Chef and author Russ Lane teaches how to fight back against things you can’t punch, in a culture that often lets people like himself slip through the cracks. Though an avid boxing fan, he prefers ingenuity, irreverence and joy as his weapons of choice. Fists are supplemental.
What began with a highly personal goal of losing 200 pounds turned into a 10-year career he never anticipated and a mission he never thought he’d assume. Determined to change the way weight loss is discussed, Russ has catered events and published articles across the Southeast. He was a guest lecturer at The Structure House, where he was the only speaker without a formal medical or culinary degree. His media appearances include Newsweek and the perennial NBC morning program, Today. In addition to working with private students and as a personal chef, Russ was a finalist for the Idea Village Entrepreneurial Challenge to prove keeping weight off could be as profitable as losing it, breaking a long-held diet industry taboo.
With his private students, Russ prevented suicides, helped break 14-year stretches of celibacy, and accomplished what even a team of four doctors couldn’t for a New Orleans man with diabetes and a heart condition.
Russ began his career as a 350-pound singer and arts journalist in the Carolina region of the United States. After lifelong obesity, Russ began losing 200 pounds without medication or medical procedure even while accepting a food writing post for McClatchy Newspapers. He left journalism following his mother’s death, began writing on post-weight issues and earned his stripes with some of New Orleans’ most creative chefs before emerging in New York as a creative tour de force.
He has kept his weight off for twelve years, enduring three family deaths, overcoming abusive relationships, restarting his life in two different cities, and refusing to let misfortunes or lack of support define who he was, regardless of weight. And found a way to keep weight off anyhow.
Yet the more dramatic events Russ found himself in, the most challenging were the simplest aspects to moving on when your formative years spent being obese. Russ developed his unique ability to turn seemingly dour, impossible situations into massive strengths and superlative achievements: If life hands you lemons, he reasons, skip the lemonade and craft a roasted Meyer Lemon jam.
That life axiom and philosophy — combined with the emerging research into successful weight maintenance practices — fuels his lively, practical cooking methodology and philosophy.
“The war on obesity is really a war on low expectations, and creative healthy cooking is among the best weapons to provide a life worth fighting for,” says Russ. “Teaching those with poor relationships with food how to bend food to their will provides a sense of healing and confidence and joy – weight loss in itself doesn’t guarantee a livelier, more joyous life. In a world that frankly doesn’t expect you to keep weight off, I teach how to prove them all wrong, with a smile and a great meal.”
In addition to his work, Russ began using boxing equipment as a canvas for acrylics, fostered untrained writers, helped to found a LGBT community center in Myrtle Beach, and helped launch the still-thriving Frenchmen Street Art Market in New Orleans. He extensively volunteers with Give a Kid a Dream, The Actor’s Fund, The Family Center of Brooklyn, The Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, GeeksOUT, Positive Alliance, Marble Collegiate Church and recently fought his first amateur fight in Times Square (he lost, but the story from it was totally worth it).
He currently lives in New York City and trains at The Mercedes Club.