Athlete and chef Jonno Proudfoot’s brainchild, The Real Meal Revolution, led to a sea change in the way we eat in South Africa.
The Real Meal Revolution man with a plan
from the outset, Jonno Proudfoot was a man with a plan. This ambitious swimming chef was on a mission to swim from Mozambique to Madagascar – without a wetsuit or flippers. Not sure where to start, he googled renowned adventurer and chef David Grier, and what would become The Mad Swim was born. ‘My friend Thane Williams and I hoped to get some advice from David. He proposed that we partner with his charity, Miles for Smiles, and they would find sponsorship and help with project infrastructure. In return, we had to raise the cost of our project, or more, for Miles for Smiles, which pays for corrective surgery for underprivileged children born with cleft palates.’
‘Thane, who did it with me, is a model – outrageously chiselled and good-looking. So I thought he could pull a modelling campaign or something together and I could write a cookbook about the food I eat while training. I’d always been interested in sports nutrition and thought I’d go into sports cooking. My wife (then girlfriend) had lost 20kg following Tim Noakes’s advice and that got my attention. I’d also heard that people performed so much better athletically on LCHF. At that stage, there were no official guidelines or anything published. So I decided to write a banting cookbook to raise money. I started following Tim on Twitter and, quite fortuitously, on that same day, he tweeted that Sally-Ann Creed was SA’s premium Paleo nutritionist.’
Sally-Ann agreed to meet him. ‘I told her about our Mad Swim mission and the book I wanted to write. I asked her to email Tim to ask him to write a short foreword. At first we didn’t hear from him, but then he suggested we meet for
My wife (then girlfriend) had lost 20kg following Tim Noakes’s advice and that got my attention.
coffee. I was worried I didn’t have enough street-cred, so I took David Grier with me. I asked what they wanted to do, thinking I’d get to add some ideas. Tim just said, ‘Well, you called the meeting!’ I thought, ‘Jeez!’ but went for it, telling them my concept and how we’d do it – I’d thought about the framework a lot. Tim would write the foreword, Sally-Ann the lists and David and I, the recipes.’
The book went to print on 9 September 2013 – 63 days from the day they started writing it. ‘It was hard to find a publisher brave enough to do it in such a ridiculously short time, but we found that in Quivertree. They printed their largest print run ever. It launched on 19 November and sold out that day.’
Though RMR has seen explosive success, there have been challenges and surprises along the way. ‘Tim was absolutely fearless. He said, “We are going to sell 100 000 copies and we are going to change the world.” I remember sitting there, thinking, “We probably are!” The biggest challenge has been finding the right partners in such a fast-growing business. As a businessman, my best part has been the thrill of such rapid growth and the reward of running a business that really benefits people. It’s special when people tell us at a book signing how they’ve come back to health.’
Even though Jonno switched to banting for performance purposes, the personal benefit included 10kg weight loss. ‘I was swimming a lot and could only keep going for so long. But with banting, I had consistent energy levels that didn’t peak and trough. You know that 3pm nap you need after lunch? I didn’t need it any more!’
The Real Meal Revolution has expanded into all sorts of areas, including an online banting course that teaches cooking the banting way and educates participants on the banting lifestyle. ‘People are fat not because they’re lazy to exercise, but because they’re lazy to cook.’
They will soon launch a product range in line with their philosophy – nitrate-free bacon, grass-fed meat, the works. Plus, the cookbook will go into more than 20 countries in 2015. First South Africa, then the world. ‘I’d like Real Meal Revolution to be the coolest diet in the world. I think it teaches people to love food rather than fear it. I’d love to change people’s minds about diet and make it something they want to do rather than something that’s for “those people”.’
Q: What do a typical day’s meals look like?
A: For breakfast, I’ll have three boiled eggs or a pack of bacon fried in butter or a lekker cheesy omelette. Sometimes, if I really don’t feel like cooking, I’ll have a bulletproof coffee or a fat shake. Lunch – I might have a few pieces of fatty biltong or half an avo with a squeeze of lemon and some black pepper as a snack. For dinner, my wife Kate and I love green vegetables in butter. I love asparagus and tender-stem broccoli with butter, parmesan and lemon juice and then a protein. We’re both chefs, so we like it a bit more interesting but those are the fundamentals.
Q: What’s your number one banting hack or trick in the kitchen?
A: It’s tough – there are quite a few! The one is courgette noodles. If you’ve got the right peeler or shredder, then you’ve got courgette spaghetti or courgetti (as I like to call it) in no time. I love courgetti carbonara or bolognaise. The other is keeping fat. Every time I cook bacon or something fatty I put the fat in a jar to use again when I cook. It makes everything delicious.
Q: What’s your favourite banting food?
A: It’s between cauli-rice and banting mayo. Store-bought mayo is made with seed oil , which causes inflammation. It’s notoriously unhealthy. But banting mayo, made with coconut oil or macadamia oil or whatever good oil you choose, is gloriously healthy and assists weight loss. So when you eat it, you feel good about eating it and on top of that it’s delicious. Then cauli-rice, in the same way, is basic but you can do it Spanish paella style, as an Indian pilaf, or just mixed with herbs and used as taboulleh.
Q: How do you come up with new LCHF recipes?
A: Every time my wife and I get bored, there’s a burst of creativity. We’re also guided very much by what our audience wants.
Q: Do you bant strictly?
A: I bant probably 80% of the time – strictly during the week, but if there is a carb going around on weekends, I’ll have a bit because I’m not insulin resistant to the extent that I could be type 2 diabetic. I mean, if our hosts are serving us potato bake, we’ve got to be polite! [ laughs] But I try to steer clear of wheat especially; it really messes my stomach up. We just eat real food – we’re not pedantic but we just don’t buy stuff that’s high in carbs.
Q: Did you find it difficult to switch from high carb to low carb?
A: Yeah! It was tough. You grow up on toast with tuna and toasted cheese sandwiches. So giving up bread for me was outrageous. I’ve never really had a sweet tooth so that wasn’t too difficult.
Q: What do you miss most?
A: Pizza. I flipping love pizza. If I cheat, it’s on wood-fired pizza. It’s my absolute favourite thing on earth to eat. I also miss pie. I’ll be honest, when I drive the N2, that’s when I cheat and stop at Ou Meul Bakkery for a pie.
Q: What advice do you have for people who are making the switch?
A: Go cold turkey at first. Things like xylitol and fake breads and low carb pastas – don’t even go there. That is there for when you absolutely cannot go another minute without a slice of bread. Because you’re trying to break a habit, you need to get used to eating food without bread. Lowcarb bread is not the same – you won’t really enjoy it. Try to ignore sweetness completely, then you’ll get over it quicker. Xylitol is a great sweetener but I’m a purist.
Q: If you have cravings, what is your crutch?
A: I just take it and suffer. If you feed yourself when you should and have enough fat in your diet, you shouldn’t crave too much after the first two weeks.
Q: What change would you most like to see in the world?
A: I think way too much energy is spent growing food to cope with the population boom. We chop down forests and screw the world as hard as we can. So, I suppose the change I’d like to see is the reduction of human impact.