Nosce te ipsum, “know thyself” is a saying as old as the world.
Building your new lifestyle, you have to pay attention and learn your body signals.
Some call this “mindful eating” or “attuned eating” and even propose this as a strategy for weight control, opposed to any diet.
Mindful eating “eating teaches you to reconnect with your internal, physical cues for hunger and satiation. Attuned eating guides you in deciding when, what and how much to eat, and helps you build a reliable, consistent structure for feeding yourself. Attuned eating is flexible, allowing you to meet your nutritional needs.”
You might like this blog article “Attuned Eating: The Antidote to Dieting” by Judith Matz, LCSW.
Well, nicely said but this didn’ t quite work for me. After several months of trying this, I’ve put on.
Sorry, but I need my diet rules, I need a bit of fear that if I break one rule or another, I’ll lose control. However, I’ve learned some valuable lessons and actually, my diet doesn’t exclude mindful eating, it is a part of my new lifestyle.
First lesson is that if the rules are not “mine”, I might be so stressed that I won’t be able to follow them. I have to understand very well any rule, to accept it before making it mine.
If I don’t believe something will work for me, than it’s no use to adopt it.
A good lesson is not to eat if I’m not hungry. Yes, I know, breakfast is important but if I don’t feel like eating anything, just having my nice cup of coffee with a biscuit maybe, I won’t have anything else. And I’m not feeling guilty about this, because it’s done nothing bad to my weight. And, yes, I have to pay attention to “nervous” eating, eating only because I’m too stressed to do anything else.
Another lesson is about cravings.
If I crave daily for more and more sugar and fat, this is nasty, I’ll have to deal with it.
I’ve seen an excellent BBC documentary (“Trust me, I’m a doctor”, I guess) telling of the addiction power of doughnuts, of the 50% sugar – 50% fat proportion that creates a powerful addiction, as it tickles the pleasure center of our brain.
One efficient way to get rid of such a craving is a diet like Montignac or South Beach, Phase I or Atkins diet or a Ketogenic diet, for two weeks.
That is, you have to eat only low glycemic food for 2 weeks or even no carbs at all and get back slowly, over a month, to normal. It’s not easy to do it but I’ve got rid of commercial sweets cravings for ever. I simply won’t eat a doughnut, I can’t.
But, don’t discard all cravings as bad. If you crave a fruit, then go for it. Your body tells you something, like you need more vitamins. Learn to understand your body signals, don’t ignore them.
And if you want your diet to work, eat your favorite healthy meals, not what is mandatory or considered by others “healthy”.
Published on Jan 16, 2015
I don’t know about you, but I’m not enthusiastic when it comes to the fancy recipes of nowadays, be they “healthy” or “comfort”.
For one, too many ingredients, most quite expensive for me. Sugar or honey and salt are a must in such recipes, why, I don’t know.
And then, cooking such a recipe seems to never end. Takes too long, too many “do this and that”.
Then, everybody seems to think that, at home, you eat as at a restaurant, each day others plates, no leftovers.
Cooking for your diet is not easy anyway, especially if you’re cooking for one, either because you’re alone or your family has a different lifestyle.
Here are some of my tips and tricks.
Once a week, I cook a batch of sofrito, or salsa, or what name you like for this delicious tomato sauce.
Cut or blend in small pieces 1-2 onions, a large carrot, 1-2 sweet red peppers (or green or yellow), optionally celery, celeriac, parsley and parsnip roots. Put all in a fry pan with lots of canola or olive oil. Don’t worry about the smoking point, you won’t reach it. Add half a glass of water, if you have a sensible stomach. Stew everything, mixing from time to time, until the onions and carrots are done and it smells nicely in your kitchen. Add 5-7 tomatoes blended or 2 cups of tomato juice, a glass of white wine, 1 tbsp of vinegar, black pepper, a bay leaf, 2-3 grains of allspice, 1-2 garlic cloves, a dash of salt. Stew on very low heat for 30 minutes, with the lid on. Add some herbs chopped finely, cut the heat and cover.
Store this in the fridge and use it to cook other delicious recipes, like chicken, meatballs, sea food or fish with tomato sauce or pasta with tomato sauce and cheese.
Once a week I make a veggie soup.
