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Graham Elliot: 'Being healthy for my family was the trigger' to losing 130 lbs

Dec. 10, 2013 at 10:58 AM ET

Video: The once 400-pound chef, who lost 130 pounds after surgery and dieting, shares the meals that harmed and the ones that helped him take the weight off.

Tipping the scales at nearly 400 pounds, celebrity chef Graham Elliot finally realized he needed to make a drastic change to lose weight when his third son was born.

“I have a 6-, 3-, and one-year-old, and seeing them play and run around, the fact that I couldn't get down on the ground and roll around and play with them, I couldn't go to the park and play tag, or do any of those things,’’ Elliot told Natalie Morales and Al Roker on TODAY Tuesday. “I realized that it wasn't about me anymore. It wasn't about just how I looked or anything else, but being healthy for my family was the trigger.”

Elliot, who is a judge on the show MasterChef, underwent a sleeve gastrectomy, a surgical procedure that reduced his stomach to the size of a banana. Since undergoing the surgery in July, he has shed 130 pounds from his peak weight of 396 and completely changed his eating and exercise habits.

“They eliminate about 85 percent of your stomach and the part that creates the hormone that makes you feel hungry all the time, so now I feel full quicker,’’ he said. “I can still eat everything and try everything, just not a humongous portion, so I can still be a chef and do what I do.”

Elliot’s large body was part of his jovial presence on television, but he realized he had to shed that part of him to get healthy in a profession where he is surrounded by food all day.

“What I think is great is that you get even more of that from me now because I'm much more positive,’’ he said. “I think you accept this character. I'm the big guy, I'm this chef, no one trusts a skinny chef, all that, and then you get to a point where it's like, I don't care about that, ego, anything. I need to make the choice, whether it's surgery (or something else). I've tried the trainers, the gym, nothing is giving me the results I want. I have to do this now for my family.”

Instead of his old 2 a.m. snack of three cheeseburgers and fettuccini alfredo after he was done working, he now focuses on smaller portions and protein-packed foods. He also exercises regularly, having finished his first 5K race in his hometown of Chicago on Nov. 30. The transformation has altered his life in ways big and small.

“I can tie my shoes, (and) get in the car without having to hold my breath before I get in,’’ he said. “I can put my arms around my wife. All of those kinds of things, the small things that every second remind you that you're overweight, then you feel bad about yourself, then you eat more — it's this whole cycle.” 

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