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Chefs' Health

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
This may seem an odd question, but I am interested....

As a chef, do you feel your overall health is hindered or assisted by the chef lifestyle? Is the constant motion enough to be a good workout for the day? Do you need to take extra steps to workout to stay fit? Have any of you felt a premature decline in your mobility...like shoulder or wrist pains?

I know this seems an odd question, but I have never heard this discussed. I am sure everyone's experiences vary, but I can't help but think the constant motion actually helps overall health.

(P.S. this query was a result of hearing about the guy who started Baskin Robbins ice cream shops who died of a heart attack at age 41? 51? Too much fatty food digestion?) Thanks in advance!
post #2 of 31
I take the extra step and joined a gym, for me it helps, I have dropped 14 pounds and numerous inches, I have more strength..the restaurant where I work I make all of our bread and I really need the upper body strength to roll out dozens of hamburger buns. In the early '90's I developed carpal tunnel, had the surgery and ended up with permanant nerve damage..so the working out has also helped me to develop or regain the strength in my right arm..plus I eat right, take vitamins..hey whatever works, you know.
post #3 of 31
To occupational health risks associated with the chef's job such as carpal tunnel syndrome, or back problems, I'd add "lifestyle" risks like alcohol and drug abuse. In the UK there's even a charity which educates catering students and employees about alcohol dependency and other drug misuse.
post #4 of 31
Certainly there are many health risks involved in being a professional cook. Alot of guys I know are pretty fat from their diet, unhealthy, and with the alcohol and drug abuse... Sure you're on your feet all day long, so it's better than working in an office in that sense, but theres still health risks, especially being around so much fatty food.

That being said, I myself am in great shape because I take care of myself (6'1" and a very lean 190 pounds). I lift weights 4-5 times a week, run every single day, and eat very healthy. I still taste all my food, and eat quite a bit of fatty food at work, however I make up for it by eating only natural foods - absolutely NO junk food whatsoever. I do indulge in alcoholic beverages (mostly beer and wine) in moderate amounts, however I don't drink nearly as hard as I used to, or many cooks do, and I don't do any drugs. I do work the pastry section at work (another potential hazard diet-wise), but my pastries are made using only natural products, and the other cooks are more than happy to do some tasting for me :)

I won't lie though, it takes alot of work. I spend almost enough time in the gym to be considered a second job, and managing a proper diet is also quite tough, especially when you often only have time for 2 meals in a day... I make time for all this though by not partying after work, I don't live the typical 'cook' lifestyle (used to, got out of it).

Anyhow, the lifestyle is a definite detriment to many peoples' health, I see it all the time at the restaurants I work at or visit. But like many other things in life, it still comes down to personal choice, and it doesn't need to be a bad lifestyle.
post #5 of 31

Well...as far as I know Mr. Baskin died at age 56.Yes and no...

I know that the constant need to move is good for you in a wide variety of ways.

With me, when I'd get to work suddenly all of my achy joints would suddenly disappear. End of work? <don't ask>

They <whoever THEY are> say that gardening is great exercise...I can't imagine that what we do wouldn't qualify as a terrific workout. Lifting, bending, stretching...movement...it's all good.

However...I also know that most kitchen, line cooks, kitchen crew...all wore support hose. No kidding. Sorry but gravity works. I was severely getting swollen ankles until I was guided to them.

The guy who developed Baskin Robbins? Personally I believe it's all in your genes how you tolerate anything. I don't remember about the situation,
post #6 of 31

Well...as far as I know Mr. Baskin died at age 56.

From what I can find I believe Mr. Robbins is still alive. He'd be about 88 but hey...

Back then...(and yeah I was born at the tail end of that particular time frame) in the 50's, 60's...there weren't any food police trying to save us from ourselves...<thank GOD>. I believe from experience and my years of just paying attention and listening to my mom that 99.9% of physical problems are genetic. As in being predisposed to sensitivity to different 'stuff'. That includes everything. Heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, ...even your ability to fend off flu and colds. It all falls back on survival of the fittest. We may think better than our ancestors but we are still all a result of genetics and evolution.

I mean, what about that health nut jogger dude that died at 44 compared to George Burns that ate anything he wanted, smoked and drank all the time or Julia Childs who lived to almost 100 and atributed her longevity to red meat and gin?

I'm wondering who would have died a happier person.

