Cooking to Lose Weight? Totally!

September 3, 2010

Okay, is this not the most beautiful heirloom tomato ever? (Slice one ripe tomato, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, top with shredded basil and crumbled feta cheese. Healthy, not fattening, and da bomb delicious.)

Two things I love to talk about: food, and losing weight. Usually they don’t go together, but I’m a big believer in the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup theory of joining seemingly unrelated things and getting something great out out of it. And what could be better than eating and losing weight? (Okay, so I’m easily pleased, but whatevs.)

One of the good things that came out of this $*&#@! recession of ours was people taking a look at how often they either ate out or ordered take out. In an effort to conserve money, people started cooking at home. Hello, I wrote a whole book about that (need I remind you? Here’s the paperback), and about all the benefits I experienced from getting my chef on: a connection with my family, discovery of who and where I came from, money saved, a deep feeling of satisfaction for a humble meal well-prepared.

But I didn’t realize until I heard Edward Ugel, author of I’m With Fatty, talk about cooking his way thin how making meals at home can really help with weight loss. A single average take-out meal can contain the amount of calories we’re supposed to have in an entire day, plus lots of unhealthy fats and other things we’d never feed our families.

Plus, where did that food come from? Factory farms, where animals suffer intensely? Farms where workers are underpaid and abused? There can be a lot of hidden pain on your plate.

Not when you make your own meals. When you become your own Top Chef, you’re in control. You know where the ingredients came from. You know what’s going into your meal. You get to peel the beets. Oh, not crazy about peeling? Check this out: Studies have shown that working with your hands can help lift depression (read this great article on the subject from Wholeliving.com). You get to accept the cheers from the family loving your food. Remember how happy Jamie Oliver made that poor diabetes-ridden town when he taught them how to cook on Food Revolution? I tell you, I cried every week.

So this Labor Day weekend, dig out your family’s recipes. If they’re scattered all over the place, put them in a book with clear pages for easy viewing. Yes, make your own cookbook! That’s what I did with Nana’s recipes. And yes, I did lose a few pounds in the process–and gained a tremendous appreciation for my family through the simple, sacred act of making food.

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