Category Archives: Psychology of Food

Adventures in weight loss, food, and exercise

I Looked Younger When I Was Fat

I have read and heard on news shows that older women look younger with a few extra pounds on them.  It’s all about skin elasticity after 40.

Yikes!  I am now an “older woman.”  I will be fine with this, as I truly believe age is more about attitude than the numeral.  However, the realization that losing weight to increase my physical health, mental health, fitness, and longevity may make me look older is a bit disconcerting.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m willing to take the hit.

For all interested, I spent the past 15 months focusing on reaching a personal healthy weight with Weight Watchers Online.

When I glance at my reflection now in a mirror or window, I notice I look more my age than in the past.  It seems to be more noticeable in the neck and eye sockets.  I have a genetic tendency for dark circles in the eyes, but I see a wrinkly neck syndrome starting – no way!

I admit, I have enjoyed looking 20-30 something for the past 20-30 years, even when I wasn’t.  It’s a transition, but I embrace the change.  I will celebrate the fact that I am not 30 and that I don’t look 30, unless it’s a dark bar.  If it’s a very dark bar, I could even look 2o-something … OK, a girl can dream …

That doesn’t mean I will stop having fun or being silly, just that I will not focus on looking  young at any cost.  I will *try* to stay true and age gracefully and naturally.  More to come on that …


14 – I Didn’t Realize

It appears natural for people to reflect on the past when the year ends; but, it also seems artificial.  I try to reflect on things important quite frequently, hoping that I learn from past mistakes and experiences.  I don’t always meet that goal, but have had good success in the past year or so.

That concept truly came to light when I looked back at my weight logs from January 2010.  I have been periodically documenting my weight on a notepad since 2002.  During my three experiences with Weight Watchers (including Weight Watchers Online), I kept all the official logs, which do go back to the 1990s.  Do others do that?  For anyone that doubts Weight Watchers — don’t.  It is solid psychology and science that adapts to changing data.

When I reviewed the logs today, I found that I was 14 pounds heavier on January 1, 2011, than I am today, January 1, 2012.  How cool is that?  I have become accustomed to my current weight range, as it is the range that feels most like me.

In the interest of full disclosure, I currently am not at the goal weight for Weight Watchers nor my own goal.  I am 4 pounds higher than the WW goal and 7-8 pounds higher than my personal goal.

However, I spent 90 minutes working out at the local Lifetime Fitness club today.  In addition, I worked out 15 times at that club in December, which I believe is a lifetime record for me.  I have never been a gym rat.  The music on the iPod Nano does help.  I do have a BlackBerry, which can also store music, but I find it too cumbersome.

The iPod Nano was a recent discovery and a Christmas gift – thanks to Mom and Jack.  The size is perfect. 

I wasn’t convinced that the heart rate monitors on the gym equipment were accurate or aligned to me and my size.  Every time I used the heart rate monitors at the gym, I thought the ranges were too high.  I purchased the Polar FT60 to monitor my heart rate and manage fitness.  I used the Polar for the first time, today, so time will tell.

Anyone who thinks change is too difficult — see photos from September 2010 and from December 2011 — you can do it!

Falafel, Origin Uncertain

I recently visited a local Mediterranean style restaurant, Mediterranean Cruise Cafe – – and enjoyed the delicious falafel, among other tasty dishes.  That scrumptious meal inspired me to search for a falafel recipe.  I admit, until I started researching recipes, I was ignorant and didn’t know that falafel was essentially a garbanzo bean fritter (croquette in international settings).  I learned fava beans are also used in many parts of the world and may have been the original primary ingredient.

Wikipedia sources note that the origin of falafel is unknown and somewhat controversial.
It is thought to have originated in Egypt.  In modern times (did I really write that?), falafel is considered a street food or fast food and often served as a sandwich.  It seems the question of origin has been so passionate that it has generated accusations of copyright infringement.

I was delighted to discover that creating falafel is quite simple, especially if you bake it, rather than the traditional method of deep frying.  End result – baking is healthier and just as tasty!

I discovered various falafel recipes in my search.  Most included flour and some included baking powder.  I did find my preferred baked falafel recipe on the internet site.

Baked Falafel

•1 – 15 oz. can garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas)
•3 cloves garlic
•1 small onion, diced
•3 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
•2 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
•1 tsp. cumin
•1 tsp. coriander
•Juice of 1 lemon (about 1 Tbsp.)
•1/2 tsp. kosher salt
•1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
•2 Tbsp. flour
•1 tsp. baking powder
•2 Tbsp. olive oil

Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees.
Drain the chickpeas in a colander and rinse well.
Place the garlic in a food processor, and pulse a few times to chop it roughly. Now add the onions, the chickpeas, the parsley, cilantro, cumin, coriander, and lemon juice to the food processor. Add the salt, the red pepper flakes, flour and the baking powder.
Cover and pulse until the mixture is well combined. You don’t want a complete puree, just a mash, sort of like the texture of a chunky hummus. Now, drizzle about a tablespoon of the olive oil onto a baking sheet.
Form the falafel into 1-1/2-inch rounds and flatten slightly with your fingers. Place on the oiled baking sheet. When you’re finished, brushed the falafel with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven 15-18 minutes until golden brown on the bottom.
Turn, and return the falafel to the oven to bake another 5-7 minutes until browned on the other side.

