Serena Wolf: The Dude Diet, Cooking for NFL Pros & Terrific Nachos

What it’s like to cook for pro football players in the NFL:

Unless you want a heart attack in your thirties, you have to dial in your nutrition. Most dudes have no clue where to start.

Our guest today is Serena Wolf, author of The Dude Diet: Clean(ish) Food for People Who Like to Eat Dirty. When Serena first witnessed the way her boyfriend really ate at home, she was absolutely terrified. Now she’s a trained chef who specializes in making “guy food” with healthy ingredients… without sacrificing taste.

So if you (or the dude in your life) can’t live without mac and cheese, nachos, and pizza, this show is for you.

On this show with Serena you’re about to learn:

  • What it’s like to cook for pro football players in the NFL
  • Why her boyfriend thought healthy food was gross
  • Why making mistakes in the kitchen is a good thing
  • And much more …


Abel: Serena Wolf is author of The Dude Diet, a private chef, and a smarty-pants Harvard grad. She’s been featured on Dr. Oz, Martha Stewart Radio, and has a wonderful blog at We were actually introduced by a past guest of the show, Dr. Srini Pillay.

I’m so glad you’re here. We’re going to have so much fun.

I’m so excited to be here. Thank you for having me.

Abel: Can we start with your casual observation about your boyfriend’s eating habits?

When I started dating my boyfriend, I was in culinary school. We were dating long-distance, so I only saw him from time to time, and he loved food.

I’d never seen anybody love food the way that he loved food. You could get a contact high from watching him eat a sandwich. It was insane.

But given that I was in culinary school, it was one of the first things that attracted me to him. I loved food. It’s great to see people get that excited about what they’re eating. And when we were together, I would notice that he did eat incredibly heavy meals. I’m talking a lot of meat, cheese, and white bread, essentially.

Man food. Like your traditional dude foods. And I figured he was probably eating some healthy stuff on his own time. It was only when we moved in together and I became privy to his day-to-day eating habits that I noticed that they were out of control. Really terrifying. And I’m a healthy eater, but I’m not judgmental. Like this was really, really intense.

There was a serious lack of vegetables going on. A ton of just processed foods and red meat and cheese. And I was like, “This is really, really bad.”

But I would casually mention it. I wasn’t about to harp on him to change his eating habits immediately, but I was sort of like casually suggesting that he eat some healthier foods from time to time. I’d grown very attached to him. I didn’t want to lose him before the age of thirty-five.

Every time I said something like “Clean up your act a little bit,” he had this crazy reaction. He was like, “I’m not eating weird vegan food.” It was absurd. I’m not a vegan.

Abel: Ha, all vegetables are vegan! Don’t you know that?

Yeah, exactly. He was like, “Healthy food is gross.” This sounds insulting, but it was sort of like talking to a kid about the foods that they didn’t want to eat. It was like talking to a picky eater. And I was one as a kid, so I totally understood that.

But there was this real sense of panic every time I mentioned healthy eating. And I realized that he had this incredibly grim view of health food. And I have no clue where it came from. But he thought that eating healthy meant resigning himself to a diet of like nonfat yogurt and tofu… or un-massaged kale. It was very scary.

Abel: Dudes aren’t going to massage any vegetables. Come on.

Definitely not. So I wanted to figure out a way that I could get him to eat a little bit more healthily but also be excited about what he was eating. I didn’t want to rob him of that extreme childlike joy he had every time he went to Chipotle.

Abel: It’s a double-edged sword.

It is. And I really wanted to maintain that excitement. But the other factor that I was dealing with was the fact that he really didn’t know very much about nutrition.

And I don’t like to generalize here, but I do think just because of the way that the media is today, women tend to know a little more about nutrition than men. Whether or not it’s because we’re bombarded with photos of women in bikinis and Victoria Secret is another issue. Whatever it is, we are slightly more body conscious and therefore tend to seek out that knowledge.