Of course back then life was more simple. There wasn't any intense need to compete or prove yourself or new techniques to impress like 'foams' or pretense or... you just made good food and that was that. It was all good.

In the immediate reality land, what I have experienced is so many physical and mental issues surrounding the food industry. Every single kitchen crew, line, prep cooks that I know of that are on their feet for 8+ hours a day wear support hose. Carpal tunnel is a common problem. Stress levels are in the red range.

HOWEVER...I can't think of an aerobic exercise class that could even come close to what we do.

Does anyone else experience a total pain off switch when you're working? I do. I can feel like total crap and when I get to work suddenly I don't feel a thing. When I leave my kitchen it's a completely different situation. So I usually go home and cook some more.

I dunno...maybe it's a masochistic thing going on.

April
:beer:
post #7 of 31
Health is a pretty broad subject. The age at which you die at is governed by heridatary factors, on-the-job factors ( policeman, fireman, or insurance salesman..) and a zillion other things, but how fit or how well you look after your body is not a factor.

As others have said, there is a fair amount of alcohol and substance abuse, but the toll that stress takes on our bodies trumps everything else. According to my docotor's charts, I am the ideal wieght I should be taking into consideration my height and age, yet I suffer from tendonitis (no I've never played a game of tennis, or golf for that matter) and my feet are a mess: Achilles tendonitis, plantar facitis, and just plain ol' flat feet which require orthotics, the result of too many hours of standing. My personal life is O.K., which isn't the case for many others in this field. Gawd knows how many divorces I've seen, and even attended a suicide funeral a few years back.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #8 of 31
I edited this quote to fit me a little better. I couldn't agree more. My heels and feet are permanently messed up, I can make them a little better with orthotics, maybe even a little surgery. Same with my wrists and right elbow. My left retina is permanently scarred from exploding grease (only affects me during allergies and tiredness) nerve damage from cuts, one heart attack from a series of 18 & 20 hour non stop days, and a a cardiac arrest and a defibrillator thanks to the scar tissue left from the heart attack. Yeah I'm a walking mess, but **** I still look good! :rolleyes: It is better to look good, than to feel good, and I look mahvalous"!:lol:
My latest musical venture!
http://myspace.com/nikandtheniceguys
 
Also
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
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My latest musical venture!
http://myspace.com/nikandtheniceguys
 
Also
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
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post #9 of 31
I I once worked in a 15 man kitchen, 8 of which were in recovery from drugs and alcohol(including myself), the others needed to be. ha I go to the gym to get away, I used to go to work to get away but since cellphones and the idea that everyone should be available all the time has happened, it's hard to get away. I think it is important for sanity to get away. I use the gym, no pockets for cellphones! I think what's just as important as exercising mucles is stretching muscles (it lowers stress). In a kitchen you start in the am at medium posture and go downhill from there. When you go to the gym you get to move your muscles the other way, stretch them back out.

I'm not trying to sell you on fitness it's just what I use. I have found that it effects my overall mood and tolerance level. I lived in south beach for 4 years and worked 100 hr weeks. The ONLY free time I had was on the way to work. I would sacrifice 20 minutes of sleep in order to ride my bike the long way to work. It was the only thing that kept me going. Well, maybe the women too. Riding down the beach wasn't so bad! :lol:

Give it a shot, if it doesn't help you can always stop.
" Never fry bacon naked!"

-Powers
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" Never fry bacon naked!"

-Powers
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post #10 of 31
I just checked out ok.
Yeah, I'm overweight.
But I don't smoke, and my cholesteral and triglycerides are in normal range.
Normal EKG and BP also.
I also don't do any dope and drink moderatly.
My workplace related problems seem limited to muscle and joint damage, though the psyche takes a pounding also.
So not bad for 47 I guess.
post #11 of 31

on my way to a heart attack is what they tell me!

i am up and down. meaning for a while i will be going to the gym, eating right not drinking very much(2 beers a day-if that at all). i get great sleep all that good stuff. then their are the times were im drinking every night in major excess ,not sleeping very well, never going to the gym(and still paying for it) not eating very well. my good freinds tell me im going to have a heart attack if i dont slow down, or find a new outlet for all the stress related to my job.

most days im stuck with a lot of lower back, knee and hand pain. this yr alone i have thrown my back out 2 times. 2 times way to many. i dont know how much of this stuff i can take.
Sweet Jesus
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Sweet Jesus
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post #12 of 31
Two of the biggest health risks in professional kitchens in my view are:
1. extra hard floors that become slippery when wet and/or oily
2. loud hood fans

Even with perforated floor mats kitchen floors are hazardous. The floor mats tend to become slippery when wet or oily which often leads to torquing of the joints during ordinary work. I suffer from permenent joint problems in my elbows, knees and lower back from the years of long hours on such floors.

