A TELEVISION chef who in 2019 lost a staggering 11 stones in weight hopes his story will inspire others in the New Year.
Matei Baran topped 28 stones when he reached the quarter finals of MasterChef: The Professionals in 2016.
He revelled in the nickname of Big Chef, even though his morbid obesity was causing major health problems and threatened to deprive him of seeing his young son grow up.
He would become breathless just tying his shoelaces and away from the kitchen his self-esteem plummeted, reviving memories of a suicide attempt when he was 21.
The Northern Echo: Matei Baran in January being interviewed for his new book. Pictures: STEPHEN BEECROFT
Matei Baran in January being interviewed for his new book. Pictures: STEPHEN BEECROFT
But he is looking forward to starting 2020 healthy, happy and fit.
Mr Baran, 41, who lives in Wallsend, said his dramatic change was brought about by two events.
First, with Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation, he launched Kitchen Therapy: a programme to help people, who had problems with their mental health and self-confidence, to learn to cook.
Then, a Polish mechanical engineer and mother-of-three living in Dublin responded to one of Matei’s social media posts.
Marysia Szmagara is also a fitness enthusiast and advocates the common-sense approach to losing weight: a healthy balanced diet and active lifestyle.
Mr Baran said: “Her support was just what I needed. She lifted the blinkers off my eyes and made me realise what was possible.
“The people who took part in Kitchen Therapy were so honest and brave. They were prepared to try something totally out of their comfort zones to help bring about a change in their lives.
“After so many years of putting on weight I was really scared at the thought of how I would go about losing it, but I just had to think about the men and women I helped through Kitchen Therapy, and my son Armin, for the motivation I needed.”
Mr Baran ate healthily, stopped having sugary drinks and joined a gym.
He said: “My message to anybody who is struggling with their weight and self-esteem is that if I can do it, so can you.
“It’s cost me a gym membership and some new clothes, but it’s bought me far more than that.
Mr Baran, who has run two 10k races, is now writing a book about his dramatic weight loss.
As well as his professional plans for 2020, Mr Baran is determined to continue to lead a healthy lifestyle.
He said: “I think you need to set yourself targets.
“I want to run a half marathon and, if possible, eventually a marathon.
“I now want to be known as the Healthy Chef.
“The Big Chef still exists, but only as a name I use for my business and as a reminder of how I used to be.”