January 28, 2008 12:00 PM

Lost 55 lbs!

Lee Anne Wong

Top Chef culinary producer and an executive chef at a cooking school

Watching herself as a contestant on the first season of Top Chef, she thought, “I could stand to lose a few pounds,'” says the 5’2″ Wong, then 185 lbs. But back at work at New York’s French Culinary Institute, students again thrust pastries at her, imploring, “Try this!” She also became Top Chef’s culinary producer, stocking the kitchen with “bacon, foie gras—everything.” Wong, 30, talked to holistic counselor Andrea Beaman—one of her TC competitors!—who suggested a liquid fast, which, she says, “reset my palate.” (Consult a doctor before fasting.) After that, Wong started eating breakfast (usually a fiber bar and a green apple), cut back dairy and ate more produce and unfamiliar whole grains like faro and buckwheat (available at health food stores). Besides getting her down to 130 lbs., the change “opened up a whole new world of food for me.”

Rocco DiSpirito

Cookbook author, former star of The Restaurant
Creating the 175 entrees in his latest book, Rocco’s Real Life Recipes, DiSpirito, 41, sampled many more. “You’re talking about thousands,” he says. And we don’t mean spa food, but hearty fare like beef with crispy potatoes. To offset his intake, the 6’1″, 185-lb. chef exercises—a lot. “I call it my Ironman diet,” says DiSpirito, who two years ago hit 216 lbs. and had barely been active since eighth grade. In 2006 he tried a mini-triathlon (swim half a mile, bike 15, run three). He loved it, lost weight and now swims daily, and in a week he can bike 100 miles and run 25. The payoff? “I can eat with impunity.”

Lost 45 lbs! (and still eats dessert!)

Deborah Snyder

Head pastry chef at Alto and L’Impero restaurants, N.Y.C.

“Cookie dough and chocolate mousse end up on your finger, and you put it in your mouth,” says Snyder, 39. Her recipes aren’t low-fat (“butter is there for a reason”), yet the 5’2″ Snyder has lost 45 lbs. since joining Weight Watchers last March. Yoga also helps, as does restraint. Now she may taste just a few bites, but Snyder will have dessert when dining out—and thinks everyone should. “I hate when people order fruit!”

Lost 54 lbs!

Jeremy Emmerson

Executive chef, San Francisco

To most people “portion control” means smaller meals. For chefs, every bite counts. Back when the 6-ft. Emmerson, most recently of San Francisco’s Four Seasons Hotel, was 242 lbs., “a taste of gratin potatoes would have been 8 oz.” Now, it’s “half an ounce,” says the chef, 38, who was moved to slim down after his dad died in 2005 at 71. He started running and changed his family’s menu (whole wheat pasta) and the restaurant’s (“skinny” duck salad is new). Emmerson marvels at the results, and not just his. “One customer was so stoked with what I did, she got a trainer and lost 70 lbs.”

Get chef Jeremy Emmerson’s low-fat recipe for pasta and turkey meatballs at PEOPLE.COM/meatballs.

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