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Articles > The New Iron Chef Star Seamus Mullen Dishes His Chef Secrets For Fighting RA

The New Iron Chef Star Seamus Mullen Dishes His Chef Secrets For Fighting RA

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Whether preparing lamb meatballs with tomato sauce on the The Next Iron Chef, cooking tapas for friends or manning the stove at Tertulia, his brand-new NYC restaurant that pays homage to Spanish cider houses, Seamus Mullen makes the art of gourmet cooking appear effortless.

Yet there are moments when the 37-year-old chef battles extreme pain as the result of flare-ups caused by rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Seamus confesses he knew nothing about RA before doctors put a name to his symptoms back in 2007. "I had struggled with stiffness for several years, but I chalked it up to the long hours I was working," he says. Then, four years ago, he woke up one morning with the worst hip pain he had ever experienced: "I thought maybe if I got out of bed, I'd feel better. I tried to stand up, and I collapsed. I couldn't put any weight on my foot. I crawled on my stomach, dragging myself across the floor, to a couch. Then I realized my phone was on the other side of the room. I tried to go back across the room, and I couldn't. So I just sat there for six hours."

After a lot of testing, doctors determined he had RA, but it was a difficult diagnosis for him to hear. He worried how he would be able to withstand long days spent picking ingredients and prepping food'not to mention long nights running a fast-paced kitchen for demanding diners. And then there was the stigma: When competing on The Next Iron Chef, Seamus initially kept his RA a secret. "I was concerned the producers and judges would see me in pain, and that it might affect how they judged me," he says. "By the final battle in Japan, I really couldn't walk at all. I actually went to a private pain-management clinic for cortisone injections. That eased the pain enough so that I could stand on my own again."

But true to the show's name, he toughed it out, and the judges'who didn't observe the actual cooking but merely tasted the end result'never suspected a thing. "There was no way I was going to give up," Seamus says. "In the end, the only real criticism they had was that I had overpoached my fish mousse. Had the judges been able to see the battle, they would have realized that I started poaching it and then fell to the ground, and I couldn't get up without help. By the time I got back to my station, it was overcooked!'

These days, the chef has discovered quite a few ways to keep a lid on his pain'and keep up with his demanding schedule. For starters, he manages his condition with a combination of medication and a diet high in foods with anti-inflammatory properties'what he calls "hero foods" (see " "Hero foods" to the rescue'). Plus, he credits these mantras for allowing him to juggle it all while fending off the aches and pains of RA:

Break out the bike! When you're feeling sore, working out may be the last thing you want to do, but Seamus swears by this low-impact exercise. "I bike 200-300 miles a week and feel better after a workout," he says. The nice part? You can adapt the bike to fit your needs. For example, if your neck hurts, raise the handlebars; if the
problem is your back, try adjusting the seat (see a physical therapist to get the perfect fit). And always check with your doctor before taking up any new exercise.

Work smarter, not harder. "Instead of putting in 15-hour days, I now limit the number of hours I work," Seamus says. "I also have a policy of no meetings before 11 in the morning because my joints tend to be very stiff when I first wake up, and it takes an hour to warm up my body." And when it comes to storage, think waist level: Seamus keeps all his kitchen essentials'pots, pans, electric appliances and even spices'on the countertop or a waist-high shelf to avoid having to do a lot of reaching and bending.

Connect with others who get it. "I've spoken to a lot of rheumatoid arthritis support groups and found that it helps to talk with others who understand me," Seamus says. "It's easy to feel overwhelmed and adopt a defeatist attitude, but talking with others who are also living with RA provides a way to manage those negative emotions." Looking to reach out? Visit creakyjoints.org for an online RA support group.
Osteoarthritis Rheumatoid Arthritis Anxiety Hip Pain Insomnia Joint Stiffness Pain Stress Arthritis Lose Weight Exercise More Upset Stomach

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