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“I've lost so much weight, my underwear fell off.”
That's the kind of testimonial Mary Smith loves to hear.
The 51-year-old runs Eat Smart Bermuda, a South Beach and Paleo diet meal delivery service.
“Clients call me and say, ‘Mary, I know it's only been a week, but I really do feel like I have more energy with this diet',” said Ms Smith. “That's great to hear. Overall, I just want to improve the health of the Island.”
The South Beach diet features foods low in carbohydrates. It targets belly fat associated with chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
“The Paleo diet is more of a lifestyle change,” Ms Smith said. “It is more about eating unprocessed foods; people want to enjoy the taste and texture of food. It's not for everyone.”
Egg muffins, sautéed mushrooms, Bermuda fish chowder and salmon are among her South Beach offerings; her range of Paleo dishes include zucchini with sausage, nuts and turkey meat sauce with vegetable spaghetti.
She confessed she had never been on either diet herself.
She fell into the business 15 years ago.
“I was an administrator,” she said.
“I'd been out of the field and then found it difficult to get back into it. I've heard a lot of people in their 40s and 50s have this problem.
“I was working on commission with Fresh TV when a colleague said she wanted to start the South Beach diet but didn't have the time to cook the meals.”
Until then, Ms Smith's only catering experience had been feeding her four children.
“My hand shot up,” she said. “I said, ‘I'll do it if you can find five other people who also want it done'. I thought it would be easy.”
Cooking was simple; the hard part was finding space to cook in. Ms Smith had about 25 clients, and her kitchen was pushed from pillar to post.
“In the early 2000s, you couldn't find an empty building in Bermuda,” she said. “I was cooking in one space and then the landlord needed the space back, and so on.”
She eventually gave up and moved to California for several years.
“Out there, diet delivery services are quite common,” she said.
“I found that inspirational.”
She returned to Bermuda in 2012. There was a lot more space and she decided to give her business another go.
Her first step was hiring a professional chef and nutritionist, Ashley Tucker.
They're working out of Well Bottom Road, Warwick while kitchen space at the old Pembroke Community Centre is renovated.
“I'd been looking to do something like this,” said Ms Tucker, who learnt how to cater to different diets while studying at Johnson & Wales University. “I've done personal chef work for clients with far more demanding diets than what these diets require, so it won't be difficult.”
Many people wanted to try diets like South Beach or Paleo but didn't have the time to research how to make the meals, she said.
“I think a lot of people are just busy with their careers or taking care of their families,” she said. “Some people don't have the knowledge to cook.”
She was hoping to incorporate cooking workshops into the Eat Smart programme.
“That way they will find it easier to do for themselves,” she said. “Even if it is just on weekends.”
Ms Smith is hoping to start a garden-to-table programme.
“That is still in the planning stages,” she said. “When my kitchen at the Pembroke Community Centre is finished, I'd like to make it into a community kitchen.
“That way people could rent it out for a few hours if they needed to cook for a function or whatever.”
She hopes it might help would-be chefs avoid some of her early struggles to secure cooking space.
Eat Smart meals are delivered cold. Prices range from $190 to $125 a week, depending on the diet and the number of meals required each day.
“Some people may only want lunch,” she said. “Others may only want dinner, or they want everything. I work with the client.”
For more information call 591-2471 or e-mail eatsmart firstname.lastname@example.org.