Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Weight-loss secrets, without hypnosis
Food writer Lindsey Nair
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Despite my cynicism, a friend last week persuaded me to watch the new show "I Can Make You Thin with Paul McKenna" on TLC.
In five one-hour episodes (on Sundays at 9 p.m.), the trim and popular British hypnotist promises to teach the secrets of weight loss and control "through your TV screen."
Now, I wouldn't be a food writer if I truly believed that double-digit pants sizes constituted a "plus-sized" figure. After all, I have eaten many a buffalo wing, cheeseburger, omelet and Philly cheese steak for a paycheck.
But seriously high cholesterol runs on my mother's side of the family, and I've discovered that, at 31, mine is already creeping up. So I thought I'd tune in to McKenna for at least a laugh or maybe a blog entry.
As soon as the show began, my husband lifted his newspaper, shook it loudly and settled in to a long read.
McKenna's first four "Golden Rules":
1. When you're hungry, eat.
2. Eat what you want.
3. Eat consciously.
4. When you're full, stop.
Well, those seem like fairly simple rules, but McKenna elaborates. By "eat what you want," he means don't deprive yourself. By "eat consciously," he means set down your utensils after every bite, chew slowly and don't watch TV or read while eating.
McKenna maintains that if you chew your food slowly and concentrate on the flavor for at least 20 chews, you will feel full sooner and eat less food.
In essence, McKenna's talking about controlling your portion sizes.
Kate Stahl, a dietitian with the Carilion Diabetes Management Program, agrees that we eat what is on our plates because we can see it, we can smell it and many times, we put it there.
How well do you know your portion sizes?
- A serving of meat should be the size of your palm.
- An ounce of cheese should be the size of four dice stacked together.
- A half-cup serving of anything would be the size of a tennis ball.
- If you are holding one serving of uncooked spaghetti, the end should be the diameter of a quarter.
- A small baked potato is the size of a computer mouse.
- A serving of fish (about 3 ounces) is the size of a checkbook.
Source: Kate Stahl; www.mealsmatter.com
"I think it's become really difficult to practice moderation in our culture because of how everything has super-sized," Stahl said. "Even the plates that we use in our homes are 30 percent bigger than 20 years ago."
I brought up the topic of weight loss on my blog at roanoke.com a few weeks ago. One reader commented, "If you want to lose weight, it's easy. Watch what fat people eat and then don't eat that."
I was amused by the curmudgeonly tone, but that's impossible advice. No one should have to survive by not tasting the foods they enjoy.
But "tasting" is the operative word.
The French are almost a cliche for moderation: rich foods, small portions.
"I think they do take more time to enjoy their food and it is more of a social atmosphere," Stahl said. "They don't sit on the couch and watch TV."
In the second episode, McKenna offered tips to avoid emotional eating. In future episodes, he is slated to address cravings, metabolism and self-esteem.
If Stahl had anything to do with it, she said, she would stress her own golden rules:
1. If you surround yourself with doughnuts, you'll eat doughnuts. "So you need to surround yourself with healthier options, too."
2. Even if you don't feel hungry, eat breakfast! According to the National Weight Control Registry (www.nwcr.ws/) 78 percent of more than 5,000 successful participants eat breakfast.
3. "There's a lot to be said for trying new things." Maybe you hated Brussels sprouts as a kid, but have you tried them roasted in olive oil and garlic? I've shared that recipe, along with two others, below.
4. If you are really having trouble, consider seeing a dietitian. Although many are not covered by insurance, the cost of a consultation may be less than you think.
I believe Stahl's third suggestion is one of the most important. I'm blessed to have grown up with a mother who cooked a wide variety of foods and made me try each one.
As a result, I enjoy a bowl of tomatoes with cottage cheese, a helping of sauteed spinach or a serving of baked butternut squash.
Now that McKenna has made me think even more about the way I eat, you can be sure I won't devour a slab of carrot cake while I watch his next episode.
Have you seen McKenna's show? If so, talk about it on the blog.