Abel: Yes, I would add to that: Men just know less. We don’t do this on purpose. If I’m out with my guy friends and I’m talking about how great vegetables are, it doesn’t go over all that well.

There’s a piece of being a dude where your measure of a man, as silly as this sounds, is how many hot wings you can choke down your throat.

It’s like a game-day mentality. You’re not going to go to a sports bar and order a kale salad. You’re not going to go to a Super Bowl party and be the guy that’s nibbling on the celery stick on the edge of the wings platter. That’s just not reality.

Keep in mind that my boyfriend, whose name is Logan, is an incredibly intelligent, well-educated man. And so the fact that he knew nothing about nutrition, I was like, “Okay, this is an interesting dynamic. Why is this missing?” But I also realized it wasn’t something that he was particularly interested in. Everybody has different interests. So I wasn’t going to bore him with a dissertation on like, exactly how refined sugar is processed in your body. That was never going to resonate with him.

So I was like, “I need to figure out some building blocks. Be able to communicate some nutrition basics in a way that he can understand and so it doesn’t bore him to tears so then he can make better choices.”

Because what I realized was he didn’t think he was eating that unhealthily, so he would be like, “Well, what do you mean? I eat a salad for lunch every day.”

And I’d say, “What kind of salad?”

He says, “It’s like a buffalo chicken salad.”

I’m like, “Congratulations! You’re eating an order of chicken fingers for lunch every day. That did not become magically healthy because it’s briefly in contact with a few pieces of iceberg.”

But these were the things he really thought—because he was eating a salad, he was doing something good for himself.

He would hear all this information about different diets, and then internalize random tidbits and apply them to his meals, so that he’d be like, “Oh, french fries are vegan. Vegan is healthy.” Ridiculous things like that, like, “Onion rings are a vegetable.” Or like, “Mac and cheese is vegetarian.” All of these ridiculous things that I’m like, “You have to be eating a more balanced diet.”

So I started creating these meals that were, in the beginning, just revamped versions of classic comfort food. So his favorite meals—everything from mac and cheese to cheesesteak, lasagna, chicken parm, all of these sort of traditionally heavy foods with very few redeeming nutritional qualities—and then remaking them in a way that incorporated more whole foods, incorporated more vegetables. The standard was still the same: cheesesteak excitement freak-out.

I wanted him to be really enjoying them, so that was where the Dude Diet started.

And it started as a blog column, and what I realized was that people were contacting me. The first post was sort of a one-off post. It was meant to be a cathartic exercise. I was like, “My boyfriend is sort of on a diet. I’m feeding him these foods.” And that was still back when my blog was in its early days. So I was overwhelmed by the response that I got and it was guys who were like, “Thanks. I’m trying to take baby steps towards eating a little more healthily.”

There was one guy who was like, “I just moved to LA and I’m being bombarded with all this… Everyone wants me to be paleo or vegan or whatever.” And he was like, “I’m just trying to do my thing, but the Dude Diet is manageable for me. I bought some kale today. I’m scared of it, but it’s going to be fine.” Baby steps.

What was even more surprising was that women were reaching out and saying one of two things:

  • “I really like this type of food. I’ve always eaten this way, and so I’m appreciating these recipes.” And I’m like, “Interesting, because I feel the same way. I’ve been on the Dude Diet for years.”
  • But also they’re like, “I’ve been searching for meals that I can eat with my significant other or my dad, or my son, or whatever, without sacrificing my own health and waistline. So these are a great compromise.” Because as you know, men and women just can’t eat the same things in the same amounts. It’s just a biological fact. So I get really pumped to eat a giant veggie grain bowl or something, but Logan is going to need a little meat with his meal. And I’m cool with that. I’m like, “That’s totally fine, as long as you’re balancing it out.”


Abel: Which is tough. I remember my college roommate, and this was at Dartmouth – my buddy was obviously very intelligent. He’s a death metal guy who went on to work at Google and all that.

But I remember asking, “What do you want to eat tonight?” He’s like, “Well, I don’t believe in vegetables.” And I don’t think over those four years I ever saw him eat a vegetable or anything with fiber in it. It was unbelievable, but that’s the norm, and I think most women are horrified to hear that. Especially moms, right?

Increasingly, girlfriends and then wives start to realize that they married a grown boy who never really connected the dots with food, but it’s not necessarily his fault. It’s really not. It’s just the way that all of this comes together. And I think if we want to solve it, we need to acknowledge that fact without ego…

And hopefully without judgment, yes.

Abel: That way you can say, “Alright, I guess we need to learn how to make chicken parm again.” And that’s fun. You can learn to cook as a family.

Chicken parmesan is one of our favorite recipes and we eat it all the time. We just make it in a different way. These delicious comfort foods – how many people are still making them at home?

Very few. Exactly. And that’s a huge hurdle. Getting people to cook in general. And it’s so hard to convince people that have never set foot in the kitchen.

It’s a huge hurdle to get over to be like, “Look, I’m going to start cooking meals for myself so that I know exactly what goes into them.”

Cooking for yourself is 100% non-negotiable. It’s the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle.

You have to cook for yourself. Not all the time. I love going out to eat. But it’s really the only way to 100 percent control what’s going into your meals. And so that’s always been a focus for me, even prior to the Dude Diet and starting my blog, was getting people to the point where they felt comfortable. And not just comfortable, but they weren’t dreading cooking.

Abel: Right. The cooking and the cleaning is that combo that crushes people, right?

The cleaning sucks. I’m not going to sugarcoat it.

Abel: It’s an adjustment, but you learn to love it or sidestep it one way by just having one person cook one night, another person the next night.

Especially if you divvy that up, it’s really not nearly as intimidating as most people think it is.

But you’re a trained chef and you know how to make things taste good, and you use tricks to make them healthy at the same time. What are differences between the tricks someone like Sysco industrial products uses versus what you do to make food healthy, clean, and better for us, but still taste good?

First of all, I think that the main difference is the fact that when I’m cooking, I’m always cooking small batch—and I’m considering anything under twelve servings small batch. And that gives you so much more control.

If you go out to a restaurant, even if you’re going somewhere where they’re trying to be healthy, we can buy a big jar of coconut oil or something like this that is not prohibitively expensive when you’re cooking for yourself, but maybe for a restaurant, that can be a totally different kettle of fish. And also there is not 100 percent transparency when you go to a restaurant. So they can just as easily say, “This is healthy,” and people are going to believe them.

I don’t personally believe in counting calories, but it works for some people. But on a menu, just because something is low in fat and calories does not mean that it’s good for you. So I purposely did not include nutrition facts in the Dude Diet, only because I don’t want people to look at my recipes and be like, “Wait, that has 700 calories.” I’m like, “Yes, but at the same time it is unprocessed and has all this nutritional value.”


So here’s what I do: First of all, I’m really big on spices. I think that learning how to use spices, which is not nearly as complicated as it sounds, can build a ton of flavor.

If you go out, people are used to extra cheese, bread, all these things that are used because whatever is underneath is a little bit bland. They’re using those things to build flavor. Whereas if you start with really good spices—or to be perfectly honest, you start with really good produce or meat—those are naturally so much more flavorful. So you don’t need to add a ton of butter or a ton of oil or a ton of cheese.

The one thing that I always joke about is that men are very visual creatures. So a little bit of melted cheese on top of something goes a long way. When you bring it out, just the knowledge that it’s there, it’s all very sexy-looking. I totally get excited about it, but it’s a reasonable amount of cheese. Nothing is off-limits.

Abel: Another interesting thing about the guys that I’ve noticed—and I am one, so this happens to me too, and I need to stop myself at times – is you eat what’s on your plate and you just plough through it, simple as that.

