Make Friends with Your Kitchen
How Cooking Can Help You Lose Weight
By Jean Lawrence
You've heard of retail therapy and cinema therapy? Now comes "culinary therapy," the philosophy of making friends with food in the intimacy of your own kitchen. With more than 60% of adults being overweight -- and most of the rest probably thinking they need to lose a few pounds -- people tend to avoid concentrating too much on food in hopes a fast or packaged item here and there will keep them from overeating.
Just the opposite is true, according to hypnotherapist Skyler Madison, director of the Skyler Madison Wellness Center in New York. "If food is your nemesis, you need to cultivate it and learn to appreciate it," she says. "Packaged foods -- even those diet dinners -- are tasteless and full of chemicals. In some cases, the portions of pre-prepared foods are ridiculous. You need to work with food in a pleasant way -- fresh, nicely seasoned, beautifully presented."
Madison uses hypnosis -- in addition to cooking classes -- to help people see food as energy, rather than an evil force or "the enemy." "You need to ask, 'What is the best source of energy for my body?' rather than looking at food as a distraction," she says. "Most people have lost and gained so many times, they need a mood change."
Healthy Cooking Helps a Chef
When Kathleen Daelemans, author of Cooking Thin with Chef Kathleen: 200 Easy Recipes for Healthy Weight Loss, got a job at a new restaurant in Hawaii, she was surprised to learn it was a spa restaurant. "I was fat and didn't have the faintest idea what spa food was," she admits. But she says she needed the money, so she took the job.
Daelemans doesn't like skimpy portions. She asked a nutritionist what foods were "free" and lower calorie and built her menu from there. "I believe in real food and not in nonfat [food] and all those fat substitutes," she says. Movies stars, other celebrities, and common folk "ate up" her creations.
So how did she do it?
Madison also recommends making sure the makings of a healthy meal are there when you get home. After awhile, you can lose the numbers for takeout food.
Portion sizes have ballooned. You can almost go into a gourmet restaurant these days and say, "Supersize it." Sometimes you don't even have to ask. A restaurant portion of spaghetti may be four to six times what used to be recommended, Julie Miller Jones, PhD, professor of nutrition at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn., tells WebMD. "We used to talk about eating a twelfth of a pizza," she adds, with a laugh.
"Ironically, even with all that quantity, chain restaurant food can leave us feeling deprived," Jones says. "You eat and eat and want more because it's not satisfying."
Jones recommends thinking of food like it's something special instead of slinging it in and trying to avoid concentrating on it. "I am into tasting as you cook," she says. "Use a toddler spoon or demitasse spoon. There is a danger of tasting and nibbling a whole portion."
Jones also recommends starting with a hot broth soup. "It's impossible to eat that quickly," she says. Sometimes putting some side dishes in separate bowls also makes the meal look larger.
Daelemans is not in to small plates with teeny portions on them, no matter how dainty they may look. "I use a 12-inch dinner plate and put on at least two 'free foods' (broccoli, greens)."
"A lot of this is about entertainment," she says. "We eat to be entertained, not just fueled. We want to hit those flavor marks -- intense tastes -- sweet, sour, salty, bitter."
Jones is also a "huge proponent" of breakfast as part of healthy cooking. She makes a week's worth of cooked cereal on the weekend and warms it up with fruit.
Healthy Cooking Worked for Them