Focus More on Your Brain and Less on Your Diet if You’re Serious About Losing Weight

by | Mar 31, 2014

Photo by Humphrey King

Weight loss is tricky business. Obviously what you eat has a huge impact on your health and body weight. But anyone who has ever tried to modify their diet for the sake of losing weight knows it isn’t so simple.

Most of us understand intuitively that broccoli is healthier than cookies. We can talk about sugar, fat, gluten and antioxidants all day, but that doesn’t change the fact that cookies taste good and you still want to eat them. Any weight loss plan that simply tells you what to eat and neglects why you make the choices you make is unlikely to help you in the long run.

Nutrition knowledge is important, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. The real secret is understanding your behaviors and motivations at their roots, and using this information to have a meaningful impact on your health. In this sense, good health starts in your brain, not on your plate.

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Top 16 TED Talks for Foodists

by | Mar 19, 2014

JO_ted

This week the amazing TED conference is going on in Vancouver. For those of you who have never heard of a TED talk until today, you’re welcome.

TED collects the most interesting people in the world and gives them the stage for 20 minutes. Inevitably they will expand your mind in some way or another, even in topics you didn’t think you were interested in.

To commemorate the awesomeness which is TED, I compiled a list of my favorite TED talks to educate and inspire foodists. These talks focus on food, health, habits, happiness and quality of life. I’d love to hear which are your favorites and what you enjoy most about them.

Stay thirsty, my foodists.
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For The Love Of Food

by | Oct 28, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Good stuff this week, particularly the new data about why diets don’t work, why probiotics do work and some interesting examples of how the food industry is responding to the food movement. Oh yes, and the invention of super broccoli.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links on Twitter (@summertomato), Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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5 Hallmarks of a BS Diet Plan

by | Nov 17, 2010

Photo by Arun Katiyar

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that most diet plans out there are full of it. If they worked, a third of us wouldn’t be classified as obese.

But if you’re trying to get healthy and lose weight, how can you tell the healthy diets from the lousy ones?

Bad diets that are designed to slim your wallet rather than your waistline actually have a lot in common. If you see any of these hallmarks of a BS diet plan, hold on to your credit card and run the other direction.

5 Hallmarks of a BS Diet Plan

1. Single case studies and lots of testimonials

People who don’t have evidence to back up their claims often rely on personal testimonials instead. Testimonials are accounts by people who have supposedly used the product and had incredible success. But in many cases, these stories are better described as uncredible than incredible.

The reality is that it’s fairly easy to get people to say/do/look exactly the way you want. Sometimes the testimonials are made by paid actors who are lying for profit, other times the quotes are simply taken out of context and exaggerated. It is even possible that some of the testimonials are true, but that the person giving them doesn’t understand the true ramifications of the results they are seeing (or will only see those results for a short time).

The point is that individual case studies rarely reflect the true effectiveness of a product, and are hand-selected to make the product look good. Because you can be sure that if the seller had real statistical data on his product’s effectiveness, he would be using that instead.

2. Black and white rules

One of the easiest things to do to lose weight is follow a set of very strict rules for a set amount of time. Limiting calories in and increasing calories out will make just about anyone lose weight for a little while, so even ridiculous plans like the Twinkie diet can seem effective for a short period.

But very few individuals can maintain a strict diet permanently, and I would argue that this should not even be your goal. A healthy eating plan must have flexibility, since everyone has different personal and dietary needs. If a diet has too many rules, it isn’t going to be your salvation.

3. Angry proponents

Rational people don’t get upset when someone disagrees with them. When you see health advocates defending their diet as if it were a religion you can bet there’s a bigger, more personal reason for all the commotion.

While it is great to be passionate about the way you eat, if supporters resort to name calling and hate blogging there’s likely more dogma than truth in whatever they’re selling.

4. Truthiness

Is that data you just told me, or just a bunch of sciencey words that explain your opinion? Don’t be fooled by a scientific theory about why a diet works. If you can’t find numbers to back up that information, then the diet is still a hypothesis and not a proven therapy. People love to tout our need for dietary “enzymes” or what we’ve “evolved” to eat, but I’ve never seen any evidence suggesting these things are true.

