How You Eat

CabbageI just read this article over on Vox: So much for the Mediterranean diet — Greece & Italy have the world’s most overweight kids.

Personally, I think dieting is like exercising. What exercise is the best? The one that you do. What food plan is the best? The one that works for you. I’m still working on that for myself.

There are things I know I like –

I like eating locally grown or sourced food. I get the double win of delicious food while I’m supporting my local economy.

I like eating organic. Not all my food is local, (in the winter that would make for mighty slim pickings,) but I do try to make sure the majority of it is organic.

I like eating as close to whole foods as I can. I’ve never been a big fan of pre-prepared foods, but there were some that I ate regularly. Those are becoming less and less. I don’t make my own yogurt yet and I’ve not tried cheese making (although I would like to!) but I’m trying to get back to basics as much as I can.

I’m making a conscious effort to avoid grain based foods. I can’t say “carbs” because I eat boatloads of fruits and veggies – and those are carbs. Mostly I am avoiding breads, tortillas, rice and so on. I still eat them, but in very small quantities. This is probably the biggest change I have made in the last year or so.

I’m also trying to eat a lot more protein in the beginning of the day and eat lighter in the evening. I feel better when I eat this way, but due to cultural norms, it isn’t always possible.

What I am looking for is a lifestyle that I can maintain that makes me feel good – both physically and mentally. So in addition to these little rules, I like letting go once and awhile – valuing meals with loved ones over counting calories, relaxing on holidays and just embracing the joy of food. The trick is finding the right balance.

Photo credit: Ben Hosking on flickr

 

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Food and Happiness

"A Dinner Table at Night"  by John Singer Sargent, 1884

“A Dinner Table at Night” by John Singer Sargent, 1884

“The only time to eat diet food is while you are waiting for the steak to cook”
– Julia Child (1912 – 2004)

I’ve been changing how I eat. It’s happened slowly, more by intuition than by anything else. When I started losing weight, I did it with the MyFitnessPal app. At the time, I made a simple vow – eat whatever I want, just make sure to stay under the calorie goal. I did that and it worked. In fact, it worked beautifully. Several friends have not had the same success with the app, but people’s bodies work in different ways. For me, it was perfect.

As I went, I realized that grains (wheat, rice, corn, etc.) were really high in calories for the size of the serving. For example, I figured out that I could eat twice as many of my favorite homemade chicken tacos if I used romaine or cabbage as a shell over tortilla. Plus, because they are stuffed with chicken and avocado (and I was eating twice as many,) I felt full longer. Same thing with rice. I love white rice. For many, many years my breakfast of choice was white rice with butter and salt. However, once I started figuring the calories, the servings just didn’t make it worth it. Little by little, I gave them up, not as a conscious choice, exactly, but as a way of getting bigger and better meals.

I weigh myself daily and I’m pretty tuned in to how my body is feeling. I also discovered that my body takes a long time to metabolize meat. I did a little research on it and started figuring out things about how foods are used in the body, and slowly began another change – I began making breakfast my biggest meal of the day. I ate a lot of protein in the morning, a lighter lunch and a mostly vegetarian dinner. I found that I felt fuller longer throughout the day, but I wasn’t sluggish at night. My body seemed to really like the whole “Eat like a King at breakfast, a Queen at lunch and a pauper at dinner” scenario.

Then I ran across gokaleo.com. I’ll be honest, she rubbed me the wrong way at first. (I suspect based on some of the reactions she gets, I’m not alone.) Yet, many of the fitness writers I admire kept referencing her site. Eventually I added it to my log of daily reading. Slowly, her message started seeping in. It wasn’t that I disagreed with it, in fact, in many ways I was already doing what she was suggesting – working on incremental changes, getting a variety of exercise on a daily basis, and adding strength training as a key part of the mix. One of her other suggestions took a little longer: eating a gram of protein for every pound of bodyweight.

I decided to try it. I love experiments, and this was something I was kind of already working towards, although I was far below the daily goal. So, roughly 3 or 4 weeks ago, I started trying to do it regularly. 2 weeks or so ago, I started tracking it on the Lift app.

Honestly? I love it. I feel great. Here’s another interesting thing – for a very brief while I was trying to get an even amount of carbs, fats and proteins: 33/33/33. It was a nightmare. It was like when I had a container garden and I always ended up with too many plants and not enough dirt and pots, or extra pots and no dirt. Whatever I did, I could never get the ratios right. Trying to do that with food was much, much worse.

