That was what spurred a doctor to finally spell it out for me. He so frankly told me, “George, you are going to die.”
There I was, bound to my captain’s chair at the helm of my own version of a sinking ship. I was on disability, with congestive heart failure and a future full of sleep apnea-ruined nights. The doctor was right. My eating was killing me—but even worse—I had an entire family following in my footsteps. With such a large problem on my plate, it seemed next to impossible to pinpoint a solution. I knew what had to be done.
I just had no idea where to begin.
I’ve told this story so many times and always thought it important to mention the copy of Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution someone left behind at our house all those years ago. If Rachel had not read the entire book cover to cover and convinced the rest of us that this was not only doable, but worth a try, well, I don’t know where we would be today. We certainly wouldn’t have had the courage to change our lives the way we did. Low-carb seemed too simple. So simple, it was silly. It was the total opposite of what we thought we needed to do in order to lose the weight.
But, what else—besides weight—did I have to lose? Looking back now, I realize I had a lot more to gain than I ever lost. I was on a path to gaining my life back.
I am a firm believer that if you want to lose weight, if you are really ready to lose weight, you absolutely can. Regardless of what you call the way you eat, you can lose weight by eating fresh, healthy food. My family doesn’t give full credit for our weight loss to The Atkins Diet, or any other diet for that matter, because we never followed any one particular plan from beginning to end. We learned the essentials and carved out our own path after that. We learned about food and changed our habits. But we didn’t diet. Diet plans are rigid, repetitive, and hardly what you’d call “fun.” They breed boredom, and boredom feeds bad habits.
As someone who was once 467 pounds, I think I can say with conviction that eating is a big part of life. Not just in that it sustains life, but that a lot of life revolves around eating. During a lot of life’s best moments— holidays, dates, even a night at the movies— food is there. We all love to eat, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What we need to love more is…cooking.
When you find true joy in cooking—when you find that preparing a home-cooked meal is genuinely fun—that’s when you find success. That’s when you start filling your grocery carts with real food, not packaged junk, and things really change.
Things truly changed for us! The four of us lost over 560 pounds together as a family and have never looked back. Rachel and Anthony each dropped over 70 pounds. Christian lost more than half his body weight, going from 305 to under 150, and I did away with the 265 pounds that would have surely been the death of me. These weren’t instant transformations, but as close to instant as I could imagine. I was slowly dying as I ate pizza at the dining room table.… Then two years later I was back where I belonged, working as a professional chef in a five-star restaurant.
Almost as soon as we lost the weight, our story started to spread. Within that same year, multiple magazines ran articles on us, countless television producers were calling to do interviews…. I even wrote my first cookbook. Most notably, I had landed my own show on the Food Network, Low Carb and Lovin’ It. Though it only aired for two seasons, the fans we gained from the show’s running stuck around through the years and continue to follow us to this day. Their own stories of success never cease to amaze us. I’ve told our family’s story so many times, but there’s always someone new to hear it. Someone that can create their own success story. Just maybe that is you?
Keep On Low-Carbin’!
Raspberry Cream Fool Parfaits
Recipe by George Stella / StellaStyle.com
Prep Time: 5 min | Serves: 6
calories: 80 | fat: 7g | protein: 0.5g | fiber: 1g | net carbs: 2g
This old fashioned British dessert is a whole lot like a mousse, only made in two parts: the whipped cream, and the raspberry puree. Once folded together, you are fooled! Actually, I’m not sure why they named it this, but I’ve got to have at least one more bad pun in me about it… I mean, I’d be a fool to waste such an opportunity!
- 1 cup frozen raspberries, thawed
- 1⁄3 cup + 2 tablespoons bulk sugar substitute
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Using a blender or food processor, puree raspberries with the 2 tablespoons of sugar substitute, until smooth.
- With an electric mixer on high, whip the cream just until frothy. Add the sugar substitute, and vanilla extract. Whip on high speed until soft peaks form. Be careful not to overwhip, or the whipped cream will break down.
- Use a spoon to mix in the raspberry puree, leaving visible streaks of red with peaks of white. Spoon into parfait glasses and serve chilled. Garnish with fresh or frozen raspberries and mint, if desired.
Don’t be a “fool” and let these sit around—the sooner you eat them the better, as real whipped cream quickly breaks down over time.
Use strawberries if you don’t have raspberries, and top with cocoa powder mixed with a little sugar substitute for added decadence! Or use almond extract in place of the vanilla and add 1⁄4 cup of ricotta sweetened with 2 tablespoons sugar substitute instead of the berries for cannoli parfaits.
Blueberry Cheesecake Mousse
Decadent Fruit-on-the-Bottom Parfaits
By George Stella / StellaStyle.com
Prep Time: 15 min | Serves: 6
Calories: 240 | Fat: 21g | Protein: 3.5g | Total Carbs: 10.5g – Fiber: 1g = Net Carbs: 9.5
From the French meaning “perfect,” parfait sure thinks highly of itself.… But with good reason! It’s cool, sweet, smooth, and even easy on the eyes. Especially this variation, which is swirled with violet streaks of mouthwatering, fresh blueberry purée. It’s like a succulent, edible galaxy of fruit and cream.
- 2 cups blueberries, plus additional for garnish
- 1⁄3 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar substitute, divided
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1+1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1⁄2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- Fresh mint, for garnish
- Using a blender or food processor, purée blueberries with the 2 tablespoons of sugar substitute, blending until smooth. Set aside.
- With an electric mixer on high, whip the heavy cream, just until frothy.
- Add the 1⁄3 cup of sugar substitute, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and softened cream cheese to the mixer and whip on high speed, just until soft peaks form. Be careful not to over-whip.
- Use a spatula to fold 1⁄4 of the blueberry purée into the cheesecake mousse, leaving visible streaks of blue and white.
- Spoon an equal amount of the remaining 3⁄4 of blueberry purée into the bottom of 6 parfait glasses. Top each with the swirled cheesecake mousse and serve chilled. Garnish with fresh blueberries and mint, if desired.
Fresh or frozen blueberries can be used in this recipe, though frozen blueberries should be thawed before blending.