If it’s one little serving that’s a three-inch by three-inch piece of lasagna, we’ll eat that. Or if it’s twelve-inch by twelve-inch, we’ll eat that too. And it doesn’t bother us. That’s what we’re supposed to do and we won’t even think about it.

Clean plate club.

Abel: Yes, exactly. So when it comes to preparing healthier and more reasonable meals like that, especially when they do have great flavor, you can start saving money, you have less food waste, and you’re definitely spending less eating out.

But generally speaking, when you’re eating out a lot, you’re spending a ton of money on really cheap ingredients. Can you dig in a little bit more? What’s the difference between the oils that you would use compared to a traditional restaurant?

It’s really important to me that you can go into your average grocery store anywhere and find the ingredients in this book, because nothing frustrates me more than when people tell me something is simple, and then I’m like, “I’m sorry, what? I had to go to six different stores.” And I also left out prep times because everyone lies in their prep times in cookbooks. I’m like, it takes however long it takes you, okay? And there’s no shame in it.

But I use extra virgin olive oil, I use coconut oil. Personally when I’m cooking at home, I use avocado oil. I really like the flavor and it has a high smoke point, but that’s not necessarily something that is currently carried in all supermarkets, but coconut oil is, and so is extra virgin olive oil.

First of all, it’s so much better for your heart than something like canola oil or peanut oil or the traditional cheap oils that you’d find used in a restaurant. And they also have a lot more flavor, so you only really need a small amount. That’s what’s so great. If you’re using the proper techniques… I’m a huge fan of grilling, obviously. It locks in the moisture. You don’t have to bury something in oil or butter to keep it moist.

Roasting, and braising in chicken stock that’s super flavored with a lot of spices and onions, garlic—things like that are super cheap, first of all. You can go and buy ten onions for like $2.50. Those are the types of pantry staples that you can slowly build up and you’ll save yourself some money.

And if you want to buy things in bulk, do it. At some point, you will get through those things. Not fresh produce, obviously, but whole grains, things like onions that will keep for several weeks if you store them in a cool, dry place. Big jars of coconut oil or almond butter, or things you know you’re going to go through. I strongly believe in stocking up on those things. But in terms of the oils, these are the types of things too that I feel like at least Logan gets overwhelmed when I start to go out. I’m like, “Medium-chain fatty acids” and whatever. I’m like, “Look, let’s not even get into that.”

Always avoid deep-fried things. Even if you’re making them at home. Oven-fried things, in my opinion, can actually taste so much better because they still retain that crunch. They never have the oil slick.

If you order chicken fingers or something in a restaurant and you let them sit there and don’t eat them right away, you’ll notice that slick in the bottom on the parchment paper, and it’s sort of gross and you’re like, “Eww, why is that there?” If you oven-fry things, they’ll still retain that crunch.

Plus, you can taste the things that they’re seasoned with. Frying tends to drown out a lot of the other flavors. And so you lose that automatically. So oven-frying, roasting, grilling, steaming, anything that you can get away with using a minimal amount of fat, and those are the techniques that I go over again and again in the book, being like, “These are your building blocks.”

You can cook a piece of fish wrapped up in parchment. And all of a sudden, it locks all those flavors in there—it’s incredibly tender and you open that up and you smell everything. Your sense of smell too. I’m like, “What does fried food smell like?” It smells like fried food. All of it smells the same. Corn dogs, chicken fingers, onion rings—all you smell is fried food.

Abel: You stay away from fried junk for a while, and it’s really hard to go back.

It is, because you start to feel terrible when you actually do eat them. You get a food hangover. That’s what I call them now, because I never really realized it before. When that’s a regular part of your diet, your body does adjust in a very bad way, but you don’t feel that terrible.

