How Loving Food Can Actually Help You Lose Weight

I love food, and since you’re reading this, I’m assuming you do too. You might call yourself a foodie, or food enthusiast, but we’re in the same club.

I never really understood how certain people could feel indifferent about food and those who'd easily say no to an extra slice of delicious pizza, not grab chips from the bowl right in front of them or leave a mozzarella stick or two on the plate without care. I've always been around people who were naturally thin, and they just didn’t care about food like I did. I feel hardwired to love food and eating, and have struggled to have restraint with good tasting food.

I plan day trips and vacations around trying new restaurants and foods, get excited for special meals and snacks and love getting foods and special ingredients as gifts. Some of my favorite memories involve food, who I shared it with and the positive feels of the moment. For my most recent birthday, a family member had a loaf of wheat bread from a famous bakery in Paris shipped to me, and I’ll never forget it. I enjoy life through food and eating makes me happy.

The problem is that, it wasn’t always that way. Yes, I always loved food, but eating was a way to deal with stress and life and I abused it. I’d overeat, not because it brought me joy, but because it felt therapeutic in the moment. But then afterwards, I’d feel even worse, defeated, guilty and sluggish. I didn’t eat with intention, mindfully or intuitively. I ate because it was there, tasted good and I often ate well passed feeling full. There was a disconnect between what I really wanted, what I knew I should do and what I actually did, which is why I had a negative relationship with food.

Loving food can feel like a negative thing, especially if you struggle with weight. Though, I feel like my love of food is what helped me actually lose weight for good.

Wellbeing isn’t often talked about for weight loss. Your mental health and how happy you feel each day has a huge impact on not just your health, but your ability to lose weight. Studies have shown that having happier, more positive thoughts helps lead to a positive outcome, and it’s not just about being hopeful or repeating positive mantras.

I had to change my relationship with food. Instead of feeling good while eating and feeling bad after, I wanted to feel good while eating, and also feel great after. It took time to get it because I had to learn how different foods made me feel and how often and much I could eat.

I had to figure out how to make healthy foods taste great and be satisfying. Healthy food can be so boring and bland, but I found simple ways to make it taste awesome (like adding steamed broccoli to my favorite pasta Alfredo, it wasn’t anything earth shattering!). You'll only do it and stick with it if you enjoy it; and enjoying healthy food was key. 

The more I ate and enjoyed real, home cooked foods the more obvious it became how bad my ‘old favorites’ made me feel. I’d still have cravings for, and eat chips (Doritos), sweets (Reece’s PB cups), unhealthy restaurants and fried foods. Instead of feeling guilty afterwards, I just felt sick. That was enough to make me choose them less often.

I started realizing that I didn’t need those particular foods to feel happy like I once thought. I grew up associating certain foods with happiness, like on a day off I’d get fast food to make it ‘special’, Friday nights were always takeout pizza night and a birthday party wasn’t special if I didn’t have a huge piece of cake with ice cream, no matter how sluggish or full I felt.

Once I realized I could enjoy a day off without fast food, love a Friday night without takeout pizza and that a birthday party felt special without being high on sugar, I finally felt free. I could rewrite the foods and habits that I associated with real happiness.

What made me happiest was truly enjoying healthier foods, knowing that I was choosing nourishing food without feeling forced into it and that I could still have indulgent, less healthy foods when I really wanted them, without feeling guilty. This happiness and positive energy around eating has helped me stay motivated naturally, improve my body/self image and get back on track after weeks where I've slacked or gotten lazy (it happens to everyone).

I feel like my previous attempts to lose weight were just me fighting my love of food. I wouldn’t focus on enjoying the foods I ate and feeling happy. Instead, I felt forced into eating bland and boring foods I thought I should eat and banned high calorie or carb foods I enjoyed. No matter what I did, I was in a negative eating cycle, never feeling satisfied or good about my eating choices or myself, whether I was eating healthy, low calorie or normal life.

Learning how to love healthier food while being understanding and patient with yourself as you slowly change those habits, makes all the difference. It takes time to figure it out and form new habits, memories and emotional relationships with food. Though, once it's done, you've set the foundation for a healthier and happier life...for life.

Kate Martino