One of my clients, who came to me to lose about thirty pounds, had a real problem. He loves to eat and he loves to please people. In fact, he said pleasing people is the main reason he overeats. This tendency becomes especially troublesome over the holidays when friends, family and colleagues invite him for meals. My kind client literally cannot say no to anything.
As a result, he says holidays are a time of joy, but also frustration, because his need to be polite is in stark conflict with his goal of trimming down. Many of us can appreciate his dilemma. Holiday delicacies can be difficult to navigate, especially if you’re trying to avoid gaining a pound per week from Thanksgiving to the New Year. And that can bring out the best and the worst in people, hosts and guests alike.
We all know hosts who aren’t satisfied until they convince us, beg us, to eat more, more, more. Their misguided entreaties are hard to resist, if only because we want to be polite.
To be fair, food pushers aren’t bad people at heart. Your mom, your spouse, your friends – they just want to please you. They’re people who think they have your best interests at heart and know more about what and how much food (and drink) you should be consuming than you do. It seems these people aren’t happy until they’ve stuffed you as if you’d just ended a hunger strike.
My clients and I have tried various tactics through the years, most of them utter failures. For instance, I’ve found the worst thing you can say to a food pusher is, “No thanks, I’m on a diet”… or “Thanks, I’m watching it.”
You might as well say, “Talk me into it!” Your excuse is giving the food pusher a double signal – that you really want it, but have to refuse. It’s also insulting, as though you’re saying the food isn’t good enough for your refined tastes. And, finally, it may bring up guilty feelings in the pusher, that they should be “watching it” too. All of which challenge the pusher to seduce you.
No excuse seemed to work as I tried to fight back the food pushers’ advances, including explaining that I wasn’t hungry. I even went through a phase of telling people I’m allergic to this or that. Sadly, that didn’t work, either.
I didn’t start sensing positive results from my refusals until I learned the most basic rule of all: never give excuses. And I’m delighted to say that one of the foremost authorities on etiquette told me that this approach is both appropriate and wise.
“The best answer is a simple but firm ‘No thank you,’” declared Judith Martin, syndicated columnist who writes as Miss Manners. “Once you give an excuse, you open yourself to argument.”
Soup. Nothing warms the body or soul like it. And studies show, eating it helps you lose weight. My clients who make batches of soup this time of year do - as do I. That's great news because during this time of year, we all crave hearty, satisfying dishes, which are almost always fattening - with most soup being the exception...
Classic studies have found that as long as the volume of the food is high, even if the volume is just water with no added calories, people can feel full with fewer calories. In one study, researchers varied the amount of water in a food eaten as a first course to study this effect. Subjects were fed one of three conditions: either chicken rice casserole, chicken rice casserole served with a glass of water or chicken rice soup. The subjects who ate the soup consumed 26 percent fewer calories at the main course compared to the other conditions.
In another study, the researchers served salads of various sizes and calorie levels before a main course to determine the effect on the calorie intake of the whole meal. They found that people consumed the fewest overall calories—100 calories fewer—when they were served the largest, lowest-calorie salad before a meal. Vegetables are foods that have a naturally high water content. The higher a food’s water content, the higher its volume, but the lower its calorie density.
Researchers surmise that a large food volume caused by water or air, even without added calories, influences satiety in a variety of ways. When the water is incorporated into the food (as opposed to just a glass of water), it causes stomach stretching and slows stomach emptying, stimulating the nerves and hormones that signal feelings of fullness. Also, visually seeing a large volume of food can increase your ability to feel satisfied by it. Finally, the larger a meal and the longer a meal goes on, studies show, your satisfaction declines and you lose interest in completing it. Water is the component in food which has the largest influence on how much you eat. These studies show eating a high-water-content, low-calorie first course enhances satiety and reduces calorie intake at the next course. This effect persists over time.
One of my favorites found in my new book: "Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes: 50 New Reasons to Cook in Season!" is Cauliflower Vichyssoise...
For most people, chocolate is a delicious treat to enjoy in moderation. Some new scientific work, though, may give you an excuse to treat yourself more often.
The first, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, examined the effects of cocoa on the moderately sun damaged skin of women aged 43 to 86. The participants drank flavanol-enhanced cocoa drinks, containing 320 mg flavanols daily**, over 24 weeks. It's been established in previous studies that flavanols in cocoa help maintain a healthy vascular system, relax blood vessels (lowering blood pressure), reduce blood clotting – an aspirin-like affect –reduce oxidative damage, and improve blood flow. This new study found that women who drank the flavanol - fortified cocoa drink experienced reduced wrinkles and increased skin elasticity, thereby reducing the effects of sun damage and aging. Flavanols, found in many plant-based foods, such as wine, tea, fruits and vegetables, have been found to have these effects in other foods as well as in cocoa. This study used the equivalent of 4 Tablespoons of cocoa daily.**
Cocoa flavanols may impact brain aging, too, according to a recent Journal of Alzheimer's Disease review. Previous research has shown that flavanols contribute to healthy brain aging and cognitive decline prevention by improving blood flow to the brain and reducing the oxidative and inflammatory damage which occurs with aging. But cocoa harvesting and production produces highly variable levels of flavanols in cocoa products. So scientists are looking for more consistent methods for developing cocoa flavanol formulas containing higher levels of flavanols. "The ultimate goal of this review is to provide recommendations for future developments of cocoa extracts as a therapeutic agent in AD [Alzheimer's Disease]."
These results could mean big things down the line for brain and skin health! Meanwhile, keep in mind that flavanols are found in tea, wine and many fruits and vegetables. Also, these studies use concentrated amounts of flavanols to get larger effects which would be more likely measurable in a food study.
Katherine’s Chocolate for Health Tips:
If you’re eating chocolate for health benefits, you’ll need to be very discriminating in your selections.
You’ll get more flavanols, and therefore health benefits, with less processing. The first choice is cocoa, which isn’t Dutch processed – as when cocoa is “Dutch processed with alkali” the flavanols are reduced. Look for chocolate which has the highest percentage of cocoa as possible and to save calories, look for chocolate with lower fat and sugar levels. In general, cocoa is your best first choice. Second choice is a semisweet or bittersweet chocolate with a high cocoa percentage. Some chocolates go as high as 85% cocoa, but legally can be as low as 35%. I recommend no more than an ounce a day, which may be about 110 - 150 calories, depending on the chocolate. Any more than that and you’re probably going to take in too many calories for weight control
Type of Chocolate Mg Flavonols Calories
1.3 oz Dark Chocolate Bars, Average*: 82 mg 187
1.3 oz Milk Chocolate Bars, Average*: 42 mg 198
1 TBSP Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, Average*: 75 mg 12
*USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory