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Weight loss secrets of the stars

October, 2009

“Did you know that it is now possible to drop up to 14 POUNDS in only 7 DAYS? That’s right … Negative Calorie Diet can make it happen!”

That’s the message that came into my e-mail inbox. First, you should know that I am in favour of negative calories – the anti-matter of the food world. I am sure that they are out there, along with the milky way (not the candy bar), the Loch Ness Monster, and really great Montreal barbecue – all things that I never expect to see. Negative calorie foods – and their evil spawn, the negative calorie diet – all promise the same thing: Eat as much as you want and lose weight.

What a great idea! I’ll just load up on watermelon (less than 100 calories for a wedge), celery (6 calories to a stalk), grapefruit (about 70 for half) or asparagus sans hollandaise (20 for a few stalks). I’ll munch until either my jaw hurts or I’m stuffed, literally. Not happy, mind you, but full. Pass the sawdust, please, and watch the salt.

Those pushing negative calorie diets claim I’ll expend more energy chewing than consuming. I’ll also be drooling over your plate when we go to dinner, but don’t let that bother you. It’s negative calorie drool.

As we head into the hibernating season, I’ve noticed that some of my professional cooking friends – chefs, food critics – have shed pounds. One told me that she ate nothing past 6 pm until she attained her desired svelte-ness. Another claimed that getting eight hours of sleep a night decreased his food intake. This isn’t as silly as it sounds. We do eat more when we are awake (duh!) but we also tend to eat more when we are tired and have to remain awake. Think of all that munching on long car trips.

Another “weight loss secret” I’ve never emulated is that of the slow eater’s society. The idea here is enforced mastication. According to Internet sources (and if it is on the Internet, it must be true) chewing each mouthful 15 to 20 times drops your calorie intake by about a quarter pound in half an hour. I liked a comment on one weight-loss site that if extended chewing is good, chewing your food 20 times and spitting it out is even better.

My favourite weight loss secret was revealed in a story about John Travolta. He claimed that when he wanted to lose weight he ate half of what was on his plate: half a salad, half a cheese-burger, half a piece of pie. In my dreams, I am in a foodie heaven restaurant in California, say, Chez Panisse or The French Laundry, which, like Nessie, I’ve heard of but don’t expect to see. I have no money, but John Travolta is at the next table. I tell the waiter “I’ll take the rest of whatever he’s having…”

Personally, I’ve given up on diets. After several weeks of self-denial I always gain the weight back. Instead of negative calorie foods, I now go for tasty positive calorie dishes: a cheese soufflé made with freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese, bread with schmecks appeal – a crusty rye or baguette. It is surprising how little I need of something that tastes good to feel full. Oh yeah, and late at night, I like a square or two of first-rate dark chocolate. After all, I deserve it.

It’s October and time to think of soup. (Another weight loss secret – think of soup as stew-lite!) First, plan ahead. When you cook vegetables in water (asparagus, corn, peas, beets, potatoes, etc.) keep the water and freeze it for stock. This also works for meat stock, preferably made from left over beef, lamb or chicken. Otherwise, add water.

Defrost a quart of stock. Peel and then chop a cup or more of root vegetables into pieces, about the size of dice. Use whatever combination you like: parsnips, carrots and beets are all good. Put a little oil in a large pot and roast the veggies slowly. The carrots will turn a bright orange. Don’t scorch them, but cook them well. This strengthens their flavours and inherent sweetness. Put them aside. Chop an onion and a clove or two of garlic and barely brown these. Put the veggies back in. Cover with three or four cups of stock or water. Add two whole medium-size tomatoes. Bring to a slow boil and then simmer. When the skin on the tomatoes splits, remove them, but let the veggies continue cooking. Cool the tomatoes and peel them, chop them up and return them to the pot. Add more stock or water if you want. The thickness is up to you. Add a cup of diced potato, a bay leaf, some herbs (parsley, thyme, oregano and marjoram are all good), pepper (white or black) and salt. Stir, taste and adjust the seasonings. At this stage you can add refrigerator leftovers: a can of beans, frozen peas, cooked rice or pasta, that last piece of chicken. When the potato is barely done, remove the soup from the stove. Ladle it into serving bowls. Toast a few slices of bread, one for each bowl of soup. Put the toast on the soup just before serving and sprinkle on freshly grated cheese.

Barry Lazar is the Flavourguy. E-mail him at



At October 11, 2009 at 5:16 AM , Anonymous Artemis said...

"Secrets" don't appear to be working so well fir the public at large.....
• The USSG reports that over 65% of Americans are severely overweight to obese.
• The Centers for Disease Control’s report that over 15% of US children ages 8 - 16 are overweight to obese.
• Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director, Centers for Disease Control: “Obesity and diabetes are the only major health problem that are getting worse…and they’re getting worse rapidly.”
• The Centers for Disease Control report that more than 300,000 people die each year from illnesses caused by or made worse by obesity.
• According to the American Diabetes Association obesity and sedentary lifestyles are the primary cause of type II diabetes which now affects over 7% of the population.
• Federal projections estimate that by 2050 close to 1/3 of the population will have type II diabetes, with all its complications in tow, such as blindness, hearing loss, kidney disease, nervous system disorders and amputations of extremities.
• The UCLA RAND Center found that obesity raises a person’s health care costs by 36% and medication costs by 77% and they have 30% - 50% more chronic health problems.
• The World Health Organization reports that over 72% of all deaths in U.S. are the result of lifestyle-related heart disease, lung disease, diabetes & degenerative diseases, citing that such chronic conditions are preventable for the most part and are primarily resulting from unhealthy practices, concluding that the very expensive U.S. drug-based system is not reducing the rate at which conditions become chronic and continue to plague the U.S.

At October 11, 2009 at 4:15 PM , Anonymous Linda K. Hibbard said...

Try wearing wearable weights like “Body Togs” scientifically based weighted sleeves worn on your arms & legs under your clothes that increase calorie burn, muscle tone & bone density. Weighted vests work great too. Go to:


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