I was born a food-lover. Meals were the highlight of my day. My Italian father cared deeply about eating well, and my mother diligently prepared home-cooked meals worth savoring. As I grew older I developed a discerning palate. I relished the opportunity to dine out and discover new flavors.
My passion for delicious ingredients and fine dining was insatiable. After college, I abandoned a graduate program to pursue my dream of attending culinary school. To eat well, I needed to refine my culinary prowess. This evolved into a career as a private chef. My job supported a lifestyle of daily cooking and eating well.
I thought that was the key to happiness.
But when I turned 40 I no longer felt satisfied. I remember sitting on my couch one evening, well into my second glass of Cabernet, thinking “is this what mid-life is supposed to feel like?”
I was overweight, sluggish, and did not like the way I looked or felt.
I tried diets in the past and lost some pounds by restricting my food and exercising every day. But I always felt deprived. I was desperate to go back to enjoying the food I loved. Sometimes I even dieted just so I could go back to overindulging.
I reached a point where I knew something had to change. It became much harder to lose weight, and I was exhausted from always regaining it. I decided to try something different and hire a life coach. She told me something I will never forget.
“Molly,” she said. “Your problem with overeating has nothing to do with food.”
This was revolutionary. I believed for so long that food was the problem. That I could not stop overeating because food just tasted so good. I thought it was the reason I would probably never be able to reach my ideal size.
But as I unraveled why I was overeating, and how to modify what I ate, something miraculous happened.
I started to enjoy food more.
I learned that eating natural foods, instead of processed foods, created less desire in the brain. Concentrated ingredients, like sugar and flour, trigger an abnormal dopamine response when consumed. To compensate, our brain downregulates dopamine receptors. This means the next time we eat that food we experience less pleasure.
Have you ever eaten something that did not satisfy your craving for it? Then go and eat something else, to see if that would do it? That is what happens from over-consuming processed food. It is harder to be satisfied with less, and much easier to overeat.
When I started eating primarily natural foods, everything regulated. I was more in touch with normal hunger cues and my desire to eat lessened. My tastebuds sensitized and real food tasted amazing in a way it had not for quite some time.
You should know I did not give up flour and sugar altogether. I am a food-lover after all. Twice a week I planned two treats that I practiced eating in moderation. I worked at eating slowly, paying attention to every bite, and appreciating the true flavor of what I was eating.
The result was surprising.
I lost 30 pounds and was able to sustain it. I delighted in the food I ate and looked forward to my favorite splurges every week. I had the energy and mental clarity to be more productive and deliberate with my life. But the best part was the confidence to be around tempting food and know how to not overeat.
I never imagined I could become a person who is satisfied with a small piece of cake. Or who could happily stop after a small bowl of chips and one glass of wine. I almost gave up on the possibility that I could reach my ideal weight in my 40's.
I am so glad I was open to a different way. The truth is that sustainable weight loss is possible, and it can even taste amazing.