I came across this quote from Thomas Keller the other day:
“There is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, then the real purpose or striving toward perfection becomes clear:
To make people happy. That’s what cooking is all about.”
I like this quote because I am occasionally dismayed at how most of what we see regarding cooking and baking these days revolves around competition and whose food is best or whose “cuisine reigns supreme.” There’s nothing wrong with a little competition, but I hope that we as a society don’t start to think that food must be perfect to be worthwhile or that anyone less than a Michelin-starred chef shouldn’t bother spending some time in the kitchen. That’s why I like this quote from one of the most respected chefs in the land – there is no such thing as perfect food – cooking at it’s core is all about making people happy. Appropriate thoughts to bear in mind as we begin to prepare our holiday meals.
A few years back a friend told me a story about his grandfather who was in WWII. According to the story, his grandpa determined that he was at his best weight when he was in the army. So after the war was over and he kept his uniform neatly folded in his closet where he could easily reach it. Every morning he would put on his uniform slacks. If they were tight, he’d eat a little less. If they were loose, he’d eat a little more. If they fit as they should, he’d eat normally. He did this his whole life and, and as I was told, he spent his entire adult life at roughly the same weight.
This story represents the virtue of feedback. This WWII hero was able to make small modifications to his daily habits because he had a reliable benchmark that would guide his behavior. He didn’t put his slacks on every 3 months or once a year, he put them on daily.
Weighing yourself on a scale can serve in a similar capacity. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or sustain your current weight, having an easy-to-use scale that lets you know how you’re doing over time can be really useful.
For years, I have weighted myself almost every morning and I write it down. Every so often I’ll transfer that data into an Excel sheet so I can graph the results; it’s time consuming but I like the consistent feedback and it’s also really interesting to see how my weight changes over time, or when it stabilized for long periods of time. Because I have been doing this consistently and have taken the time to review and contemplate the data, I have developed an intuitive sense of what works in my life regarding weight management. So, this is really informative but it’s also laborious to maintain.
My actual data from a few years back
Dan’s Plan Product Philosophy
At this point, let me briefly remind you of the Dan’s Plan philosophy regarding products: You don’t need any product to be healthy. However, products can be useful as they can provide feedback, add convenience, serve to motivate, and can even make goal attainment more fun. When you find the right product for you, it can serve as a great health advocate to support your efforts! With that in mind, we explore and evaluate the world of health-related products and select novel, innovative and functional productions that we think can help.
We also really like products that collect information for you in the background so you don’t have to do a lot of work to get the useful feedback. When we tested the Withings body weight scale, we knew it solved a problem: After a quick configuration (it took less than 2 minutes), when you step on the scale, it automatically sends (wirelessly over WiFi) your weight, body fat % and your body mass index to your Withings account (which also take just a minute to set up). Then, you can view these parameters on your computer and / mobile device (i.e., iphone) just by logging in; no other input required, it’s all there for you automatically. Check out some of my screen shots above! So now, I just have to step on the scale and it does the rest of it for me: record, track, and graph.
The easier it is to track data, the more consistent you’ll be in measuring something. The more regular you are about collecting data, the more information you’ll have at your fingertips to guide future behaviors. I really like my Withings scale and I think this would make a great holiday gift for you or someone you love. Also, if you think you’ll have New Year’s resolutions related to health and weight, a product like this can really support you in your quest.
Many people care about the amount of sugar in their diet for health- or weight-related reasons. However, fewer people are likely aware of the effects that dietary sugar can have on cognitve processes like attention and memory. Until recently, I was one of those people.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I was certainly aware of the fact that when I start to feel hungry, my ability to concentrate on a demanding task tends disappear. However, what I wasn’t aware of was the work by David Benton and colleagues who have carefully studied the effects of sugar on concentration and memory. Today we’ll briefly review three of his studies.
1. In this study from 1993, they showed that baseline blood glucose levels (whether rising of falling) affect memory. People with blood sugar levels in the middle of a range remebered more words in a memory task as compared to people with low or high blood sugar levels.
2. Remember yesterday when talked about glycemic index and glycemic load as measures of how much sugar your body actually “sees” and how sugar can affect your body in different ways? In this study from 2003, Benton’s group studied the effects of two different meals on blood sugar and memory performance. The meals were pretty well-matched on the amount of calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates they contained, but they differed quite a bit in terms of glycemic index. One meal (diet 1) had a glycemic index that was about 35% lower than the other (diet 2). What they found was that diet 1 (SAG stands for slowly available glucose; RAG stands for rapidly available glucose) with the lower glycemic index resulted in a smaller increase in blood glucose levels, whereas diet 2 with a higher glycemic index resulted in a larger increase in blood glucose levels. Interestingly, 2.5 and 3.5 hours later, they found significant differences in the effects of the two meals on memory. Consumption of the higher glycemic meal (diet 2) resulted in worse performance on the memory test.
3. This third study from 2007 brings it all home. In this study, Benton’s group provided three different types of meals to children in school and measured things like memory, attention, frustration in response to a difficult task, and classroom behavior. The meals were three different breakfasts that had a similar number of calories, but glycemic loads that were either high (corn flakes, low-fat milk, sugar, waffle, maple syrup), medium (scrambled egg, slice of bread, jam, low-fat spread, low-calorie yogurt), or low (slice of ham, slice of cheese, slice of bread, low-fat spread). The results of this study showed that two to three hours after the low glycemic load breakfast had been consumed, performance on the tests of memory and attention were better, there were fewer signs of frustration, and there was more time spent on task when working individually in class.
So, what do I take away from this? 1. Sugar and the type of sugar consumed can affect cognitive functions like memory and attention. 2. The reasons for providing nutritious meals to children in schools might extend beyond those related to hunger and ethics and might actually help improve academic performance. And, 3. Limiting the amount of (rapidly available) sugar you consume during this holiday season might help keep your memory sharper and your frustration levels lower. And we can all use some of that during this busy time of year.