Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Smaller Fork, Smaller Bites...Smaller You?

I am so glad it's the last day of January 2012 -- this month has been unusually challenging. In particular, I've been plagued by a slew of dental difficulties, from a toothache to a broken tooth to a cavity underneath an existing crown. There was one up side, though: After two weeks of eating mashed potatoes and ice cream, I lost five pounds.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not suggesting these foods as the latest diet fad. I'm confident it wasn't my dietary choices that resulted in weight loss! Instead, what made the difference was eating slowly. In order to eat pain-free, I had to use a small spoon or fork. Each bite was small, and it took me much longer to eat than usual. As a result, I felt full long before I ate the amount I normally would.

Intrigued, I did some digging. As it turns out, the research is mixed. Many sources, dating as far back as this article from the mid-1980s, report that using small plates and utensils is an effective way to slow down and enjoy smaller portion sizes. However, two Salt Lake City researchers reported in July 2011 that bigger forks meant restaurant diners ate less.

I suspect the old-school approach has its merits -- and not just because of my own recent experience. It makes sense that using a smaller fork would encourage slower eating, and slower eating would lead to feeling full sooner. Assuming that you're responsive to your body's hunger and fullness cues, a change as simple as using smaller forks and spoons could help you lose and maintain weight.

So, why did the researchers find that restaurant diners ate less when they used bigger forks? It's hard to draw conclusions from a single study, but I'll hazard that it was in part because they didn't compare what one particular person might eat with a big fork versus a small fork. Instead, they compared people who ate with big forks to people who ate with small forks. Also, the study looked only at restaurant eating habits; it didn't take into consideration how people eat at home.

My dental woes are temporarily behind me, but I've switched permanently to the smallest forks and spoons I can find. It's a simple, easy way to slow down eating, and cut back on calories almost effortlessly. What do you think? Do you think it would work? Would you be willing to try it? Post below and let us know!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Need a Little Motivation?

Happy Thursday! So, how are you doing with your weight management goals? We're nearly to the end of January, and you know what that means: The weather's still cold and wet. It's dark and dreary outside. Valentine's Day is right around the corner, bringing chocolates and candies with it. It's definitely that time of year when motivation to stick with your weight management goals can begin to flag!

If you're starting to drift from your goals, here's some motivation to get you back on track (or encourage you to keep up the excellent work!). This research study published in the online version of The Journal of Nutrition found that even mild dehydration affected mood, and not for the better: The women in the study noted that they were less energetic, had poorer concentration, felt that tasks were harder, and were more likely to have headaches. Who wants that? So, make sure you're getting enough plain water every day to keep yourself thoroughly hydrated. Your body and your mood will thank you!

Are you struggling for a reason to get outside and get in a workout? Look no further than this article on two recent research studies on brown fat. It turns out that brown fat -- a type of body fat that's actually brown in color, and burns a substantial amount of fat to sustain itself -- is activated by being cold. Researchers also observed that exercise literally converts regular fat to brown fat. In other words, cold weather and exercise might increase your metabolic rate. (That explains why I effortlessly lose about five pounds every winter, and regain it when the weather warms up!)

At this time of year, focusing on lifestyle change can be a lonely journey. For many people, the excitement of New Year's resolutions has begun to fade. For the first two weeks after New Year's, the sidewalks were crowded with fellow joggers and bicyclists. Lately, though, I'm seeing just a few fellow exercisers. If it seems as though you're the last person you know who's still focused on weight management, you're not alone. If you want to post your goals, ask for support, or share a success, don't be shy -- I'd love to hear from you. Post a little something below!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Recipe: Spicy Chipotle Hummus

Hello everyone! It's been a while since I posted a recipe, because I've been busy experimenting with hummus. Hummus is incredibly versatile. It makes a delicious dip for raw veggies, and because fresh fruits and veggies are scarce this time of year, hummus is a wonderfully high-fiber way to encourage my family to enjoy more carrots and cucumbers. Hummus is also a fun spread for leftover turkey sandwiches, or a yummy topping for Mediterranean recipes. And, of course, it's a perfect pairing with pita chips for a healthy, hearty chips-and-dip snack while you enjoy the end of the football season!

Hummus is also versatile from a flavor standpoint. I've added all sorts of different add-ins to create all sorts of different flavor profiles. I tried roasted red peppers with basil and rosemary; extra garlic with basil and oregano; artichoke hearts and tarragon; and jalapenos and avocado, and they're all delish. However, this particular variation disappears almost as soon as I make it!

Two quick notes: First, we love garlic. If you're not quite as passionate about garlic as we are, I suggest reducing the garlic to 1/4 cup. I amp up the garlic, in part, because I don't use salt, which is a classic ingredient in hummus. If you back down on the garlic, you may want to add in a teaspoon of salt. Second, you can easily omit the chipotle powder, and either enjoy your hummus plain, or experiment with other add-in ingredients.

Either way, don't forget to come back and tell us what you try and how it turns out! As they say in the Middle East, Bil-hana wa ash-shifa! (May you have your meal with gladness and health!

