On the Menu: Ghrelin Milkshakes and Placebos for All

I’ve known for a while now that my attitude is one of the biggest influences in my successes. My failures, too, but let’s keep this on the positive side. My point is that what I think affects how I feel and that affects how I act. It’s all very psychological. Or is it?

Monday’s Morning Edition reported on a study that suggests that there could be an actual physiological component in all this.

Specifically, Alia Crum‘s research focused on how nutrition labels affected the body’s processing of those foods. Her theory: “Labels are not just labels; they evoke a set of beliefs.” And she wondered how those beliefs affected the body.

Chocolate Milkshake at Bob's Big BoySo she did what any good researcher would do and made a bunch of milkshakes which she then poured them into bottles. Half were labeled as sensible (low calorie, no sugar, no fat) and the others were labeled as decadent (over 600 calories!), even though all were the same 300-calorie shake.

To monitor the effects of the shakes, Crum’s helpers measured the ghrelin levels of (lucky) study participants both before and after they drank the milkshakes. Ghrelin, in case you’re wondering, is the so-called “hunger hormone” that sends the brain those pesky I want cupcakes! messages from time to time. (Your ghrelin might send a different message; mine is all about the cupcakes.)

As it turned out, ghrelin levels dropped significantly more in those people who thought they were drinking a high-calorie, decadent shake than those who thought they were drinking lower calorie shakes. What each group thought affected how their bodies reacted. The high-cal group believed they were getting more and their bodies responded accordingly. The low-cal group’s bodies said, “We want more!” (Take that, diet food industry!)

Keep this in mind when you consider another of Crum’s research projects: Mindset Matters: Exercise and the Placebo Effect(with Ellen Langer), which I first read about in Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (an amazing book on its own, to which I have craftily attached my Amazon affiliate link. )

In this study, a group of hotel maids who believed they didn’t get enough exercise (say what!) were split into two groups. One group was given examples that indicated the work they did met the Surgeon General’s recommendations for daily exercise. The other group wasn’t given this information. They got to be The Control Group. Big whoop.

Checking in after a month or so, the researchers found that even though those in the informed group hadn’t changed their behaviors, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index compared to the control group. Apparently they weren’t doing their work differently; they were perceiving it differently, and that created physical change.

I’m no scientist (obviously), but I think Alia Crum and her co-workers are on the right track. This mindset thing is all I can think of that would explain how I could transition in a matter of days from eating a Snickers bar as an afternoon snack to eating a Snickers bite and being satisfied. I had convinced myself that a tiny bit of indulgence was enough, and so it was enough.

It also explains how my posture straightened and my chin lifted a little higher after I started exercising regularly. I was just walking on the treadmill (fairly slowly) and doing a simple yoga routine, which no doubt provided some physical benefits on their own, but the more far-reaching effect at the time was how I felt about my actions for having done them.

Even today, after 5+ years in maintenance, I see as much benefit from what I’m thinking as from what I’m doing. When I keep my mind focused on the right things, I do the right things. Or more of them anyway. I’m still me, after all. :)

Does this make sense to anyone but me? Or did I lose you at the milkshake? I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences on all of this.

Product Review: Nasoya TofuPlus (Plus Recipes and a Giveaway)

Tofu is one of those foods that I’ve tried a few times but never felt motivated to do anything with it myself. I’ve made smoothies with the silken variety, but I’ve only actually purchased the block-style tofu once. Even then, I never quite built up enough interest to prepare it and ended up giving it to a friend.

Times change, though, and after spotting barbecued tofu listed on a local restaurant’s menu a few months ago, I was intrigued enough to go searching for a recipe I could make at home. I bookmarked Baked Tofu Bites as a possible contender.

And then I filed it away until a couple of weeks ago, when I was contacted to review Nasoya’s TofuPlus! Clearly, the Universe thought it was time I experimented with tofu at home!

The Product
You can read ALL about Nasoya TofuPlus on the company’s website, but the gist of it is right there on their label:

nasoya tofu plus

“Excellent source of vitamins B2, B6, B12, D & Calcium
Good source of protein, cholesterol-free, low in saturated fat”

Works for me! Now, what to do with it…

The Experience and Observations
I kind of knew how to prep tofu for cooking, namely pressing all the water out, but had I not known, Nasoya kindly offers Tofu U with all kinds of tofu information.

makeshift tofu press (2 plates)

Behold, the leaning tower of tofu

After pressing my tofu between two plates for close to an hour (I was busy), I cut about half of it into cubes and marinated them in regular old bottled bbq sauce for almost an hour longer. No, that’s not what was called for in the recipe I linked to above, but as I already mentioned, I was busy. Plus, I didn’t have most of those ingredients.

bbq tofu bites in the oven

Don’t the bbq tofu bites look cute? After baking them at 350° for about 20 minutes on each side, they looked even cuter on my sandwich.

bbq tofu bites sandwich

I didn’t have a wrap or a wheat bun on hand, so I decided to have myself an open-faced bbq snack sammie with a healthy spoonful of pineapple-raisin broccoli slaw.

This was a good little sandwich, but it didn’t really set my hear to fluttering, if you know what I mean. The little bbq tidbits were warm…and kind of chewy. So I popped the leftovers into the fridge, planning to “fix” them somehow the next day. Only, I didn’t have to because when I tasted one straight from the container the next day, I practically swooned. The tofu had apparently needed more melding time with the sauce, or maybe it needed “resting” time after baking, but whatever it was, these bbq bites were fantastic! I snacked on them off and on all weekend. At about 5-10 calories per cube, they were definitely in the right calorie range.

