Thursday, October 3, 2013

Battle of the Bulge: The Stove is Your Friend

There is an anecdotal saying among Overeaters Anonymous members that "when you are addicted to drugs you put the tiger in the cage to recover; when you are addicted to food you put the tiger in the cage, but take it out three times a day for a walk." — Wikipedia

I blither on about healthy eating and weight maintenance primarily because of the health aspect. Quite frankly, how many morbidly obese octogenarians are there? 

The "obesity epidemic" is a hot topic, under constant analysis. Sometimes people tend to focus on one factor—such as sugar. No problem, there's plenty of diet soda. 

As Jane Brody reports, sugar is not the culprit.
Sugar, it turns out, is a minor player in the rise. More than half of the added calories — 242 a day — have come from fats and oils, and another 167 calories from flour and cereal. Sugar accounts for only 35 of the added daily calories.
The mustachio-twirling villain? Restaurants. 
. . . As more women entered the work force, family meals and especially home-cooked meals became less frequent. (Relatively few husbands became family cooks, sadly.) From 2005 to 2008, according to the Department of Agriculture, 20 percent of American calories were consumed in fast-food and full-service restaurants, more than triple the amount in 1977-78.
Eating just one meal a week away from home can translate into two extra pounds a year for the average person, the department calculated. Although the recent economic downturn forced more people to dine at home, the average adult now eats out nearly five times a week.
I eat out very, very rarely—meeting a friend, on a chivalrous date, the occasional office outing. It's not that I'm not tempted; my dreams usually take the shape of a steaming potato gratin, bathed in bubbling cheese. Or is it the ricotta-filled ravioli? Make it the creamy mushroom sauce ladled over gnocchi. Mmm.
Where was I?

My dairy-laden fantasies, alas, cannot be constantly fulfilled. (A) My heart would stop functioning and (B) my savings would disappear. Financially, eating out doesn't add up. 

Brody writes that restaurants overpile plates, and the clientele tends to consume what they are given. In my case, with a constant terror of baaltashchis, I am incapable of leaving anything over. While doggy bags are an option, sometimes (mostly) I can't resist temptation and polish off my plate.

Additionally, many foods peddled as "healthy" are anything but. Be very wary of yogurt. Muffins, by the way, are simply cupcakes by another name.
The human body also does not make it easy to lose weight permanently. 
Researchers now know that people who struggle with weight are battling evolution itself, which has programmed us to store calories when food is plentiful and, when food is scarce, to reduce calories we expend.

When an overweight person cuts down significantly on what he eats, the body defends itself by using fewer calories. The effect can be long-lasting: If a person’s weight drops to 150 pounds from 250, significantly fewer calories must be consumed daily to stay at that weight than would be necessary if the person had never been overweight.

Even if a 170-pound person loses 20 pounds, he needs 15 percent fewer calories to maintain the new weight than someone who always weighed 150. Short of bariatric surgery, very gradual weight loss — say, no more than 20 pounds a year — may be the only way around this metabolic slowdown. This strategy gives the body and appetite a chance to adjust.
In my case, I happened to have lost weight gradually, over the past ten years. It wasn't intentional; I would happen to take on a new step every few years, and it seemed to be successful. Always slow and steady. Pick one aspect to tackle at a time: Weaning oneself off daily sugar, or smaller portions, or only eating by meals. It's too much for evolution to take to go full restriction at once.

Brody concludes:
Michael Pollan, an author and journalism professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has said it best: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” His newest book, “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation,” adds a corollary: “And cook it yourself.”
No time? People always have time for what they consider important, and what is more important than your health? Home-cooked food contains better ingredients, and you know what you’re eating.
It all comes down to homemade, nothing processed. I'm not the greatest cook out there, nor did I always have interest in it, but for the sake of my health and weight I have prioritized it. I pan-roast veggies or make a soup in the evenings, prepared for lunch the next day. Ten, fifteen minutes?
Think of what you'll save in medical bills, never mind in the price of take-out. 


gelt said...

part of the problem is that you have a whole generation of people who were not taught the secrets of the kitchen by their mothers. i'm a raging feminist, but the feminist revolution had a lot of unintended consequences.

Princess Lea said...

The stove has been maligned as the ball and chain of women. But the fact is, people need to eat, men and women alike.

With the raging plethora of cooking shows (who are hosted by as many men as women), anyone can learn! (Jacques Pepin can be found on the PBS channels and youtube very easily. The absolute best for teaching technique.)