Tony Tobin - Run for your life!

Kitchen Diaries: With many of us on a New Year health-kick, celeb chef Tony Tobin shares some advice on staying in shape

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine January 2009Kitchen Diaries: With many of us on a New Year health-kick, celeb chef Tony Tobin shares some advice on staying in shapeThe 26th of April. Sorry, it's not a dinner invitation, it's just a date when I will be sweating, aching and cursing the fact that I hadn't done as much preparation as I'd promised myself I would. No, it's not some newfangled TV combination of Gladiators and Ready, Steady, Cook, it's just that I will be running the London Marathon. I've got my place and I'm thrilled to bits. So, I'm devoting my column this month to diet and exercise - safe in the knowledge that thousands of you will have exactly the same items near to the top of your own resolution lists. Let me guess... Before you crumple up your list and slip back into your old ways, it looked something like this: 1. I will get fit 2. I will give up [insert bad food habit: usually chocolate, take-aways or fry-ups] 3. I will eat more [insert healthy catch-all: usually fresh fruit, fresh veg, fibre] 4. I will cut down on [insert favourite alcoholic beverage] So I, Tony Tobin, will give you a few basic tips that I promise will get you closer to the you-you-want-to-be. Now, I know the joke - 'you should never trust a thin chef' - but I think that was in the days before we saw James Martin and Gary Rhodes on Strictly Come Dancing or Gordon Ramsay completing the marathon in 3:46 (I wish!). No, what has really helped to make me a slightly better-toned chef is understanding how my body works. Any body is a machine. Give it the right fuel, oil it, clean it and keep it running and it will work optimally. Overlook any of these factors and it all goes - quite literally - pear-shaped. Most people starting a new year's resolution regime of food denial and exercise try too hard. The years of 'no pain, no gain' and 'feel the burn' persuaded us that 'if it ain't hurting, it ain't working'. Not true. If you push a machine too hard it will break. By the same token, if you don't start the engine for months at a time, it will struggle. When it comes to fitness, it is better to exercise more gently and regularly for longer if you want to burn fat. So if you're aged 40 and running on a treadmill for half an hour with your heart rate above 160, you will end up beetroot-coloured and you'll feel the Fonda pain, but you probably won't burn nearly as much fat as running gently at a heart rate of 140 beats per minute for twice as long. It is fat we all want to lose but if we push ourselves too hard we start using up more of the available carbohydrate in our muscles (called glycogen) and end up starving afterwards. So we eat to replenish those carbs and probably stay around the same weight. Fresh food is key A habit of gentle to moderate exercise undertaken frequently plus plenty of fresh food (that you prepare and cook yourself) will burn off that pesky fat and get you sustainably fit. Although you won't be building Daniel Craig-esque muscles, your bingo wings will recede and the muffin top that used to adorn the top of your jeans will also back off gracefully. Now, I'm conscious that there's not much kitchen diary going on here so I'll put my chef's hat back on. You've heard me say this before, the key to a good diet is fresh food that you prepare and cook yourself: lean white meat and fish, green steamed veg, rice and complex carbohydrates. The problem with healthy food is that people on health kicks think that the average plated meal must be an elixir of life, health and beauty. It must be delicious but also packed with vitamins; delightfully prepared but still fresh. It must contain imagination and antioxidants, care and carbohydrates. It must be fat-free but still creamy. In short, it must taste like everything it shouldn't be and yet still react with your innards like something from Gillian McKeith's wildest dreams. Wrong. You don't get fit in one day and you don't reform your diet with one meal. You change over time by changing your buying habits from ready meals to steady meals, from pre-prepared to self-prepared, from take-away to break-away. I have been cooking meals professionally for very nearly 30 years yet there's still nothing like simple food, well-cooked. Take a look at this month's recipe. Not difficult. Not fancy. But this is the sort of food I'll be eating in the lead-up to the marathon. As a potential sub-four-hour marathon runner come Sunday April 26, I promise you that my way works. Steady, fresh and simple. And that, by the way, describes my approach to food and exercise, not me personally. Finally, if you see me in the street, I'll have my sponsorship form with me so feel free to stop me.

Rice and Mixed Vegetable Stir-fryThis is the simplest of recipes and provides you with all of the slow-release carbs and vitamins you'll need to help you run faster! When I want to increase my protein intake a little (good for sustained exercise), I use this dish and add some diced salmon or tuna or some king prawns if I'm feeling extravagant. Try throwing raw baby spinach leaves in at the end for an extra fresh taste. Ingredients

125g Basmati rice to go into a pan of boiling salted water 1 small egg A little olive oil 1 spring onion � clove garlic crushed 200g vegetables of your choice. I do broccoli, ginger, green beans, fresh peas, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin (at this time of year) and carrots, which I prefer to cook in water first. All the vegetables should be chopped up to about the size of the peas but they don't have to be uniform, just roughly chop them. 4 tablespoons dark soy sauce thinned with a little water, freshly chopped coriander and basil (the basil is a bit bizarre but I love it)


Cook the rice in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Strain and return to pan and allow to stand for a further 10 minutes. Heat the olive oil in a wok, crack the egg into it and then stir-fry the egg until golden brown using a wooden spoon to break the egg into small pieces. Add the spring onions and garlic and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. Throw in all the vegetables and cook for a further few minutes stirring well as you go Finally, add the soy sauce and coriander/basil, mix well and serve.

Tony Tobin has been a regular on the BBC's Ready Steady Cook for over a decade and runs two acclaimed restaurants in Surrey: The Dining Room in Reigate and POST in Banstead.

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