Chef Graham Elliot: Why His Weight Loss Will Work

Last season you saw Graham Elliot on Master Chef, before he underwent gastric sleeve surgery to reduce weight. Now you see glimpses of him in photos like this one, in some magazines, and see 120 pounds gone over the last year.

The Gastric Sleeve Surgery

The surgery is simple in concept – we remove excess stomach, and a bit extra to leave behind a stomach that will hold about 1/2 cup of food. It works in two ways:

(a) Patients get full faster
(b) Reduces hunger – the stomach makes hormones responsible for hunger

We have done this surgery since 2000, and it has remarkable results with patients. But it isn’t the easy way out, and it does not mean success. Risks of the surgery include a 2.5% chance of the staple line breaking down in the first month. If that happens it often means more operations, procedures, days in the ICU. There is also a risk of bleeding requiring a transfusion, and the usual risks of any surgery.

It Isn’t The Easy Way Out

Some have asked why Graham Elliot would do this, or said that this surgery is the “easy way out.”
It isn’t – you still have to work for your weight loss, and it isn’t easy when you are use to being able to eat a normal size meal but now cannot.

It isn’t the easy way out because you put yourself in the hands of a surgeon, you lose control, and like any surgery, you risk your life. No matter how experienced or skilled the surgeon is there are always going to be staple lines that don’t heal or may leak. There can be underlying heart disease not seen by the most experienced cardiologist that can kill you.

Why He Will Succeed

The “average” weight loss is 75% of your excess body weight in the first year, and more after that. But the question is not what happens in the first year, or even the first three years. As any experienced weight loss surgeon will tell you, the real question is what will happen in five years?

In doing this surgery for over ten years we have studied the key habits of successful patients, those who make the sleeve work. We even have an online course for the gastric sleeve.  The one key that Chef Elliot has is he knows how to cook, and he knows how to cook small. He can pack flavor into a bite size amounts of food.

Graham Elliot can make small food packed with flavor

One of our favorite meals was 18 courses over five hours at his restaurant. Each bit of food was packed with flavor. Small bites. Things that could easily fit into his new stomach. This is the challenge that sleeve patients have – to cook small with lots of flavor.

Sleeve patients who are successful five years out – cook, eat well but small, and look for flavor. This Michelin Star (2), youngest chef ever to receive them, knows how to load those bites with flavor.

Patients who do not succeed don’t cook, they fill their stomachs with bland food, and ultimately stretch their stomachs out to the original size. We expect some stretching of the stomach, but typically we go from 1/2 cup to 1 1/2 cups in the first year and that is where it stays. The unsuccessful patient stretches their stomach back to its normal size that holds 8 1/2 cups.

One of the things we learned is that patients who don’t succeed eat out a lot- but they eat out at common, chain restaurants. Patients who eat at great places, like Graham Elliot’s restaurant, succeed – because they know good food.

But if He Can Cook Why Can’t He Lose Weight?

We don’t understand obesity. It may be an underlying symptom of some yet undiscovered disease. The ability to cook and cook well, and eat well does not mean you can do it on your own: that is like saying because you have gasoline you should be able to go 50 miles an hour – and not having the automobile to put the gas in. Weight Loss Surgery is a remarkable tool, a tool that some people need, and is the only successful tool out there for morbid obesity. Recently, the Lap-Band was approved by the FDA for treatment of non-morbid obesity.

Thank You Graham

Whenever a celebrity gets weight loss surgery it helps people realize that this can be done, and is an option for obesity. Showing that you can eat well is a key that many weight loss surgery patients need to hear.

There is one word to describe the style of Graham Elliot and his restaurant – “cool”

Dr. Terry Simpson is a weight loss surgeon who has done weight loss surgery for over twenty years. He is currently writing his fifth book about how the guts work. His practice is in Phoenix, and although he did perform the operation on Graham Elliot, he has eaten at his restaurant!

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and went to medical school. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit

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