5. Fantastical results

Does that diet sound too good to be true? It probably is. There are many ways to induce rapid, dramatic weight loss, but unless the plan is sustainable the weight will come back. Don’t be lured by the promise of quick, amazing results. Look for plans that encourage improving habits and are designed to keep weight off permanently.

How do you identify a BS diet plan?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Aug 6, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

New evidence that the Atkins diet may be depriving people of nutrients? You bet! There were also a few interesting articles this week about food ideology and the antagonistic tone that frequently comes up in discussions about health, food safety and politics. And Francis Lam’s greatest tomato pasta on earth article totally blew my mind (in a good way).

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete reading list join me on the new Digg or StumbleUpon. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

  • Is Your Diet Depriving You of Nutrients? <<A new study suggests that Atkins dieters may be lacking in nutrients that are usually found in starchy foods. Dieters on the Zone diet (which is more balanced) fared the best, nutrient wise. (Low Carb Diets Blog)
  • Does high-fructose corn syrup cause cancer? <<Does it matter? Great analysis about how the facts are often beside the point when food and health get discussed in the media. (Salon)
  • “Can’t we all just get along” – It does not seem so. <<BS of the week. Along the same lines as the previous article, Bill Marler brings up the antagonistic tone that often comes up in public food dialogue, which is neither pleasant nor productive. And that sucks. Intelligent discussions don’t seem to be forthcoming these days. That’s why I’m so grateful for the wonderful conversations we have here at Summer Tomato. (Marler Blog)
  • A Dozen Eggs for $8? Michael Pollan Explains the Math of Buying Local <<Great interview with Michael Pollan about why Bay Area residents have embraced his eating philosophy. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Chili Peppers May Come With Blood Pressure Benefits <<Cartoons with red faces and exploding heads may give you the wrong idea. It appears chili peppers actually lower blood pressure in the long term. (ScienceDaily)
  • Is MSG Unhealthy? <<People sometimes ask why I don’t talk about MSG more on this blog. The truth is that the data doesn’t condemn it as much as people seem to believe. I don’t reject any food without strong science to back it up. Dr. Weil concurs. (Dr. Weil’s blog)
  • For blood pressure, can you be fit but fat? <<New research suggests body weight is a risk factor for high blood pressure independent of physical fitness levels. Best to keep both under control. (Medline)
  • Why did Whole Foods tart up my organic peanut butter? <<I agree with Tom Philpott on this one, but I still think it’s funny to get so riled up over “peanut butter.” (Grist)
  • Chioggia beets and farro salad <<Psssst. I shared one of my favorite recipe outlines over at my personal blog this week. It is super easy, and there are a zillion possible variations you can do. Beets not required. (daryapino)
  • The greatest five-minute tomato pasta on earth <<I almost choked to death when I read this, because Francis Lam had almost the exact same tomato experience I had. Then he turned it into a recipe. (Salon)

What inspired you this week?

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For The Love of Food

by | Apr 16, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Tough cuts were made this week. Read about why not liking foods is unnecessary, agave nectar is worse than high-fructose corn syrup and saturated fat is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Oh, and how diets make you gain weight. The list goes on….

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

Links of the week

What did you find worth reading this week?

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Why I Love WeightWatchers But Would Never Go Back

by | Mar 22, 2010

I used to look like this. Not anymore.

Nothing makes me happier than helping someone discover real food. Not only does their health physically transform, but they learn about a world of tastes and flavors that can be truly life changing.

My friend E began her healthstyle upgrade at the beginning of 2010, and I’m delighted that she agreed to share her story with Summer Tomato readers.

E. Foley is a geek girl extraordinaire. She writes amazing online dating profiles for geeks and non-geeks, helping clients all over the world find love. Her writing can be found at Examiner.com, Dating Sites Reviews, and elsewhere as a ghostwriter. By day, she is the Copywriter at ThinkGeek.

