Eating for Life

Obese chef shares strategies to cope with middle-age spread

David Alvarado is a man in a candy store.


A professionally trained chef and a manager at Russell Stover's new Village West store near the Kansas Speedway, Alvarado is constantly surrounded by the sort of sugary temptations that could make a serious, long-term dieter just give up.

"I'd been maintaining my weight loss until I started opening this store," says Alvarado, who lost 130 pounds through a medically supervised diet and counseling a year ago.

But the recent 12- to 14- hour days associated with the launch of a store set him back about 30 pounds. "Thank God I'm back to a regular schedule," he says. "I'm back on track again."

Alvarado was never overweight as a child. As an adult, a series of fast-paced, demanding jobs had him cruising through the fast-food drive-through nearly every night. By the time he was in his 40s, he weighed nearly 485 pounds.

After struggling with the devastating effects of obesity, which ranged from the everyday problems of fitting behind a steering wheel of a car to a life-threatening illness, Alvarado could have easily retreated from a culture that worships thinness. Instead, he has learned to cope with the prejudices of obesity and use them as a motivational tool.

"When people would stare at me in public, I'd tell myself, `This must be how Fabio feels,' " he says. "You need to have a sense of humor about it."

Alvarado's positive attitude has made him a role model. Last summer he taught healthy cooking and eating strategies to tweens, kids ages 9 to 13, as part of Kid Power KC, a citywide nutrition and physical education program designed to teach healthy lifestyle choices.

Alvarado's biggest obstacle remains the social aspects associated with sharing a meal with family and friends. It's hard when co-workers who are not "weight challenged" want to go out for a pizza. "You're in the minority," Alvarado says.

So he has learned to compensate.

"I still go to fast food, but I order the baked potato instead of fries. Or I order a turkey or veggie sub. I've learned some different ways to make it work with my fast-paced lifestyle."

His biggest gripe with the fast-food industry?

"Paying $6 for a small, dingy little salad," he says. "There's no attention, no effort made to make it look appetizing."

In the end, Alvarado advises anyone who wants to shed pounds or maintain their weight to simply toe the line.

"Everything is in moderation, really," he says. "If you see your belt's getting a little tight, you wake up and get back in gear. I keep thinking about how much more energy I will have if I lose another 100 pounds."