Are You Skinny Yet? Me Neither!
Just because I lost some weight doesn’t mean I get to hang up my hat and retire from eating right and exercising, although I do think somebody ought to hurry up and invent that solution. For me, it’s a day-to-day challenge to trick myself into making all the right, or mostly right, food decisions. Talking myself into exercising and actually getting myself out the door to sweat require more energy and effort than building a house from scratch with sticks and stones.
Twelve years into this and counting, I’ve learned that there’s no time off for good behavior and that you can’t quit once you “reach your goals.” This isn’t a forty-eight-hour chocolate diet. But it’s not a book of boot camp can’t-haves and must-dos, either. This book is all about what you can do, what you can eat, and what you will achieve if you keep your eyes on the prize and take baby steps each day — or at least hold down the fort until you can get yourself back on track.
Taking control of your body, your mind, and your health is a totally awesome experience — resulting in feelings of true self- love so rich, they’re worth the effort to hold on to. You’ll get a taste of this. And you’ll chase it. Just as I do. Because achieving your best health is definitely something you can accomplish. We’re all born into the winner’s circle. It’s up to us to keep our crowns. Realize that you positively cannot fail at this, and you won’t. All you have to do is commit to committing. Perseverance always pays off, and it’s free.
Self-sabotage costs more than even the Rockefellers can afford. We can all fall asleep every night reviewing everything we didn’t accomplish or adding up all we’ve conquered. People who achieve success don’t get to the finish line by being lazy; they work. Plain and simple. You’ve got to work at this. But work doesn’t have to be unfun, unsexy, or unbelievably hard. Achieving success is as simple as mastering the task at hand, which, when approached with passion, energy, and enthusiasm, becomes play.
I don’t care if you don’t believe me now; this will all make sense to you someday. Until then, you’re just going to have to take my word for it. I promise you; I’m living this every day. I’m obsessed with unearthing, reinventing, and creating from scratch livable, doable, tolerable, and fun-filled solutions for all of us.
Think thin, cook thin, be thin
Getting Thin and Loving Food! can end dieting disasters. This sumptuous feast of grab-and-go tips and super-simple recipes is all you need to get a very healthy jump-start on the easiest way to lose weight, realize your best health, and stay that way until you’re eighty-eight. I figure if I make it to eighty-eight, I’m probably gonna ditch the health stuff and go for butter pecan ice cream meals. And anything else I want. In any quantity I want, at any time of day or night I want. (Let’s just hope I don’t alienate my caregivers. Can you imagine being eighty-eight and having to beg someone to let you eat what you want?) Unless you’re eighty-eight, though, you need to get started. All you have to do is swallow four nouns and pass a four-question quiz. Motivation, accountability, and support go down easily enough; it’s the commitment part that takes a few chugalugs. But once the medicine goes down, my oh my, what a wonderful day.
Zippity-do-duh. All you have to do beyond that first “feast” is set realistic goals, invent rules you can live by, and come up with rewards you will actually collect. Don’t worry, I’ll show you how I did it, how I do it, and how I renew my vows whenever I need a good kick in the bloomers, which can be hourly sometimes. But so what? It doesn’t matter how many times you have to sow new seeds, it just matters that you get out there and scatter a handful every time you need to. My grandma Breezy taught me that the seeds you plant on the darkest days always bloom first.
So it’s bye-bye to burgers, shakes, and pies. Kidding! There’s room for everything, but if you don’t let yourself have a few treat calories, laziness and denial will rear their ugly heads on your hips and thighs. Your old ways aren’t working for you, or you never would have picked up this book. But you did. There’s no divorcing this lifestyle, because it’s so much darn fun you won’t want to. I promise. I didn’t have to give up outrageously delicious food to lose the weight, and you don’t have to either.
I’ve been described as a forensic diner, probably because I deconstruct every meal and recipe I come across in an effort to identify ingredients that are necessary for taste, texture, and nutritional content and those that rob the finished dish of its potential, tastewise and healthwise. I’m sure I think about food more often than men reportedly think of the “s” word, which is, what, eeeeevery seven seconds? Come on. I can have a virtual buffet consumed in seven seconds. Seventy-five pounds and eight dress sizes smaller than I used to be, I’ve got this figured out as much as anyone can. Sure, I’ve yoyoed a bit, but I’ve managed to stay in the five- to seven-pound range instead of the twenty, thirty, forty, and up club I used to belong to. Mastering perfect performances day in and day out is something I’m still practicing.