Cutting out refined sugar for a couple of days—it doesn’t mean you’re giving it up forever, but your cravings for it obviously subside so much that you don’t need to be eating that much of it. There’s sugar hidden in everything in restaurants too. Every sauce… You just don’t know what’s going into these things, and then people actually find out the full ingredient list, which tends to be terrifyingly long too. An ingredient list should never be more than a page long, that’s ridiculous. Pizza, Domino’s, places like that… I mean I don’t want to call out Domino’s. There are plenty of chains. But they don’t even disclose their full ingredient list. The ingredient list for their cheese is like fifteen items.

Abel: Most of which are not cheese.

It’s just supposed to be cheese, but what is that?

Abel: People don’t realize how terrifying some of that premade, franchised-out industrial food really is. But as soon as you get started cooking…

Start with scrambled eggs or salad, something really simple. The Dude Diet is great for that, because it’s very appealing recipes that a guy might even try to make himself.

Abel: An interesting thing happens. As much as guys rib each other for ever touching vegetables or thinking about them, let alone talking about them, we do have a lot of respect for other guys who can cook a communal meal.

I remember when I was a young adult—so my first career job in DC, I went over to a guy’s house and he had his crockpot going.

That was one of the first times I’d ever seen a guy use a crockpot.

He made this beautiful roast and just some sauteed vegetables. It was an amazing, simple meal…  and he had dates for the next like two years, you know what I mean? It worked out for him. All the guys loved him too.

A guy who can cook is automatically smarter, funnier, and more attractive.

What it’s like to cook for pro football players in the NFL:

A guy that can cook is automatically smarter, funnier and more attractive. @serenagwolf Click To Tweet

Abel: Exactly. So there are a lot of hidden benefits to cooking. But your dude also had a dark moment with his scale?

It was one of those comedy moments that I was like, “This is like out of a Seinfeld episode or something.”

I was lying in bed on a Saturday and I heard this like, banging and screaming from the bathroom. We lived a railroad apartment, so I only had to run one room to get to him. He’s standing there fully naked on the scale, getting off it, banging it on the ground. “This scale is broken.” And I was like, “I literally bought that three days ago. It is not broken.”

The stream of expletives was priceless, but just full-blown panic. And I was like, “When was the last time you weighed yourself? How can this be such a shock?”

He played lacrosse in college. He was still eating like a college athlete. And I was like, “You are a desk-bound, twenty-nine-year-old male that exercises maybe twice a week, and one of those is sitting in the steam room.” So, this is not a sustainable thing.

But that was the turning point where he was like, “Okay.” He wasn’t seriously overweight and the crazy thing is what I always say about guys: it’s not much a good button-down can’t hide. He looked fine. It was more he realized he had put on, I’d say, a solid twenty pounds since college and was like, “Uh-oh. I don’t want to continue going down this road. So I want to stop now. I don’t have to do a full lifestyle overhaul. I just want to get back on track.”

Abel: That’s a lot easier to do when it’s the first twenty or thirty pounds. If it progresses, you start to get heart disease, pre-diabetes, or mental effects as well. Reversing those conditions can take a lot more time, and certainly more of an overhaul of your entire life, because it’s all about building good habits. And when you have zero good habits, it gets harder the longer you go. You’re cemented into not knowing how to make anything, just eating out of packages, and that’s not where we want to be.

I want to shift gears because I know you were a private chef to professional athletes in the NFL, and you have a few stories about that…

This is a whole different side of the Dude Diet that really intrigued me. I did this for two seasons; I cooked for one guy each season, and I was hooked up with them through their nutritionist.

It’s impressive what the NFL is doing these days. They are trying to educate their players about nutrition, because they want them to have minimal inflammation to be in the best possible shape they can be. The crazy thing is, you look at a linebacker—those are huge dudes and they have to maintain that weight, but they also want to be doing that in a healthy way. They don’t want to be just eating three large pizzas for dinner to keep that bulk on.

I cooked for two polar opposites: One guy was close to 300 pounds. One guy was 175, and he was super lean. The first guy… His nutritionist was like, “He doesn’t have any restrictions, he just needs to work more whole foods into his diet.”

