How the keto diet is changing lives: An interview with the Ice Cold Chef

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I came across John, the Ice Cold Chef, on Instagram and boy I’m glad I did. His story and work instantly captivated me and I felt moved, inspired and uplifted.

John, who himself is a carer for his wife Bev, created a platform called Cookerysos. On this platform, John works tirelessly to help carers and families around the world change their lives and health through cooking simple, affordable and fresh meals. He has recently changed his diet to a keto diet (low carb, high healthy fats) and has seen some tremendous results.

I decided to reach out to John to find out more about him, how the ketogenic diet has helped him and wife, and what can we expect from the Cookerysos.

Tell us a bit about you. How was the Ice Cold Chef and CookerySos born?

Around 10 years ago my wife Bev (MrsJ as she is known across social media) was diagnosed with secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

It soon became apparent I would have to learn to cook as the progressive MS condition was taking hold. I had never cooked before, Bev had always done it and was exceptional at it as well. We enjoyed foods from all around the world. That’s when my lessons started in the home, Bev teaching me on the weekends as I prepared meals for the coming week.

One Saturday afternoon I was trying to make a lasagne, it just wasn’t happening for me. Looking back now I know I wanted to achieve it quicker but couldn’t as I didn’t have the knowledge. Bev and I had a disagreement over how it should be cooked. Bev then said to me ‘go and get a cold lager from the fridge in the garage’. I went and did just that, and I also brought her a glass of wine. We finished the lasagne that night and enjoyed the meal.

Twitter had just started at the time, we couldn’t go far and the idea of updating my meals and keeping in touch with the outside world sounded really good. I noticed people used various names. I thought of the ‘Ice Cold’ and added ‘Chef’ to it, at the time all for a bit of light-hearted humour. Here was me who couldn’t cook anything, now updating meals.

My bio explained what I was trying to do and why. Within a couple of weeks, professional chefs had picked up my tweets along with other restaurant/supplier contacts and then the real mentoring started. Chefs shared their knowledge and pictures of food to try pushing me out of my comfort zone and into a new area of cooking.

I can now bake/cook anything we need in the home, and that was the aim at the start, to be self-sufficient and have to wait for no one. That way we still had control of our lives and food choices.

It wasn’t long after that many carers started to contact me about my meals and asking for advice. That’s when Cookerysos was born, my meals are simple and achievable by all of us.

Recipes from the Cookerysos Blog. Photo credit: Ice Cold Chef

Later this month I will be working with our local NHS Surgery Team as a Practice Health Champion. Many more patients will be going home with one of my laminated recipe sheets and also have me talking them through the simple steps.

What does a typical day look like for you as a carer and an individual that has a day job?

A typical work day means an early start at 5.30am, that gives us time to get MrsJ ready and for all the chores to be completed first thing. Although, I look at the chores as challenges instead, that way your mind becomes motivated to achieving them instead of going through the motions, so to speak.

My day job is that of a Project Manager, this involves programming works/organising staff and always planning months ahead. At any time, these dates can change for a number of reasons, then the programme has to be adjusted to reflect this and adjustments made in the day to day running of my work.

Those systems have been adapted to suit our home life, as anyone will tell you who is fighting chronic health, plans can change at the last minute. The need to adapt quickly has to be expected to keep both us upbeat mentally.

I am lucky, I work in the same town where we live and always call back home at lunch to make sure we have a light lunch. On many days, this might be a leftover meal from the night before and served with a light veggie salad. Then it’s back to the office for the afternoon for any planned meetings and day to day works. I generally arrive back home around 5-5.30pm, get my suit off and get my casual clothes on. From there I get MrsJ comfy and her pj’s on before I make start on the evening meal.

Leading on from the last question, how do you manage a work/life balance?

I use the Project Management systems that I have used for a number of years. For example, my day job is electronically focused. Tasks are entered within timelines and this makes managing numerous projects much easier. I adapted those systems to help manage my time within the home. No time is ever wasted. As each task is completed that then motivates me on to the next task. Motivation becomes easy to achieve and the mindfulness zone is the kitchen. Any time spent in the kitchen frees my mind of any concerns through the day and allows me to relax mentally.

Cooking for me is a joy, over the years I have spent thousands and thousands of hours cooking or baking. It’s never a chore, the ability to come home and cook something special is so rewarding.

Do you put a lot of thought into planning meals for the week?

Both of us discuss the coming weeks’ plans for meals, decide what fish/meat/veggies we need and then I go and collect the provisions. Once we have the food in, every day around lunchtime we discuss what we fancy for that night’s meal. Sometimes the slow cooker is used, that decision would be made the night before. In a way, we are very flexible and have that ability to quickly change the meal plan if we need to.

How do you stay on top of cooking fresh meals considering the time constraints you have?

The countless hours of cooking at home and the mentoring from the Chef’s taught me the ability to keep cooking simple. I cook with foods all of us can purchase and use herbs/spices to change them very quickly into the food we want.