Then I saw on a forum that someone said they worked towards the protein goal and didn’t worry about the rest, that it somehow always worked out. Sure enough, it almost always does. Oh, for some of the day one part of the pie chart will be larger than others, but by the end of the day, it all evens out. It seems fairly easy to get carbs and fats into the diet!!

Here’s the important part – after I lost the weight, but before concentrating on getting the high protein, my weight was doing these odd little yo-yos. Nothing big, but weird: 2-3 pounds up in a night, 1 pound down the next day. Wilder swings that I would have imagined, considering the circumstances. Once I started eating the protein, the curves leveled off. Oh, I still have ups and downs, but they are more waves than cliffs – and I know why they are there. My weight now has settled down to where I love it, and doesn’t move all that much. It’s fantastic.

I’m not saying this is for everyone, I am just pointing out that this is what works for me, and works really well. This morning I had an amazing breakfast (New York Strip, anyone?) and I have a delicious lunch planned. As far as food goes, I am eating really well. And, I still haven’t cut anything out completely. I mostly stay away from processed grains at my house (except for the odd bit of granola or oats in an apple crisp) but will have them when I am out and being social. I watch my sugar, but I don’t regulate it too much. I drink wine (and beer), eat cheese, meat and vegetables with abandon.

Most importantly? I feel great and I’m happy.

Photo credit: “A Dinner Table at Night” by John Singer Sargent, posted by HumanSeeHumanDo on flickr

Repost – 80 Thoughts on 40 from Stumptuous.com

I just read a fun post on Stumptuous.com. Check out these thoughts from someone else with their 40th birthday in September:

Rant 68: 80 Thoughts on 40

“When I turned 40, I realized I no longer had to give a shit. About ANYTHING.”
Sandra Shamas

Well, it’s September 2013. I’ve clung with my fingernails to this sticky ball we call Earth for 40 vertigo-inducing trips around the sun.

Now, I shall pass my wisdom on to you.

  1. Like what you like. Fuck the haters.
  2. Don’t like what you don’t like. Fuck the shoulds.
  3. But stay open to liking what you thought you didn’t like. Hey, maybe you need to cook it better. Or put a hat on it. Or try it 5 times. Or experience it with someone who can talk you through it. Or maybe — it’s what you really need. Cough cough posterior chain work shoulder mobility.
  4. Say no when you mean no.
  5. Say yes when you mean yes.
  6. In general, cut the bullshit. Think of bullshit as the smog of social interaction: omnipresent, neither wanted nor needed, and ultimately polluting.
  7. Learn to Say Difficult Things. Better to feel guilty yet relieved than resentful and blocked.
  8. 99 Problems and 86 Scenarios95% of your stress is about other people. Shoulds, expectations, “rules”, worries about what So-and-so might think, trying to live up to imaginary standards… Write down all the stuff you are stressed about, and for each one, ask yourself: Does this represent a genuine threat to my life, actual safety, and/or health? Or is this a threat to my ego, my sense of perceived security and “rightness”, and/or social order? If the latter, congratulations! You’ve found something NOT to be stressed about! When I turned 40, I vowed to no longer give a shit about most things. Guess what — nothing happened, except I felt about a million times more awesome.
  9. Think less, feel more. Put down the spreadsheet and rulebook, and sense in.
  10. Be IN your body rather than a floating head. What are your feet doing right now? What about deep in your belly? What is stuck in your throat? How are you breathing? What’s going on with your entire physical situation? Don’t let your mind answer this one. Wait for your body to tell you. []

Now click over and read the 70 other awesome thoughts in the full article on stumptuous.com. (Note: my favorites were #55 and #73)

Do’s and Don’ts

I ran across this somewhere on the web and tucked it away as a good reminder:Dos_and_Donts

What I love about it is that it has some good points without being focused on one particular fitness path. For example, while there are several points about eating, the phrase Eat Clean doesn’t appear. (I wrote about why that phrase gets makes me clench my teeth awhile back.) I have heard some conflicting advice about drinking that much water, but considering it is August and high summer in the U.S., if you’re going to be working out outside, it seems like a good plan to me.

