Eating Pizza Every Week Has Actually Made Me Healthier

The more pizza I eat, the better I feel.

pepperoni pizza
Photo: Getty / Vladislav Nosick

On Tuesdays, I dig into a big, gooey, cheesy pizza with my family. Sometimes it's wood-fired, others deep-dish, but most of the time it's your run-of-the-mill thin crust—the kind that's cut into squares. (I live in the Chicago 'burbs. I think it's a Midwestern thing.)

Years ago, this wouldn't have been possible for me. I went to pizza places but would order a caprese salad, an appetizer that's undeniably delicious but was eaten because it felt "safer" than a slice.

My oldest son is four. He has swim class after preschool one night a week, and following that, my husband and youngest son (age 2) head out for a pizza dinner. (This was clearly before coronavirus-related social distancing.) We rotate who gets to choose the restaurant. I go for the wood-fired—I love a good blistered crust. My husband loves the greasier stuff. And my four-year-old son picks a place with a past-its-prime arcade because: prizes. It's not the best pizza, but I eat it anyway.

The idea of eating pizza weekly totally freaked me out. Diet culture tells us that doing so will lead to weight gain, and that weight gain is the worst thing that can happen to a person. In the past, I saved pizza for a special occasion thing, and even then I'd try to pack myself full of side salad before eating a slice. I'd want more—but I wouldn't let myself have it. Or, I felt like I could only go get pizza if it was my favorite place with the best-ever pie. "The calories have to be worth it," I told myself. Going out was full of rules and fear.

There's a huge trend in Intuitive Eating (IE), a non-diet approach to eating that's skyrocketed in popularity in the last couple years. It's far more nuanced than this, but the basic message is: eat the foods that nourish your body and soul. And above all else, trust that your body knows what you need and ditch all the external "diet-y" rules that tell you what, how much and when you should eat.

It can be tough to believe that you can eat the foods you love and crave without "losing control" and eating all the things. And at first, I felt a bit out of control around food like pizza. I'd eat past feelings of fullness and leave the table uncomfortable. Guilt would set in and I'd be nervous about repeating it all again next week.

Over time though, a fantastic thing happened: habituation. Pizza Tuesdays were met with excitement. And also, a shrug. The more I allowed myself to eat pizza regularly, the more it began to lose its luster. I could sit at the table, eat an amount that was filling and satisfying and feel good about stopping because, well, I knew I'd be eating it again next week. If we went out to a place that was ho-hum, it didn't matter. It wasn't a "waste of calories" like I believed before. It was just dinner. And I needed to eat.

Honestly, intuitive eating pros say that this will happen—the more you allow yourself to eat something, the less power it has over you—but for anyone entrenched in diet culture, well, you just don't believe it.

We've been told for so long—and I've even written this in other stories—to limit your "trigger" foods. Get that ice cream out of the house before you overeat. Only go out to buy dessert that you really love to make it worth it. That stuff doesn't work. Restriction is a quick way to feel out of control. Let yourself have pizza (ditto for chocolate or cheesy pasta) every day or week and soon it will lose its hold on you.

I should also mention that we always order pepperoni. I love peppers, spinach and mushrooms and I'm naturally inclined to eating vegetarian, so I'd prefer a veggie-packed pie, but that's not realistic with two kids who would not appreciate the presence of greens. Part of me yearns to "make it healthier," but I already know that the healthiest thing I can do for my body is to eat without stress, regret or guilt. To eat until fullness and satisfaction, and then put down a half-eaten slice because I was done and happy. To know that next week, we'd be at it again and I could have as much as I wanted.

None of that would have been possible if we hadn't instituted our pizza Tuesdays. The night is no longer about the food (it's yummy, really it is)—but now it's more about hanging with my fam. Sometimes that involves me pleading with my kiddos not to be animals in a public space, but most of the time we're out enjoying each other.

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