Bayless' Recipe for Better Living
By Ben Goldberger
Staff Reporter, Chicago Sun-Times
If Rick Bayless were a little more on edge, it'd be understandable. After all, he runs two of the most popular restaurants in Chicago, regularly appears on TV and turns out acclaimed cookbooks, all while keeping tabs on an adolescent daughter.
Bayless, though, is a model of calm.
And despite the demands on his time and the temptations to eat more of his work, he keeps fit.
Which was not always the case. As an adolescent, Bayless says he was an "unathletic, Hostess-cupcake, 'Gilligan's Island'-reruns" kind of kid. By his mid-40s, after years in the restaurant business, he was out of shape and 25 pounds overweight.
Determined to get healthy, he found yoga and a new outlook on food.
"I started doing yoga for the same reason a lot of people start it: balance for a stressed lifestyle," says Bayless, who is in his early 50s. "I needed that balance."
Yoga, he says, "gave me the opportunity to understand my body in a different way . . . I began to understand what my body needed in terms of nutrition, physical activity, physical challenge."
Bayless decided he needed to incorporate strength training into his yoga regimen. Now, he works out six mornings a week for 45 minutes to an hour, practicing Anusara yoga and weight training on alternate days.
Besides helping his fitness, doing yoga prompted Bayless to change his approach to food and nutrition.
"Here I was nourishing other people's bodies," he says, "but I really didn't know what the body was about."
He decided he needed balance in his diet. To achieve that, Bayless looked to the Mexican cultures he's spent his life studying.
"In traditional cultures, you eat differently during the week than you do on the weekend," he says. "In our culture, we want to eat the weekend food all during the week."
Weekends are for communal feasting, he says, while weekday food is simpler, healthier and easier to prepare. Weekdays, Bayless starts his day with yogurt, whole-grain cereal and berries. Throughout the day, he makes time for a series of protein-heavy snacks -- say, a chicken taco with a side of beans.
For lunch and dinner, he splits one appetizer and one entree from his restaurant menus with his wife, Deann. He's cut down on calories by trimming the size of his portions and eliminating processed foods, juices and pop, and he tries to eat mostly what he calls "perimeter foods" -- the fruits, vegetables, meats and grains that usually are set up along the boundaries of supermarkets.
Not one diet for everyone
Bayless is crystalizing his balance-centered approach to living into a book, Everyday Mexican, due out in the fall.
"I don't think there is one diet for everybody, one exercise plan for everybody," he says.
But he says he thinks his ideas will strike a chord.
"It's that balance between what I eat, when I eat it, how much I get a chance to be physical and all of that, balanced with these wonderful sort of blow-off-the-top feasts. And I don't think that that's too hard of a concept for people to get."
©2005 Chicago Sun-Times