On Sunday night, it was time to address the other half of my block of TofuPlus, which had been waiting in my freezer. (Big surprise!) I decided to make a sort of Tofu Parmigiana, similar to my sort of Chicken Parmigiana. Just press sliced tofu pieces in a mixture of panko, Parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning mix and brown them in a smidge of oil.

tofu parmigiana

I think a little egg white wash prior to the breading would have helped with crumb adherence, but this was close enough. Especially after I sprinkled some cheese on top. Spicy marinara, creamy tofu in a crispy crust, flavorful cheese–all for around 350 calories. This (sort of) recipe will definitely be making a reappearance on my menu. And soon!

Although I’m not a vegetarian and don’t really have an interest in becoming one, I do enjoy meatless meals now and then. I’m really looking forward to adding more tofu dishes to my meal rotation.Since I don’t like soy sauce or most Asian spices, I’ll do my experimenting in other areas. Tofu chili, tofu tacos, tofu pizza–this could be fun! :)

The Giveaway
Nasoya has offered to give one U.S. reader an opportunity to try TofuPlus for themselves. (Not that you wouldn’t just take my word for it that it’s good stuff.) If you’d like to toss your name into the hat, just say so in the comments. I’ll do the random.org selection on Friday (02/07) and let you know if you’ve won!

Say you do win the TofuPlus…what will you do with it?

FTC: Nasoya provided the product; opinions are a reflection of my own unique and speshul experience.

AIM: What’s In My Grocery Cart

logo: Adventures in Maintenance with photos

This month’s AIM topic is courtesy of a question submitted via our Ask Us (Almost) Anything form* and focuses on our grocery shopping habits. Specifically, a reader thought it might be helpful to see what a “regular” grocery shopping trip looked like for us–a kind of show and tell, if you like.

I’m not sure how helpful my grocery cart will be, because I’m currently engaging in an “eat what you have” personal challenge and am mostly purchasing dairy and vegetables? Why the challenge?

packed shelves of pantry and fridge

That’s why. My freezer, fridge, and pantry shelves are well-stocked. I do a lot of batch cooking, and my freezer currently has about a dozen or more entrees ready for my enjoyment. I have a whole shelf of nuts and seeds in the fridge. My pantry shelves hold dried fruits, every form of oats available on the market, pasta, lentils, rice, assorted canned goods and other shelf staples.

In short, I’m shopping my own shelves these days. My grocery store runs are mostly for fresh foods and critical other products, and I try really, really, really hard to stick to my list. Here’s a snapshot of my grocery cart from January 4th that was loitering on my iphone:


Yogurt, salad makings, fruit, cheese, and other critical items. (I told y’all I like olives!) If I recall correctly, I was planning to make some lentil chili, which explains the cans of tomatoes and green chiles, as well as the cheese. All of those items were consumed or put into use that week. (I’m still working on the olives and cheese.) I already had everything else I needed for all the week’s meals in my at-home store.

There are exceptions to the list, of course. Since my budget is really tight, I do keep an open mind for “opportunities”. Take this past week, for example. I needed yogurt, eggs, bananas, bread, and lettuce. Here’s what I ended up with:

grocery cart


A couple of perfectly good red peppers for $0.99? In the basket. Ditto the 98% lean ground turkey breast for $2.49. In fact, I got two of those since it’s normally $4.99/pound and I eat a lot of ground turkey. Bonus: I had a $1-off coupon loaded to my Kroger card! I also had a coupon for the Oikos yogurt, which is why it won yet another weekly battle for cart space. (I switch between Fage, Oikos, Chobani, and Dannon Light & Fit Greek.)

Impulse purchases do come with a small price. In this case, I had to dump my plan to work on my kitchen walls (oh, gee) so that I could get the impulses prepped and in the freezer. As it stands now, I probably won’t be buying meat again until mid-March, so my grocery baskets will look a lot like the one from earlier this month for the foreseeable future.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did return to the grocery store (it’s less than a half-mile from my house) a couple days ago and bought more lettuce, broccoli slaw ($0.99), and a bottle of Bolthouse Farms Ceasar Parmigiano dressing ($3.00). Did I absolutely need the dressing? No, but a) it was on sale, and b) I love it. Besides, I’m almost down to one bottle of my other favorite salad dressing, Marzetti’s Simply Dressed Pomegranate. :)

In addition to putting everyone to sleep, I’ve no doubt given the food purists the twitchy eye with these photos. What can I say? Shopping and eating this way works for me, my energy levels, and my budget. Considering that I used to do most of my grocery shopping at Walgreen’s (snacks, snacks, snacks), I call this a major improvement!

All of this reminds me of something I used to do when I first started losing weight. Just before going to the checkout area, I’d look down at my cart and ask myself, “What would Bob Harper say?” Not that I truly cared what Bob thought of my grocery selection, but it was a fun and silly reminder to scan the cart for anything that wouldn’t contribute to the cause. A last chance clear-out, if you will. :)

Feel free to share your grocery shopping secrets in the comments. I’m always open for new ideas!

* We’ll be responding to more “Ask Us (Almost) Anything” questions in future posts, so feel free to click over to the form and submit your question anytime! We truly appreciate your input!

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out the other AIM bloggers to see what’s in their grocery carts:
Lynn @ Lynn’s Weigh
Lori @ Finding Radiance
Debby @ Debby Weighs In
Shelley @ My Journey to Fit

AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!