This post is the result of several recent conversations I’ve had with friends and family members regarding weight loss. I mention on my About page that I was once 20 pounds heavier than I am now. I lost the majority of the weight within the last year and a half, a direct result of significant lifestyle changes I’ve made.
That we need to make permanent lifestyle changes in order to lose weight and keep it off is, of course, old news. But, how? I suppose different strategies work for different folks, to varying degrees. I also know that lots of people find it difficult to make dietary changes stick. It is, of course, one thing to instruct people to replace the high-calorie meats and cheeses on their plates with fresh fruits and veggies, and quite another to tell them the secrets to making that change enjoyable.
I firmly believe that eating, especially healthy eating, should be fun. Good meals should not only nourish and energize the body. They should also excite the senses. Experience has taught me that, in order to serve its most important functions in our lives, food does not need to be excessively high in fat, sugar, or sodium. Nor does it have to be consumed in gigantic portions. (And when food takes on these characteristics, it stops serving the vital functions of nourishing and energizing our bodies, doesn’t it? It starts harming us, instead.)
But it does need to be prepared, presented, and consumed in a way that is thoroughly pleasurable. In other words, eating a meal shouldn’t be reduced to some ritualistic act of self-preservation (yawn). It should be an experience!
To me, that means adhering to one cardinal rule: I make my plate my canvas.
I decorate it. With vibrant colors. And a panorama of textures and flavors. That are enjoyed together, combined to create a sensory experience. Not made up of elements that are consumed singularly or sectioned off from one another. That’s my secret to enjoying healthy food–and to coming up with dishes that are as fun to make as they are to eat!
You see, I don’t think losing weight is just about making a switch from eating so-called “bad” foods to “good” foods. Rather, it’s about eating an array of foods differently. In a way that is nourishing, satisfying, and exciting.
I learned the value of this lesson when I switched to a vegan diet. The ways in which I create and enjoy my plates now are vastly different than they were when I was a meat-eater.
Within the last week, I had several occasions to share these ideas with family and friends. Honestly, I’ve become so accustomed to eating vibrant, decorated dishes of food that I had nearly lost sight of the fact that lots of folks do not. In the hopes that these tips will work for you, I have listed some examples and strategies and for preparing food differently. To maximize enjoyment and creativity, while minimizing calories.
Let your plate be your canvas.
I simply adore colorful plates of food! But, I also love plates that have a certain harmony about them–a sensuality, if you will. For me, there is nothing visually (or otherwise) pleasurable about a predominantly brown plate of food in which all of the components are separated from one another.
I mean, come on. Where’s the excitement? The passion? The love? I don’t feel it. That’s for sure.
Even with the addition of a little color, segregated plates still lack a kind of spunk, a pizzazz, a certain je ne sais quoi…don’t you think?
I prefer plates that look almost like a painting. Splashed with vibrant bits of color. In which each piece of food is flirting with the others. And represents a coming together of flavors. A harmonizing. A full engagement of the senses. An integrated plate, if you will.
See the difference? So, just how can eating this way help you lose weight?
1.) You’ll eat less. Notice how the food in the last three photos is cut into small pieces? The plates appear very large for that reason. Because the food is already cut into smaller portions, it is easier to eat slowly and to take smaller bites. (You can’t possibly cut a HUGE piece from half of a brussels sprout like you can from a 12 oz. steak, can you?)
2.) Eating smaller pieces of food means you can be more easily satisfied. In a decorated plate, you get a blend of flavors in every mouthful you take, not just one, like when you cut a large piece of steak into chunks or eat a basket of french fries.
3.) You can make a little bit go a long way. To make the tahini dressing in the above quinoa salad (Sesame tahini is a high-calorie, high-fat food.), I used water to thin it, as is done to make tahini sauce traditionally.
Had I added oil, or simply kept pouring in more and more tahini to make enough dressing for the salad, I would have ended up eating a ton of extra calories! Thinning the tahini with water in place of oil or another fat, plus the addition of lemon juice (or a flavorful vinegar, like balsamic), garlic and herbs, made the dressing super-tasty. And I got a little bit of it in every mouthful without adding calories to my meal.
I wrote yesterday about being creative in the kitchen. For me, eating this way encourages a kind of creativity. After all, the focus is on combining colors, flavors, and textures. Not on separating them. About filling our plates with lots of healthy and delicious pieces of food. Not about restricting portions and creating sparse, half-empty plates to conserve calories. There’s nothing healthy to me about dull, restrictive diets. And there is nothing at all good about walking away from the dinner table feeling horribly unsatisfied. Or worse, still feeling hungry.