So I accidentally on my first day said, “Hey, your nutritionist says you’re on a pretty strict diet.” And the look of horror that immediately came over his face! He was like, “What? I’m just trying to eat less Taco Bell.” And I was like, “Fair enough. I can do that for you.”

And so the crazy thing was for him—this is an extreme example, but he’d never really had anybody cook for him before, so he’d been eating essentially takeout restaurant meals, packaged foods forever. So when I would serve certain things, he would be like, “What is this?” My immediate response as a chef was, “Do you not like it? That’s why you’re asking?”

“No, I love it, I’ve just never seen it before.” And it was something common like quinoa or pork tenderloin.

The leaner meats, whole grains, slightly more obscure types of produce (like butternut squash) were not something he was eating on a regular basis.

So that was really cool. After the first month, was like, “I feel really good. My coach today commented on how much faster and stronger I seem.” And obviously, I’m not going to take full credit for that—he was taking other steps in his life to get in the best possible shape—but it was really cool to see somebody go through that transformation where they’re exposed to new foods.


And then, on the flipside of the coin, when I was cooking for this really giant guy, he was newly gluten-free.

Now, there are so many gluten-free options, but when somebody needs to be eating 2500 calories at dinner, it’s hard when you can’t bulk it out with any sort of whole grain pasta or farro. You really do have to be using slightly more alternative grains, and really working in a ton of protein.

After my first week, I said, “How are things going?” He was like, “Everything tastes great, but I don’t know what to tell you. I need more food.” I said, “Okay. As a point of reference, I just served you a whole chicken. A whole roast chicken.”

Abel: “I need three chickens!!!”

Yeah, he was like, “I don’t know what to tell you, I need at least two or three.” I was like, “You got it, dude.” I was making what felt like dinner for six, to be perfectly honest, but for one guy. But it was still lean proteins, a ton of produce, and then it was really fun to be experimenting with all of these gluten-free options.

And I’m not a big fan, to be honest, of things that are just labeled gluten-free. I was not using just gluten-free pasta, I was actually using 100 percent brown rice pasta or quinoa—all of these things cooked in their natural state, and not bulked out with sugars, and chemicals, and all the other scary things in processed gluten-free foods.

Abel: Bring on the gluten-free Oreos!

Yes, exactly. Well, and that was another thing, just to bring Logan back into it. I once found him eating one of those ten-pound bags of gluten-free chocolate-covered pretzels, and he’s like, “They’re gluten-free.” And I was like, “That is not synonymous with healthy.” What a ridiculous concept.

Gluten-free is not synonymous with healthy. @serenagwolf Click To Tweet

Abel: We’ll believe whatever we want to believe, okay?! Haha.

Exactly. But it is really interesting to see these professional athletes who are literally using food as fuel, versus your average dude that is just eating dinner. It really makes such a huge difference in their performance, but the things they requested were still cheesesteaks for some reason.

What is it with cheesesteaks? Everyone wants cheesesteaks. This guy was actually from Philly, so that’s allowed.

But really, traditional Italian comfort food meals aren’t traditionally healthy meals, and I didn’t want to make them over in a way that was boring.

When it came to chicken parm, it would be so bush league to make this guy a grilled version where it’s like the plain chicken breast. I ended up marinating it in buttermilk and then covering it in crushed brown rice cereal, which is a great gluten-free option but actually has a ton more flavor then grilling the plain chicken breast and putting some tomato sauce on it.

Abel: On that point, I want to read something that’s actually from the acknowledgment piece of your book:

“I still shudder at the thought that I might have ended up with some muscled dude that ate exclusively clean, whole foods.”

I like that. So many people think you have to join this cult and eat nothing but skinless chicken breasts, and have protein shakes, and that’s your life. There’s no enjoyment, there’s no pleasure in food, there’s no feasting. If you want to be healthy, if you want to perform at your best, if you want to be a pro athlete who’s getting better and better, you don’t have to do that. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

No. And I know from reading your book, The Wild Diet, you feel exactly the same way: Feeling deprived is only going to end badly. We’re not trying to get people to give up the foods that they love. And I also firmly believe that if you do want to go to Pat’s or Juno’s when you’re in Philly, and crush two cheesesteaks and hang out, do it. That’s not a dealbreaker. Just make sure that you are living a balanced lifestyle.

