By Isa Covo
Summer is here: Time to enjoy the outdoors, the beach, time to travel. It is also the time to look at our bodies and decide that it may be a good time to consider if there is a need to slim down a bit. The advantage now is that with more felicitous temperatures, we spend more time outdoors and moving, which allows us to burn calories, and in turn give better shape to our bodies. But that may not be enough, we also need to reconsider our eating habits. And that is what I did, and it worked.
After long years of battling fat with diets, I realized, as perhaps many of you did, that diets only help if you keep on dieting. Once you stop, at least as far as I was concerned, the weight creeps up again. The diet programs advertised on TV also can help, however I do not recommend them, because they make you focus on food. Another caveat is that you do not control the ingredients, their freshness, or the seasonings. I find that a home redolent with fresh and good ingredients coming from the kitchen is soothing and comforting. That does not mean that you should avoid restaurants, to the contrary, cooking at home, even if it is only a few times a week, makes you aware of the ingredients and the flavors when you eat out.
So, let’s begin: Losing weight demands some discipline, and some clear-eyed awareness of how you consider yourself, that is, are you fat, or just overweight? The best way to find out is to consult with your doctor who can tell you if need to lose weight, and if so, how much.
Keep in mind that the fleshy parts, such as breasts, abdomen, hips, buttocks, the inside of the knees, store more fat than almost all the rest of the body. However, once we start losing fat, we lose it all over.
Don’t try to lose it too fast because your skin will become flaccid. One to two pounds a week is the healthy way to go. Walking and some exercise will contribute to keeping you fit. It is also recommended to use body lotion after the shower or bath to keep the skin supple.
Even if this should not be considered a diet, there are directives to follow:
Never eat standing or walking, except when you attend a reception or while tasting samples at a food store. Never snack at the movies or while watching TV.
Do not drink sodas or fruit juices. Sugar has a lot of calories so consume candy in moderation. A little dark chocolate can be satisfying, and some say, healthful. If you can, do not put sugar or even sweeteners in your coffee, tea, or other infusions.
Eat three meals a day only. If you feel you need to eat something between meals, drink a glass of water first, and then eat some fruit, and once a day, a small tumbler of dry roasted nuts, or a cookie, or a biscotto. I find that half a cup of yoghurt with a teaspoon of honey, some raisins, a sprinkling of walnuts and a bit of powdered cinnamon is very tasty and very good for digestion, as are dried prunes and apricots, but eat them sparingly as the dried fruit is laden with calories.
Consider that it is calories that make you put on weight, therefore, reduce the consumption of high-caloric foods, essentially fats and sugar.
In France, although you do see overweight individuals, you rarely encounter any obese ones. And that is because you don’t often see people eating in the street, and there is hardly any snacking. The only time I saw potato chips or other nibbles is with an “aperitif” served to guests at a party before dinner.
For me, breakfast is a slice or two of toasted artisanal bread with a smear of butter and a teaspoon of preserves and coffee or tea. It is very satisfying and holds me till lunch. The same with a croissant. Add some fruit, if you like, especially now with all the low-calorie berries.
Keep portions moderate and eat slowly, take small bites and chew them thoroughly. Let the food settle in your stomach, and don’t take seconds. The idea is to teach your stomach not to have cravings, and if you are like me, after a while you will forget it is mealtime.
Sauté or roast your foods with a minimum of oil, but with as many herbs and spices as you wish to use. Think taste, not volume. If you like ice cream, have a couple of scoops a week, not more.
There are many recipes on the web to help you enjoy your meals. The one below is a French classic, and one of my favorites.
Bon appetit, and don’t forget to move your body as often as you can, and if you like, drink some wine occasionally.
DUCK BREAST (MAGRET) WITH RASPBERRIES
- ¾ to 1-pound duck magret from D’Artagnan
- Sea salt
- 1 cup raspberries, rinsed and dried
- Take the magret out of the refrigerator and wipe it with a damp cloth or paper towel.
- With a sharp knife cross hatch the fat into small rectangles, being careful not to pierce the skin. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Place the magret, skin side down on a heavy bottomed unheated skillet. Put the skillet on the burner and turn the heat to medium high. When the fat begins to melt, pour it in a container for future use, or discard it.
- Repeat until there is no more liquid fat, and the skin becomes crisp. This should take about 8 minutes. Flip the magret and cook an additional 3 minutes. The meat should be pink. Turn off the burner.
- Transfer the magret to a plate and cover loosely with a foil, while you prepare the raspberries.
- Add a teaspoon of the duck fat, or vegetable oil in the skillet where the magret has cooked, and turn on the heat to medium low and cook for a minute or two, just to heat and soften the fruit. Cut the magret into thin slices and arrange it on two plates, distribute the raspberries on top of the meat, or on the side.
Serve with lightly oiled roasted vegetables, such as carrots, cubed celery ribs, or sliced potatoes.
Yield: 2 servings