Follow her @geeksdreamgirl on Twitter.

Dating profiles for geeks = http://geeksdreamgirl.com

Why I Love WeightWatchers But Would Never Go Back

By E. Foley

My name is E and in 2003, I became a Lifetime Member of WeightWatchers after losing nearly 50 pounds and reaching my goal weight of 145.

Fast-forward to 2010, and I now weigh over 230 pounds. I’m 5’7″.

I gained back every pound I lost on WeightWatchers and then some. I did try to lose it. Over and over and over again I rejoined WeightWatchers and lost a handful of pounds before slipping back into bad habits and regaining them.

There is so much I love about the WeightWatchers program, but in the end, it’s Darya’s Healthstyle that has been the best choice for me.

Things I Loved About WeightWatchers

Weekly accountability

Knowing that I had to step on the scale in front of a staff member every Saturday motivated me to stay on track.

Group support

It may sound dumb, but it really felt good to have the group applaud for me when I had a good week. Knowing they’d be there to support me on a bad week was also comforting.

Balanced nutrition

I’ll get into this more later, but the WeightWatchers program, if followed to the letter, is nutritionally sound.

Role models

All the staff members are Lifetime Members, and there are always a few Lifetime Members who attend weekly meetings.

Things to ponder

Every meeting gave me something to think about, a food or recipe I wanted to try, or a warm fuzzy feeling that propelled me into the week.

Reasons Why I Can’t Go Back to WeightWatchers

Gaming the System

When I achieved Lifetime status, it was on the Flex plan. This plan allows you a certain budget of Points per day which you can spend on various types of food. The Points value of the food depends on its calories, fat, and fiber. Many vegetables are zero points, which you’d think would encourage their consumption. Not so. When I reached my goal weight, I was burning calories like mad at a gym. Some days I did two cardio classes in a row and then yoga or Pilates. This allowed me to earn Activity Points which I then spent on those tasty (but sugary!) Milk & Cereal bars that are anything but healthy.

When I regained the weight and went back to WeightWatchers, I jumped back into the same Flex program. The game for me was figuring out how to play the numbers so they added up on paper to the magic number. It got to the point where I could be “perfect” on paper but not lose a single pound.

Frustrated, I’d quit.

WeightWatchers’ Attempt at Healthstyle Fails

Later, WeightWatchers rolled out the Core program and I saw success again. Core allowed members to eat lean meats, fat-free dairy, fruits and vegetables “until satisfied.” A weekly Points budget allowed eating things that weren’t Core (namely carbs, sugars, and fats). Also included on the “free to eat” list was your daily serving of heart-healthy oils.

But Core wasn’t popular among the WeightWatchers membership. In my meetings, I’d often be the only person in the room on Core, so advice in the meeting was tailored toward Flex members. Sometimes I’d get lucky and have a leader who was on Core, but not always. Even though I was losing weight regularly on Core, the lack of support for the program made going to meetings not as helpful or motivating. WeightWatchers finally eliminated the Core program, going back to a One-Plan-Fits-All mentality.

Eat Healthy OR Filling

Remember how I said that the plan is nutritionally sound if followed to the letter? The problem with WeightWatchers is that as long as you lose weight, no one questions what you’re eating. I wish I still had my food journals from those days, because I can tell you I went full weeks without consuming a vegetable or fruit.

In the meetings, the leader would talk about getting your heart healthy oil in every day, and inevitably, someone would complain about having to “waste Points” on olive oil, when they could just use a few spritzes of aerosol cooking spray instead. When you’re working with 20 points per day (which is what I was eating when I was close to my goal weight), it does seem like a waste to use 4 of those points for a tablespoon of olive oil. Especially when 4 points could be spent on bread or meat or cheese. Or a Milk & Cereal bar.

Diet For Life?

My biggest problem with WeightWatchers is that it never felt like a way to eat for the rest of my life. Maybe it did for a while, but once hard times hit, I didn’t have the incentive to stick to my guns and eat healthy, mainly because what I ate when I was on program wasn’t all that tasty. (WeightWatchers has tons of recipe books, but all the recipes are pretty bland and uninspired.)

