Monday, January 31, 2011

Mindset and the Power of Foods

One of the students in my January "Lose Weight" class posted a comment about doughnuts recently, wondering why something so good had to be so bad. I love doughnuts, especially the ones with powdered sugar, but they make my stomach hurt every time I eat them. What do you do if a food doesn't make you sick -- and it calls to you with a siren's song?

Consider this: You can change how you think about a particular food. In other words, you can change your mindset about that food. What I'm talking about is simply about taking away inappropriate power and influence we give to certain foods, and viewing foods as they really are -- that is, seeing both their positive and their negative aspects, with honesty and without judgment.

Most of us are unaware of the power we give to specific foods. I have an advertisement for a steakhouse that shows a huge slab of baby back ribs, with the caption, "Endless Slab!" Every time I see it, I mentally convert it to "Endless Flab!" Instead of "All-you-can-eat," I think "All-you-can-weigh." And so on. Between social and cultural influences, advertising, and our own personal experiences, it's easy to fall into the trap of losing sight of what a food really does -- and doesn't do -- for you.

How can you change your mindset? Ask yourself, "Aside from this one thing -- flavor, mouthfeel, comfort, etc. -- what does this food bring to me?" Consider nutrition, calories, and how you feel about yourself after you eat it. It's not about banishing the food forever. It's about seeing the food honestly, and considering whether you really want and need to eat it. Once you see a food as it really is, the siren's song will sound off-key...and it loses its power to tempt you.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pasta Fagioli

I ran across the inspiration for this recipe online several years ago. I've tinkered with it quite a bit to make it quick and easy to prepare, lower in fat, and flavorful. The ingredients keep for weeks in the fridge, so it makes an excellent emergency cupboard meal. It's definitely become a family fave!

Pasta Fagioli


1 pound pasta (my favorite is rigatoni, but any similar pasta works)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
6 ounces 70% less fat pepperoni, quartered
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1(15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained (and rinsed, if desired)
1/4 cup red wine
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground four-peppercorn seasoning
1/2 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese


Prepare pasta according to manufacturer's directions. Meanwhile, saute onion, garlic, and pepperoni in olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet until onion is just tender, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add tomato sauce, beans, wine, Italian seasoning, peppercorn, and cheese and simmer until pasta is cooked. Drain pasta and add to sauce. Stir well to combine.

Buon appetit! :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Plateaus, Those Last 10 Pounds, Habits, and You

Losing that last ten or fifteen pounds is hard, isn't it? It's like a weight loss plateau -- you've tried everything to lose weight, but no matter what you do, the scale doesn't budge. It's tempting to go on whatever fad diet is popular, or give up and return to old habits. There's another option, though, and I want to share my recent experience with it today.

I recently started working as a belly dancer in a restaurant. At a restaurant, the expectation is a bra and belt, with the midsection showing. And because I do sword work, including balancing the sword on my hip, wearing a belly cover isn't an option for me. My weight is normal, and it isn't affecting my health, but suddenly, I'm self-conscious about my "baby belly."

I started where everyone should -- by keeping a food record for a few days. I quickly made some interesting observations. First, getting enough water is definitely a challenge for me. And second, I found room for improvement in how much I was eating after coming home from work at night. Lastly, I noticed that I'd fallen into the habit of eating a few chips here, or a nosh there, as I was serving my kids' plates or preparing meals.

I decided to start by upping my water intake to 4 liters a day. (Please, check with your health care professional before you up your fluid intake!) Because of my work schedule, the only way to do this was to drink a liter of water after I get home from work at night.

I quickly observed something: Much of what I do, in terms of eating, is surprisingly habitual. My so-called hunger when I get home from work -- which I'd been tackling with a big bowl of veggies or a salad, followed by a couple of sugar-free popsicles -- was completely alleviated by a liter of water instead.

More intriguing still, I noticed that giving up habits is hard. Not because I was hungry, or because they met my wants or needs in any way. Giving up my previous behaviors was hard simply because they were familiar. I didn't develop them with the intention of comforting myself, and I'm not a fanatic about routines. Yet, I had inadvertently developed routines that support my weight as it is now, and prevent me from taking weight loss to the next level.

Moral of the story? Your food record is your best friend and ally! -- and you can use it to pinpoint areas where you can make small changes. If you're already keeping a food record, I'm challenging you to find one or two areas where you could make minor changes. Are you holding on to drinking one soda a day, or enjoying a glass of wine every evening with dinner? Is there room for improvement with balancing proteins and carbs at meals and snacks? Are you really getting enough non-starchy veggies every day? You get the idea!

When you set goals to make these seemingly small changes, be especially aware of how you feel as you change your behavior. Is it a hard habit to break? If so, what do you need to motivate you to follow through? Do you need a (non-food) reward to inspire you? Develop an affirmation? Ask for help? Whatever you might need, don't be shy about putting in that extra effort. You deserve it! Breaking habits is hard work.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Getting Back on Track

I have to admit, I feel like a stereotype, returning to my blog in this particular month. And I'll also admit, I've got some worries, as January is typically a very busy month for me work-wise (and this month is shaping up to be no different than in years past). Nevertheless, I'm ready to get back on track with blogging.

One thing I'm doing differently is this: I'm going to blog once a week, every Monday morning. I'm planning to post one new recipe every month, but the three other blog posts could be just about anything--an article, tips and tricks, or something new about weight management or healthy cooking that I'd like to share with you.

It's good to be back. I'm looking forward to sharing something new with you Monday!