Two, four, six, eight, what you must appreciate
And no, I didn’t include calorie counts in this book. I’m a cook. I’m a woman who lost weight and works to keep it off. I’m not schooled in nutrition, I’m not a doctor, and I’m not a shrink. Besides, even if Einstein were alive and invented a program to calculate nutritional information quickly and accurately, I don’t know that I’d include it. When I sit down to eat, I want to look at a beautiful plate of food and the people sitting across from me. I want to taste and savor the food I’m eating and experience the true joy of sharing a meal with family and friends. Staring at fat facts before a meal is positively unnerving to me and takes away the pleasure. I know that cheesy baked enchiladas are something I should eat a moderate portion of and that I can go hog-wild with pineapple cilantro coleslaw. I know baked chicken is better for me than deep-fried. I know I occasionally need to work in desserts and snack foods. I know holidays are a time I need to increase my exercise, because I almost always decide to stray and play.
A reader of my first book, Cooking Thin with Chef Kathleen, said it best: “Nutritional information? Duh! This book gives you all you need to know; these are healthy recipes that will enable weight loss. The problem with some people is that they think they need to know an exact amount of grams or calories in order to stay within the range of healthy eating. If they were that concerned with what went into their mouths, they wouldn’t have gotten overweight in the first place. Quit complaining. Quit counting points. It makes food too important and too time-consuming in your life. Eat in commonsense moderation. If you have any problems with that concept, make a fist; your portions should be about the same size.”
Fads make infomercial people rich
I’m repeatedly asked to give my opinion on various diets — the low-fat, the low-carbohydrate, the protein diets, the this diet, the that diet. Some of them seem to work for some people — for a while. I can say with certainty that they all have one thing in common: they become boring and hard to maintain over time. People usually give up on them and go back to their old ways of eating, the ways that got them in trouble in the first place.
Commonly accepted medical research seems to indicate that our bodies need a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and good fats and recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals, so a varied diet is the way to lose weight safely and keep it off for life. What I’m offering is not a diet as such but a way to eat all the foods you like. You may not be able to consume the quantities you’d like, and you certainly can’t have gooey desserts every night, but there isn’t anything you have to give up for the rest of your life.
What goes in must come off
It’s up to you to make room for the foods you love by exercising and by practicing portion control and moderation. To lose weight, you must burn off more calories than you consume. To maintain a healthy weight, you need to burn off and consume roughly the same amount of calories each day. This book is chock-full of grab-and-go tips and practical advice to keep you motivated, ways to create accountability, and ways to seek support — the foundation you need to build and nurture for the rest of your life to enjoy good health. Maintaining this base takes little more effort than maintaining a four- season wardrobe. Most of you are maintaining wardrobes for more than just yourselves. I know you can do this too.
Just how many calories you need to consume in a day is between you and your doctor. That’s information you need to get. We’re all individual and require different varieties and combinations of foods in different quantities, depending on age, weight, lifestyle, and health requirements. To lump all women or all men together is irresponsible. To guess for you is irresponsible. Ask your doctor, make an appointment with a nutritionist, or, at the very least, utilize the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a resource until you have the time to speak to a real live medical professional you trust. Simply described, the NIH is one of the world’s foremost medical research centers and the federal focal point for medical research in the United States. The easiest way to explore all that it offers is to access its Web site online at www.nih.gov. You can call the NIH at (301) 496-4000 or write to National Institutes of Health, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892.
If you want to count calories, a good place to start is to think twice about any food that upon, during, or after consumption causes some kind of guilt or regret. Most of these foods come from a drive-through joint, takeout palace, or vending machine. This is the most important nutrition fact you should know. Obsessing over how many calories are in beet slaw or carefully portioned and thoughtfully prepared meals is silly.
