How to Be a Foodie (and Not End up Obese)

According to Mashable, I don’t exist. Apparently, the word “foodie” died with Rachel’s haircut in Friends. And, if their new-fangled terms are to be believed, I now fall into the “Roadeater” category of food lover – a term which, as some astute Twitter follower pointed out, makes it sound more like I eat roadkill than enjoy tasting the local food on my travels.

So screw it. I’m a foodie. And I don’t care what Mashable or anyone else says about it. (Including chefs, by the way, who seem to hate the term and all who go under it.) Only the thing about foodies is that everyone expects you to be the size of a bus. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard things like:

“How do you eat out in all those restaurants all the time and still stay your size?”

“If you ever decide to internet-date, just make sure you include a full-length photo. Otherwise guys will take one look at your description (about your food obsession, no doubt) and assume you’re obese.” (Hmmm, would I want to date these guys anyway?)

Amsterdam foodie dating profile
How about this for a dating profile pic?!

Let’s just be clear here, readers. I’d still qualify as a plus-size model (if, you know, I was younger and prettier). I’m no ripped-up gym monkey, and I’ll never have what the mainstream media describes as a “beach body”. (Although I much prefer Hadley Freeman’s version, which goes something like: “Do you have a body? Are you going to the beach? Congratulations – you now have a beach body!”) I do, however, have a healthy BMI and no one has ever mistaken me for being pregnant. Given my job, I’ll take that as a win. (Actually, I’ll take part of that back: I once posted a photo of myself in front of a huge feast of food and wine in the Loire Valley in France with a caption about how I was pregnant with twin food babies. Unfortunately, several of my friends plus my own mother believed that I was actually pregnant with an actual baby. Still, crashing on…) It was my boyfriend who suggested I write this post, and I must say I feel a little odd about it from a feminist perspective. Just for the record: when I write this, I’m not trying to fat-shame, skinny-shame or fit-shame. I honestly don’t care if you eat a lot or not, if you put on weight or lose it – I’m notorious for not noticing when my friends are pregnant/dieting/sick/wearing a bag on their heads. I’m writing this because people have asked how it’s possible to combine a lifestyle of eating and drinking with retaining some semblance of health and well-being. This isn’t diet advice (I don’t do diets) and it isn’t rocket science – it’s based on nothing more than my own experience, which essentially comes down to common sense. But still, here goes…

10 Ways to Eat, Drink and be Healthy(ish)

  1. When you cook at home, cook from scratch – No foodie goes out every night, no matter what it might look like from their Instagram feed. And in fact, I wouldn’t trust a foodie who couldn’t cook. So when you do cook, throw out the sauces-in-a-jar and packet mixes; they have far more fat, salt and sugar in them than anything you’re likely to make yourself.
  2. Set at least one night a week when you don’t drink (or eat chocolate, or whatever your weakness is) – Believe me, this is the toughest one.
  3. Drink water, lots of it – Staying hydrated is good for all sorts of reasons, and it obviously helps with cleaning out your pipes. But water is also just a good idea as a drink to go with food – Coca-Cola and OJ aren’t good food pairing combinations with really anything.
  4. Use your body to get from A to B – If you hate gyms, don’t waste your money signing up to a membership you’ll never use. Instead, walk up the stairs to your apartment/office, bike to work, run to the supermarket – whatever gets you moving. (And if you live in Amsterdam, this one comes with no excuses!)
  5. Do some “real” exercise a couple of times a week – In addition to the general walking/biking around, doing a proper workout even just once or twice a week really helps. Again, it doesn’t need to be a gym. I don’t exactly love running, but it’s extremely quick, convenient and cheap to throw my running shoes on, do a lap round the park, and be back at work again in 30 minutes (give or take shower time). If you hate running, go swimming or dancing or whatever you’re actually going to feel motivated to do.
  6. Skip dessert (sometimes) – Admittedly, this isn’t going to work for all foodies. I don’t have a sweet tooth, which makes it relatively easy to avoid tonnes of sugar. Pudding fans are no doubt endlessly disappointed by my lack of regard for their favourite course of the meal in my restaurant reviews (by dessert, I’m usually too drunk to remember what I’m eating, or I just get the cheese plate and have done with it). For this I can only apologise.
  7. Maintain a balance – If you know you’re going out for a big dinner, keep lunch simple. If you’re going for a foodie weekend away, stay in for a couple of nights beforehand. One calorific meal (or even several) isn’t going to make any difference – it’s the overall amount you eat and drink in a week or a month that’s going to cause real physical changes.
  8. Don’t snack between meals (unless the snacks are like, really, really good) – In most cases, snacks are just “empty calories”. You’re a foodie, goddamnit – not a glutton. If the food isn’t worth it, don’t eat it.
  9. Listen to your mum – Or rather, listen to my mum. Her motto is “everything in moderation” and she’s now 74 years old and extremely healthy (touch wood). She eats absolutely everything (including lots of out-of-date stuff, which I swear is why she has the immune system of a superhero) but she always knows when she’s had enough.
  10. Be happy with what you’ve got – As I said at the start, this isn’t about getting a beach body or being a supermodel. So whatever you do, don’t diet. Denying yourself the pleasures of food is the one sure-fire way to make you want to indulge – and probably even more than you would were you not on a diet. Besides, one of my other favourite mottos is: “Dieting is self-cannibalism”. Touché.

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