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Jan. 12 2010 - 9:32 am | 1,727 views | 1 recommendation | 5 comments

Is Alton Brown ‘Ill’ and ‘Ugly Skinny’?

Alton Brown is a rare breed on The Food Network these days: A fully interesting and informative personality who opts for knowledge and technique over cutesy name hybrids and easy-but-terrible ingredients. So, while reading comments on a Serious Eats article regarding Alton’s recent diet (sardine and avocado sandwiches — to be addressed later) and weight loss, I have to say I got a bit defensive of my favorite FN host when readers equated his newfound skinniness to thinking he had cancer or some sort of body-diminishing illness.  “Way too skinny and very unhealthy,” one commenter says. “It sounded a lot like what an anorexic or someone who had a recent health scare would say,” another says about a recent Alton interview. Another: “He has that look about him- as if he is recovering from something or had gone through radiation/chemo.” Can’t a dude lose some weight or make a lifestyle change anymore without people thinking they’re going through chemo or have some Hollywood diva eating disordefr? First, watch the video, and after the jump, we’ll discuss.

Serious Eats commenter bks2010 points out, “I think we are so used to seeing larger people in the United States that we often don’t think of overweight people as overweight … Props to AB for switching to a healthier lifestyle.” Skinny people aren’t extinct or such a minority that getting a gander at one of them is an isolated incident, so that argument doesn’t have a whole lot of weight (sorry) to me.

For Alton and many others, lending yourself to a television network puts you in the forefront of America, and any bodily changes that you go through will be noticed and objectified by millions. I see it constantly with my day job at PopEater.com. And yes, weight loss — especially some of the faster forms of it — can make a person look different. And yes, because he’s a celebrity, people will opine (“Gotta say, not liking the new Alton. TOOO skinny for ANYTHING!!!” commenter Donnie says.) Yet jumping the gun and thinking “Hmmm, I’ll bet he has cancer” seems, well, cancerous to our society.

I tried reaching out to Alton for his thoughts on this matter, but haven’t heard back yet. Hit me up, AB!

On a less serious, more food-based tangent, Brown says a key to his weight loss is a seriously regimented diet that involves avocado and sardine sandwiches. Many of these same commenters think that’s just straight-up heinous. It’s actually fairly similar to a sandwich on ‘WichCraft’s menu that pairs anchovies with a poached egg and caramelized onions. Tiny oily fish + something fatty. It’s a brilliant combo, and while it’s obviously not for everyone’s palate, I dig it. I got to chat with Tom Colicchio once and told him that was the best sandwich on the Wichcraft menu. His eyes lit up like I just told him I bought him a puppy. “Nobody has ever said that to me,” he said, adding that the sandwich hardly sells, but he refuses to take it off of the menu because it’s his favorite. It was one of my prouder food moments. That is all.


5 Total Comments
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    Interesting article. It must be really tough to live a balanced lifestyle when your job is working on a cooking show. I often wonder how Food Network stars like Giada DeLaurentis stays so trim – she’s always jetting around, eating at fabulous restaurants, and cooking delicious Italian desserts. Props to Alton for having the willpower to get a little healthier (assuming he IS healthier now).

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    I will admit that the hairstyle that Alton Brown was sporting in those Welch’s commercials was ill-conceived. As for being “too” skinny, often with celebrities, rapid weight loss is a sign of a health problem or drugs. What do our comments matter anyway?

    My husband is convinced that Giada di Laurentiis has a personal trainer. I do worry about Food Network stars like Paula Deen and Ina Garten. There’s no need for them to be skinny, but they cook with butter and cream with reckless abandon. Most of us can’t eat like that and stay healthy.

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    Great post! I first encountered Alton’s show when I dropped by a local place in Alexandria, VA (Food Matters) and his show was on the TV. It happened to be Tender Is The Loin and rocked my world. I try to limit red meet intake, but that one rocked my world.


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    i feel bad, i was thinking AB had been sick or something too. i love “Good Eats”, i must have forgotten that balanced diet episode. i’ll have to try that sandwich though; egg and caramalized onions, how could an anchovie possibly go wrong on that?!

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    I have to agree with the concerned fans. I’ve noticed in recent appearances (those grape juice commercials and Iron Chef America) that Alton appears to have lost a lot of hair. I myself have had a severe illness in which I was so sick that I ate less than 1000 calories a day for 3 months (for the duration of the sickness) and lost 50 pounds (which is far more weight than anyone should lose in 3 months). I looked sickly thin, and I lost a lot of hair.
    Likewise, I’ve known people who’ve had gastric bypass surgery – in which you lose weight much more rapidly than nutritionists recommend – and when they lose their weight, they lose hair and they look ill.
    I think it’s a little extreme to jump straight to cancer, but Alton Brown is looking like people tend to look when they lose weight at an unhealthy rate, and sickness is often a part of that. He was certainly not fat enough for gastric bypass surgery before the weight loss.
    I also think it’s a bit silly to recommend that we are now so used to obesity that we think thin is the same thing as sick. If that were true, wouldn’t the internet also be buzzing over how Giada is clearly on her death bed because she’s so thin? Ill and thin look different, and the people who are buzzing over Alton’s new look simply know the difference.

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    Oysters. Bone Marrow. Spanish hams. Fish tacos. Shanghai soup dumplings. Sea urchin. Summer tomatoes still warm from the sun. There, my favorite foods are out of the way. To cut to the chase, food is in my genes. My father, grandfather and great grandfather were butchers. I've cooked for fun and pay since I can remember, helping out at my dad's catering company/butcher shop and eventually the catering wing of Zagat's highest-rated restaurant in the country (you've never heard of it). Why am I not a chef or caterer? I'm just too much of a pansy. I didn't want the hours/heat/instability to ruin my love for cooking, so now it's pure recreation. Since ditching the chef idea, I've written for many major news networks and magazines, spanning everything from a blood-soaked Marine invasion into Fallujah to Britney Spears' underwear (lack of, actually) to properly sourcing pork. I hope to share the deliciousness of life with you. Also, pancakes suck.

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