Just throw in a pot whatever veggies you have on hand, cut finely or blended or whole but no tomatoes or potatoes. Add water to cover well the veggies, a bit of salt and vegetable oil. Stew everything for half an hour.
You can then eat this soup as it is or make another soup adding tomatoes or whisked eggs & yogurt/ cream. You might like to add some pasta, potatoes, bulgur or rice (boiled separately) or a can of beans. Always add some finely chopped herbs.
This way, you can eat each day a different delicious soup.
I have a collection of quick and easy recipes based on the same chinese like scenario:
– cut in small, nice, equal pieces any of the veggies you have in the fridge.
– cut in small, nice, equal pieces any of the meats or fish you have in the fridge.
– calculate one handful of veggies for one handful of meat pieces.
– take a wok and stir-fry the veggies. Set them aside in a pan. Stir-fry the meats, until slightly brown. Don’t forget to add some garlic, when almost ready.
– put everything in the pan.
– add a nice sauce, like some soja sauce or sofrito made by you or just half a glass of white wine with a bit of ginger.
– stew for 10 minutes on low heat, with the lid on.
– serve with rice, pasta, couscous, potatoes
My favorite combinations are chicken with leek or eggplant with pork and red peppers or duck with onions and quince slices or chicken breast with green garlic or seafood with leek and sweet red pepper.
When I’m too bored to cook and not so hungry:
I just put in a pan whatever veggies and meats or fish I fancy, sprinkle everything with vegetable oil and black pepper, add maybe a bit of butter, add half a glass of soup or water. Bake everything for half an hour and serve it with a bit of grated cheese on top.
And, of course, there is la piece de resistence, the salad.
I keep it simple, just veggies, fresh or pickled, some olive oil, lemon juice maybe, yogurt maybe, black pepper. No salt, please. Let everyone add salt at meal time, if they like it.
Add some cold chicken meats or sliced hardboiled eggs, some nuts and toast and you have a nice meal for anyone’s diet.
A nice touch: add several tablespoons of some colourful sour fruit like pomegranate or berries.
This way, I don’t loose too much time with my cooking.
I still have some nice more elaborate recipes I like to cook from time to time, when I have time, but these are not my everyday recipes. They’ re “nice to have”.
I don’t know about you, but I’m so bored with the existing status of the nutrition science, I feel like going in a desert and howling to the moon.
For sure, eat less, move a lot more and, in no time, you’ll see progress? Oh, yeah?
Nope, progress is so slow you have to have all the patience in the world and trust in your God.
And it’s like climbing Fagaras Mountains in Romania. Climb a high hill then get down, climb another hill, get down. You never seem to reach your target.
You can’t even get back because it’s the same up-and-down.
More than in any science, we need a brilliant discovery in nutrition. Maybe it’s almost here but for now, all I get in the news is the annual report telling me about the best and worst diets, tons of advice, more or less useless, and a lot of small itsy-bitsy discoveries.
But who knows, a lot has to be discovered and small piece by small piece, the image is filled in.
Meanwhile, I do my own science. I’m trying to validate what is working for me and maybe make my own itsy-bitsy discoveries.
Here they are, a few simple ideas that have worked for me:
– Eat mostly local fresh products, avoid over-processes foods, avoid chemicals in food.
– Don’t add sugar to your recipes unless it’s a desert. Add spices and herbs to your soups and stews, not salt.
– Prefer good fats (olive oil, canola, fatty fish, peanuts, avocado a.s.o) but don’t eat too much of these either
– Fasting from time to time is good. Like, don’t eat animal products once a week. I do it on Fridays. I have 1-2 days more a week in which I eat fish and no meat.
– Don’t sit down at least 3 hours a day and keep moving for at least half an hour in fresh air.
– Have a large salad or a veggie soup daily.
– It’s good for your brain to eat from time to time chocolate or a desert.
– Control your glycemic load. Avoid eating, day by day, foods with a high glycemic index.
– Control how much you eat and drink. A journal is the easiest way to do it.
– What you eat and drink every day counts mostly but avoid like you avoid a flu, binging on any day.
One problem with keeping a diet is that, from the very start, you expect it to be so unpleasant that you’ll become forlorn, you’ll feel like loosing all the good things of life.
And, yes, most of the diets are quite unpleasant, hard to follow, stressful, and, they’re not yours, they’re allien.
