There are a few things you’d never expect Adam Richman to say.
Some of those came out in written form on an Instagram post last year. Uploading a proud picture of his newly slimmed down frame, he came under criticism for including the tag #thinspiration – a term used by people who suffer from eating disorders online to encourage self-harm.
He had “no idea” of the negative connotations that tag had at the time. And he responded to those critics in a way he now considers in hindsight to be “truly inappropriate”.
Certainly, the price he’s paid for his “profoundly poor judgement” has already been costly: a year-long delay of the release of his new show, Man Finds Food, which has just hit the small screen in the UK. It almost cost him his career. He was lucky.
For a man who is still best known for shoveling oozing racks of barbeque ribs and burgers bigger than most adult heads on Man Versus Food, however, this is probably the next most shocking statement.
“I’ve been vegan for the past three months,” he says of his responsible new relationship with food.
It’s a diet he only adheres to, he says, when he’s training for his other big love: football. He’s currently gearing up to take part in Soccer Aid, a UNICEF celebrity event which has raised upwards of £15million for the children’s charity. One of UNICEF’s big initiatives for 2015 is to reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
“Now does that mean I’m not going to have a steak? No I absolutely will when I want to, but it’s just about picking and choosing my spots, and when I want to have that cow and I wanna have that bacon, I’m going to make it count, I’m going to make it great quality,” he continues.
Here are a few more things we learned from Adam about eating responsibly, healthily, and respecting animals 59 eating contests down the line...
His drive to lose weight doesn’t correlate with him giving up eating challenges…
“A lot of the weight that I gained was actually after Man V. Food [the last episode of which he shot six years ago]. Because Man V. Food demanded so much physical rigor and discipline for me, that when I began doing Sandwich and Fandemonium and Man V. Food Nation, I was able to snack with impunity and I didn’t have to worry about eating for a challenge. And Soccer Aid was one of the biggest things that kicked me into shape. ”
He knew he needed to lose weight after catching sight of himself in a pilot episode of Fandemonium…
“And I was so unhappy with the way I looked in the rushes that I just said, ‘OK, something has to change’. And I mean being unhappy and doing something about it are not one of the same thing. And so I worked with my doctor and worked with my nutritionist and made a lifestyle change.”
Despite those competitions, he has never been a ‘competitive eater’…
“They’re unionized, I have nothing to do with that.”
In fact, he can’t believe he ever ate that much, either…
“I watch some of those episodes now and I’m going, ‘No way!’ I even talk about it with some of my friends. ‘There’s no way that guy is going to eat all of that!’ But I am that guy!”
Losing weight is far, far simpler a concept than many consider…
“I don’t want to sound glib when I say eat less and exercise more, but simply you have to create a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories to lose a pound. So whether you do that between raising your metabolic rate through exercise and creating your deficit that way, or curtailing your caloric intake, it was simply a matter of creating that deficit and eating incrementally throughout the day, as opposed to a big meal, or a really big meal…”
He posed naked for the centre of Cosmopolitan last year because…
“I worked hard and I worked very hard to get to that place physically, and a) it was a chance for me to celebrate that, and b) it was a chance for me to go, ‘Nernernenerner’ to all the naysayers a little bit. A little bit of a time capsule.”
But hearing he’d inspired children and adults to lose weight too meant far more to him than a risqué shoot in a women's monthly…
“People with kids would see me eat a five pound burritos could also say, ‘Hey he took the bull by the horns and took some initiative, he went from this waist size to this waste size, this jacket size to this jacket size’. I don’t feel like I’m living a restrictive life, I’m not on like a paleo diet, I eat healthily, I budget calorically, I stay active, I live a full life, and I think you can if you take steps to stave off the potentially adverse effects of what you’re eating, you can have your cake and eat it too.”
He claims every restaurant he’s ever featured experienced a 100-to-300 per cent increase in business…
“During one of the worst economic times for small to medium businesses in the United States. The fact that I can provide any kind of boost to them, that’s worth its weight in gold.”
And no, he doesn’t think the undergoing food contests during a time of peak food production – including in America where 14.9 per cent of families are food insecure – promotes irresponsible food waste…
“We were profiling iconic eateries and food challenges that had existed upwards to 100 years before I ever filmed there. They were going to exist whether or not I went there and pointed a camera at them or otherwise.”
Food peak production
Food peak production
1/12 Maize: reached its peak-rate in 1985
2/12 Rice: reached its peak-rate in 1988
3/12 Fish (caught): reached its peak-rate in 1988
4/12 Dairy: reached its peak-rate in 1989
5/12 Eggs: reached its peak-rate in 1993
6/12 Meat: reached its peak-rate in 1996
7/12 Vegetables: reached its peak-rate in 2000
8/12 Wheat: reached its peak-rate in 2004
9/12 Milk: reached its peak-rate in 2004
10/12 Poultry: reached its peak-rate in 2006
11/12 Sugacane: reached its peak-rate in 2007
12/12 Soybeans: reached its peak-rate in 2009
In fact, he doesn’t think as a culture we’re irresponsible at all…
“I think responsibility is a subjective thing. I think clearly, the move towards a pesticide-free, cage-free, non-GMO thing, that is a wonderful move in terms of increasing people’s awareness as to where food is produced and brought to market.”
He respects animals, whether he “eats them or otherwise”…
“I’ve never owned a pet that I didn’t adopt. I mean, literally, I adopted pets that were from my Kindergarten that they were going to get rid of. Every pet I’ve ever owned has come from a shelter, so I’ve always done that.”
At the moment, though, he’s meat free…
“Actually, in fairness, because I’m training for football right now, I’ve been vegan for the past three months or so. And for Soccer Aid I went 100 per cent vegan. Now does that mean I’m not going to have a steak? No I absolutely will when I want to, but it’s just about picking and choosing my spots, and when I want to have that cow and I wanna have that bacon, I’m going to make it count, I’m going to make it great quality.”
Unless he finds a great quality piece of bacon behind a bookcase, that is…
“Man Finds Food is really an exploration of hidden gems across America. It’s off the beaten path, hidden restaurants, and off the menu dishes. So competitive eating and food challenges are light years away.We found a restaurant in a house in Chicago, behind a bookcase in a youth hostel, this one, kind of strange, kind of scary concrete building in Boston, and then you go in and the food is breathtaking… I can honestly say it’s the best food and travel show I’ve worked on. I actually think it surpasses Man Versus Food.”
Man Finds Food airs in the UK on Saturdays at 5pm. Richman’s second new show, Food Fighters, airs on Sundays at 5pm