Would you tell your other half to diet? Sculptor Beth Cullen Kerridge never tried to change her Michelin-starred chef husband Tom Kerridge, but now two stratospheric diet books later, they’ve lost 15 stone between them. Beth tells their story to Victoria Woodhall
The story of how Tom Kerridge came to outsell Joe Wicks' Fat Loss Plan and claim the number one diet book slot at the beginning of January 2018 is at heart, the story of a marriage. Lose Weight For Good , which puts flavour at the core of low-calorie eating was Tom’s second diet book, coming less than a year after the low-carb feel good Dopamine Diet, which saw him shed 12 stone. He's now released his third book, Tom Kerridge's Fresh Start , which is less about dieting and more a treasure trove of good home-cooked meal recipes for all the family.
The Kerridge empire, which includes three restaurants, two Michelin stars, five books, several TV shows and the Pub in The Park festival, is in no small part down to Tom's wife Beth Cullen Kerridge. The exuberant, smiley 48-year-old is mother to their two-year-old son Acey, boss of their restaurant business and an acclaimed sculptor, who honed her craft working in foundries and producing works for icons of the art world, such as Edwardo Paolozzi, Elisabeth Frink and Alberto Giacometti.
They met in 1997 – she was assisting artist Sir Anthony Caro and Tom, now 45, was a sous chef for Gary Rhodes in London. She asked him to marry her within six weeks of meeting. The sale of four of her sculptures helped them by their first flat, which eventually led to a loan to open The Hand and Flowers in Marlow. She put her artistic career on hold for several years to run the business as Tom's reputation grew and in 2011, The Hand and Flowers became the first pub to win two Michelin stars.
Beth finds it odd that people say she should have made Tom, who was 30 stone, and not a small man when they met, lose weight. “I find that really hard because if somebody told me that, I’d tell them to stick it!” she asserts. “You have to do it when you’re ready.”
It wasn’t only Tom’s weight that crept up. Beth reached a size 20 and now, inspired by Tom, has dropped three stone to a size 16 with a stone or two more in her sights. “If he can do it, I can do it. Bring it on!” she says.
Dramatic weight loss can break a marriage, but Beth and Tom are stronger than ever – physically and together as a couple. Beth tells their story.
"When we met, I was a ten-stone welder."
“I was a thin 25-year-old – you are then, aren’t you? You can eat almost anything. Tom was big. I don't know how heavy he was, much bigger than he is now. But I loved him as a person. I was never going to marry somebody because of how they looked, I need his heart and soul, not the other bits. It’s true! I love thin Tom too – he’s incredible.”
"New Year’s Day 2013 was Tom’s epiphany."
“I don’t think it was about weight - we were with friends at Gleneagles and it was a moment of ‘what the hell am I doing?’. Tom wanted a pint of Guinness on New Year’s Day morning and his biggest drinking buddy said ‘are you sure, Tom? It’s a bit early!’ And it was like, ‘hang on a minute, this guy is my drinking buddy and he’s worried about how much I’m drinking’. Pretty much straight away, it clicked. They all wore tartan and we have still got the suit we had made – and it’s so big. He can fit three of him in it now.”
"I never mentioned his weight."
“If I had mentioned it, it would only make more problems for him, he would feel judged and unhappy. I knew it was unhealthy but he was the one who was going to have to do it. There was no way I was going to mention it because it was for him to want to do not for me to want him to do it, rightly or wrongly. I loved him as a person I didn’t really care about the other bit. I was just happy that he wanted to be healthy and that he'd started swimming every day."
"Stopping drinking was key."
“He’d just started getting into the limelight and he wanted to be able to keep up with everything coming his way and have the energy for TV shows, writing the books, promoting them. At the same time, we had restaurants to run, so it was a hell of a thing.
“We seemed to just not go to the pub anymore. It all happened at the same time. We found the more he got on telly, the more people seemed to talk at you, when they have had a few drinks. So we kept away from the pub scene or we would go very early and leave early"
"Drinking is one of the worst things for fertility."
“Tom gave up drinking entirely, he’s quite an extremist and I supportively gave up for him at the same times as trying to get pregnant. I don’t know whether that [trying to get pregnant] played a massive part for Tom, but it definitely played a part for me.
“I still haven’t given up 100 per cent, but I can probably count a year’s intake on one hand. It has to be a real uber glass of red.
"Having a baby so late in life takes its toll - you’ve got to stay healthy. I had Acey when I was 45 and I think the difference between 45 and 25 is enormous on the body, so health is vital."
"The Dopamine Diet was Tom’s first diet."
Because as a chef he was eating late and not having a regular eating times, he needed something that fitted his lifestyle - things that he was allowed to eat throughout the day. He had these particular rules which were no carbs and lots of water. The only carbs he had were from fruit so he tried to keep it as healthy as possible.
“Bizarrely, he began to eat more at more regular times so he could have more energy. If he hadn’t done it there would be no Pub in the Park festivals, no books, we would just be doing the Hand and Flowers which is big enough on its own.
"For me, calorie counting works better than a low carb diet."
On The Dopamine Diet, you can’t have carbs and so breakfast for me is a nightmare, because I don’t want to do bacon all the time and I don’t want egg in the morning. But Lose Weight for Good is great because you can have what you want, you can have a glass of champagne if you want so long as it’s counted.
"I find calorie counting easier personally because I have an underactive thyroid and I need energy constantly. I’d rather be able to have my carbs when I feel like I need energy. If you fancy bread it will give you an alternative that will knock a few hundred calories out of your intake. There’s muffins in there! Blueberry pancakes for breakfast!"
"It makes you want to make your calories count."
“Because you want something that’s going to fill you up more and give you longer energy. If you go on to the NHS website and put in your height and weight and how active you are, it tells you how many calories you can have per day. I was surprised that it's quite a lot more than you think. It allows me 1600 and that’s loads! I probably have less than that - more like 1400.”
"I have always done exercise - being sculptor is very physical."
“Even a small piece of marble is so hard. I don’t know how the artisans do it every day. It’s a very, very physical job, it’s not glamorous, you’re covered in clay or marble dust so I have always been fairly active. I’m quite fit - I do training twice a week and yoga three or four times, which I love. Finding time for exercise is my thing. I have three pubs to run, a baby and my sculpture career - but as a mum put yourself at the back. I’m determined to do it. If he can do it I can do it bring it on! “
"In the last five years, I have lost three stone."
I lost two before I got pregnant and one afterwards and maybe another two would be lovely. I was about a size 20 and now I’m about 16 and a half, I’d like to be a comfortable 16 first. If I can be a nice 14, I’d be happy. I’d just like to get into a nice pair of jeans, that’s my goal."
"I use Lose Weight for Good for inspiration."
"If I don’t know what to have, I will go back to the book. It has made me have a greater variety of foods in the fridge and the cupboard. I’ve got buttermilk because there’s a lovely southern fried chicken dish, I have lots of spices that I wouldn’t normally go for - Tom likes the more Indian and Moroccan-style spices. It’s all about changing it up and not getting bored."
"I have lost a stone on the diet without really trying."
"Just by being a bit more organised. I will decide a few things I might want to try that week, buy it from the online supermarket so it’s all in - so I know that at some point that week I can have some fried chicken or the one-layer lasagne."
"Losing the weight just makes everything a bit easier."
"It just makes you feel a bit more capable. I’m opening three new bedrooms at the Hand and Flowers at the beginning of April and am up to the wire on the final one. I’ve just had my acupuncture – and now going to go into the studio and make something fabulous!"