What should you do to build yourself a diet that you’ll enjoy so much you wouldn’ t look back?
First of all, don’t rush, don’t make sudden changes. It takes several weeks for a new habit to become part of your life. Keep this in mind.
Then, choose the things that you like mostly to eat and are not junk. There must be quite a lot and they should be a major part of your diet, regardless of what others say. Then start trying new things.
To build a good diet, one should add, not subtract. Don’t cut food groups just because someone said they’ll make you fat. You want to build on top, not demolish your existing life. Add more fruit, more vegetables, more legumes.
Add new recipes that will make your life more interesting. Take a look at the Mediterranean cuisine or Chinese cuisine. Enrich your life with new spices and ingredients.
Of course you’ll have to do some decluttering.
Take a look at some junk food or over processed foods. Ask yourself, do you really have to eat or drink those? Can’t you live without them?
Review your favorite recipes. Try to limit sugar and salt. Replace some of the salt with spices or lemon juice.
Replace sugar with spices like cinnamon or natural sugars like those found in a bit of banana or orange juice.
Don’t add sugar to salads, sauces or soups, they’re not desert. You’ll be amazed that the taste will improve. Reserve your sweet cravings for the desert.
And, yes, don’t give up desert but remember this. Once in a while is ok. It’s what you do daily that could fatten you and make you forlorn.
Ok, you’re huge, a human whale. Only you don’t live free in an ocean but in a society whose beauty ideal is slim, slim, slim. And this is the least of your worries.
You don’t need me to tell them all, by now you already know too well.
One of the problems is the confusion and almost madness surrounding this nutrition science. What’s to be done until doctors, nutritions and the like make some real progress? Nothing much but, not to do anything is not an option.
Here’s my plan, part of it already implemented succesfuly. Make your own plan but maybe you’ll find some useful ideas here.
Keep a journal. Writing down what you eat and how much you exercise and sleep, is the best control you can have on your life. For one, maybe you’ll know what is going on, what went wrong, what goes well with your lifestyle. It’s not difficult and time consuming if you use a tool like that provided by MyFitnessPal. Ok, in the beginning you’ll do some work, until you input or select your most frequent foods but then it’s just click click click.
Start adopting some rules, make some order in your life.
There is a simple rule you should stick to, like your life depended on it. And it really does: “Eat real good food and be moderate”. Avoid junk food, over processed food, food your grandma would not have eaten. And don’t swallow too much, control your portions and calories. This is, in a way, similar to Mike Pollan’s rules.
Don’t adopt other rules just because they’ re recommended. Like, “eat your breakfast, baby”. If you’re not hungry, don’t. If you like just only a cup of coffee with a biscuit in the early morning, go for it. Listen to your body sometimes!
Hunger is a problem to be dealt with utmost care. Some try to keep fixed hours for meals, others take a protein & fruit or veggie snack (and only one) between meals. A good advice is to eat your portions and then wait for a quarter of an hour before anything more like some satiating food.
You might want. to read this The satiating power of foods:
“Highest satiating power was found with high levels of protein, dietary fibre and water and low satiating power was related to higher fat foods. Fruit and vegetables-especially boiled potatoes-proved to have high satiating values, whereas bakery products like cakes, croissants and biscuits were the least satiating foods. Protein-rich foods (fish, meat, baked beans, lentils and eggs) and carbohydrate-rich foods (pasta, rice, wholegrain breads and cereals) were among the most satiating foods.”
But don’t take this for granted either, try on yourself, see what works for you. For example, I’ve discovered that 2 tbsp of humus (my recipe, with less olive oil) do wonders.
If you don’t do it already, start moving a lot more. If you’re not moving at all, start small, with a daily walk in fresh air. Start with 10 minutes and aim for at least half an hour a day. Do weight lifting to build some muscle. Try to find a sport you might like, swimming is a very good idea.
Find support. Not necessarily, family and friends or a nutritionist.
Better try to find on the net a group with the same problems, who understands you and support you. You might start with MyFitnessPal community but there are other groups.
Avoid toxic people or sites, those that undermine, one way or another, your efforts.
