Thursday, August 20, 2009

Review: The End of Overeating, part 4

Click to start with part 1 of this review.

"New learning can stick only when it generates a feeling of satisfaction. We can't sustain a change in behavior if it leaves us hungry, unhappy, angry, or resentful."
--David A. Kessler, The End of Overeating (206-7)

In part 5, "Food Rehab," Kessler offers ideas for what he calls "just-right eating." Figure out how much food you need to eat in order to stave off hunger pangs for four hours, and learn what kinds of foods satisfy you the longest.
Essentially, that means a diet based largely on lean protein and whole grains or legumes, supplemented with fruits and nonstarchy vegetables. On a typical day meals might include an omelet for breakfast; a grilled chicken sandwich for lunch; two snacks, such as a piece of cheese and a cup of fruit; and fish with leafy greens for dinner.(214)

Your diet must be personalized, Kessler goes on to say. He knows people who are happy with "a few strips of bacon or a small portion of cheese for breakfast, a plain, reasonable-size hamburger for lunch, and a medium serving of pasta and salad for dinner" (214).

Well, God bless 'em every one, but to me those meal plans sound not only awfully stingy but downright unhealthy. The first example includes only one vegetable--and if by leafy greens he means lettuce, that vegetable was mostly water--and one serving of fruit. The second example has one veg--or possibly two, depending on the size and composition of the salad--and no fruit at all.

Besides, the meals are mostly beige. Where are the bright red and yellow tomatoes, the purplish beets, the yellow-orange butternut squash, the deep orange yams, the bright green broccoli, the red-veined chard, the green and red and orange and yellow peppers, the red and purple plums, the bright red strawberries and soft red raspberries? Where is the joy?

For conditioned hypereaters to turn into just-right eaters, rules and structure are necessary--Kessler is right about that. He just needs to pay more attention to what he puts on his plate.

My favorite way of eating is much like his, but with the order reversed, and that makes all the difference in the world. I eat mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, supplemented with lean protein, a splash of wine, and a dab of olive oil. Yep, it's the famous Mediterranean diet, though since most people think of a diet as a temporary privation of good things, I'd rather call it the Mediterranean way of life. It includes so much more than food. Think fresh ingredients, attentive preparation, relaxation with family and friends, delight in flavor and texture and color.

As Kessler repeatedly says, you'll need to come up with a program that works for you, with your own structure, your own rules. Just don't call it a diet--it's your new and joyful way of life.

Here are my ten commandments for just-right eating:

  • Eat all the vegetables and fruit you want. Get them fresh and eat them with their skins (unless, of course, your personal favorite is bananas). You can cook the veggies and add salt and pepper and a tiny bit of olive oil, if you want to.
  • Eat all the bread and pasta and rice you want--as long as it's 100% whole grain. If whole wheat bread is too heavy for your taste, try white whole wheat flour (it's actually light tan).
  • Get your protein from fish or poultry (skinless), nuts, beans, eggs, and plain yogurt. You can have cheese if you can keep it to an ounce or less. Keep portions of fish and poultry small--3 or 4 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards. Fill the rest of the dinner plate with whole grains and vegetables. Make it as colorful as you can.
  • Compensate for quantity with quality. Buy that $10/lb. chicken breast from a hen who spent her short-but-happy life in the open air, or that $15/lb. filet of wild Alaskan salmon. Eat half as much as you used to, and your budget won't be affected. Eat twice as slowly, and you'll double your enjoyment.
  • Prepare simple foods from scratch: fresh fruits and vegetables from local growers or your own backyard. Home-baked bread. Extra-virgin olive oil. Once you get the hang of it, you'll find that this is just as quick and easy as buying pre-cooked food under plastic--and it tastes so much better.
  • Eat fresh fruit for dessert. Top it with a dollop of Greek yogurt, if you like.

  • Generally avoid foods that contain white flour, white rice, or sugar. They just make you hungrier. (This is easy to do at home, but it can take determination to bypass the bread basket at a restaurant. Indulge only if you really can quit after just one.)
  • Don't use artificial sweeteners. They don't have calories, but they keep those brain circuits firing--the ones that say "Eat more! more! more!"
  • Don't drink many of your calories. Fruit juices are not as good for you as fruits. A glass of milk or wine with a meal is fine, but don't overdo it.
  • Don't eat junk food between meals. If you feel hungry, drink a glass of water. If that doesn't work, make your snack just as healthy as what you eat at mealtimes.
That's my easy and satisfying program. It is never easy to change eating habits, and Kessler offers invaluable advice on how to recondition our brains. He also offers encouragement that it can be done, and that the change can be lifelong.

For further inspiration, read Mireille Guiliano's French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, or Richard A. Watson's The Philosopher's Diet: How to Lose Weight and Change the World, or Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto.

Click to go to a P.S. on sensible eating in which I confess my hypocrisy and offer an alternate plan.


David Neff said...

Mr. Neff thinks Mrs. Neff's principles are simply wonderful and honors them often--in the breach.

The Rose-ster said...

You're such a smartie, LaVonne. And I miss you! Doing my own diet these days. It's grey and grim, but a good thing all the same.

LaVonne Neff said...

What one honors in the breach appears in the britches. Or hanging over them.