Wednesday, July 03, 2013
Oh dear, my jeans don't fit. Not at all. If I lie on the bed, suck in my breath and pull with all my might, I can just about get the zip up half way, but after that it just won't budge. As for the button - ha! - it's practically laughing at the idea it will ever be done up again.
And I wouldn't mind, but these are my stretchy jeans. The ones usually reserved for my bloated, hormonal, post-Christmas days. The jeans I dig out when I'm feeling my very biggest. Which means I am now bigger than my biggest.
I should be in a state of self-loathing, diet-starting panic. But as I look down at my full belly, note the beginnings of back fat poking out under my bra and assess the extra padding on my hips, all I can do is laugh and shrug.
Who cares if I've filled out a bit? What's a few extra pounds (ok, 15) between friends? In the old days I'd have been considered attractively Rubenesque.
Anyway, it doesn't matter what I look like on the outside, it's what's on the inside that counts. Yes, my thighs are chafing, but I'm happy! Boy, am I happy - and that's the problem.
Forget putting on the pounds when you're miserable, the time I put on weight is when life is good. And life has been good of late. A three-month sabbatical travelling around the U.S. and a love affair - or two - have reignited my appetite for life, laughter… and food.
Cheeseburgers, chips, pasta, pancakes dripping in maple syrup with strawberries and cream, more pancakes .... temptations I would normally run a mile from have been welcomed with open arms - or, rather, an open mouth.
Of course, we all go over the top when we're away, and I'd expected my indulgence to stop once I'd got home. But here I am, still eating, drinking and being merry - too content to care that half my wardrobe is now a no-go area.
It turns out I'm not a comfort eater, I'm a happy eater.
But it's not just me. While the received wisdom is we reach for the crisps and chocolate when we're down in the dumps, new research shows it could be happiness that makes us pile on the pounds.
A study published last month found that if you are the kind of person who lets your mood affect your eating - that's about 75 per cent of us - you are likely to eat more calories when you are happy than when you are down.
In experiments carried out by psychologists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, 87 students were shown clips from films or TV shows in order to evoke a positive, neutral or bad mood.
To get them into a happy state, the students watched Mr Bean and When Harry Met Sally. To get them in a neutral mood, they were shown a fishing documentary. And for the negative mood, the students watched a clip from the film The Green Mile, when John, an innocent prisoner, is executed.
Straight after viewing the clips, they were offered crisps and chocolates, then researchers measured their calorie intake after each scene.
Students classed as emotional eaters by earlier psychological tests scoffed more after watching the happy clips than the negative one.
The researchers concluded: 'These findings could be of value for the treatment of obesity. They underline the importance of positive emotions on overeating, which are often overlooked.'
How true. When I'm stressed, my appetite vanishes. When I'm sad and lonely I might reach for the Dairy Milk and takeaways, but only for a couple of nights.
Soon, my self-loathing kicks in and I tell myself I will be happier if I could just be half a stone lighter; more loveable and less single if I was just a dress size smaller.
A strict regime of broccoli and chicken follows.
When I'm really happy, on the other hand, my food personality changes. Instead of assessing every item as a 'good' or a 'bad' food, spending every day battling between pizza and salad, cake and fruit, I think: sod it! Who cares what side of 11st I am? I'm a good person. Life's short. Live it - eat the cheesecake!
This is a common pattern, says food psychologist Dr Christy Fergusson. 'There are two very different mechanisms going on when we eat when we're happy and when we eat when we're sad,' she says.
'When we feel down or bored, we eat to bring about a change in our physiognomy. Food gives us a surge of sugar and feel-good serotonin, which can lift our mood temporarily.
'When we're relaxed and happy, we don't obsess about calories. We shrug off cultural ideas of what we should or shouldn't eat, what we should or shouldn't weigh, and we eat because it's a great source of pleasure.'
In other words, being happy can make us ignore that voice in our head that says: 'You're not going to eat that, are you?' and helps us to live in the moment.
Psychologist Linda Papadopoulos adds: 'Think of any celebration, from birthdays and weddings, to a Friday night takeaway, and it involves eating. Enjoying food without measuring the calories or judging yourself is a healthy part of enjoying life.'
