Joshua Weissman isn't your typical 17-year-old boy. A few years ago, overweight and bullied in school, he finally decided to take his health seriously, but packaged diet meals and quick fixes didn't help. Instead, he started cooking — and in the process changed his life.
Now 100 pounds lighter, Joshua has won the respect of the classmates who once teased him and even inspired some of the teenage boys around him to eat a little better. He is also a talented food photographer and runs the paleo-focused food blog Slim Palate. We talked to this inspiring high school junior about middle school bullying, his bumpy road into the kitchen, and the ways his eating habits have changed the people around him.
As a kid, Joshua says he ate a balanced diet that included lots of greens, veggies and fruit, but as he got older and his parents started letting him make his own food choices, he began eating more processed and fast food. When his family relocated from California to Texas when he was in middle school, he became less active, using all his free time to play video games and indulge in his worsening eating habits. "I came to a point where I literally just did not care," he says. On nights when his parents would go out, he would eat an entire large meat pizza, an order of wings and a side of cinnamon sticks, a habit that his parents tried to stop, without success. "They didn't know what to do. They were really scared and confused."
Things got bad at school. "I was getting made fun of constantly, every single day. Twenty, thirty times a day, sometimes even by kids I thought were my friends." Finally driven to the breaking point, Joshua decided to change the way he ate. "I literally changed my outlook on eating in one day because I was so sick of it," he says.
Joshua, then and now
After an unsuccessful attempt to lose weight by eating packaged diet meals, he started focusing on eating real, whole foods, which awoke his childhood interest in cooking. With this simple change, he began to lose weight. He also fell in love with cooking, especially cooking meals for others. "Just the words, 'Wow, that was so good, thank you so much,' it's really one of the most meaningful things someone can say to you."
Now he cooks dinner almost every night for his parents, who have also lost weight by simply eating the same foods Joshua eats. At school, he has won the admiration of the kids who used to make fun of him, and even fields nutrition questions from the cheerleading squad and football team. He cooks for his friends all the time and has become their go-to source for food questions. "They'll literally stop me in the hallway, show me something and ask, 'Is this healthy?'"
He is just starting to think about colleges and is kicking around the idea of opening a restaurant someday. In the meantime, he shares photos and recipes for his latest meals through his blog, Slim Palate, which features mainly paleo-friendly recipes incorporating vegetables, meats, nuts and the occasional dairy. Why dairy, when many paleo eaters avoid it? "I'm going to be honest," he says. "I'm not giving up my cheese." An eating philosophy any teenage boy would agree with!
• Check out Joshua's blog: Slim Palate
(Images: Joshua Weissman)