#172 How to Eat Your Favorite Foods and Lose Weight

How to Eat Your Favorite Foods and Lose Weight

Can you really eat your favorite foods and still lose weight?

Maybe it’s the meatloaf that your grandmother used to make. Maybe it’s the apple pie á la mode you shared with your spouse on your first date.  Regardless of what it might be, in this article I’ll show you how you can eat your favorite foods and lose weight.

We All Have Favorite Foods

We’ve all had favorite foods. And sometimes, it’s true, those things aren’t the healthiest of choices.

But the psychological impact of these foods cannot be ignored or dismissed. And when you deprive yourself of these foods, the impact feels greater than it actually is — which means the counteractions you’ll take as a result are likely to be greater, too.

Sally’s Experience

Let’s say, for instance, your favorite food of choice is the same as it is for Sally, a patient who has been working with me for the past year. Her comfort food is a warm, gooey, chocolate chip cookie and so-cold-it-hurts glass of milk.

Normally, Sally went to the grocery store with a shopping list and a full stomach.  This way her willpower muscle was not fatigued and the chocolate chips stayed out of the shopping cart.  One recent instance, though, was different.  It was her daughter’s birthday party and she wanted chocolate chip cookies for the party.

At first, Sally didn’t think about it.  The chocolate chips and other ingredients went into the cart without much thought.  However, later in the day when she got hungry she remembered the grocery store purchase.

“All day long today, for some reason, I’d been thinking about having a cookie,” she wrote to me in an email. “I thought about going home, making the cookies, and sharing a few with my family before the birthday party, but I kept battling back that thought.”

That night, after Sally’s three children went to bed, something completely predictable happened. She went ahead and made the cookies, then ate them all before she went to bed.

“Ugh!” she wrote. “I felt like a total failure. Worst of all, the house smelled like cookies, and my daughter woke up and came down to the kitchen as I was polishing off the last one. It was humiliating.”

Tip: Eat Your Favorite Foods

When it comes to the way we eat, perfection simply isn’t possible. In fact, studies even show that your food choices don’t have to be perfect to be healthy.  The recommendation to eat your favorite foods doesn’t mean, of course, that you shouldn’t strive to get better and better about the way you eat.

Time and again, my patients have demonstrated that people who take small but consistent steps toward big health goals are almost always more effective in their pursuits than people who try to do everything at once. What it does mean, though, is that we should acknowledge that our connection to food is far deeper than what’s on the nutrition label.

3 Ways to Eat Your Favorite Foods

When it comes to favorite foods, I ask my patients to do three things.

1. Be mindful about when you eat your favorite foods.

2. Discover new favorite foods.

3. Upgrade old favorite foods.

This takes time. We simply cannot do this overnight. It took a long time to develop the psychological connections that make these foods meaningful to us, and it will take a long time to untangle those connections and build new ones.

Identify Your Favorite Foods

So, first things first: You need to know what these favorite foods are — and that can start by building a simple list of the sorts of foods that you understand aren’t particularly healthy but you reckon might be harder to give up than other things. For Sally (and me too, by the way) that list would have included chocolate chip cookies.

After that, it’s time to find some new comfort foods — and that means it’s time to do some epicurean exploration. Sift through cookbooks. Consult friends and family members. Spend plenty of time perusing social media sites dedicated to healthy recipes.

When you find something you really love and find yourself craving, cross something else off the list.  For Sally it was “superfood salad” with broccoli, edamame beans, avocados, quinoa, spinach, pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds and a citrus-olive oil dressing.

The Chocolate Chip Cookie Upgrade

Sally has been engaging in this exercise for more than a year, and she still hasn’t been able to cross chocolate chip cookies off the list. That’s OK, too, because at this point more than 95 percent of the foods on her evolving comfort list are really quite healthy.

And the cookies she makes for her friends and family on a regular basis are getting healthier, too. That’s because she now makes them with blended oats, almond flour, coconut oil and dark chocolate instead of bleached white flour, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and sugar-packed milk chocolate.

The Mashed Potatoes and Mac and Cheese Upgrade

Two other great examples of relatively unhealthy foods that can easily be turned into something much better for you are mashed potatoes and mac and cheese. By simply substituting in some blended cauliflower to the potatoes or the cheese sauce, you can turn this comfort food into a powerful weight-loss tool — one backed by a Harvard University study that shows that no vegetable comes anywhere close to cauliflower when it comes to losing weight.

The key point to remember is that the ingredients of any favorite food or favorite recipe can be upgraded to make the food comforting and nourishing.

How do you enjoy your favorite foods?  Please leave your comments and questions below.  To make sure you never miss a thing, now is the time to sign up for my free weekly newsletter or podcast.

Subscribe to Dr. Day's Weekly Newsletter
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.

  1. Can we get the specific portions of the chocolate chip cookie recipe with the blended oats, almond flour, coconut oil, and dark chocolate?

  2. Dr.Day,

    Thank you!!! This newsletter came just as I was about to add a comment to the Willpower newsletter. I’m like Sally – it doesn’t matter how I prepare, just being in the market brings to mind favorite things and the battle begins. Thank you for this newsletter helping me see ways to at least improve/upgrade how I prepare the favorite things. It will be good to also work on making new associations. What works well for me is to purchase one cookie, one small candy, or share a dessert with someone else at a restaurant.

    This weekly newsletter is answering many of my questions and concerns.

    Thank you again and again!