This 'living for the moment' theory is why most of us put on weight when we go on holiday. But why have I not gone on a diet since coming home?
I think it's because for the first time in my life I am not judging myself on the size of my hips. After the adventures I've had, I'm so happy in my (expanded) skin, it doesn't matter where the dial rests on the scales.
And I've been amazed to find I've had more male attention in the past few months than in a lifetime. All those years of shrinking in the corner because I felt big .... what a waste!
I've recently been seeing a lovely man who claims to love my wobbly behind and generous hips. 'But you should have seen me before,' I said when we first met. 'I was slimmer. You're catching me at my heaviest!'
I showed him a photo of what I thought represented the skinnier me and he looked mystified. 'You're crazy, I can't see a difference,' he said. 'Now, what do you want for dinner?'
And there you go. No wonder I couldn't give two hoots for calories at the moment.
Linda adds: 'When we're in a state of happiness, our self-esteem is high and we know that, for most of us, a few extra pounds doesn't make a difference. This is why people in happy relationships tend to put on weight.
Research has consistently shown that women put on weight once they get married. A stone here, half a stone there, most of the time we're the only ones who can tell the difference.
On that basis, I think we should have steak for dinner. With creamy mashed potatoes, Bearnaise sauce and chocolate cake for afters. The diet can start tomorrow - or not.
'Drinking fruit juice is the fastest way to gain weight
Not so "healthy"?
With forecasters predicting a warm July and summer holidays looming, many people will be swapping their chocolate bars for so-called healthy snacks. However, many of these diet favourites may be worse for your waistline than you think.
Dietitians at Tesco have compiled a list of the top traps that catch out unsuspecting dieters.
These include the unlikely culprits of honey, olive oil, fruit juice, and low-fat yoghurt. Fruit juice is dense in calories - there are just 150 in a small glass - and contains no fibre which can cause a 'sugar crash' leaving many lethargic and hungry.
Catherine Matthews, nutritionist at Tesco Diets, said that fruit juice is ‘the fastest way to gain weight’. She said: ‘It takes less than a minute for most people to drink 150 calories.’
Another issue is fruit juice's lack of fibre. When we eat fruit, fibre forms a protective layer that acts as a barrier to the intestine. This slows absorption of sugar, so the liver can to deal with the sugar steadily.
In fizzy drinks, fruit juices and smoothies, the barrier has gone, which leads to the liver being overloaded.
This triggers two things: Firstly, this overload provides a sudden burst of energy which very quickly tapers off, leading to what many experts describe as a 'sugar crash'. This can cause many people to end up feeling lethargic, irritable and even more hungry than they did before.
Secondly the high levels of fructose - fruit sugar - that are not burned off are converted to fat.
And if you thought smoothies were better, you'd be wrong.
Ms Matthews explained : ‘You may think a fruit or veggie smoothie is packed with vitamins and minerals, but it is [like juice] also laden with sugar. Some contain as much sugar as fizzy drinks.’
A recent study for MailOnline revealed that many ‘healthy’ drinks are actually worse for you than cakes and biscuits.
It found that a single serving of so-called healthy fruit juice contains the same amount of sugar as three-and-a-half doughnuts, or 13 hobnob biscuits.
It also revealed that a single 250ml serving of white grape juice contains the same amount of sugar as four Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts.
The study also found that a bottle of Blackcurrant Ribena contains the same amount of sugar as 13 Oreo biscuits and that a Costa Massimo Red Berry Cooler contains the same amount of sugar as 16 Nature Valley Oats and Honey Granola Bars.
She went on to say that olive oil is the worst offender as, despite its health-giving properties, it is still oil and every teaspoon contains about 50 calories.
Speaking to The Times, Ms Matthews also warned about other diet-busters such as honey, which is extremely high in sugar, and of low-fat yoghurts and biscuits which sometimes contain more calories than the full-fat versions. The sugar is added as a way to make up for the flavour lost when the fat is taken out.
However, these are not the only potential dangers for dieters – slimmers are also being warned to watch out for wine as, while a glass or two can have some health benefits, a large glass can contain as much as 225 calories.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:21 AM