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Eating what you Love, Loving what you Eat

March 26, 2012

Recently, I was chatting with some of the Italian ladies I work out with, and they wanted to know a bit about my “diet.” Most Italians are skeptical of diets that are “fai da te” (DIY) and will see a doctor/nutritionist if they’re serious about going on one. Those who I have known on Italian diets have strict and explicit instructions, down to the gram/ounce, of foods that can be eaten and those which should be avoided.

But since I wanted to make a lifestyle change, I knew that any changes I made had to not feel as if I was following some sort of regiment because once it’s broken, it feels like a failure of sorts. I wanted to have some flexibility, some room to experiment, to make mistakes, and still be “on plan.”

One of the things that was important for me, other than knowing when I am hungry (which my food journaling helped me realize), is recognizing what I enjoy eating.

photo by aloha75

Sounds like it’s not even a concept, right? “Of course you know what you enjoy eating!” you think. But in reality, I think I was eating a lot of things because they were there. I was hungry, or it was just there, or someone had a birthday, or was giving out a sample, or offered to buy one for me, etc.

When I started to look at what I eat, and what I might consider reducing or cutting out, I also started to look at what I would miss. What would I really hate to not eat anymore?

I’m not talking about all fat or all sugar or all sweets. And I’m not talking about likes and dislikes. And I’m not talking about high-calorie vs. low-calorie foods. I’m talking about this sweet vs. this one, this one vs. this one. The “YES I love this!!” and the “it’s ok, but not great.”

For example, I answer “YES!” to pizza. To gelato. To some forms of chocolate. Ok, to most forms of chocolate. To some fried things.

And I answer “ok” to cookies. To almost all bread. To almost all types of pasta. To most pastries.

The past me would have eaten all of them. The now me chooses which things I really enjoy, so that when I eat something that is more indulgent or as part of my “20%” I know I’m eating something I really want.

This week in New York, I headed to the Doughnut Plant, which was someplace I had wanted to visit for a while (I do enjoy donuts, but eat them only about twice a year). Eating one doughnut was still “on plan” and ok, so I made my choice and sat down to eat it. Turns out I didn’t like my choice. No fault of Doughnut Plant but it just wasn’t the right one for me. So after that first bite, I threw it away.

I said once to a friend after I threw away an entire gelato cone: “I know I’ve got a little extra padding, but I want to be happy with every extra millimeter on my body. It better have gotten there for something delicious instead of something that was just ok.” I don’t have a problem with throwing away mediocre food, especially if it’s high calorie.

Now I’m not saying that eating your “YES!” foods and not eating your “ok” foods is somehow healthier but what I am saying is that may you should take some time toย identify foods which you really enjoy and understand others whose loss wouldn’t be such a big deal. It may also help you in the face of temptation and in balancing out your days and weeks – often I choose to skip a breakfast pastry knowing I may have a gelato later that day, or eat a salad at lunch if I know we are eating pizza at dinner. I almost categorically leave all bread on the table and prefer not to eat sandwiches – again, not because I think bread is evil (ok, it’s not great either) but also because I don’t enjoy it that much.

How does this reasoning sound to you? Crazy? Controversial? What are your YES!! vs. ok foods?ย 

33 Comments leave one →
  1. eatwilmington permalink
    March 26, 2012 5:54 pm

    I can agree that you should enjoy what you eat. I think I sometimes eat what is convenient because I need the fuel, and rarely enjoy it. I thoroughly enjoy a slice of well made chocolate cake! But I also enjoy many lower calorie, healthy foods. Perhaps a little focus on what I like would indeed be the key to balance as you have suggested. Thanks for sharing!

    • March 26, 2012 7:43 pm

      I definitely agree we can’t eat food we LOVE all the time for health reasons, but when we indulge or choose…make it count! ๐Ÿ™‚ Definitely balance.

  2. Scott Berkun permalink
    March 26, 2012 6:04 pm

    For medical reasons I started keeping a food journal many years ago and discovered what you explain in this post. How we think we think about food, and how we actually think about food is very different. A journal forces you to pay attention to what you’re eating and there are surprises to be found. I don’t keep the journal anymore, but maybe i should – at least for a week or a few days. I might have some new surprises waiting for me.

    • March 26, 2012 7:44 pm

      How we think we think about food, and how we actually think about food is very different.

      So true!

  3. March 26, 2012 6:47 pm

    My motto exactly. If you aren’t loving it, then leave it. It’s the only way I can still (sort of) fit in my pants.

