Four years ago, Patrick Mwangangi aka Chef Kabuda, now 26, suffered a heart attack. His brush with death prompted him to overhaul his lifestyle. He shares some of his lessons
Why the nickname Kabuda?
It doesn’t make sense now because of how I look but back then, it fit like a glove! I was a short, fat, jolly guy. At least I am still jolly! The name stuck with everyone. I chose to keep it even in my business as a reminder of where I came from and my journey.
What triggered your heart attack at such a young age?
It was a combination of stress, a high pressure job and my diet and lifestyle choices, no doubt. I started working young — I was around 22. I ate red meat in huge quantities. Almost every day. I couldn’t imagine a meal without it. I also ate a lot of junk food. One day at 7am while I was at work, I experienced some tightness in my chest. By 9am, my whole body became numb and then it was awash with pain. I had to be rushed to hospital where an ECG scan was done to reveal that what had been happening was cardiac arrest.
What surprised you the most about suffering a heart attack?
First, was the fact that my case was gradual, and thankfully did not result in instant death as we see in the movies. But because I ignored the initial symptoms, the only treatment option that I had was surgery. It wasn’t open heart surgery as most would believe.
It lasted an hour, and I was conscious the entire time. They inserted a tube about the size of a straw from my wrist to get to the clot that caused the problem in my heart. I stayed in ICU for three days to stabilise before being transferred to the normal ward.
How heavy were you before this happened?
By then I was 80kgs. For someone who is 5 feet 2 inches, that was bad. My ideal weight bracket is 55-60kgs so you could say that I was on the higher end of the obesity chart.
How did your transformation begin?
When I was discharged, the doctors told me that I needed to do something. In addition to the weight, I also had high blood pressure. I had to change my lifestyle. But because I had come from a delicate procedure, I couldn’t immediately begin working out so I consulted a nutritionist and started with the food. In the beginning, I went completely vegetarian.
You can never go wrong with a plant-based diet. After being cleared by my doctors, I started with swimming before progressing to jogging and running. It has taken a lot of hard work, consistency and discipline. It hasn’t always been easy; but I believe nothing is impossible once you put your mind to it and my results are proof.
What has been the reaction to this new you?
I meet people on the streets who struggle to recognise me or who think that I am Kabuda’s brother! That is how big the change is. My before and after pictures are big conversation starters. When I began sharing my journey, even on YouTube, I received an overwhelming amount of support, and people saying that I have inspired them as well.
I want to continue motivating people on weight loss and management because it’s something close to my heart. If I can share my story to as many people who need it, I will be fulfilling my mission.
Do you still work out to date?
Yes, it has become part of my lifestyle. I do a lot of running at the moment. I wake up at 4:30am and run 7-8kms every weekday, followed by some physical body exercises before beginning my day. Depending on the weather, I also swim on some days.
How was it going back to work after your experience?
I felt like a different person immediately after the heart attack. It changed my perception of life. I saw people who were with me in the ICU die. That could have been my fate.
I knew that I had a purpose for surviving and I felt a spiritual need to figure out what that purpose was and to fulfil it. I decided that I needed to follow my passion.
Where did the passion for cooking begin?
Around the same time in 2014, I realised that I enjoyed making dishes. I am not formally trained but I learn and teach myself new things every day. I read many cookbooks, watch videos and interact and learn from other local trained chefs.
Now I can cook a very wide variety of cuisines — local or international. I began by cooking at home for friends, family and colleagues. Over the weekends, they would call me to go cook for them and that’s how it began. Soon, I started doing functions and even a kids TV show. As I continued, I felt that I needed to quit my full time job to chase this talent of cooking.
What do you love the most about cooking?
Seeing someone’s reaction when they dig into a plate I made. I give it everything I have; some call it cooking with love and making people happy with my food is a blessing and a privilege for me.
How do you get yourself in tune for a whole day of cooking with love?
My morning exercises instantly increase my positive energy levels. Once I am done, I listen to some religious preaching before starting my day. When I start with God, I know it’s going to be a good day no matter what comes along the way.
Have you always been spiritual?
I can say that I reconnected with my spiritual side after my heart attack. Even now in self-employment, I find that I am closer to God because entrepreneurship is all about faith and it is important to me. You never know what will happen to your business.
Was it easy to quit formal employment to focus on your business?
It was not an easy decision. Everyone was shocked by my decision to leave. I had been working in that position for nine years. It was a well-paying, comfortable position. Again this is where my faith comes in. I wrestled with the decision for almost a year.
The resignation letter had been in my desktop forever. Faith without action is meaningless, so when I found a decent space to work from and after getting the start-up capital, I took the plunge.
What is your major message to others?
The body is capable of amazing things. Today as we speak I am hypertension-free yet I was meant to be on medication to manage it for the rest of my life. I am not on any meds. Nothing is permanent; just make sure you help the body perform at its optimum. If you eat well, drink a lot of water and exercise the effects will pleasantly surprise you.
For those who feel like losing weight is “too much work”, especially when it affects their health, I would say do it sooner rather than later. Don’t expect microwave results –be patient and consistent. Remember that prevention is always better than cure. And there is no coming back from untimely death.
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The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Evewoman.co.ke