Let’s sum it all up. You have:
– a journal
– a “simple” rule to follow “Eat real good food and be moderate”
– a strategy to fight hunger without eating too much
– an exercise plan
What’s next? Whatever you do next, keep in mind not to give up. This is a long, long way to go, don’t expect wonders. Did you fell out ? Get up, dust your feathers and get back on the track, whatever that track is.
But first, have a cup of coffee or tea and relax. You’ll do it, have faith in yourself!
I confess, I’m kind of allergic to diets. I mean I’m not sneezing or skin itching or whatever else, it’s my mind that is allergic.
And why shouldn’ t it be. Is any diet logic or scientific backed?
Ok, maybe some of them, if you accept the idea that the results of a study involving, let’s say 100.000, people from the rich USA are also suitable for all people in all countries and are suitable for you, with your particular and different genes, lifestyle, preferences a.s.o.
And talking about scientific research, how should I trust any study nowadays when after decades of “don’t eat eggs”, we learn that eggs are so good they shouldn’ t miss from our menus?
My brain starts itching as soon as I read I mustn’ t eat whole milk products though scientific research nowadays says it’s ok to eat your whole milk yogurt or cheese, provided you’re moderate.
Or that I should avoid the so called “nightshades” though other studies suggest there’s no healthier veggie than the humble tomato.
My brain starts sneezing a lot when I’m giving lists of foods to avoid, wonder foods that will cure any illness on earth and especially metabolic deseases and lists of “backed up by science tips to get slim”.
Yes, I’m allergic but there’s a cure to this: stop reading the diet nonsense.
I’m against diets, in general. If you’re young and don’t have to much weight in excess, just change your lifestyle. Move a lot more, eat a lot less, eat good food, not junk bla bla, bla…. By now, you should know the lesson well.
What if you’re a lot overweight? A human whale or elephant…
Then, it’s a different story. Obesity is a condition and should be treated likewise.
I’m not discussing the medical treatment options, I’ m taking a look at the lifestyle.
The first thing to do is to be more active, in all aspects: fight stress, groom yourself, buy nice clothes, learn something new, go out of your home, socialize, take long walks in fresh air and, especially, declutter your home and your life. Make things simpler, make room to change your life.
And, of course, you need a diet.
In many conditions, diets are a must, only a diet for obesity is not a list of dos and don’ts.
You have to build your own diet, make it viable.
A good start would be to adhere to one of existing healthy diets like the Mediterranean Diet or Dash Diet. Avoid diets promising wonders, this is a long, long path to go.
South Beach Diet was a very good starting point, unfortunately it’s been “killed”. There are some promises of revival. The old South Beachers maintain support groups on Facebook.
Although it has some flaws, Montignac Diet, from which South Beach Diet emerged is an interesting one and has some scientific backup. It also has Mediterranean recipes included.
You don’t necessarily need to adhere 100% to a diet, it’s almost impossible to do so.
It may not suit your preferences or lifestyle. 75% would be a good percentage to start with. That’s what I did when I adopted South Beach Diet. For example, I almost don’t eat in the evening, Lunch is my main meal and I had to adapt the diet menus.
Also, I didn’t understand why bananas and potatoes were not recommended and kept eating them. And, surprise, after one year, the official diet put back bananas.
Potatoes are, to this day, not accepted in many diets but this is really wrong. They’re very healthy, only quantities are unhealthy and the cooking methods. Potatoes are still on my menus, with no damage to my weight.
Once you’ve mastered one of the diets, keep a journal, keep track of your weight, waist length, health parameters.
If, over a couple of months you don’t see improvements, start making some changes.
Don’t forget that your diet must be viable (capable of working successfully or feasible) on a long term. A lifelong term, that is, you’ll live with this diet.
Make small changes, don’t rush. See if your changes are doing any good, not immediately but in 2-3 weeks.
Expect that, even successfully, after six months or so, you may hit a plateau. That is, your scale seems to freeze. Don’t panic, just keep on going. Time to review your diet and, maybe, make adjustments and exercise more.
Your diet has to be personalized and maintained to be viable, that’s the whole idea.
One parameter missing from most obesity studies seems to be the stress level. You see age, sex, some health parameters, how many of this or that one eats but nothing to describe the stress level, not even a personal evaluation. Oh, wait, maybe how many hours of sleep you’ve had. Not so relevant, in my opinion.