Over the years I’ve spent my pocket money on purchasing the kitchen equipment I need to help me out. The slow cooker is used often as is the sous vide bath, I also have a food processor/food mixer and blending sticks. All of the equipment reduces any constraints that I may have and makes life a whole lot easier.

Dessert Recipes from the Cookerysos blog. Photo credit: Ice Cold Chef

You’ve seen some incredible results for both yourself and your wife, since following a ketogenic/low carb diet. You’ve been able to bring your blood glucose level back down to normal, as well as some truly heart-warming improvements with MrsJ’s conditions. Tell us what it is like following this diet and the results you’ve experienced.

Just over 12 weeks ago I was diagnosed as being in the pre-diabetic stage. As I look after my wife MrsJ and work full time it became apparent that I had to get the levels down and look after me. I knew I couldn’t look after her if I didn’t look after myself. Our NHS surgery Team knew I would jump on it quickly and resolve the concern.

That night I put a tweet out asking for some advice and knew the answer lay inside the food we eat. My Chef mentors soon came to the rescue and mentioned the ketogenic way of eating. In just over 6 weeks I had reduced my blood glucose to 6:1 and I now hover around 6:1-6:2, my range is between 5-7.

Since eating the ketogenic way with a carb intake of around 50-75g per day, we noticed that undisturbed sleep had returned. For 10 years we had disturbed sleep as MS tremors would wake MrsJ and adjustments with the portable hoist would have to be made. Now we have a new habit of full sleep and as I type this we are heading towards 50 nights of relaxing sleep.

MS can cause pins and needles within the body, due to our new way of eating we have stopped them on the left-hand side of MrsJ’s body and dramatically reduced MS fatigue.

Over the 12 weeks, both of us have lost over 28lbs in weight, I don’t do the gym as I haven’t got the time, and MrsJ is in a sedentary position.

We have a long way to go, but with the advice of numerous low carb gurus, we are removing inflammation daily from the brain and body. Considering we didn’t have a cure for the progression of MS, all we had was hope. This way of eating is providing us both with much more and giving us our life back.

John and MrsJ weight loss transformation. Photo credit: Ice Cold Chef

I have always been moved by your mental strength and your ability to push forward in the face of adversity. What are your coping strategies?

All of us wake up and in many cases don’t want to get up at all, perhaps you are feeling tired? We don’t have that option, every day we have to get up and face the day ahead. Our days/systems never change, there is never a day off so let’s talk about how we achieve that.

As soon as I wake up and my feet touch the floor, I flick the biggest on/off switch in my mind to ON. Now I work through all the challenges in front of me before I leave for the office. It is no good looking at the whole day ahead of you, if you are not careful you will become overwhelmed and won’t want to do anything. Break the day down into stages, am/pm and then break the am down into smaller stages. Now work through the challenges, don’t call them chores, your mind soaks up information and whatever you tell it. My 1st stage in a morning is to get us both ready and then into my suit attire ready for the office. Sometimes in the morning, we can all have curve balls that appear to drop from the skies out of nowhere. We pick up the hardest one to deal with first, then the others fall into place very easily. Sometimes you can park one of them up and deal with it on your return home later in the day.

Never beat yourself up, it’s far too easier to be hard on yourself. I call those moments the “Hamsters Wheel” all that happens is that you will spin around and around without ever getting to the solution you are looking for. Picture that in your mind now and store it for the future, then instead of wasting energy spinning when things get tough, and they will, use the saved energy to look for a solution.

We all have the ability, I follow people that inspire me. Social media is a powerful tool, I don’t follow any negativity and keep like-minded people around me. That way I am inspired to keep pushing forward and in turn, changing our lives weekly in the face of adversity.

We use music playlists heavily in our home, those grab our minds and help to keep them strong. Lose any negativity around you and see how things start to change, don’t let anyone hold you back.

What are your plans for CookerySos in the future?

For us, it’s about making sure all who travels a similar road to ourselves can cook fresh food from basic ingredients that we can all purchase. Later this month I start working in my capacity as a Practice Health Champion at our local NHS Surgery and working with the Teams. I will be helping numerous patients with their nutritional needs and be issuing my recipes to all. Whilst they are with me they will learn my mindset and how to stay focused on the tough days, this added to the recipes will help many to lose weight and empower not only them but the family home.

Our way of cooking and looking after our health can help communities across the UK and around the world. The UK is suffering cutbacks everywhere, by eating simple cooked fresh food families will be able to take control of their lives. This would reduce the impact on the front-line services and allow that funding to be used elsewhere. The future of Cookerysos is very bright and it’s a great feeling to know it all started in our home and helping many more.

What is the best way for people to stay up to date with what you are doing?

Via my website, the Cookerysos blog where you can find all of our fresh, simple and, nutritious keto recipes.

Or you can find me on social media:

I would like to thank John for his time. I personally have found his journey truly inspirational and I believe we all would benefit from witnessing, not only just his way of life and healthy eating but also his positive attitude.