Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Over-Eaters Anonymous

What I'm likely to over-eat. AVOID.
If I tell you that I am a massive over-eater at times, I suppose that there is nothing particularly anonymous about it, is there?

It's so hard not to overeat - especially when there is so much lip-smacking, tempting food around, and creating delicious food begets extra delicious ingredients (like umeboshi vinegar to use in Vegan Diner's Mac and Cheese, or that truffle oil in my pantry, just begging to be used/poured on everything). Each recipe I make also doesn't just make a reasonable portion for two people. I find that most recipes that are designed to feed two definitely aren't enough for two voracious, active adults. One of my favourite "healthy" recipes is a roasted broccoli, garlic, lemon, and chickpea dish that "feeds six". Like heck it does. But it's perfect for two!

Some solutions I've been given over the years have been useful, whilst others have been far from it. I don't want to practice the "French Wo/Men Don't Get Fat" style of one mouthful of everything - that's just INVITING the beast, I mean... If I have lots of plates of food in front of me, and you give me one mouthful of everything, I'm sure as heck not gonna eat just one mouthful of everything, but I'm gonna have LOTS OF PLATES OF FOOD IN FRONT OF ME. See the inherent danger?

... nor do I wish to follow the fabulous and wasp-thin Dolly Parton's various nuggets of weight-maintenance advice, which include: advising people to carry a styrofoam cup around, chew your food to enjoy the deliciousness, but then spit it out into the cup... and then, in the words of the inimitable Dolly, she comments “What is more disgusting, spitting out my food or being a lard ass?” (I am not joking, check out her enlightening autobiography here!), or "I always leave some food on my plate for the angels"... Well, I'm pretty sure being an angel would include either a) unlimited supplies of your favourite, amazingly well-cooked/seasoned food, or b) no need to eat. Sigh. I suppose the angels don't need my half-eaten food after all...

Other people tell me to make big vats of things and freeze them in meal-sized portions, but I also know that almost anything fresh I make that gets put in the freezer usually ends up staying there, most likely forever, and when I do feel the need to eat something from the freezer, it's usually something delicious and pre-packaged, like frozen curly fries or hash browns (wooooo!), or something vegan, delicious, high fat and snacky, that a creamy, zesty, tangy dipping sauce could only improve (for a surprisingly healthy, oil-free dip, go for Isa Chandra's ranch-style Sanctuary Dip). What I don't feel like from the freezer is something which has an undeterminable origin and is exhibiting extreme freezer-burn. So that's not a big help.

My bento box; talk about healthy variety!
Actual Helpful Tips to Minimise Over-Eating:
  • Put your leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as they're no longer steaming! Cravings tend to pass in five minutes or so, so by the time you've thought about pulling a saucepan out of the fridge, dividing a guilt-portion onto a clean plate and reheating it, you've realised you're actually full anyway.
  • Only keep frozen junk food in your home. By the time the oven preheats, and by the time you've cooked something for 15 minutes, flipped it, scraped the burnt bits off the aluminium, which then sticks to a chip, then put the whole thing back in for another 15 minutes, you're usually just left with guilt, not a craving.
  • Don't keep junk food around the house in the first place. No excuses. If you need to buy a bag of chips before a party, you can buy them directly before the party. Not three weeks beforehand.
  • Ensure that your main meals/entrees are as nutritious and colourful as possible. There are theories that the reason we crave junk food is because our body is craving nutrients, which we aren't getting (and sadly, still aren't going to get from high calorie junk food). Perhaps when your body is craving a lot of calories, it's trying to give itself the best chance to get nutrients. So eating a variety of lots of things, not lots of one thing. One of the best ways to ensure a good spectrum of vitamins and nutrients is to eat a diet which includes as many colours as possible, in as many meals as possible.
  • Eating higher protein lunches. Lately, I've been taking a big container of pressed, sliced tofu to work, in a marinade bath. That way, I can leave it in the fridge and take out as many pieces as I feel I need at the time. The microwave isn't ideal for cooking this, but it works fine. For soft, tender slices, microwave whilst occasionally spooning marinade on the tofu slices during cooking. For chewier, firmer tofu, spoon marinade onto the tofu during the start, but microwave it until it has dried up. Another option is to wrap your marinated tofu in a big piece of wax paper and grilling this package in the sandwich press.
The academic is also putting together a post on fast, healthy, filling, easy lunches, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Most of my advice regarding over-eating centres around delaying your ability to eat more than you need. Make sure you have a time-to-breathe window so that you can let your cravings pass. Give yourself that extra five or ten minutes of delay before you can eat that extra portion/junky snack, by which time you most likely will have come to your senses. And make sure that the food you do eat as a matter of routine is as nutritious as possible, so you're not left with cravings.

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