Are you a crash dieter? Food and nutrition expert Anu Paavola discusses how bland food could actually be more unhealthy for you!
Have you ever been on a cabbage soup diet? It is the one where you mix a selection of vegetables with herbs and cook them without any addition of fat or salt. The idea is that it takes more energy to digest the soup than the amount of energy the soup itself has. The more you eat the more you lose weight, theoretically.
This is one of those crash diets that makes you go nuts around the fridge. And it is a diet where you probably after a few days start hating the food you eat. I did it once, many many years ago, and I can still remember the ugly taste in my mouth. I am actually put off cabbage soup for the rest of my life. Cabbage, yes, in any other form but not that.
What is it then, in this and in many other diets makes it a struggle to keep continuing? Why is it that suddenly you have a very sensitive nose and can guess what the neighbor two floors down is cooking. The angst! Why do you feel unsatisfied all the time and obsess about any other food than what is on your plate?
It has a lot to do with your sensory gratification: smell, feel and vision/sight. All of them, but mostly taste.
The fact is that when food on your plate is unappetising it will be hard to digest. Appealing food turns on the salivary glands. Like the Pavlov’s dogs we go under the same physiological event of watering mouth at sight, smell or thought of a tasty meal. If you don’t like what’s on your plate you’re not going to salivate enough. Saliva’s enzymes activate some of the enzymes in the stomach. If you don’t have enough of them the process after you swallow your food is going to be slower, sluggish and cause you digestive complaints of different sort like nausea, gas and bloating.
But, when your appetite is aroused by a prospect of a tasty meal your mouth will start watering already before you eat and turn the stomach on. Then it will be ready to break down and prepare the food for proper absorption.
Bland and unappetising food should not be eaten. It is important that you listen to your body and decide what you eat. The cabbage soup was unappealing to me from the start. It didn’t have any fat, no salt and consequently it didn’t satisfy my senses. Soon the smell started annoying me and the texture in my mouth was unpleasant. I always felt hungry, even after eating and could only concentrate on thinking of food rather than living my life.
You’ve got to get it right when you think of all the sensory experiences you can get from food. They are the key to dodging unnecessary cravings. Avoiding fats, which mainly create the sense of satisfaction, will create a strong appetite for them very soon. And the mind will easily keep obsessing about them until it has been pleased. This is the trap many can fall into when eating low fat foods. Fats can be very beneficial not only because they will make your meal taste good but also because they create healthy digestion, intestinal transit, protect the brain and the nervous system.
In addition to making sure the food contains fats and savouring agents like salt, herbs and spices it is important that the ingredients on our plate change from meal to meal. This way you make sure you’ll have appetite (and salivate) and that you get all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals you need.
Cabbage soup has been off my menu for about 20 years or so. Having learned my lesson I always make sure the food on my plate is to my liking. A bad meal not only leaves bad taste in your mouth but also makes you want something more and quickly. And this is the fast lane to not losing but piling on pounds, frustration and fall of the bandwagon, depression and then a new crash diet again.
Make sure you satisfy your senses. It keeps you healthy and easily at your
ideal weight. A tasty meal can be perfectly healthy with good fats, normal amounts of salt, a good dose of garden herbs or spices to help the digestion. It should be attractive to the mind, pleasing to the eyes, with great smell and beautiful taste. Undoubtedly hearing food being cooked and eaten with pleasure can enhance the experience even more. The important thing is that you don’t eat when the fork doesn’t find its way easily to your mouth.