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At a certain point, most of us arrive at the same conclusion: Crash dieting never works. Crazy workouts and cleanses are in no way sustainable. And depriving yourself makes you completely insane. We know that calorie-counting makes you cranky and is ineffective in general. How can you gain relief without letting your weight balloon out of control?

The answer is so intrinsically obvious, but is somehow drowned out by the barrage of tabloids announcing the next insane fad. A balanced and healthy approach to food begins with mindfulness.

Food is your fuel. It’s also a source of pleasure, nourishment, and even medicine. Understanding this transforms your relationship with “dieting”—and hopefully makes you drop the word It makes sense when you consider that avocados and bananas have been proven to ease stress. Or that coconut and eggs boosts brain function, that raw honey soothes a cold, and that lemons and beets detoxify your system. When you shift your view of food as a source of joy and healing, not guilt, you gain an empowering new mindset.

Being mindful involves simply tuning in to your body. Observe when your energy slumps, when you feel over-stuffed, and when your loved ones accuse you of getting “hangry.” This knowledge will empower you to kick-start a week of healthy meal preparations. For example, perhaps you notice the temptation to hit up the nearest vending machine around 4 p.m., or that it’s salty snacks that you crave. Pick a day of the week to make a batch of healthy cookies (or whatever it is) to satisfy yourself without spiraling into a slump—throw in wholesome ingredients like apples, bananas, or chia seeds. Instead of deeming foods “off-limits,” strike a happy balance to feel good, like starting your day with a green smoothie or getting your energy from almonds. The more you begin to indulge in whole, healthful foods, the less you want processed food. Plus, you get the chance to get creative with your cooking—finding ways to sneak in the feel-good stuff into your meals is actually pretty fun!

When you eat mindfully, you get more from your meals—and eliminate the risk of messing with your metabolism. Reap the benefits of making conscious choices to nourish your body with the nutrients it needs.

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