Death by waistband asphyxiation
My yoyo diet years taught me that the only way I could eat healthily for life was to teach myself how to make good food choices in all situations. There are no calorie counts attached to the sumptuous plates of food served at family gatherings, PTA meetings, church socials, or picnics. Office cakes aren’t labeled either. And who knows what restaurants put into things?
I read labels, I pay attention to the latest health findings in the news, and I’vetlearned to tune in to what my body is truly asking for and to listen to the voice of reason inside my head. My wake-up-and-reevaluate-my-program calls come in all sorts of blatantly obvious forms. When I feel sluggish, cranky, or way too tired, when I’m hungry at the wrong times, or when my pants are too tight, it’s time to regroup and reevaluate the quality of the calories I’m consuming versus my exercise output. That doesn’t mean I whip out a calculator. Going through the list of foods I’ve eaten that Mrs. Duganheimer, my high school nutrition teacher, would have given me an A for, including meals and snacks, and the ones she’d have issued a detention for is pretty much all it takes for me to get real. That, and a quick evaluation of my exercise week. Halfhearted or skipped workouts, an “it won’t hurt me” cookie-plate break here, and a “you deserve it” cocktail excursion there can, if unchecked, lead to death by waistband asphyxiation. Clearly, I don’t always make the best decisions, but for the most part I’m able to practice what I preach and stick to this lifestyle with relative ease, because with all the tricks, tips, shortcuts, and quick recipes I’ve learned along the way, it’s not that hard. I promise. If I can do it, you can do it.
I haven’t included shame-on-you monologues about how you can’t eat a pint of ice cream in a single sitting, how you shouldn’t eat a whole sleeve of Oreos at once or drink ten Diet Cokes a day. You don’t need to be told when you’re eating too much of a good or bad thing. Who doesn’t know when they’ve had too many french fries, too many pieces of pizza, or too many slices of cake? Surely I can’t be the only one who has eaten “voice food.” Voice food is food that calls your name until you consume too many portions. Fruits and veggies are not voice foods. Chocolate, cakes, chips, and pies are voice foods. As soon as you consume voice food in any quantity beyond the recommended serving size, a choir takes over your brain and sings I-told-you-so tunes louder than a symphony orchestra, until you fall down on your knees and swear off voice foods for good. Which works only until you hear the whispers of the next voice food. In this book, you’ll learn how to enjoy voice foods without the concert.
I didn’t lose weight eating boring, bland, Band-Aid–colored foods swimming in salt-free broth. I love to eat. If I had to choose — and thank goodness I’m way beyond this and don’t — but if I had to choose between eating totally delectable food and achieving a healthy weight, I’d have stayed fat. I’m thankful I’ve lost weight and kept it off for over ten years, but I honestly wouldn’t have if I hadn’t figured out a way to make food that’s good for me taste really great.
Twenty-five years in kitchens have taught me a lot. I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside some of the country’s most talented chefs and cooks throughout my career. I’ve learned how to take excess calories, sugar, and fat from recipes, stopping just short of compromising flavor, and I’ve learned how to build new recipes around naturally healthful ingredients layered with easily accessible, affordable ingredients with high flavor impact.
Confessions of a volume eater
My goal is flavor first, health second. I want to leave the table deeply satisfied after every meal — I want to feel full, or at least not so hungry I feel the need to eat the leg of the chair I’m sitting on. A recipe isn’t printworthy if it isn’t something I liked so much that I called my mother to tell her about it or bragged to my neighbor.
We all have certain expectations for taste and flavor, and if they aren’t met when we sit down to eat, we leave feeling deprived. Deprivation can lead to bingeing or rebellious eating (not that I’ve ever experienced that personally or anything). We want to taste sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. We want things that are supposed to be creamy to be creamy. We want velvety-smooth soups and sauces — unless they’re supposed to be chunky. We want to experience crispy, crunchy, rich, and delicious precisely where the culinary gods intend us to.
In this book, I tell you every single culinary secret I know. I’ve included a list of the tools and flavor ingredients I use and two hundred great-tasting, easy recipes for healthy weight loss. There’s no reason not to leave the table Henry-the-Eighth happy and satisfied every time you sit down to eat. It really is possible to eat outrageously scrumptious foods and lose the weight for good.
Copyright © 2004 by Kathleen Daelemans. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.