Hood fans-often the decibels emitted by these fans are louder than a rock concert. Why do you think there is so much yelling in a pro kitchen? One place I worked, my ears would ring for about two hours after I left for the day. Now I also have hearing damage from the long term exposure.

In addition to the other problems mentioned here, these two are often overlooked as occupational hazards because their effects show up in the long term and are difficult to document.

www.foodandphoto.com

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

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www.foodandphoto.com

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

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post #13 of 31

in my job i am constantly running up and down stairs 12 hrs or more 5 days a week sometimes even a few weeks at a time more to do sweets and starters because the owner wont bring in a sufficent number of staff to properly run the place as a result i have verry muscalur legs ...but because of the pressure ive been under constantly i started smokin grass 2 days of the week and eventually moved on to a harder LEGAL substance that is taking over my life and as long as i have the money to fund the problem i dont think i can stop so i would say my overall health is very very bad ..forgot to mention we have no staff meal wen we work so i usually eat 1 meal a day at breakfast and constantly eat sweet thing throughout the day  

post #14 of 31

I know 50 to 100 chefs who are under pressure daily  and don't do what you are doing. You are looking for trouble down the line so beware. Please do not use the job as a cover for your weakness to fall into these habits. Good luck and here is hoping for you.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #15 of 31

We will sell you our recipes.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #16 of 31

I'm really surprised that the major things that I feel like impact my health haven't already been mentioned.  Being right in the middle of the sautee section, next to the fryers and next to the grill, I feel like I'm constantly catching breaths of heavy smoke.  This is when it's getting really crazy at night and all sections are being heavily used and things are going in and out of the ovens.  I also have a terrible appetite after I'm done working a busy shift during the weekend.  The last thing I want to do is look at food.. this makes me feel pretty unhealthy.

post #17 of 31

Out of being bored I took a part time job with Zach Bell(Jame Beard 3 time award winner)  I am to old to work a line, so I make all the hot hors d ourves and do all the meat and poultry butchering, and help the younger guys with prep. (PLACE DOES CLASSICAL AND MODERN UPSCALE CUISINE)

. I am in a 44 degree fridge abot 6 hours a day and am 70 years old don't smoke, dont drink .Go to my Doc every 3 monthes for complete checkup. I would say I am pretty lucky.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #18 of 31
Chefedb, you may be my new hero. I hope when I am seventy I will be fit enough to butcher. On that train anyone does is anyone have any good advice on quitting smoking? It may be the hardest thing I have ever tried to do. Maybe I'm just a big old sissy with no willpower, but I just can't seem to put it down. I just imagine alll the things I will be able to taste and smell when I get this out of my system
post #19 of 31

Dardeau,

 

Try a ziploc bag full of lemon wedges, everytime you get an urge , pull out a piece and take a good bite. After 3 days my brother had no desire to look at another cigarette.

Petals

Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(161 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
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Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(161 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
Reply
post #20 of 31

dardeau,

just as the last poster said... same thing almost... replace with another oral fixation, snacking on nuts, m&ms, gum or in my case.... swedish fish. (yeah i'll probably loose my teeth)

post #21 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by BenRias View Post

This may seem an odd question, but I am interested....

As a chef, do you feel your overall health is hindered or assisted by the chef lifestyle? Is the constant motion enough to be a good workout for the day? Do you need to take extra steps to workout to stay fit? Have any of you felt a premature decline in your mobility...like shoulder or wrist pains?

I know this seems an odd question, but I have never heard this discussed. I am sure everyone's experiences vary, but I can't help but think the constant motion actually helps overall health.

(P.S. this query was a result of hearing about the guy who started Baskin Robbins ice cream shops who died of a heart attack at age 41? 51? Too much fatty food digestion?) Thanks in advance!


I think getting extra exercise would help maintain a healthy life style. Being a chef allows you to engage in some pretty "rich" cuisine.. I lift weights so that's what helps me keep the extra pounds off.

