Wake up with a Smile

Join our newsletter

“Find That Balance.” Chef Who Weighed 500 Lbs Shares How He Turned His Life Around.

PJ Calapa chef of Scampi

Many experts believe serious lifestyle changes begin in the brain.

Overeating is a hard habit to break, so changing your relationship with food is often the first step in getting healthy. It’s a lesson that PJ Calapa, the owner and head chef at Scampi restaurant in New York City, had to learn himself after a lifetime of struggling with food.

PJ grew up in South Texas in a family that celebrated every life event by gathering around the dinner table. He said he was “always a big kid,” but as he got more into cooking, he just kept gaining weight. At his highest point, PJ weighed 501 pounds.

“Obviously as a chef, food is my world, but also understanding that it was potentially hurting me,” he said.

Even though he acknowledged his problem with food, PJ didn’t get serious about making a change until he was trying to get investors to buy into his restaurant.

“I reached a point where I was trying to meet with investors, and my weight was an issue,” he said. “Not my talent or my resume. I realized that it was potentially holding me back, and that’s when I realized, ‘OK, I need to sort of get my brain in the right place so that I can be accepting of the fact of why I’m overeating.'”

PJ knew his issues with food were rooted in his career as a chef. He had a hard time separating his desire to nourish and spoil others with high-calorie foods from his need to limit his own diet. He finally sought help from a therapist and spent several years getting to the root of his problem.

“It was hard to sort of find that balance of, the food that I cook, sell, give to my friends, versus that food that was hurting my body, and it was sort of an understanding that balance.”

Once he realized he could still enjoy the foods he loves, just in moderation, PJ decided to undergo gastric sleeve surgery. As he began to make lasting changes, he felt his self-confidence begin to soar!

“Everything in life started getting easier,” he says. “I was able to give more.”

PJ has lost about 200 pounds now, and he said he couldn’t have done it without working on his brain before even starting on his body! He stresses that moderation is the key to his success, and he hopes his story will help others overcome whatever is holding them back from leading their best, healthiest lives.

Share PJ’s story to make someone smile today.

Want to be happier in just 5 minutes a day? Sign up for Morning Smile and join over 455,000+ people who start each day with good news.