When I made this recipe, I did not measure the olive oil on the pan and used an olive oil spritzer to coat the tops of the falafel patties.  It was definitely not enough olive oil and the cook time was much longer.  I think the longer cook time was due to using canned garbanzo beans.  You may have a different experience with dried beans.  Use best judgement on olive oil and monitor the baking.  If the patties are not getting firm, increase cooking time and/or add olive oil.  I had to do both.

I mixed up a yogurt-cucumber dressing for the falafel, but it is not my favorite – too bland.  I will share a recipe when I find a good one.

Is the Original Chex Mix recipe truly the original?

No, it’s not!  The current “original” recipe includes bagel chips and seasoned salt.  Bagel chips did not exist in the 1950s, when Chex Mix was invented.  I’m fairly certain the seasoned salt blend had not yet been invented, either, but I cannot find any data to support my theory.  Chex Mix was a staple and a tradition in my family’s holiday treat collection.  I remember being very impatient about how long it took to make, since you could smell it in the oven after about 25 minutes.  I admit, when I made it tonight, I dipped into it before the instructed 60 minutes of baking was completed! Chex cereal was introduced in 1937 by Ralston Purina.  By 1952, recipes for “Chex party mix” appeared on boxes of Chex cereal.  It is reported that, in 1955, the wife of a Ralston executive in St. Louis served the snack at a holiday function, which launched its popularity.  Apparently, the invention of television spurred creativity in developing recipes for  snacks that could be enjoyed without interrupting television watching.  The commercially packaged versions of Chex Mix came about in 1985.  While the commercially packaged product can serve as an emergency fix, it does not compare to the oven roasted version.   A few years ago, I consulted my mother to find the true, original recipe; or, at least the one she used when we all were kids.  She did use pretzel sticks, which I always found very annoying.  The inside of my mouth was continually stabbed with the pretzel ends.  Seriously, how could a mom do that to her children?  I chose to replace the sticks with tiny twists – oh, so much safer! Here is Chex’s current link to the Original Recipe

Here is the recipe from my mother.  When you compare them, you immediately notice the difference in the amount of butter or margarine.

Original Chex Mix – circa 1965-1975

1 cup butter
4 Tb Worchestershire sauce
3 tsp celery salt (another missing ingredient in the current original recipe)
3 tsp onion salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp garlic salt
1 lb Virginia peanuts
4 1/2 cups Rice Chex
4 1/2 cups tiny twist pretzels
4 1/2 cups Corn Chex
4 1/2 cups Wheat Chex

In case it is not obvious, Chex Party Mix is not Weight Watchers friendly.  However, it is one of my favorite indulgences and a weakness.  I delayed making it until I knew I could get it out of my sight quickly.  I will be packing and shipping much of it and storing the rest well out of my reach.  I had 3 large handfuls this evening!

If you choose to use the oven instead of the microwave, follow the instructions on the Chex cereal boxes.  Be sure to melt the butter and stir the seasonings in before adding cereal, etc.  Bake at 250 degrees for one hour and stir every 15 minutes.

Yes, Soup for You

As I finished the autumn leaf round-up and migrated the lawn mower to the shed for the winter, I was in the mood for a savory and comforting soup.  I flipped through a stack of hard copy recipes and found a Weight Watchers soup that I had not yet made.  Great bonus – it’s multi-grain!  I adore the nutty, crunchy, earthy flavor of wild rice (see below recipe for breakfast wild rice), so it was a perfect choice.

This is a great basic recipe that has multiple variation options.  Weight Watcher recipes are often bland, so I almost doubled the spices in the recipe.  I also used a bit of chicken broth along with the vegetable broth, since I had it available.  I did not use an instant rice mix; but, rather, cooked both the wild rice and barley in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

Wild Rice, Barley, Corn, and Mushroom Soup


1 cup(s) water
1/4 cup(s) uncooked barley
2 tsp olive oil
|1/2 cup(s) carrot(s), grated
1/2 tsp minced garlic
3 cup(s) mushroom(s), sliced
5 1/2 cup(s) vegetable broth
3/4 cup(s) instant long grain and wild rice mix
1 cup(s) frozen corn kernels
1/8 oz fresh sage, chopped (use 1 tablespoon)


In a small saucepan, combine water and barley. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered, for time specified on barley package directions.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat oil; add carrots and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in mushrooms and cook just until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes more.  Add cooked barley, broth, rice, corn and sage to vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until rice is cooked and mixture is thoroughly heated, about 10 minutes. Yields about 1 cup per serving.