    • March 26, 2012 7:44 pm

      I think I’m the worst offender with gelato. Bad gelato just needs to be put out of its misery. Trash! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. March 27, 2012 5:57 am

    Mmm hmmm….I can ABSOLUTELY relate to this post, and I think you are very right! If I ate every sweet snack that I came across, my ass would be a lot larger. Instead, I make sure that if I am going to indulge, that the food is REALLY worth the extra calories and/or extra workout time. A grocery store purchased, cheap, milk chocolate candy bar? Not so much. A creamy, homemade cheesecake with real graham wafer crumbs? Completely different story!

  5. calmyourbeans permalink
    March 27, 2012 10:33 am

    Reblogged this on calmyourbeans and commented:
    This lady makes some fair points. If you’re going to restrict your calorie intake, only spend them on stuff that you LOVE eating!

  6. March 27, 2012 6:19 pm

    Just cause you love to eat something, doesn’t mean you necessarily should. Take candy lovers who are diabetic. As much as we say ‘moderation’ truth is that many of us shouldn’t even indulge in the slightest.

    • June 12, 2012 9:05 pm

      Well diabetics “can” eat candy. Just like anyone else, in moderation, and consciously…and sometimes it is even necessary for hypoglycemia. But “should” anyone really be eating candy? No. It’s a simple, carnal pleasure that makes us feel good. We probably shouldn’t watch TV either, but, its fun!

  7. March 27, 2012 6:30 pm

    I agree, don’t eat it if you dont love it.

  8. March 27, 2012 9:52 pm

    Food Blogger on a diet???

    Well, I need to be reading your posts more often – Travel, Food and photography has taken over my BODY completely! Love your logo, love the freshness of the green – simply love the look of your blog.)

  9. March 27, 2012 10:55 pm

    I just downloaded “my fitness pal” on my phone & I am really realizing what it means to journal & help myself with my over eating! I’ve really learned to make my splurges count.

  10. Dandy David permalink
    March 27, 2012 11:57 pm

    I hate to make a sweeping generalization about my diet, but I typically will give a “YES!” to any salted, cured pork product. I love your idea about the “20%” foods–thoughtful indulgence is always a good thing.

  11. March 28, 2012 3:39 am

    This is great – it really is all about balance. Depriving yourself of anything will only make you want it more and eventually cave and eat lots of it!

  12. March 28, 2012 11:27 am

    I completely agree with this post! Balance is key. Being too restrictive just increases cravings – and eventually has the opposite effect that we want. It usually causes a break down where many many many of those things we love are consumed. Everything in moderation!

  13. March 28, 2012 3:37 pm

    I love it, and I completely agree. Trying to cut out everything, especially the things you really love is 1) boring and 2) causes you to give up on the whole diet entirely once you cave and eat that bar of milka you’ve wanted.

  14. March 28, 2012 5:07 pm

    This is great. I’m definitely learning to enjoy what I’m eating, and to be mindful. I have a way to go, but any start is a start!

    My YES foods are potatoes, in every form: tater tots, fried, baked, mashed…YUM. I eat healthily, and I want to be able to enjoy some foods even if they’re labeled as “unhealthy”!

  15. March 28, 2012 7:44 pm

    I agree with you! Doghnuts are on my no list because I don’t like them! I like churros and french beignets though ๐Ÿ™‚
    It’s all about choosing what you love

  16. March 29, 2012 3:07 pm

    One of the hardest lessons I think is learning to put down a food that you don’t really want. If I had been craving doughnuts all day and then sat down to eat one, it would be incredibly difficult to realize it wasn’t that great and to stop eating.
    Sara from

  17. March 30, 2012 3:45 am

    Thanks for your post – it is great to keep that in mind! Sometime I have a doughnut at work because they are in the break room for us. I know it won’t make me feel fantastic and that I won’t enjoy it that much but for some reason I do it anyway! I will definitely keep this in mind and save my calories for a sweet that I absolutely love!

  18. quadrophenia5 permalink
    April 1, 2012 4:28 am

    I agree, only eating foods you absolutely love, will leave you satisfied and more likely to eat less. If you eat what you really want, you won’t be constantly searching for a “phantom food” because you ate something that you didn’t want and were left unsatisfied. Even if it is something not healthy, you eat less than if you try to fill up on more healthy foods. It’s a good point and something I think a lot of people have a hard time doing. Thanks for sharing!

