Can preparing your own meals help you eat less?


 Why do sandwiches taste better when someone else makes them? 

QuoteWhen you make your own sandwich, you anticipate its taste as you’re working on it. And when you think of a particular food for a while, you become less hungry for it later. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, for example, found that imagining eating M&Ms makes you eat fewer of them. It’s a kind of specific satiation, just as most people find room for dessert when they couldn’t have another bite of their steak. The sandwich that someone else prepares is not “preconsumed” in the same way. — Daniel Kahneman

From page 38 of the New York Times Magazine, October 2, 2011 issue.

So now I’m thinking about all of those ginormous restaurant meals that we consume. You know the ones — an appetizer that’s a meal in and of itself; followed by plates that would be used as platters in any other setting holding about 4 pounds of food crammed in between your soup, salad, and bread troughs; all topped off with a 1500-calorie, molten-chocolate-covered cake that could fuel a marathoner for a week.

And, okay, maybe you don’t eat that amount of food every time you sit down at a restaurant, but even if you skip the appetizer and the dessert and stick with the main course, the majority of those choices are two to three times what most folks need to consume at one sitting.

But maybe this line of thinking — the idea that precontemplating your food, especially as you are preparing the meal — might be a support to healthier portion sizes. What a radical notion! So, if I make it myself, I’m likely to eat less of it? Cool.

There’s another piece of this that needs an underline — the ability to eat a different food even when we’re stuffed to the eyeballs with something else. So, if I keep it to a single food or foods eaten together (and not in sequence), I might eat less? Cool.

I’m thinking about this even a step further. What if there’s a spectrum of preconsumption? Maybe sitting down to an a-la-carte, all-you-can eat meal of 50 items (think potluck supper or a buffet) is on one end; ordering off a menu is closer to the middle; microwaving some frozen entrees is starting down the other side; and self-preparing a single, complicated dish from scratch is on the other?

Food Scale-o-Meter: Not to Scale

Clicking on this chart will make it bigger.

Well, then while it will still matter what I choose from my options in each scenario, it may be that by being more aware of my propensity to eat more (and why I would) at  the MegaBuffet Smorgasbord will help prevent me from going banana crackers and having a plate of everything offered. It could also help me make better choices about whether to eat something else after I’ve finished a meal at home. (I do love me some ice cream!)


So, what do y’all think? Can preparing your own meals help you eat less? How do we incorporate this idea into life of healthy eating?

Silence Doesn’t Indicate Inertia…

Cheese Plate

Everything in Balance

I love this blog. I know it is hard to tell that from the long absences–okay, complete neglect–over the past couple of years, but I do!

When I started the MegaChallenge, I was some 39 (50) pounds overweight, living in a marriage that threatened my life, working on my degree, homeschooling my kids, and in need of a place where I could “talk” without being edited. It was an act of courage–actually several, since it took multiple tries to get logged on to blog spot–that started this blog. When I wrote that very first entry I honestly had no idea whether anyone would read it.

Then something amazing happened. People did read it, but that wasn’t the real magic. The real magic was finding other people who were in the same boat. No, not identical boats–just similar ones. There were these other bloggers who were also losing weight, but the pounds weren’t actually the point. Life was the point. They were exploring that question that seems to manifest itself from some common place in us all–“Why are we here?”

Of course, the answers varied widely. They had to. How could Allan–an admitted foodie and a food broker from NYC–maintain his sanity as he made his attempt to lose weight while handling the most decadent of foods all day every day? How could Renee drop the pounds while carrying around her self-doubts? How would Trish bounce back from a post-tummy-tuck weight gain while she juggled her responsibilities and the ones she took on for her family? How would Shawna hold up under media scrutiny when her weight-loss blog and book made her famous?

Sure, we were all talking about weight and diet and exercise and scales, but they weren’t the only common themes. Other A-Has emerged as we blogged.

Balance — Maintenance — Relationships — Goals –Celebration 

Those are the topics of larger conversations. Yeah, I lost weight and worked out and wrote about it on this blog. But I also transformed my life, found balance, improved my relationships, set brand new goals, and celebrated successes of all sorts! 

I thought about deleting the MegaChallenge when I co-created Blissification with my long-time, off-line friend, Christine. Blissification is all about what I am up to now: helping folks find their bliss. But I paused on the delete link. Maybe the MegaChallenge still has its purpose. If I am telling someone that they can be happy and all they see is the current Gina–the one who lives on 6 acres in a gorgeous part of the world, with a wonderfully supportive husband, a job she loves, and kids all around, and who is regularly called, “PollyAnna”–will they believe I have any idea what they are going through?

So, the MegaChallenge stays so that if at some point someone wants to know how I got from where I was to where I am, I can point them here.