Yet, one of the major causes of obesity is stress and not necessarily because when you’re stressed , you tend to binge. Stress does something to your body, I’ve learned.
A diet adds to stress a lot. So much that maybe it’s better not to diet at all.
When your body has a problem with fat, first of all stress has to be dealt with.
How one should do it? Besides taking a walk in the park or listen to some music, of course.
There’s a magic word “treat”.
Treat your body gently. Don’ t rush to adopt some extreme diet. Don’t become a hero of all sports overnight. Don’t look at yourself as to a fat monster.
Be moderate in what you eat, in how you exercise and in your lifestyle, but don’t go to extreme with moderation either.
Don’t let other treat you “differently” because you have this fat problem. Avoid negative people, those who stress you. Avoid nutritionists who are kind of “bully”and don’t seem to understand your problems.
Treat yourself from time to time, with moderation, to something good, nice, that will make you pleasure.
What about a sweet treat? That will add a pound or two, right? Nope, wrong.
Not if it’s not something you eat daily. You eat it occasionally, it’s a treat.
Relax, enjoy it! Have some pleasure in your life.
Once in a while, several times a year, I eat creme brulee, it’s my favorite treat.
I didn’ t notice any change in my weight, the scale is happy with that.
It’s what I’m doing daily that adds to my problems, including stress, not a treat now and then.
Try to create healthy treats for you and your family like a nice tempting tray with all kinds of fruit with a bit of cheese on the side or dark chocolate.
When it comes to diets, I’m having reservations.
Each diet promises you a Holly land. Do this and that and you will be blessed.
Actually it is hell on earth, anyone who has been through a diet knows this too well.
And it seems nowadays a lot of people have reservations when it comes to the super diets of the previous years, not only me. Simply, the current popular diets don’t work on a long term. I’m not so sure of personalized diets either.
The trend seems to be towards following a simpler healthier lifestyle, without thinking anymore “diet”.
A return to traditions, to healthier proper cooked food while moving a lot more and trying to reduce stress as much as possible.
I see this possible in Europe, though fast food has made it more difficult, especially when children are involved.
But honestly I’m reserved there are any success chances in USA.
First, there’s sugar. Anything has to have sugar, otherwise it has not a proper taste. Even the salad. Why should I add sugar to a salad? It’s not desert. It’s meant to be a bit sour. Just add less lemon or vinegar, don’t “improve” the sour taste by adding sugar!
Adding sugar to any sauce? Why? I don’t know, but when every recipe has some sugar and every item you buy has sugar, then sugar is a problem, not something to enjoy greatly from time to time.
Then, there’s “dip”. Whatever recipe I’ve tried to present to my American friends turned into “dip”, something in which you dip a lot of junk food or some fresh veggies to make them more edible.
Most dips are in Europe just a side dish or a meal in itself. Major advantage: you can have a control over portion size.
Then there’s stock. Ok, it’s nice to have some freshly made stock in your fridge and use it in a recipe. But… to pretend you cook a Mediterranean recipe and add stock bought from the supermarket it’s a bit weird. I’ve been shocked by some veggie soup recipes. You boil some fresh veggies and then add beef stock (!?) or stock not so fresh made with the same veggies! Why, I don’t know.
If you put in a pot fresh meats and/ or fresh veggies, there’s no need for stock.
On one condition, though. Better buy your ingredients fresh from a farm or buy organic.
If the veggies or meats taste like cardboard then, yes, you’ll need stock, condiments, sugar, salt and I don’t know what else to make your meal edible. Just don’t say it’s healthy.
Anyway, trust an American to change a nice healthy Mediterranean recipe in the most unhealthy meal possible, adding sugar, starch, salt, fats, stock whatever.
Whenever I stumble on a “healthy” recipe and see the author is American, I instantly become reserved.
Photo from Delphine Hourlay, via http://www.pexels.com
I presume you’re like me. I enjoy eating, I hate physical exercise and especially jogging, and have quite a lot of personal problems, who has not?
I’m writing this with the obvious objective to help myself but if it will help you too, my Karma will be happy.
So, it’s a decision point in your life. You have to do something about your weight because….bla, bla bla, writing down your reasons won’t help you too much. Of course, you have serious reasons and you’re not likely to forget them. Your bad health won’t let you forget.