 

post #22 of 31

49 years old, my wrist hurt sometimes, I try not to carry my pans full of food in a way that makes them hurt, (like one handed over my head), also stopped pushing the walk in door open with my foot, I think its helping, Most heart attack cases are caused by stress and probably over drinking, I lost some weight, lift wieghts, ride a mountain bike, swim, eat only real food, starting making big batches of lentils, quinoua, vegetables, and take to work for lunch, I feel pretty good, The one food I had to give up was hot dogs, dont like to cook for myself after working all day and would find myself microwaving hot dogs all the time. Still have to have a good one once or twice a year (Hempler bun buster) I do love beer, but limit myself, have cocktails 3 or 4 times a week, and some red wine on my day off.

post #23 of 31

chefedb...  I spend about 40 hours a week in a 30-40 degree room depending on where I am and it hasnt affected me at all... if anything it's kept me healthier than if I worked at room temperature on a hot line.

 

Healthwise for me this is  a second career so I think I have a different take on things.  I'm not a big drinker (never was even in my youth) so I don't have that issue to deal with and I just like food.  I have allergies so I need to be careful but with my worst one (eggs) I've never had a problem.

 

My knees and feet hurt most of the time but that's age and other issues going on, not job related.

 

 

OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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post #24 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by BenRias View Post

As a chef, do you feel your overall health is hindered or assisted by the chef lifestyle? Is the constant motion enough to be a good workout for the day? Do you need to take extra steps to workout to stay fit? Have any of you felt a premature decline in your mobility...like shoulder or wrist pains?

I know this seems an odd question, but I have never heard this discussed. I am sure everyone's experiences vary, but I can't help but think the constant motion actually helps overall health.

I'm 67 years old. My first paying job cooking was 51 years ago. For many years, I was the lead chef in my late wife's very successful catering operation. This was in addition to my own profession, which required minimal physical activity. I have had carpal tunnel surgery and two C5, C6, C7 discectomy/laminectomy spinal surgeries. The neurosurgeon attributes all the problems to repetitive motion, concrete floors, working under fatigue and duress, and the slicing/dicing posture that requires the head being bent forward and down to clearly view the work. I've dealt with L4, L5 herniated discs and sacroiliac dysfunction, all related to hours spent endlessly on concrete kitchen floors. And, I'm still considered by my peers to be a jock. Other than recuperative times, recovering from surgery, I've always spent significant time in the gym every day. I've used the best personal trainers and physical therapists for decades. I know how to exercise and rehab. The fact is,  cooking professionally is hard physical labor, usually in an environment that is overheated, noisy, and laden with stress. I don't think anyone anyone who spends 12 hours on a concrete floor, performing repetitive motions, including plenty of heavy lifting, is going to escape numerous physical problems.

Like Chef Ed, for whom I have sincere respect, I got bored and lately began farming myself out to a couple of caterers. I enjoy being active again, but it's a rare morning when I don't arise feeling stiff and sore at every joint. Of course, age is a factor, but the environment and activity of the kitchen, I'm quite certain, is far more a causal factor. It's a trade-off. I accept the pain so I can enjoy the horsepower of the kitchen. 

 

And, to answer the initial question, do you do have to take extra steps, besides what goes on in the kitchen, to stay in shape? Yes, absolutely, unequivocally.

I also think it's absolutely imperative to establish a healthy personal eating regimen. How many of us have taken the majority of our caloric intake by literally eating kitchen scraps? 

post #25 of 31

wow rsteve,

between your profile and your last post your life reads like a novel......pretty interesting life....

as to this thread...exercise and diet are most key and go hand in hand. enough good sound sleep is equally important as well and seems to come more easily when the first two are in play...as humans i do not think we are meant to be sedentary...we are machines and are built to move and move we must to keep all systems funtioning properly... lubing the pipes so to speak. i also think people take waay too many vitamins and supplements...we will take anything that promises longer life, better sex, fuller hair, keener memories, sharper brains....do we really need that much snake oil? i don't think so...we need to be pro active and active  about our health......so get moving, or keep moving!  my personal challenge lies in being able to shut the machine down at night. all jazzed up froma busy night and nowhere to go. last thing i'm thinking is down dog or lion poses. so, its prep lists and order lists for the next day which will be just as busy, music, tea and CT....sometimes a sip in the right direction as well! wink.gif