It sounds so cliché to say that it’s all about moderation, but once you’re armed with the tools and the skills that you need to make healthier decisions, then you’re going to do that for the most part on a daily basis. And then the other 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent of the time you’re going to eat clean-ish, and that’s totally fine.

Abel: That’s the way you have to do it whether you like it or not. Because if you try to be one of those people who’s squeaky-clean, perfectly muscled, works out all the time, and eats perfectly all the time, it can go in really bad directions really quickly, like orthorexia.

As soon as you travel a little bit, you find you can’t eat anything, and that’s no good So it’s important to recognize that you’re doing this for health, and part of that is mental health, as well.

And when you make chicken parm from scratch using real ingredientsI’ll take your recipe versus a restaurant every time, and it’s probably going to taste a whole lot better. Even if the person making it doesn’t know how to cook, it’s still going to taste better because the ingredients are higher quality and it’s crafted by a chef who knows what they’re doing. The taste comes from the freshness of foods.

And then also a little bit of that satisfaction that you made it yourself.

Abel: Oh yeah, making food yourself has been shown in scientific studies to actually taste a lot better.

It does taste a lot better. I really can’t stand people trying to impose their beliefs on others wholeheartedly. Whether that’s in religion or diet or fashion. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. You’ll see sidebars throughout the whole book where my general life motto is, “You do you whatever works for you.” You have to live your life. And everybody’s looks a little bit different.


Abel: And that’s a beautiful thing.

Well, I think your book is absolutely fantastic. Are there any quick tips that you might have for someone who really doesn’t know what to do in the kitchen, but they’d like to get started?

The first thing is to outfit your kitchen. And that sounds scary, but there’s a whole chapter on that in The Dude Diet. I want to be very upfront, though. I walk into something like Williams-Sonoma or Bed Bath & Beyond and see all of these things. And I know what they all are, and I’m super excited about them. But not everyone gets excited about specialty spatulas, and I’m cool with that.

You really only need a handful of tools. A few basics, actual cookware, like skillets, etcetera. And then a couple tools… a really good knife. I’m not even going to tell you that you need three knives, like all cookbooks do. You can do pretty much everything with one. Maybe you want the backup serrated knife. But realistically, you can hack it if you’ve got a chef’s knife and the proper cookware.

And then also building a usable pantry. Because there’s nothing that’s going to make you want to cook less than opening a cookbook or going online and looking at a recipe and being like, “I have to buy all of these things.” But if you already have the oils, the salt and pepper, a handful of spices, that’s great.

This is where the “you do you” comes in. If you know that you like certain flavors, invest in those first, and slowly build up your pantry. And I use the term “pantry” loosely. For a long time, my pantry was like a plastic box by my door. So whatever works. Just get the building blocks in place. And that also applies to techniques.

There’s a section called “Back Pocket Recipes” in the book. And I feel really strongly about people mastering how to cook a chicken breast, a basic frittata, a super easy stew. Essentially, building blocks that you can then adapt in a million ways.

And also, like you said about getting a lot of cooking out of the way on certain days of the week. So if you’re going to make one chicken breast, why not make four. If you’re going to use those in salads, or add them to sandwiches or soups or whatever throughout the week. Same thing goes for like, a stew. If you’re already making one, you have a big pot of any kind, a heavy-bottom soup pot. Why don’t you just double the recipe and freeze half for when you need it?

So it’s sort of getting your stuff together in the kitchen and learning these few basic techniques. And then realistically, it’s also just embracing that things aren’t necessarily going to be perfect. You can adapt them. You can save most disasters. I think my biggest cooking tip that I tell everyone is, “Don’t be afraid to mess up.” Because you’re going to. You can usually save it, and when you can’t, those are the stories that you tell at parties. So just go with it.

