soup in CT, 2011

I’m the type of person who looks forward to a party partially because of the food. I love cake and eat dessert daily. I get excited to chump on carrots and enjoy a plate of berries, watermelon and grapes. I mean giddy with excitement.

I’ve also never met a pizza or fettuccine Alfredo I didn’t like.

While now I embrace my love for food, years ago, I used to condemn it. I resented my appetite. Because in my mind, that’s what made me fat. That’s what made it so difficult for me to diet.

I wished upon many a star that I didn’t need to enjoy what I was eating, that I didn’t have such a big appetite, especially for all things sweet.

I wanted to be like the people who are nonchalant about food, who can eat bland dishes without feeling blah, who can have the same thing over and over all week, without getting bored or bitter.

Enjoying food gets a bad rap in our society, that’s sadly and terribly obvious. Because if I see one more commercial that tries to tell me that key lime yogurt is somehow the same as key lime pie, I will scream! (Yes, scream!)

How many times have you been in line at the grocery store only to see headlines blasting “guiltless low-cal cookies” “won’t-make-you-hate-yourself homemade cupcakes” or “6 bikini-friendly burgers.” I wish I could take credit for the last one, but it’s a real headline courtesy of Women’s Health.

Weight-loss and diet companies like to associate having any kind of an appetite as inconvenient at best, and sinful at worst.

But think about the times when you haven’t really wanted to eat, when you haven’t been that interested in the taste of good foods?

I can tell you that for me it was either when I was either stricken with a broken heart or some bug. Neither of which are glamorous, fun or remotely pleasant.

To me, losing an appetite for food is troublesome.

My grandma loved to cook, and she loved to eat. She genuinely enjoyed all foods. We’d say that she had a great appetite.

You know when she stopped savoring food? When she had no use for it?

When her cancer worsened. That’s when we knew that it was nearing the end – when food was needless, when she couldn’t stomach it because it hurt so much.

The same happened to my dad. You know those people who just eat their food and they make it seem so tasty?

That was him. He’d strip the bone of a turkey or chicken clean. He didn’t have much of a sweet tooth, but he couldn’t resist my mom’s grilled shrimp. He’d pile his plate with plenty of shrimps (as he called them) and eat happily as the oil dripped onto his fingers.

You could track how he was feeling by how he ate. When he was first admitted to the hospital, he still ate bits and pieces of his food – and complained about it. As he got worse, he couldn’t care less what was in front of him.

I see similar things with my 16-year-old kitty. When he doesn’t eat, my mom and I panic.

Because a lost appetite means that our bodies aren’t functioning properly. Sometimes it means they’re declining or giving up.

So when I see my kitty eat little, I don’t get excited because he’s losing weight and looking slimmer than ever. I worry because it’s unlike him, and he used to eat three times a day.

So I associate small appetites with sickness (whether of the heart or body). Of course, there are some people who don’t care much about food naturally. And that’s totally fine.

But I’d hate for people to view their appetites as adversaries.

Now I embrace my love for food, whether it’s fettuccine Alfredo, an apple or ice cream cake. Because a healthy appetite equals a healthy heart, brain and body.

What do you think about appetite? Did you ever lament your love for food? Do you embrace it now?

P.S., There’s still plenty of time to comment on my post on eating disorder stigma to be eligible to win a copy of Aimee Liu’s Restoring Our Bodies, Reclaiming Our Lives: Guidance and Reflections on Recovery From Eating Disorders. Remember I’m giving away two books!