  19. April 1, 2012 10:22 pm

    I really understand what you are saying, I did something similar where I wrote lists of foods I loved, liked and hated. Once I had these lists I went through the liked and loved lists and marked the foods with ‘very healthy’, ‘healthy’ and ‘not healthy’, I then designed meals using all the foods (and I was surprised just how many healthy foods I really like) that came under the loved, liked, healthy and very healthy labels.
    I was able to enjoy all the foods I was eating and I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. It was a bit DIY but it worked for me.
    Thanks for the excellent post – if you don’t mind I may re-blog some of your content on my website giving full author acknowledgement and a link to your site

    Thanks again

  20. April 2, 2012 1:30 am

    It makes total sense to me and I actually enact this thinking process everyday in order to maintain my weight loss. If I’m going to eat the calories, they better be worth it, at least most of the time. ๐Ÿ™‚ I definitely think twice before I put something in my mouth and it pays off. I, like you, must indulge with limitations. If I don’t, I’ll go crazy, but I KNOW what I want to indulge in now instead of eating randomly and without thought.

  21. April 4, 2012 12:38 am

    Great article! I always call the things that I love “my choice of sin”, I know what I am doing and the calories are worth it. But there are really not that many foods like that for me, it is good to realize.

  22. April 5, 2012 5:40 am

    That’s really great advice – I’ve never thought of it that way! So often when I’m eating something I’m just thinking, “Eh, this is okay…” but I continue eating for the sheer act of eating! Need to put it down and focus on the foods that I truly enjoy.

  23. April 9, 2012 12:53 pm

    Nice page! There ia a little error in then link to your When I a have Time Blog, from the logo in the side bar of this blog.

  24. April 9, 2012 12:56 pm

    Thanks for sharing all of your individual stories and struggles!

  25. Veitha Sawafi permalink
    May 25, 2012 2:14 am

    that’s great.. I agree with your post. if we want to eat the foods, first we must though. so our chooses foods really enjoyed, and our foods don’t be wasted..
    that is good people who is diet, so they do not eat foods that are not essential to their diet menu.

  26. June 12, 2012 8:56 pm

    I totally agree with you. I absolutely love “real” doughnuts. Not from the supermarket or Dunkin Donuts (and only Krispy Kreme when the light is on), but perfect ones from the ugly, old mom and pop shop that some towns are graced with or the European style fried cream cakes that I had in Manchester, UK and can only find in metropolitan pastry shops now. To me, there is no worse way to waste calories than on a “bad” or stale doughnut. One bite, and I’m done. If it’s not delicious, I can wait and the next chance I get to taste a “real” treat will be all the “sweeter.”

  27. Christine permalink
    June 26, 2012 1:37 pm

    Hey Sara, came to this post from the 4hr Diet post. I agree completely with the sentiments there, and here. (I didn’t know you had this blog, love it!) I’d like to chip in my two cents.

    I love food. LOVE IT. There is nothing more depressing to me than eating something that is unsatisfying. I mean that 100% – and that was part of realizing how I actually think about food. Once I realized that, I became more conscious of what I was eating and it’s helped me clear out some of the white noise so I can concentrate more on healthy eating.

    One thing I realized is that I’m not a snacker. I didn’t grow up with snacks in the house. I’d much rather wait for a meal than have a snack. I don’t find them satisfying, I don’t like the taste of snack/junk foods (living over here for so long has REALLY made my stomach turn at processed foods), and I feel physically crappy afterwords. A total losing premise.

    (An exception which I know is close to your heart is Nutella – effing love it. But I realized I just love Nutella, alone, not in cakes or on bread. So I have a teaspoon a day when I have a jar in the house! LOL)

    Like, take a cookie, for example. I don’t particularly like cookies – any cookie. But they’re often served, and just sitting there, and so you start to eat one, and one becomes ten. Now, though, I’ll say no, and not touch them – because I know I won’t like them, and will be unsatisfied (and feel bad too re calories/junk).

    After that white noise cleared out, I realized that the same goes for broccoli, my most hated food (I think it smells and tastes like farts). I’m not going to eat something with broccoli in it just because it is healthy or good for a diet, because the resulting dissatisfaction will result in my pigging out on something unhealthy that I do love.

    I expanded this to anything, even a meal I’ve ordered or cooked, that I find unsatisfying. The downfall of any diet (for me) is to sit there and eat something I’m not loving. it makes me roam the cabinets looking for something that DID satisfy me, and we all know how that ends.

    OK, so that was a nickel, not two cents. But I just wanted to say that knowing how I actually think about food made all the difference. I’ve eaten better, and less, which is the whole point. My next goal to tackle is getting up and freaking MOVING – something I’m having a LOT of trouble working into my laptop-tethered day.

    • June 27, 2012 10:10 pm

      I will take your nickel ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Super powerful to figure out you’re not a snacker! I am…but now I work it into the day’s eats so it’s not a “cheat” ๐Ÿ™‚ I love the concept of “clearing out the white noise” – narrow it down to what you like!

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