Thursday, December 29, 2011

After the fall...

Happy holidays, everyone.  While it's delightful to get together with family and friends, there's something about waking up on Boxing Day after an extra long weekend of festive fun, games, and overindulgence in food and drink that makes one feel...well, seedy and heavy and just wanting to curl up in the dark under blankets for another hour or ten.

Live alone & can do whatever I want, did that, rejuvenated myself with the help of the gym and the steam room, long walks, couch, quilts, cats, William Dalrymple's The Last Mughal and Anita Amirrezvani's The Blood of Flowers in audio form beautifully narrated by Shohreh Aghdashloo (the actress who played the wife in the movie House of Sand and Fog) now I don't feel seedy anymore, but I sure do feel heavy.  In fact, this whole last month or two have been a slippery slide into bad old habits.  So before I slide any further, I'm taking the opportunity of The End of Holidays to recoup a weight gain of several pounds, but I know a lot more than I did last year and instead of just disappearing for a few weeks thought I'd share what works for me in the way of strategies and actual dishes, in case any of my readers is interested...and of course you all are

Early last year I lost about 30 pounds and have, mostly, kept it off since then, which is my sole credential for giving dieting advice.  Over time, I've learned a few more tricks for losing weight and keeping it off, and this is what I do:

Apart from the obvious (count calories, exercise, ahem, eat less):

1.  Don't go too fast.  I did, because I wanted to "get the weight off and worry about maintaining later," which is all very well, except that it all seemed to come off my arms and bust which were not huge to begin with and not the hips and thighs I was targeting, so I ended up losing all the weight I wanted to and still looking embarrassingly freakish, because I lost muscle too, to the point where even though I was "thin" I didn't look or feel all that great for another few months until it all balanced out.  I would have been better off just going more slowly and steadily, which is how I do it now.

2.  Have fun!  Can dieting be fun?  Sure.  Cooking diet food is like learning to cook vegan, disconcerting at first until you get into it.  Try new vegetables, go out and buy different teas and finally learn the difference between gunpowder and oolong, slim down your favorite recipes or experiment with dishes and techniques from other cultures.  Exercise?  Is it ever fun when you're not a jock?  Not really into music/can't work out to Stravinski and Wagner isn't your thing/heard your favorite tunes so many times they make your head ache?  I listen to audiobooks at the gym and that sweetens it for me.

3.  While you're losing, cut out all simple sugars and starches.  This means white bread, white pasta, white rice, alcoholic beverages, any kind of actual sugar.  Not only are these foods fattening without a whole lot of nutrition, they magically make you ravenously hungry no matter how much of them you eat.  How many pierogies can you eat?  Have you ever had enough?  Lasagne, anyone?  To more or less quote Louis J. Aronne in The Skinny on How to Lose Weight Without Being Hungry (who gives the science for all this) why do you think restaurants offer  free bread before you order?  So you'll fill up right away and order less?  Somehow it doesn't work that way.  And a drink before dinner is guaranteed to turn me into an unstoppable Eating Thing.  The hardest thing about dieting for me, by far, is to refrain from drinking wine while I cook.  If you must consume these items, consume them with or after other foods.

4.  Weigh or measure high calorie foods like grains, potatoes, beans, tofu, seitan, and oil, but don't skimp on vegetables, herbs, spices, or flavorings.  Some dieters consider vegetables "free"--I don't, I count them, but on the whole you can eat an awful lot of food if most of it is veggies.  The whole big pot of deliciousness shown at the beginning of this post contains about 400 calories, and it includes 85 grams/160 calories of surprisingly high-calorie commercial "flavoured" tofu that I happened to have in the fridge and needed to use up.

5.  Unsweetened almond milk has only 35 calories per cup and it's actually pretty tasty.

6.  Shirataki noodles.  They take a bit of getting used to, but give them a chance.  I love them.  I eat them often even when I'm not reducing.

7.  Apples have a low glycemic index rating.  This means that even though they're sweet they don't have the evil enravening magic of white bread.

8.  You can eat peanuts and not gain weight!  I've actually found this to be true by eating a lot of peanuts.  Really a lot of peanuts, okay, you'll gain, but even then, not as much as you might think.  It's a scientific fact (go on, google it) but no one really knows why this is.  Plus, they do fill you up.  Even a tablespoon of peanut butter in your morning (whole grain, not instant) oatmeal will keep you going for hours.

9.  Go ahead and fry in a small amount of sesame oil.  It's not against the law or anything.  Sesame oil isn't just for drizzling.

10.  Give yourself twenty minutes after eating before you do the dishes or put away the leftovers.  Just walk away and do something else for a little while.

This is one of the simplest lo-cal dishes to make, and one of my favorites.  It's so versatile it doesn't require a recipe, it's quick, it's tasty, and best of all, you can pretty much eat as much as you can stuff into yourself, guilt-free.  For the oriental version, just fry some onion in a teaspoon of sesame oil, add garlic and ginger and hot pepper, and when the garlic is fragrant, add vegetable broth (or just water and a bit of soy sauce) and, one at a time, longest-cooking first so they're all done together, whatever vegetables you like, as well as a protein item such as tofu, beans, seitan, Soy Curls.  Here you see turnip, celery, oyster and shimeji mushrooms, kabocha squash, Brussels sprouts, tofu, green onions, and cilantro.  Served over shirataki noodles (cooked separately), of course.  Fresh and pretty now, it will be gross tomorrow, so either eat it all today, or, if there are leftovers, you can do what my Grandma Dee always did and give them new life by pureeing them with a little [soy or other vegan] milk and reheating them as a cream soup.

What do you do to recover from the effects of your holiday festivities?


  1. Just because you seem a bit skeptical--I, for one, am *very* interested in this topic so post away, and please don't disappear again if you can help it!!! I too need to put down the fork and wine glass for a change, after all the recent festivities. I think you hit all the important points. I do try to drink two very large glasses of water before every meal. Don't know if it helps curb my appetite but it certainly can't hurt.

    The meal looks wonderful!

  2. Thank you, Stacy--your comment is much appreciated! I am skeptical and a little nervous about whether others will enjoy this series, but I have to drop the weight anyway and blogging will make the whole process more enjoyable for me--and force me to be inventive instead of existing on soupy stews and shirataki noodles. Delicious as they are, they get kind of samey. Your water tip's a good one--anything that fills you up!

  3. Zoa, I completely agree with you although I can't stand unsweetened almond milk! At least to drink solo... and interesting tip about the dishes.

    Btw, have you seen this NY Times article? I thought it was very interesting!

  4. Janet, thanks, that is some article, and has been my experience as well. Maintenance is much, much harder than losing. And, unfortunately, it does seem like you have to eat proportionately less to keep it off...however, I do feel so much better, it's worth it for me.