And, who knows? At some point this 10 extra pounds that I have been carrying around for the past year might become something I want to eliminate. When I get past the precontemplation stage, this is exactly where I want to record that journey.

The Wonders of Walking…

ParkThe workout thing keeps not happening. Well, not the kind that occurs indoors on a piece of equipment.

However, upon review of the original MegaChallenge Regulations, I am reminded that it wasn’t about working out on a piece of gym equipment–it was about moving. So, in spite of the fact that the stationary bike in the basement is doing a superlative job of the stationary part of its title, I managed to get in a workout. We walked 5 miles (14/200) on a gorgeous trail this morning.

I have to give kudos to municipalities that take the time/money/effort to design and build green spaces into their plans. Our new hometown has gone to incredible lengths to put in all sorts of walking/jogging/bike paths. They run along rivers and through shady areas and near parks and by the library. Truly lovely.

I am not counting the very long stroll we took through an art festival this evening. Yes, it was movement and technically counts. However, I got more of a workout laughing out loud at the amazing hula hooping going on at one of the booths than I did from the walk.

Food? I was stellar. We packed a bag of water and healthy snacks for both excursions. We ate our meals at home. I didn’t even glance at the funnel cakes and other fried fair fare.

All in all it was a wonderful day.

Watch this…


Walgreen’s is doing something right!

Love it!

(And I haven’t forgotten about the MegaChallenge 210… back soon with an update!)

Cleaning Out The Closet…

I have been putting it off for weeks, but I finally spent a couple of hours trying on the clothes in my closet. It is amazing how little of it fits me. Now comes the hard part: getting rid of it. I am such a pack rat. What if I gain the weight back? I don’t want to have to go out and re-purchase clothes at every size. But another part of me keeps saying, “If you don’t have those clothes you might be more likely to avoid needing the larger sizes.”

With hurricane came the real imputus to purge my closet. I got an email requesting larger-sized clothing. Evidently people are not donating clothing in bigger sizes, and those folks are doing without. I don’t need them. Someone esle does. They need to go.

Cleaning out the closet really makes me feel better. I have space for the things I actually wear. I don’t have to dig through 20 blouses to find the 3 that fit. Having some margin really is nice. I am sure there are other things that I need to let go. Perhaps that is one of the steps of the Mental Health MegaChallenge.

Oh, and in Fitness MegaChallenge, I did a 36 minute ride to nowhere this afternoon that takes care of workout 62/200. My Rio battery died at the 30 minute mark, so those last 6 minutes were some of the longest of my life. I may make a new MP3 player my goal weight prize. The upside would be the ability to carry more than 30 tunes and play it for more than an hour. The downside would be that I would be so overwhelmed with music choices that I never actually get around to working out. Hmmmm.

Quarter Of The Way…

With yesterday’s workout (50/200), I reached the 25% mark in the MegaChallenge. I got past the quarter mark today with workout 51/200, though I was totally unmotivated to hit the gym. I piddled around all afternoon and finally laced up the shoes just in time to make a 45 minute run to nowhere before the place shut down.

I am sure there is more to tell, but I am busy watching hurricane updates and working Sudoku. My brother-in-law is one of those brave/crazy folks who flies into these storms on purpose. I sort of sit vigil when I know he is out there – and this particular storm is so scary. I just keep praying for it to lose strength over night.

That “Life” Thang, Again…

I am really excited about completing 25% of the MegaChallenge – which I was scheduled to do, yesterday. I was dressed for the gym and changing the batteries in my Rio, when my son winged a toy at my daughter. He managed to hit her in the face, and drew blood. Of course she needed stitiches. Poor baby. So my gym trip was replaced with a heart-rate increasing hospital trip.

For the record, this child is the bravest kid I have ever met. At four years old she accepted all the stuff they had to do to her – including a major shot into her eyebrow – without flinching. She took it so much better than I did! Her only request was that we go get “sparkeldy” nail polish when we left the hospital. Done! (And a princess nighty, flavored lip gloss, and popcicles.)

As I mentioned, this lovely gash is on her face. So, if everyone would send no-scar-healing vibes her way, I would appreciate it.

Banner Day…

For the past week or so I have been walking around hiking up my jeans every 4 steps. It finally occurred to me that I probably ought to pull out a smaller size. When I started the MegaChallenge, I was stressing the outer limits of a generous size 16 (so probably should have been wearing 18s or even 20s). So, even though I have been losing weight, I really didn’t need to go down in size.

Until now.

Well, folks, I am officially a size 12!! And not a lie-on-the-bed-and-suck-it-in-to-zip size 12. I can actually zip a size 10 – but it makes that unpretty bulge above the waistline – and I haven’t lost 20 pounds to wear pants that make me look like I have gained it. So size 12 it is! Happy dance.

