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If Diets Don’t Work…What Does?

10 May

If Diets Don’t Work…What Does?

This weekend the New York Times attacked the topic of “Why You Can’t Lose Weight on a Diet”. The article, written by neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt led with, “The problem isn’t willpower. It’s neuroscience. You can’t – and shouldn’t – fight back.”

Dr. Aamodt is the author of the forthcoming book “Why Diets Make us Fat”¬†and is herself a proponent of abandoning diets in favor of behaviors that will improve our health and extend our lives.

I had the good fortune to be featured along with with Sandra Aamodt on today’s KQED Forum radio program in San Francisco with host Michael Krasny. The purpose of the episode was to analyze research showing that diets do not result in long-term weight loss and how they might even lead to weight gain.

The precipitating publication that spawned interest in this topic was a recent article in the journal Obesity that followed “The Biggest Loser” competitors 6 years after their appearance on the show. As you can probably guess, 6 years out weight loss was not a foregone conclusion for the Biggest Losers.

Since the show’s finale, the 14 Biggest Loser participants analyzed in the study had regained 70 percent of the weight they initially lost. And perhaps even more interesting, these losers were burning approximately 500 less calories per day than other people their age and size.

The neuroscience tie-in that Sandra Aamodt is looking at questions what we know as the set point. The set point is that target weight your body is going to fight to keep you at, no matter how hard you try to get below it. And dieting that pushes your weight below your body’s set point results in you burning fewer calories and ultimately messing with your body’s metabolic rate.

One challenge lies in quantifying your “set point” or your body’s “metabolic rate”. These aren’t numbers on a scale or values in your blood that can be easily measured. Sandra and her team are instead analyzing the powerful interplay between cyclical feasting and fasting, one’s genetic makeup and ultimately their weight outcomes.

Her findings may surprise fad diet adherents: diets that require you to cut calories below your baseline needs have the opposite of their intended effect – they result in lower metabolic rates which ultimately impede weight loss and may even contribute to net weight gain.

So what’s a dieter to do? Here are a few takeaway messages from today’s show:

  • Embrace intuitive eating – learn to listen to your true hunger and satiety cues when making food choices
  • Don’t just blame your genes – genetics may play a role in obesity, but so does environment and lifestyle factors
  • Get moving – regular physical activity not only increases your energy output but it also can boost your resting metabolism, meaning you burn more calories at rest if you exercise than if you don’t
  • Learn from other losers – check out the National Weight Control Registry, a cohort of “Successful Losers” – those who have lost 30 pounds and kept it off for more than a year. See what they have in common and learn from their experiences.
  • Ditch the diets – no published data has ever found a particular diet or eating pattern to be the one that promotes sustainable weight loss; the diet industry is a $20 billion+ megalith that will do everything to convince you of the opposite!

So time to throw out your diet books and get back in tune with your body. Cutting calories too low doesn’t lead to sustainable weight loss and actually lowers your metabolic rate.

For more info on the tie in between our brain and our bodies, check out Sandra’s TEDTalk on Why Diets Don’t Work and listen to today’s Forum program from KQED here.

Fresh Food From a Blender: The Vitamix Cookbook

5 Nov

Fresh Food From a Blender: The Vitamix Cookbook

I recently received a copy of The Vitamix Cookbook: 250 Delicious Whole Food Recipes to Make in Your Blender to review here on the fiber blog. Although I’ve been a Vitamix owner for about 5 years, I’m always eager for more recipes to test the limits of this timeless kitchen appliance.

For some historical context, I was a reluctant convert to Vitamix. My husband – Mr. Fiber – brought me on board following an unauthorized trip to Costco that happened to coincide with an in-store Vitamix Road Show.

He was as mesmerized by the demonstration as I was dumbfounded by the price. I plotted to return it (as I do with roughly all of his Costco purchases), but after flipping through the Whole Foods Recipes book that came with the Vitamix, I was sold.

Sure, I figured, you can continue to keep buying, breaking and replacing $30 blenders with crappy motors that can’t handle frozen fruit…or you can buy the Cadillac of blenders that is so powerful, it can make both hot soup AND frozen desserts.

 

High Fiber Soup in a Snap

Although most people think smoothies or juices when it comes to blending, for me, it’s all about the soup. I have always been in awe of the power of the Vitamix, with its blades that can reach speeds fast enough to create friction heat that bring soup ingredients to steaming hot in 4-6 minutes.

When I got my copy of The Vitamix Cookbook, I flipped right to Chapter 4 for Soups, Salads and Sides. The book features 40 fresh, new soup recipes that bring flavor to life in just a few minutes.

Most of the soups in the book have at least 3 g dietary fiber and under 500 mg sodium per serving, a good balance for homemade soups, which are hands-down healthier than canned, store-bought versions.

 

A Bit About the Book…

The Vitamix Cookbook is authored by Jodi Berg, the current President and CEO of Vitamix and a fourth-generation member of the 100-year old Vitamix company family. I thoroughly enjoyed the historical introduction in the book, which explains the foundations of the company.

Jodi explains how her great-grandfather founded the business, and that other Vitamix family members were challenged by digestive problems that caused them to seek solace in whole foods.

I love that all of the recipes in the Vitamix Cookbook are accompanied by accurate nutrient analysis, including dietary fiber (since most cookbooks forget fiber.) The food photography is beautiful and the layout of the recipes makes it easy to navigate and plot what’s going to go into the Vitamix next.

 

The Power of Whole Grain Flours

Chapter 2 features Breakfast and Brunch recipes, with great ideas for incorporating a variety of whole grain flours.

I have been using my Vitamix to make my toddler daughter baby food since she could eat, and I’ll certainly be incorporating the Banana Waffles (3 g fiber) and Bran Cherry Muffins (6 g fiber) recipes from this cookbook into our morning meals repertoire.

 

Recipe Rundown

I tested 8 recipes from the book – one from each chapter – and not surprisingly, my favorite was the soup sample, “Spiced Butternut Squash Soup”. With just 160 calories, 110 mg sodium and 4 g dietary fiber, this is a notably nutritious step up from your typical squash soup.

The Spiced Butternut Squash Soup recipe is below – but in the meantime, check out your own copy of The Vitamix Cookbook over at Amazon, and for more great Vitamix tips, tricks, videos and recipes, visit the Vitamix website.

 

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Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

Recipe from The Vitamix Cookbook by Jodi Berg

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (471 g) peeled, chunked butternut squash
  • 2 medium Gala apples (11 oz / 317 g), seeded and cut into small pieces
  • 4 cup (89 g) torn kale leaves
  • 1 cup (128 g) diced yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) apple cider vinegar
  • 5 cups (1.2 liters) carrot juice
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup (73 g) raw almonds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Instructions

  • Combine the squash, apples, kale, onion, vinegar, carrot juice, almond milk, almonds, and spices in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.
  • Ladle half of the hot mixture into he Vitamix container and secure the lid. Select Variable 1. Turn the machine on and slowly increase the speed to Variable 10, then to High. Blend for 1 minute.
  • Pour the pureed soup into a clean pot. Repeat with the remaining soup. Stir together both batches to combine. Serve hot.

Nutrition Information

Amount per 1 cup (240 ml) Serving

  • 160 calories
  • 4.5 g total fat
  • 0 g saturated fat
  • 0 mg cholesterol
  • 110 mg sodium
  • 27 g total carbohydrate
  • 4 g dietary fiber
  • 6 g sugars
  • 5 g protein

Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of the Vitamix Cookbook for this post; thoughts and opinions are my own and I was not otherwise compensated for this post.