SLAVING away in the kitchen together is the secret to love, reckon slimming gurus John Clark and Charlotte Deniz.
The happy couple have lost 15st between them and credit careful meal preparation.
Known to his army of social-media followers as The Meal Prep King, John, 41, began batch-cooking after his weight ballooned to 21st 6lb. Planning a weekly series of low-calorie meals helped him battle the bulge — and by the time he met Charlotte on Facebook in 2017 he had shed nearly 9st.
At 16st, she was the heaviest she had ever been but, with John’s help, she lost 6st 4lb. After they shared their story with The Sun last year, he won a book deal and the result, The Meal Prep King Plan, is out now.
Former truck driver John says: “I love looking in the fridge on a Monday and seeing my week’s food all there. It’s a heavenly feeling. It’s not a diet, it’s a new way of living — prepping meals in advance gives you choice and freedom around food.
“Although we make all of our meals in one go, on a Sunday, the plan is flexible and, if it works better, you can do it day by day instead. It depends on lifestyle.”
John and account manager Charlotte, 35, who live in Bolton, spend six hours a week prepping their breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, each containing no more than 496 calories and costing just 60 pence a portion.
He says: “I have discovered how to achieve permanent weight loss in an easy, healthy and affordable way. I could see how unhappy Charlotte was and I suggested meal-prepping might be worth trying because I could see she wasn’t eating enough (while trying to slim).”
After just a week of John showing her what to do, she was hooked. Charlotte, originally from Blackpool, bonded online with John over weight struggles. She says: “Before, I was pretty much starving myself, living on just one meal a day as a last-ditch resort to lose weight. I always wore black and wasn’t comfortable in my own skin.
“I had spent years trying different diets but nothing had worked. I initially declined several offers to meet John as I was too embarrassed about how I looked, but he had a way of making me feel comfortable. He never pushed me for a date and was happy to go at my pace. He told me he used to be over 21st, and I felt he could relate. He never judged me, and over time I started to open up to him. One of the reasons I fell in love was he saw something in me that I couldn’t.”
‘Needed to take control’
The couple, who now spend around £135 a month on all their meals, soon became a team in the kitchen, coming up with new ways to eat healthily.
She says: “John became my coach. I embraced what he ate and lost the weight in a year. I was still living in Blackpool after our first batch-cooking session, so drove from Bolton to Blackpool with all of my meals strapped into the back of the car. But the best bit is, we get to eat naughty foods as well as healthy meals.”
For John, his love of batch-cooking began over a decade ago as he realised he needed to take control of his weight. He was eating 5,000 calories a day so went to his GP for help — but afterwards broke down in tears.
He recalls: “I sat in my car outside the doctor’s, desperate and alone, and cried. I had been given leaflets on what I should and should not eat but not much help. I didn’t know where to start.
“Initially, I started working out up to five times a week and lost lots of weight, but I hated the daily workouts so took up the meal-prepping. I lived with a former colleague and he didn’t waste any food when cooking. He showed me how to make a little go a long way.”
Swapping burgers and pub lunches for home-cooked meals, John shed 8st 10lb in 18 months, getting down to 12st 10lb. His passion for making delicious meals with just a few simple ingredients grew, and his English breakfast wraps, fakeaway chicken rice and turkey chilli con carne all feature in the book.
John says: “I’m really anti-food waste and am always coming up with new ways to ensure that everything is eaten. I cook really tasty food, even things people usually think are unhealthy like juicy burgers, spicy curries and chocolate doughnuts.
“Food doesn’t have to be complicated. I love to find a bargain and get excited when I find good food that’s a decent price. We spend around £80 on 5kg of chicken, burgers, sausages, mince and fish online, £25 on fruit and veg at the outdoor market, and get everything else from Aldi or Tesco. You can make great meals that the whole family will enjoy without having to put in lots of hard work. Loaded dirty fries are delicious and are easy to make.”
Keen to inspire others, John now has 700,000 followers on Instagram and TikTok.
He says: “Social media is time-consuming but it’s also rewarding because I know I’m helping people — I get messages all the time to prove it. I love sharing my knowledge about food and cooking.”
- THE MEAL PREP KING PLAN, by John Clark, is published by Michael Joseph on December 31, priced £20, © The Meal PREP King Ltd, 2020. Photography © Jamie Orlando Smith 2020
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