I also met 167.5 on the scale earlier this week, and it has held in spite of my adding food back into my day. Today’s workout (44/200 – the first since swimming on Monday) consisted of a 35 minute walk at our local park. I am feeling a little bit better, but I don’t want to push it until I am sure I have licked this virus. The MegaChallenge requires 200 workouts, not 200 marathons. I have to keep reminding myself of that as my all-or-nothing brain attempts to take over.

All-in-all I am pleased with my progress. It isn’t in a straight line, but what in life really is? Unlike past efforts, which focused on getting rid of pounds ASAP and then going back to “normal” life, I am trying to make this new way of life stick. In order to have that happen, it has to be realistic. I am going to get sick/eat out/miss workouts from time to time, and I am going to have to learn to adjust my stride and keep moving. Though only 44 workouts into my “new” life, it seems to be a good fit.

As are my jeans!! Yay me!!

The First Comment…

Okay, so it is probably somewhat pathetic to blog on the fact that someone I don’t know and that I didn’t pay cash money has commented (positively) on the MegaChallenge. But, just as every little milestone on the fitness journey bolsters my efforts, having someone comment is definitely a note-worthy blogger milestone. So, thanks, Dee, for christening ye ole comments section.

In other news, the scale has been very kind this week. My official start weight was 188 lbs and I am aiming for 149 lbs (the magical weight I discovered just before getting pregnant with the Diva Princess). I actually saw a 178.5 on the digital device this morning! So, numbers of note are: 9.5 lbs gone, 29.5 to go. That is just shy of 25% of my unwanted pounds gone in one month of MegaChallenge work. I finished workout number 18/200 yesterday – 40 minutes of elliptical running to nowhere, and a trip around the leg machines.

While we are noting milestones, I gotta tell y’all about my favorite one, so far. Get ready. It’s a whopper. I can get my rings on and off without soap and a team of mules! I know. It isn’t like I just ran a marathon, or anything that my local newspaper would want to pick up. Humor me.

Soap Box of the Day: The gym is closed today. Now, don’t get me wrong; folks at the gym deserve to be with their families on the holiday (it’s Independence Day in the States) but couldn’t they just shorten the hours a wee bit? Surely they could find someone to hang out for 4 hours in the middle of the day so that those of us who risk gaining 10 pounds eating hot dogs and potato salad have some hope of mitigating the damage.

Petty whining, I know. I promise to find an honorable soap box for tomorrow.

Back In The Swing…

“How are you already out and back if you just got started??”

Weeeellllll, the MegaChallenge officially started on June 6. So, we are 4 weeks in. (If you decide to participate, just start counting your year now – we aren’t picky!) That’s plenty of time to get out of the habit of daily gym ratting at least once. And I did. I went nearly a whole week without a meeting with my elliptical trainer. It was sort of on purpose – my family was out of town for 4 days and I used that time to relocate my floors. 15 bags of garbage went to the dump in my anti-clutter marathon. Needless to say, with all of the scrubbing and tossing and organizing going on, I barely took time to sleep – much less headed out to the gym.

So, when they got back, I had to rediscover my motivation to move. The biggest one? The realization that I was going to be seriously behind in my run for 200 if I didn’t get at least 3 workouts in this week. That, and I have already managed to drop 7 pounds – none of which need to be picked up, again. Having slightly over 30 pounds to lose seems so much more doable than nearly 40.

BTW in case you are wondering, yes I do obsess over numbers. I like math! It is so, well, orderly. And since I am not, by a longshot, orderly; math is friendly respite in an unpredictable world.

If I reread that paragraph (and I did) I hear my friend, Christine, yelling at me to edit and clarify. But, Christine, much as I love you (and your strong sense of grammar and style), this is my Blog and I am not turning it in for a grade, so it can be dangly and run-on and full of fictionaryisms. 🙂

Soap Box of the Day: It has come to my attention that calling people names is hurtful. Well, admittedly, it came to my attention about 30 years ago. But, that is beside the point. My awareness was further amplified when I encountered Kathie Snow at a workshop. She pointed out just how ridiculous (and hurtful) it is to refer to folks by their particular disability label(s). Do we call folks with cancer, “cancerous”?? Um. Not the last time I checked. So, let’s not call folks who have a disability, “disabled.”

Okay, so you don’t want to be running all over hurting people and want to know how to do better. What do you say? 2 simple rules: 1) Only refer to a diagnosis or a disability if it is relevant and critical that you do so. 2) Refer to the person first. ie: child with autism, man with a disability, person with Down’s Syndrome. See Kathie’s site for a fairly comprehensive rundown of the variations, and a fantastic explanation of the whys and hows.

See, now don’t you feel well informed??

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