PointsPlus™ Value: 3
Servings: 8
Preparation Time: 15 min
Cooking Time: 30 min
Level of Difficulty: Easy
© 2011 Weight Watchers International, Inc. © 2011, Inc. All rights reserved.  WEIGHT WATCHERS and PointsPlus™ are the registered trademarks of Weight Watchers International, Inc. and are used under license by, Inc.

Saturday Beans

It started about three weeks ago.  My body started sending me subtle messages – “winter is coming,” “you need to store up.”  I have cravings for carbohydrates and comfort food.  Chocolate cravings also seem to be up.  This is empirical evidence that human biology is impacted by changing seasons.  In the Upper Midwest of the U.S.A., the number of daylight hours is declining and  mornings are getting colder.

I’ve noticed that when a person pays more attention to what is consumed (food or drink),  a person also more quickly notices the effects.  I heard those subtle messages and unconsciously took action on them.  It occurred to me, yesterday, that I had to actively manage this situation to avoid certain disaster.

Beans are a logical answer.  They are an almost-perfect food – high fiber, high protein, low fat, low calories.  Black beans are a staple in my healthy eating regimen, but they were left out of today’s cooking experiment.

The goal was baked beans, but not something usual.  I surveyed the cabinets and refrigerator for ingredients and just kept adjusting.  The results slightly exceeded expectations.  The key is to taste frequently and adjust, as necessary.  I even made flatbread pizza with the resulting bean concoction for this evening’s dinner.

Here is what I came up with today – adjust to your preferred tastes.

1 small poblano pepper, chopped (if less heat desired, use green pepper)
3/4 large onion, chopped
1 clove hot and spicy garlic (local food artisan)
3-4 oz. Jimmy Dean reduced fat pork sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chilis, drained
15 oz. can pinto beans, undrained
1/3 cup dried lentils – prepared
1/3 cup dried small red beans – prepared
1/3 cup chunky salsa (local friend)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3  teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon molasses
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon salt
2 slices cooked turkey bacon (just use the real thing, believe me), chopped
1 slice cooked center cut pork bacon, chopped

Sauté onion, pepper, garlic, sausage, and bacon (if not previously cooked) in olive oil.
Add all other ingredients, cover, and cook on low heat for 2 hours.  If mixture appears too thin or soupy, remove cover.

Flatbread pizza —

Spritz Flat-Out Light Original flatbread with olive oil.  Spread thin layer of reduced fat mozzarella cheese.  Spread thin layer of bean mixture.  Place turkey pepperoni slices.  Spread another thin layer of reduced fat mozzarella cheese.  Bake in oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes or until cheese is browned.

Food Rut

I recently realized I was slipping into food dullness, relying on the same old staples and experimenting less.  That must stop!

Cooler weather arrived this week; so, this morning,  I had a craving for a savory dish.  I wanted something simple and easy and decided to use the slow cooker.  I had the perfect main character in the freezer – pork tenderloin.  I found a pork marinade on the Food Network internet site.

My pork tenderloin was 1.5 pounds.  I used almost the same ingredients and amounts as in the below recipe, but I omitted the vegetable oil.  I also omitted the orange juice, as there was none in the house.  I added a teaspoon or so of lime juice – seemed to fit.  I also added a pinch of garlic chips from the Herb Man, a local organic grower.

I put all the ingredients in the slow cooker pot and whisked together.  The pork tenderloin was frozen, so I cut it in half and placed it in the slow cooker pot with the marinade.  I set the cooker to the low setting and left it for three hours.  It was perfectly done.  Initial testing results:  savory, sweet, tender.
This will be perfect for future sandwiches!  Primary flavors are honey, ginger, and rosemary.  I will save the marinade and try using it as a base for cooking rice.  If you aren’t into sweet flavors, reduce the amount of honey.

Marinated Grilled Pork Tenderloin
  • 3 (3/4 to 1 pound) pork tenderloins
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger


Trim the tenderloins of all fat and silverskin. Place them in a shallow baking dish large enough to hold them without crowding.

Combine the soy sauce, sherry, honey, vinegar, oil, and orange juice in a medium bowl, whisking until well blended. Stir in the rosemary, shallots, and ginger. Pour the mixture over the tenderloins. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate at room temperature for 2 hours.

Preheat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan.

Remove the pork from the marinade, shaking off any excess. Place the tenderloins on the grill and cook, turning frequently, for about 18 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 155 degrees F. Transfer to a platter and allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile, place the marinade in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

Slice the pork into 1/4 inch-thick slices, spoon the hot marinade over the pork.