Head chef loses half his body weight in 13 months


Brendan Meeker, head chef at the Glenmoor Country Club in Canton, has lost 240 pounds over the past 13 months. After losing nearly half his body mass, Meeker made his progress public and created the “Glenmoor Life Challenge,” a program that other country club members could follow. Photo by Hannah Potes.

Rachel Hagenbaugh

At 521 pounds, the head chef of the Glenmoor Country Club slept with 17 pillows propping him up because he was afraid he would die if he lay down.

Thirteen months after making some lifestyle changes, chef Brendan Meeker weighs 276 pounds. He’s weighed more than 500 pounds three times in his life. His weight-loss strategy was not going to be a diet plan, but a lifestyle change.

In the Beginning

Meeker said he had various medical conditions when he weighed 521 pounds, including heartburn, constant indigestion, swollen ankles and bad knees. He was on a sleep apnea machine and took medicine for cardiac arrhythmia.

Because of his weight, it was difficult for him to fit in his car seat and impossible to sit in a seat at the movie theater. When he went to restaurants, he had to ask for a special chair that had armrests.

Meeker said a big problem was walking up stairs. Occasionally, he has to walk up three flights of stairs to a board room for meetings.

“It wouldn’t wind me — it would stop me in my tracks,” Meeker said.

Making a Change

Meeker said he saw an article in Time Magazine about celebrity chefs being responsible to the people they are cooking for. He said the article was about finding alternatives to fattening and high-calorie foods.

“I’m a businessman, not a couch potato; an executive chef,” Meeker said. “I have responsibilities.”

He had a talk with his general manager at the country club and put a plan together. Instead of a diet, they called it the “Glenmoor life challenge,” Meeker said.

The idea of this challenge was to involve everyone at the country club, Meeker said. He’d work out with the members, display his statistics on the wall and incorporate healthier items on restaurants’ menus.

Meeker said a lot of people try to make a change but don’t tell anybody. The idea was to let everyone in on it. When losing this much weight, it “takes a village,” Meeker said.

A New Lifestyle

Part of the challenge was assigning Meeker a personal trainer, nutritionist and psychologist.

The psychologist said he had to change the way he thought about himself. Meeker said she taught him to “love thy self” and told him if he’s going to care for others, he had to learn to care for himself.

Meeker said that was a difficult challenge because he’s not a selfish person. He wanted to do it for his new baby girl and his wife, but he had to learn to lose weight for himself.

The nutritionist played a huge part in his transformation, Meeker said. He said he always knew what to eat but never had anyone holding him accountable for it.

Meeker said his mentality for cooking and eating was “flour it, egg it, fry it all the time.” He never thought of grilling or roasting different dishes.

Besides cutting out the fried foods, Meeker said he learned to include a lot of fruits and vegetables into his daily diet. Now he eats fruit four times a day instead of four times a month. He said he learned to substitute three side dishes of chicken and potatoes for three side dishes of broccoli.

Since Meeker works around food all day, he found a trick to ease his cravings. He said he keeps a little celery, carrots and hummus next to him most of the time. If he feels hungry, he snacks on that instead of potato chips, cheese or french fries.

When Meeker went on vacation, he went off his plan but didn’t gain any weight. He said his idea of cheating was having a fried scallop or a few drinks, not going overboard or eating fast food.

“If you knew you were always going to this nutritionist, there was no cheating,” Meeker said.

Getting in Shape

Workouts started out small for Meeker and his personal trainer, Kim Sheridan, fitness director at Glenmoor Country Club. She said he had to use a heart monitor and doctor approval for a lot of his workouts.

“It was baby steps with him,” she said.

Sheridan said she started his workouts on the elliptical for five minutes and lifting for 15 minutes. After he got comfortable with the elliptical, Sheridan switched his workout to swimming. She said it’s important to change workouts so it doesn’t get boring.

After that, he began training for 5K runs and started spinning classes in October. Meeker said he’s come a long way since he started the program but still has difficulty doing crunches, plank position exercises and using the abdominal machine.

“It shows where I’m not done with this journey yet,” Meeker said. “I’m never going to be done with it.”

Living the New Life

Meeker said he’s excited for the warm weather so he can work in his yard. His housework tripled because he has a lot more energy, even after working 12- to 14-hour shifts.

He hasn’t been to Cedar Point in 20 years, but Meeker said it’s definitely on his list. He said he bought tickets for opening day at the Cleveland Indians game because he can fit in a box seat, instead of having to sit on the bleachers.

“It’s like every day is a whole new world for me,” he said.

At 521 pounds, Meeker wore a size 7X and had to shop at a specialty store. At 276 pounds he’s trying on X-large, 1X and 2X clothes. He said he can walk into a department store and not feel like an outcast. So far, he’s taken 11 bags of clothes to Salvation Army.

Meeker said this has been an emotional journey for him and his family. He said he sometimes catches his wife crying when he stands in front of the mirror. Her new thing is staring at him, Meeker said.

“My wife still cries every time she sees me put on a seat belt,” he said.

What’s Next

Meeker said he doesn’t know what the future will hold, but writing a book is definitely one of his goals. He said there’s so much more of the story to be told. Meeker’s current goal is to weigh 250 pounds, but he said he doesn’t think he’ll stop there.

“I’m still obese, but I look fantastic,” he said. “It’s great how I feel.”

Contact Rachel Hagenbaugh at [email protected].