Abel: And don’t take it too personally. If your food turns out bad or someone else’s came out bad, no judgment. Just laugh about it. It happens all the time. If you say you don’t like someone’s cooking, that gets really political really quickly. So you have to be careful…

Oh, my god. I would never.

Abel: Don’t do that to yourself either. I think that’s exactly what people do when they first get started. But cooking is actually quite forgiving. So allow yourself to screw up for the first like, half dozen times or whatever. And you’re going to screw up.

And don’t compare yourself to other people. I know it’s really hard. We live in the Pinterest, Instagram age, where everything looks perfect. Truth be told, your chicken parm is not going to look exactly like the photo in the book. But whatever!


Abel: Well, Serena, this was great. Please tell folks where they can find you and a little bit more about your book.

First of all, I am on, multiple times a week, with fresh recipes and videos and general tips.

Everywhere on social media I am @serenagwolf. So you can find me in all those places (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), including Snapchat, which I refuse to give up.

And The Dude Diet is available for order on Amazon. There’s also a big cookbook page on my site that has pre-order details, giveaways, etcetera. There are a lot of cool things you’re going to be getting if you pre-order the book. And they’ll be on shelves and available in stores on October 25, if you want to go old school.

I’ll be in different locations, which will all be available on my site for events and signings and stuff. And realistically, it’s called The Dude Diet. I know that “dude” is a traditionally gendered term. But to me, it is blind. This is for dudes and the people that love them. If you’re a chick that identifies with the dude mentality, I mean, I am you.

Abel: At the very least, I think reading The Dude Diet will help them understand men a little bit better, and how to hopefully guide them toward the world of health. Because it’s a tough thing to do; you can never force it on anyone. But at some point, you’ll probably get those little clues that a guy might be asking for help, like when he body slams everything in the bathroom because he didn’t know how much he weighed and he just found out. The scale has to be broken!

As far as I’m concerned, if your significant other, or dad, or brother, or best friend needs The Dude Diet, leave it in the bathroom.

And I also firmly believe that if you don’t want to talk to your significant other about eating more healthily, because that can be a weird dynamic, do this. For years, there have been plenty of women forwarding my posts to their significant others, and being like, “Isn’t this so crazy that she’s doing this to her boyfriend online?” and “What good information is in there?” So if you want to make me the bad guy, that’s totally cool.

Abel: Nice. Also, if you want to just make a great recipe of whole foods for someone else, without them quite realizing it yet, that is a great way to get people started. And they’re just like “Wow, this is health food? I can eat cheese?”

It’s great. Well, Serena, thank you so much. Your book is wonderful, and I’d love to have you on again soon.

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.


Discover how to drop fat with chocolate, bacon, and cheesecake. Plus: learn the 3 worst foods you should NEVER eat and the 7 best exercises for rapid fat loss. Click below to to claim your FREE gift ($17 value)!


Here’s a review of the Fat-Burning Man podcast that came in on iTunes…

How to lose 20 pounds in 40 days:

Changerang2 says:

I started listening to your podcast a year and a half ago. It’s kept my commute interesting while taking me on my journey to get fit and healthy.

I have lost over 50 pounds and kept it off. I still get comments at work daily. Abel has a lot of great information from a diverse set of guests that will lead you to reconsider conventional wisdom. I hope that I can inspire others like Abel has inspired us through his podcast.

Congratulations! Dropping fifty pounds is no joke. And if you’re listening closely, you’ll learn that the path to health is much more straightforward than most people would ever imagine.

If you want to share your story, leave a comment for me below, hit me up on social media under Abel James (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook), or head on over to iTunes and leave a review.

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How to lose 20 pounds in 40 days:

What are your favorite healthy versions of dude food? Share your tips on how to sneak veggies into man food in the comments below!

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