Spicy Chipotle Hummus


2 (15.5) ounce cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed, if desired
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup bottled minced garlic
1/4 cup tahini, olive oil, or canola oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground chipotle chili pepper (or 1 1/2 teaspoons for a less-spicy hummus)


Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor. Process until hummus reaches desired smoothness. (I've had hummus that still had noticeable chunks of chickpeas; or, the consistency may be absolutely smooth, like whipped mashed potatoes.) Hummus may be served immediately, but the flavor is better if refrigerated overnight.

Cook's Note: When I started making hummus, I used tahini, which you can find in your grocer's Middle Eastern food section or at most health food or specialty food stores. Tahini is the oil of choice in hummus in Lebanon (which is considered to be the birthplace of hummus, by most accounts). However, after going through a few cans of tahini, I began experimenting with olive oil, which is the oil used in Greece and other areas. I've also used canola oil, and it does the trick, too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Making Behavior Change Stick

Hello everyone! Last week we talked about how easy it is to regain weight after you lose it, and how lifestyle change can help you lose weight and keep it off. I mentioned that there are many things you can do to change your lifestyle to support weight management, and remarked that it's a good thing there are so many things you can do. Without a doubt, there's something you can do -- today! -- that will move you toward a healthier, happier lifestyle.

There's a dark side to that, though. We're about halfway through the December session of Lose Weight and Keep It Off, and several students have remarked that they're feeling overwhelmed by how many goals they're trying to juggle. They feel guilty if they don't do everything they can to lose weight...and then feel worried because they can't keep up.

If you can relate, know that these feelings are perfectly normal. (This is especially true if you've been immersed in the diet mentality, and have been taught that it's all about calories in versus calories out.) That said, it's crucial to avoid getting bogged down by all the different factors that affect your weight. Remember, you don't have to do weight management perfectly to do it well...but you have to do something differently!

So, don't let all the possibilities overwhelm you. Instead, choose only as many goals as you can realistically manage right now. Remember, your goal isn't immediate weight loss. Your goal is to make lifestyle change you can live with, so you lose that weight...and keep it off.

Also, keep in mind that the things you're working on right now will get easier with time and practice. If you told me five years ago that I'd feel thirsty if I didn't drink at least 2 liters of water a day, I'd have laughed out loud. That third liter of water can be a challenge, but if I don't get 2 liters by suppertime, I want to drink some water. Hydration is still my biggest challenge when it comes to weight management, but it's much easier than it was a few years ago. The same kinds of changes can -- and will -- happen for you, too.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lose Weight -- and Keep It Off!

Are you among the many people resolving to lose weight this year? If so, here's an article from WebMD.com I encourage you to review first. Yes, it's true the study quoted in the article looked specifically at a small group of postmenopausal women. However, the researchers observed something many of us already knew: When you lose weight, you lose some muscle mass along with the fat. When you regain weight, all of that weight is fat. This tendency to lose muscle makes it easier to gain weight, and harder to lose it. The moral of the story is simple: Focusing on weight loss doesn't work in the long run.

What to do? Instead of focusing on weight loss, aim for lifestyle changes that will result in weight loss. So, instead of "I'm going to lose 20 pounds this year," how about goals like:
  • "I will write down everything I eat and drink for 30 days"
  • "I will track my emotions before I eat for the next two weeks"
  • "I will walk every day for 30 minutes, either at lunchtime or after work"
  • "I will not watch TV unless I'm stretching or working out while I do it"
  • "I will drink 8 ounces of water before every cup of soda or coffee for the next 3 months"
  • "I will experiment with a nurturing bedtime routine for the next month"
These are only a few examples, of course. There are many, many things you can do to create weight loss. That's good news, because it means there's something you can do differently -- today! -- to create weight loss. And when you make lifestyle changes, that means the weight you lose stays off, instead of coming back to haunt you (and bringing a few extra pounds with it).

Here's a bonus tip: Instead of waiting for the reward of weight loss, experiment with planning ahead to reward yourself with some tangible, non-food reward as you accomplish your lifestyle change goals. For instance, after you exercise 30 days, treat yourself to a wonderful new perfume or cologne. After 60 days of exercise, schedule a massage or facial. After 90 days of exercise, buy yourself a new item of clothing, or a new piece of jewelry or necktie to accessorize an outfit you love.

Got questions or concerns? Want to share your goals, challenges, or successes? You're in the right place! Please don't be shy...post away! :)

New Year, New Blogpage!

Happy new year! Did you notice some changes since you were here last? Don't worry! I'm back to blogging weekly, and my focus here on the home page will be as it's always been -- providing you with relevant, useful information on weight management and healthy eating. That's right! I've got new recipes and new tips and tricks to share with you to help you lose weight and keep it off, and help you eat healthfully and enjoy every bite.

Of course, you're welcome to browse elsewhere, and see what's new. In a nutshell, there's a page with information on my online cooking class Luscious, Low-fat, Lightning-quick Meals; a page for my online weight loss class Lose Weight and Keep It Off; and one for my dance troupe, Kanela and the Desert Gypsies. (I've also added a gallery for your viewing pleasure.)

Keep in mind that the home page is still the place for you to share your culinary and weight loss adventures. I welcome your posts, so please don't be a stranger, regardless of what pages you visit. Post your questions, your commentary, or your suggestions. I wish you the best as you pursue a new year of health, happiness, and healthful cooking (and eating!). Let's get to it!