Finding Darya Was The Best Thing That Happened To Me

Dr. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, says that “the best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.” This is exactly how I feel about my new healthstyle.

I don’t feel stressed out about food.

I don’t feel deprived of things I want to eat.

I don’t look forward to the day I get to “eat normal” again.

I don’t feel like the way I am eating is a ball and chain.

I don’t eat food that doesn’t taste delicious.

My Healthstyle

Breakfast: Every other Sunday, I make a giant batch of breakfast hot pockets from scratch. I have played with the dough recipe a bit to decrease the white flour down to 5 cups white, 3.5 cups wheat, 1.5 cups almond meal. Since my boyfriend is vegetarian, we use the sausage substitute. They freeze well and reheat in the microwave in 95 seconds. I love them because I am not a morning person, so I wake up as late as possible and eat on my drive to the gym.

Exercise: I am blessed to have a work schedule that allows me to work out from 8:30-9:45 a.m. just about every day. I do miss the gym from time to time, but I’m there more days than I’m not, which is a great start!

Lunch: I love salad bars, but they’re so expensive. So I started up a Salad Club at my work! We have anywhere from 4 to 6 people who participate each week, pitching in various veggies and fruits and toppings and dressings. If you’re curious, follow me on Twitter and you can see a picture of my Salad Club every weekday. When I’m lunching at home, it’s usually kale with toasted nuts and garlic and whatever leftover grain I have in the fridge.

Snacks: Back in my WeightWatchers days, I avoided nuts. Too high in calories, too high in fat, too many Points! Now, I have a variety of nuts on my desk at work and usually eat an ounce or two of nuts every day. They really help bridge the gap between meals and prevent me from snacking on the junk food in the office kitchen.

Dinner: I make all sorts of great things for dinners now. We still have our old standbys (vegetarian tacos & Annie’s mac n’ cheese), but more often than not, I’m surfing the internet for recipes after buying whatever looks good in the store (Sadly, being on the East Coast makes the farmers market thing a little less feasible in the winter. But spring is almost here!!). I think my favorite so far is the stuffed portobello mushrooms (pictured here).

The Bottom Line

I don’t feel like this is a diet. I feel like I’m eating better and tastier foods than I have in my whole life. I’ve eaten more nuts and olive oil in the past 3 months than I have in 3 years. But I’m losing at a steady rate of about a 1/2 pound per week. No, it’s not fast or impressive. But I’m eating amazing food, I’m never hungry (for long!), and I’m not killing myself at the gym to do it. If it takes me 3 years to get down to 140-150 again, that’s fine by me. The weight loss is just a pleasant side effect of my healthstyle, and I have Darya to thank for all her advice and personal coaching.

If you’ve been lurking on the blog and wondering about working with Darya to get your healthstyle on, take the step and do it. I feel so much better and the weight is melting off while I’m eating the most delicious food of my life. You can do it, too.

What is your healthstyle?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Mar 19, 2010
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

A lot of examples of healthstyle in action this week around the web. Some of my favorites revisit the principle of mindful eating, and why it is so important. In grosser news, what sort of sicko serves whale meat as sushi? “Would you like some baby snow owl with your endangered whale?” Jeez.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

Links of the week

I hope I’ve inspired you today :) Did I miss anything?

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For The Love of Food

by | Mar 5, 2010
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Informative bunch of articles this week on the web. I’m particularly excited by TreeHugger‘s list of canned products that don’t contain BPA and the FDA clamping down on health claims. There’s also an interesting glimpse of the possible future of healthstyle: genetic testing to find the best diet for your body.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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For The Love of Food

by | Feb 5, 2010
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Diets are dying, the faulty vaccine-autism paper was retracted and yet another study shows low-fat diets are bad for heart disease. Could this week get any better?

And in case you missed it, definitely check out the video of Michael Pollan’s talk at the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

Links of the Week

What inspired you this week?

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