5 Ways Blogging About Food Helped my DietBets

Thinking about/writing about/looking at food all the time has to be bad for a diet, right? Not so fast...

I did two things back in January: I started my blog, Recipe in a Bottle, and I joined my first DietBet. I started the blog to begin trying recipes I received from friends and family for my wedding, and I joined the DietBet because, well, the wedding planning stress hadn’t been so good to the number on the scale.

But I worried that a food blog, however fun, would actually be counterproductive: focusing on all that food, especially the comfort-food recipes my family gave me, would surely expand my middle, right?

I was surprised—and happy—to find that it had just the opposite effect. I lost weight because of my DietBet giving me motivation, and the food blog actually didn’t tempt me to eat unhealthily like I thought it would.

I came to understand that, before I started my blog, I was fundamentally un-mindful about food: I wanted to eat for fuel and move on. Eating this way, it turns out, makes you eat more but also enjoy less! Blogging really helped me to reverse that pattern, eating more reasonable amounts but with more attention and enjoyment. Here are the top five ways that food blogging improved my eating habits:

1. I grew to love good ingredients.

When I mostly ate take-out and easy-to-prep meals, I didn’t get the delight of a really ripe tomato, a good chunk of parmesan that I needed to grate, or a sweet bell pepper. The raw ingredients for food are beautiful, and taking pictures of them for my blog made me really appreciate that the more packaged and prepped my food was, the less excited I was to make it and eat it. I hadn’t connected with vegetables in such a great way in many years.

2. I connected to the nourishing roots of my recipes.

I knew that a lot of the recipes I was trying were “comfort food” recipes, but learning the stories behind them (like how a cousin would make a big chicken and broccoli casserole to give her family a nutrition-packed one-dish meal that lasted for days), that term took on new meaning. I realized that food isn’t meant to be something you eat and just forget—a good recipe could be a way for me to connect to a friend or a family member. I started finding ways to make recipes slightly healthier (2% milk instead of cream, that kind of thing), because these recipes, at their core, were supposed to feed families and make them grow strong. Even the treats, like tasty peanut butter cookies, were meant to be shared with friends, not an overindulgence for me all by myself. I didn’t feel as lonely about eating any more!

3. I put in the hours at the stove.

I had never thought about it before, but cooking from scratch is aerobic! I would be standing for an hour, and putting food away for a few minutes after dinner, and all that work helped me work up my appetite but also made me want to make my meals last. Knowing all the work I put in really inspired me to make sure there was enough for a lunch of leftovers the next day, no matter what the dish was.

4. I wanted to take care of my readers.

When I finished the recipes given to me by friends and family, I chose to continue my blog, but with recipes I personally chose and then blogged about. This made me feel a bit responsible: if I posted a whole week of desserts, what kind of blogger was I for my readers who were trying to eat healthily? In some ways, my own habits changed in order to be able to blog about healthy things even on days when I personally wanted to eat only sweets or other unhealthy food.

5. I learned new kinds of food I could actually like.

I grew up a picky kid, and though I have broadened my horizons a lot over the years, I think I still suffer from a lack of imagination about whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. By creating a space where it was important for me to try new things in order to write about them, I discovered so many dishes I never expected to like: a friend gave me a healthy recipe for chicken salad that I dreaded, but when I tried it (because I had to), I loved it! It’s now one of my go-to ways to get apple, onion, and celery into my sandwiches. Knowing more about food in general kept me from sticking to my old stand-bys…most of which included cheese.

Just like DietBet promotes a community of people cheering each other on as they do something difficult, blogging about food made me feel like I was part of a community of people who liked and worked hard to care about food. By starting these at the same time, I was able to increase the healthiness and variety of my food choices, increase my homecooked meals, and still lose reasonable amounts on the scale, all in the pursuit of overall long-term health. It wouldn’t necessarily work that way for anyone who tried it, but given my lack of awareness about food before, it has been a wonderful journey for me so far.

Make it WayBetter

Mindfulness is one of the most effective ways to get real, sustainable control of your eating habits. For Laura, her blog helped her achieve this mindfulness. What would work for you—a food journal, a 2-minute meditation before meals, taking pictures of your meals, starting your own blog?