Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Last night I ate too much. No big deal, I don't usually do that but the story of how and why is kind of instructive.

I decided to make burgers. I do this often, and usually I eat a turkey breast burger. I know, some of you think it's dry and bland but I like it. Really I do. For me the burger is more about the whole burger experience - bun, toppings, condiments. And I've gotten to the point where I find plain ground beef too rich and overwhelming.

At any rate - I have an exception. Trader Joe's makes these frozen buffalo patties, complete with mushrooms and cheese all mushed in. They are bad for so many reasons - not local, frozen, shipped across country, stuffed with cheese and God knows what else, 270 calories and 18 grams fat per patty, processed. I mean the list goes on. But they are DIVINE! My whole family loves them.

So I haven't made them for a while, due to lack of grilling in general, seeing as my grill is still covered in snow. I was craving them and decided to make them in the oven on broil. I cut them in half because they're huge and I had little whole wheat potato buns and little kids. I caramelized some onions and made some curried mayonnaise. I reheated some broccoli. I assembled a burger and took a bite - while waiting for others to arrive home, ostensibly to see if the curry mayo went well with the already highly flavored burger. "Oh my God. Sometimes I'm such a good cook, I just kill myself," I thought. I mean that's not really cooking, more assembling, but whatever, I was impressed with my last-minute dinner preparation.

Within a few seconds the mini-burger was gone. Half a patty 135 cals, bun 100 cals, mayo/onion another 40? (it was low-fat mayo - I know, see next post). I was not even close to satisfied. When I made these during my losing period I would eat that amount and then add lots of veggies and maybe eat another bite or two of a leftover kid burger and force myself to stop - and then eventually I would be full. Or more likely, I would grill both the buffalo burgers and the turkey burgers and eat a whole turkey burger and a few bits of buffalo. They are very rich. I always wanted more but would control myself. This time, I was not close to full, nor close to satisfied. One mini-burger wasn't enough eating for me. I decided to eat a second concoction, but this time substituting the patty for broccoli. Really, it was all the flavors and textures together that were so good. I didn't need that high-calorie patty! So I compiled my broccoli,onions and may onto my mini bun and started eating. This was just not working. I grabbed another greasy patty half and started eating that with my fingers. Soon enough, I had eaten both the healthy broccoli burger AND the patty. This is something like 10 points and I usually eat 7 (when losing I ate 5-6!!!).

OK so what happened? Why was I not full? Why couldn't I control myself? In theory the full-fat burger should have been more filling than the low-fat turkey burger. Even later in the evening I wasn't super full.

Here is what I think happened. First of all, I was just hungry. I had had a pretty light day. So the 300 calorie dinner really wasn't enough. I needed at least 400. But why wasn't the fatty/caloric burger more satisfying than the drier turkey one? Here I think is the essence of why most doctors recommend low-fat protein for dieters, (aside from cholesterol). After eating what was basically a slider, I just hadn't enjoyed the visceral pleasure of eating for long enough. Not only was it not enough food, but it was not enough relaxing, chewing, enjoying. It was also certainly not enough time for my stomach to tell my brain I was full. Or whatever that saying is. Back when I was losing I had a crazy amount of control - and even then I would usually use a floater point or two on buffalo burger night...but now, I'm not used to eating such tiny portions nor to eating dinner with such strictness. The biggest difference between maintenance and losing for me is my dinner consumption.

OK - to extrapolate up a level, away from my experience...most people don't want to change their habits. They want a diet to fit into their current lifestyle. They want to eat a burger, not half a burger. So by far the path of least resistance is to use low-fat mayo and cheese (yuck) and use turkey instead of beef and put a big hamburger on your plate.

I have tried not to take that approach, as it results in a lot of bad guar gum-filled substitutes, and can lead to bland, not-filling eating. But no rule should be hard and fast, and I see the merits of trying different things different ways. It is also especially important to recognize that high-fat foods are extremely high in calories. and if you're going to eat them you need a fair bit of control. That does come over time, thank God. Now I eat 4-5 walnut halves instead of 15 and it's actually a very healthy snack. I even can have a tub of them in my desk drawer. But when starting out, the control is difficult. It's easier to substitute out ingredients. post is about low-fat mayo. Can you even stand waiting??

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