Ordinary Veggies Can Facilitate Weight Loss

April 5, 2010 in Blog Recipes, Diabetic Menu Item, Mediterranean, Psychology of Food, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

I’ve told you in past blogs that I’ve had a lifetime of weight management issues as a result of being “strongly taught” how to overeat as a formerly skinny young girl. About six years ago I made a major change in the way that I managed my weight. The change has proved to be the easiest weight management technique I’ve ever employed. In addition, it has truly been the end of the ‘big focus diets.’ No more subsisting on very low calorie diets. Such diets always made me hungry. I learned later that they suppressed my ghrelin (hormone that makes us all feel we have eaten enough), and puts me on a food search. The change was moving to eating-style adjustments - no longer dieting.

More vegetables

What I did was to begin eating more. I know that sounds silly, but it’s true. It’s been the easiest way to manage my weight that I’ve experienced. Having said that, I must confess that it’s still challenging when I’m away from home. I have little trouble managing my weight while I’m at home. I do struggle, however, when eating at restaurants, even at family and friends’ homes.  I still have challenging times; because we travel and have a fair number of social gatherings, where we find it impossible to eat the way we do at home.

I’ll share what I do, when I’m in charge of the food. I really focus on eating more vegetables and making them yummy. The total volume of my meals is larger than it used to be, even though I consciously decrease the starchy vegetables, grains and meat. I still eat starchy vegetables like peas, yams, potatoes, beets, beans, carrots, and winter squash; and grains like whole wheat, oats, brown rice and corn – I’m just more careful with the portion of the starchier items. We do have fish fairly frequently, but many varieties of fish are as low as 25 calories per ounce. When you compare that to 100 - 125 calories an ounce for many cuts of red meat, you can see how that adds to an easier weight management challenge. Sometimes we don’t have animal products for a meal, or a day. This change to filling my plate with more vegetables essentially made my plate a little fuller and facilitated my ‘food mind’ to not feel deprived. The change calmed down my body’s “starvation sentinel” so that it stopped sending out alarms. After all, when our body is deliberately deprived of the amount of calories it needs for the day’s energy, it shuts down ghrelin production and mobilizes for food finding and eating.  It doesn’t want to starve (or even feel a little deprived). It produces warfare in our bodies, both to calm down the starvation signals, and to seek and find rewards to the pleasure center of our brain, rather than grudgingly eating unpleasant things.

This technique of making your plate look fuller with lower calorie foods has actually been researched. So I know that I’m not the only one on whom the technique works - read Dr. Shapiro's Picture Perfect Weight Loss: The Visual Program for Permanent Weight Loss
. It’s not actually a diet; it’s a way of making better choices when choosing food and dishing up. Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings---And 7 Steps to End Them Naturally is another approach to filling up with vegetables, eating enough, and not dieting.  It also deals with the techniques to avoid suppressing ghrelin, as diets tend to do. His solution goes all the way to a vegan style of eating, while the Mediterranean-style advocated in these blogs keeps meat and dairy products in reduced portions, but does not cut them out.

Dish up less that I think I need

Another technique is dish up about ¾ of what I would normally dish up.

Dish up – no going back for seconds

Dish up dinner on a plate with this rule: going back for seconds is not allowed. You’re deciding how much to eat before the meal instead of during the meal. As Brian Wansink Ph.D., Cornell University Professor, says in his book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think
One of life’s great pleasures is to share food with family and friends.   ……… When we’re with people we enjoy, we often lose track of how much we’re eating.” He and his colleagues have done numerous research studies which substantiate this and related issues.

The end of calorie counting for me

All the above techniques are ultimately calorie cutting, but it doesn’t take the time that calorie counting takes. It’s not tedious or time-consuming.

Considering adopting an additional technique

A technique that I’m considering making is to move the higher calorie choices away from the table in front of us, maybe to the stove. It may give us more time to think about really wanting it or not, instead of just taking one more little piece. The salads and non-starchy vegetables will remain right in front of us.

I feel so validated in my personal discovery, by a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. What the researchers learned at the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Pennsylvania State University is that portion size of vegetables can be used strategically, not only to achieve the recommended vegetable intakes, but also, to facilitate weight management. It seems very straightforward, but just serving larger servings of vegetables helped to increase the intake of vegetables. If you want the weight management benefit, they found, the vegetables should be substituted for more energy-dense foods like meats, grains, and starchy vegetables.

Dr. Carolyn Lister, a lead researcher at the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research said that although the ‘super food’ label tends to be attached to fruits (think Acai berry, Goji berry, Mangosteen, Noni, and Maqui; also, think hyped up advertising) there’s a significant body of research showing strong evidence for health benefits of vegetables. She and her team are identifying the active component within various vegetables. Certainly the cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, onions and peppers are getting lots of attention from her team. In my humble opinion, it’s a good idea to eat a variety of vegetables. That’s why I’ve been developing some new recipes for vegetables and sharing them in this blog. Note: the stir-fry recipe below has three of the vegetable classes that are moving toward ‘super’ vegetables: bok choy (a cruciferous vegetable like turnip, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, kale, radishes, turnips, and fennel), red pepper (capsaicin); onions, leeks, shallot and garlic (sulfur compounds and flavonoids). I’m not ‘big’ on ‘super fruits’ or the idea of ‘super vegetables;’ I am big on scrumptious healthy vegetables that look beautiful on my dinner plate and don’t let me feel deprived or hungry. I don’t think we need to pay high prices for the ‘super fruits’ or if they come up with ‘super vegetables.’ Why not give ordinary vegetables a greater portion of you plate? You can begin with this Bok Choy and Swiss Chard Stir-Fry recipe.

This method really works!  It is a normal part of the original Mediterranean-style of eating.  It has been less than a century since meats drove vegetables into the role of garnish on the plate.  It used to be that vegetables were the main dish and meats were the garnish. When you shift back, and when the vegetables are prepared to meet the criteria of strong palatability – yumminess – then we can say goodbye to the un-naturalness and difficulty of dieting and avoid the warfare in our bodies it produces.