Better make a list in your mind of what physical activities you can easily do, immediately. Activities that you’ll enjoy greatly and you can afford. Don’t think big, walking half an hour a day will do for a start.
See my modest list, just as an example. But it’s not your list, you should have your own.
– Walking, half an hour a day, in fresh air.
– Swimming, once a week
– Tai-Chi, daily
Once you have your list, start immediately, don’t think twice, don’t delay.
Don’t give up. If you fell out of the wagon, get up, dust your feathers and go on!
Start keeping a journal. MyFitnessPal is excellent to this purpose, it’ll allow you to record rapidly, on your phone or tablet or computer, what you eat and all your activities.
And it’ll give you some hints on calories and nutritional value of what you eat.
It can connect automatically to some devices like a wi-fi smart scale or a tracker like Fitbit.
Keeping a journal is not so time consuming and it might have an interesting psychological effect. It’s like having kind of a personal Coach. Besides, it makes you aware of what and how much you’re eating. Just keeping this journal might help you eat less, exercise more.
It’s been helping me, why not you too?
What else can you do, in the very beginning, before adopting your own or some known diet?
Make a list of favorite foods and meals. Assign each food a category, like
– Healthy foods I like very much, I’d eat them almost daily
– Healthy foods I’d like to eat them from time to time
– Foods I like but I think they’re not so healthy for me
Be honest with yourself. Don’t add healthy foods you hate, just because you know they’re healthy (like broccoli). Don’t “decide” that a food is healthy just because you like it very much. Don’t either exclude a favorite food just because someone said it’s not healthy. Do your lessons well or you might be in danger o starving because of too much science. In fact this is your list, nobody has to see it.
If you can’t decide what’s healthy and what’s not, start reading. But a rule of thumb is this: the more processed is that food, the less healthy it is. Read labels. If you have more than 3 chemicals added or a lot of sugar or salt, maybe it’s not so healthy.
Pay attention to some ingredients like trans fats or hydrogenated oils. Better exclude these altogether. I also exclude palm oil but it’s up to you if you’ll reject it.
Add to the “Foods I think are not so healthy for me” list, foods you’re not supposed to eat because of a certain condition. Like, if you have diabetes, you should eat only foods permitted by your doctor.
I’ll give you my list but don’t forget that the list should contain your favorite foods, not mine. Besides these are foods common in my area, most of them can be found on the peasant market.
If you’re amazed of why I’ve included some foods on the healthy list, don’t forget, quantity counts. I won’t eat much of a very salty food but if it has vitamins and minerals and I like it, I’ll eat it. Also, cooking methods counts so a potato salad considered by some unhealthy, is very, very healthy in fact if you have the good recipe.
Healthy foods I like very much, I’d eat them almost daily
Tomatoes. Raw or stewed with a bit of olive oil. Tomato sauce like sofrito
Red peppers raw or barbecued
Cucumbers, raw or pickled
Whole grain bread, fresh or toast.
Eggs, boiled, poached, omelette, scrambled.
Cheese, any cheese
Beans, any beans (white beans, hummus, chickpeas, lentil, peas)
Fruit, any fruit
Veggie soup with rice, potatoes or pasta and tomatoes or yogurt
Steeled Oats with whole milk or kefir or yogurt
Zakouska (a preserve made with eggplant, red peppers, onion, garlic, tomatoes, spices, oil)
Lettuce, but only organic
Tuna fish or tinned sardines or pickled herring
Healthy foods I’d like to eat from time to time
Chicken in tomato sauce
Duck breast with quinces
Stuffed cabbage, stuffed bell peppers, stuffed tomatoes, stuffed vine leaves with yogurt
Chicken or pork liver, fried in olive oil with onion or barbecued
Baked fish with veggies and tomatoes
Chicken soup with home made noodles
Zucchini, summer squash
Onions, leek, garlic
Foods I like but I think they’re not so healthy for me
Pastry, not home made
You know what’s next. Eat foods from categories one or two, as you like it. Eat less of the foods in the last category, as less as possible, without ruining your social life.
At this point, don’t expect too much. If you’re lucky, these simple steps will already help you. But don’t get upset if the scale won’t smile to you.
There are still steps to take.
One more tip: Don’t tell anyone near you about your new lifestyle.
Shhht, it’s a secret. Don’t tell anyone until you see some results!