equally as important as good physical well being is mental health. certainly a bit harder to achieve at times. we MUST take and make the time for fun...for playtime..with family, friends, pets, lovers...whatever you got...a walk, a talk, a picnic, get your hair done, get a massage, go dancing, drink some wine in the middle of th eday, laugh a lot...whatever it takes to share and remove yourself from your daily grind.  when th espirit is renewed it's easier for the body to handle the physical, emotional and mental stress of a kitchen and the whole restaurant life.. not to wax poetic, but life is just too damn short and fleeting and the graveyards are full of indispensible people! so take care of yourselves chefs....

joey

oh, and drink lots and lots of water...hydration is muy importante!!!


Edited by durangojo - 3/8/12 at 6:46am

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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post #26 of 31

I`m still learning this business, but my issues sure are beer and not eating enough... I try to make some sport exercise in home, when i`m not in work, but that`s pretty much all. When i have 16pm-00am shift i usually eat breakfast and then snacking whatever is around in kitchen. That`s not good, but i`m see that is difficult to change that way. What comes to drinking, just makes same mistakes than other my age will do. So i`ts okay. :D

post #27 of 31

I can remember all the hard work bending, stretching, carrying hot pots and pans, cutting myself, burning myself.

As the years went on, I became almost immune to getting those small cuts, and wouldn't even notice them until after I got home, had taken a  shower and noticed my skin was torn in several places.

To this day, my hands are covered with callouses and I have very little if any feeling in the tips,and  I can still handle hot pans without pads.  

 

After a few years I realized I had to take better care of myself and joined a health club.

I worked the stair climber every other day for many years followed by a weight lifting training cycle.

I lost a lot of weight and was able to get around with less huffing and puffing.

 

 

My main problem has and is to this day the fact that I can't eat while I am work cooking it.

I tried bring my food from home like a "bag lunch" but never found time to sit and eat as I was always too busy.

When I worked for Marriott we had to take a mandatory break and punch out for it. That way I was able to eat at the employee cafeteria.

 

My best advice would be to take good care of yourself. Eat well.....and I mean "food" not food products, that carry too much carbs and useless calories.

 

post #28 of 31

For myself, my biggest kitchen related health issue right now is that I was just diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  Sucks.  I've been having issues with my hands for several months and now my doctor's best advice to me is to change professions which doesn't really seem like an option I want to take.  Have any of you had to deal with CTS?  What did you do and what worked?  I'd like to avoid surgery if possible...

 

As to Dardeau, when I really wanted to quit smoking and just couldn't get anything to actually work, I finally went to a hypnotist and haven't smoked one since.  I used no patches, lozenges, gum, etc.  I walked out of the appointment and just felt no need for a cigarette since.  It feels like it was a magical solution.  PLUS!  Unlike most former smokers that I know, I don't feel all preachy when people are smoking around me, its cool, I'm fine.  I'd say its worth a try and if it works for you the price of it will pay for itself in the amount of money you save by not buying packs.

post #29 of 31

Hello pastrylady,

 

Sorry to hear that,

Are you able to wear wrist support braces at night ?

 

Petals.

Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(161 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
Reply

Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(161 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
Reply
post #30 of 31

I don't know, it's an excellent question - I guess the work wears me down, but keeps me fit?

 

I mean, on a good day, I guess I can cover close to 10-12 miles over the course of a 16 hour day. I guess that's as good as a workout as people who go to the gym get, and I do that 4 days a week.

On the other hand, the repetitive work, the strain and stress, I am very well aware that I'll be lucking to be able to work much past 40 if I'm not careful.

 

We don't eat very healthy, although we are aware of this as well, and portion size is generally quite small, with plenty of protein and a salad to help you stay full during service.

Also, at the smallest mention of any "proper" pain ("I'm sore", or "oh my feet hurt" don't count for nothing, suck it up and keep going) - But knees, back, shoulders or chronic problems with your feet, you're sent to the doctor, no questions asked.

 

I consider myself fairly healthy, not necessarily fit, but healthy. And one more thing, I'd always imagined it was the big, heavy chefs, who would have problems first, but the only chef I know of right now to struggle a bit with ailments is a small, skinny one - And it's feet related. So I guess you can never take things for granted.

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