The words “comfort food” (in conversation or in hashtags) usually conjure up the same images—Nana’s lasagna, a pint of ice cream, or deep-dish pizza to name a few. They’re called that because, in the moment, they make you feel better as they load your belly and satisfy cravings for salt, fat, sugar, or size. The only problem with too many of those comfort foods is that they’re often the source of discomfort—sometimes because of how you feel after eating them and sometimes because they can be part of what contributes to your weight gain and poor health.
In my new book, You Can Drop It!, I describe how I was able to lose weight—100 pounds!—by eating carbs, chocolate, and cocktails, but mainly comfort food. Here’s how to get started so you too can lose weight while still eating comfort food.
Redefine What “Comfort” Means
This is what you should be keeping in mind:
- Comfort foods should make you feel satisfied.
- Comfort foods should not make you feel guilty.
- Comfort foods should do your body more good than harm.
- Comfort foods should make you feel like you can go out and see people after.
- Comfort foods should make you happy (and comfortable in your pants!).
- Veggies—when you know how to make them in quick, savory, yummy, and exciting ways—hit all of those checkmarks.
Focus, Focus, Focus
I know that this may not be easy at first. If you’re low on veggie consumption, it can be difficult to just flip a switch and change the ratio of your typical meal plate. Maybe it’s out of habit, and maybe it’s because you don’t always have easy access to vegetables. The only way to approach that is through focus. Yes, it takes planning. It takes a commitment to the “Veggies Most” principle, which is a key concept in You Can Drop It!. It takes thinking about your vegetable consumption until it becomes second nature. But it’s relatively simple and straightforward: Drink water and fill your plate with vegetables. Win that game, and you’ll win the ultimate one.
Find Your Favorites
Green, white, red, yellow, orange. Leafy, crunchy, squishy. Veggies come in all shapes, sizes, flavors and textures—and there’s one (or many) for you. As you’re working on “Veggies Most,” find the few that you really like and make them a staple. It can be broccoli, cauliflower, squash or peppers. Whatever your veggie lovin’ (or soon-to-be veggie lovin’) heart desires. For ongoing weight loss, it’s important not only to have veggies that you can stomach, but also to have a few that you genuinely crave and enjoy. That way, you always know you have something on hand to fill your plate. And remember, these can come in all forms—raw, frozen, canned, grilled, flavored with any hundreds of spices or accessories. Just as long as you have your go-to veggies, you’ll never have to guess, scramble or go without.
Try Experimentation with Vegetation
You have dozens of vegetables, dozens of spices, dozens of herbs and dozens of cooking methods. The statistical conclusion: There are thousands of different ways to prepare vegetables. The combinations are endless, and that means the possibilities are, too. So while your lifestyle has to dictate what you’re able to do, I do want to encourage you to act like your own mad scientist—try different combinations to come up with whatever your tongue desires (savory, spicy, salty, even sweet?). This ability to make up so many different combinations of flavors will go a long way in helping you redefine veggies as the new comfort food.
Control Your Place, Control Your Plate
Here’s the thing about just about every diet plan out there: It all sounds well and good until, well, your significant other suggests a special night out at a new place that everybody is raving about or your friends say it’s been a long time since everyone got together and “Hey, how about drinks tonight?” or until the office party or until you’re on the road. You get the gist—”Until” has derailed more diets than chips and soda!
So how do you handle it? Oftentimes, it’s all about trying to find ways to control the situation. What do I mean? If your group suggests going to the Korean barbecue place, maybe you can suggest going for sushi or Chinese instead (more options for veggies). There’s nothing wrong with living and socializing and having foods you love, but make a point to dictate what you want the environment to be (ordering fajitas with lots of veggies at the Mexican place, rather than the triple-burrito special). Tell yourself that no matter what the environment, you can control it.
Ultimately, a “Veggies Most” mindset is the key nutritional principle that will steer your weight loss in the right direction. Plant power is real power.