I really like the don’s side – especially #1) don’t skip rest days and #4) don’t forget to reward yourself. I think those get forgotten a lot. Since I try to alternate weight training and running, it is really easy for me to skip rest days. (That’s why I don’t get too down on myself when I have a busy week. I just figure they are unplanned rest days.) As for rewards, so far, the results have been their own reward. Then again, taking the time to sit for a while by the river after a long run is an awfully good reward.

Sitting at the river's edge after my run.

Sitting at the river’s edge after my run.

Weekend Plans

New_DayThis week was almost a run-less week. My freelance work that has kicked into high gear, plus some added busyness from the non-profit Board I am on, kept me hopping all week. Unfortunately, this pattern is going to continue right on into the holiday weekend. The silver lining is that, even though I have a lot of work to do, most of it will be in blocks. That should leave other blocks of time open which will let me run or at least get in some kind of workout.

I did manage to squeeze in a short 20 minute jog on Thursday morning, but that’s been it so far. My weight is up too. Just a smidgen, nothing to be overly concerned with, but something for me to keep in mind for the weekend. In fact, I think I am going to try to use these three days to do a bit of a reset. All the stress and work lately has knocked my eating a bit out of alignment and I haven’t been getting nearly enough sleep.

I would have loved to been able to get up to my cabin, but the freelance work just won’t allow for it. That’s okay, Hermes isn’t quite to full capacity, and the cabin just isn’t as fun if I my little buddy can’t go on long hikes through the woods with me. He has another vet appointment on Tuesday, but so far he is recovering really well. He’s almost back to his old self! Fingers crossed that he stays that way.

So, my plan is to finish up the work I need to do, sleep as much as I need, eat healthy and get in some extra workouts. Believe it or not, that pretty much sounds like the perfect weekend.

Hermes Update and Dealing with Stress

On a walk in the rain

Can’t wait to see this face.

First, good news! I finally got some good news about my little guy. It has been a long, rough week! As I mentioned, his initial surgery to remove the tumor went well, but it was followed up with complications. Hermes spent two nights in the Emergency Animal Hospital and another night at the vet’s getting blood transfusions and IVs. However, I got the call this morning that he is looking great, has finally eaten some food on his own (his last real meal was Monday morning before all this went haywire,) and is sitting up and bright-eyed. The doc is weaning him off his IVs and if all goes well, I’ll have my little guy back home again by the end of the day.

I can’t wait… the house is far too quiet without him.

Here’s an interesting thing – I’ve been handling the stress differently than I ever have before, and it has a lot to do with the changes I have made over the last year.

I actually hold up fairly well under extreme stress. The day-to-day stuff can really get under my skin, but when things go absolutely sideways, I tend to be pretty solid. I think I get this from my dad who was the same way. (Perhaps a good inheritance for once, eh Andra?) He had some, well, let’s call them “anger management issues” on the day-to-day, but when things went really, really bad, he was always calm, cool and collected. I’ve worked hard not to have the anger problems he had, but I’ve nurtured the calm. I tend to be practical, (sometimes to the extreme,) and while I have my teary moments like everyone else, my goal is always to hold it together until I get through to the other side.

The waiting is the hardest part.* Whenever situations like this come up, especially ones dealing with medical issues, there is always waiting involved. My tried and true method of getting through it is books. Preferably something interesting, but fairly light. My favorite are older, formulaic murder mysteries like the Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout. I can’t tell you how many books I flew through back when my mother was in the hospital, waiting on some kind of news.

My other tried and true method is emotional eating. I’m not proud – when the shit is hitting the fan, I’m not going to take the time to count calories. Besides, I love food – and I really love great food, so having something decadent really does make me feel better for a bit. This week, I have been doing both of these things. I’ve been burying my head in books  and coating my throat with wine.

But… that isn’t all I have been doing. I’ve also been running, weight lifting and walking. Now, I need to make this clear – I am not trying to balance out the scale here. There is no way one of my runs will burn up the quantity of dark chocolate almond bark and glasses of wine I’ve had. It’s more that I have added another tool for coping. The night Hermes went in for emergency surgery, I knew it was going to be a couple of hours to before I heard how it went. As I headed towards the kitchen, I heard a voice in my head say, “Is emotional eating really going to help right now???

The rest of me said “*&^$!”

… and then went and put on my running shoes. I had that antsy, nervy energy – the kind that makes you want to pace, or punch something. Going for a run, even a bad run, totally let me escape the situation and work off the twitchiness. And man, were my runs bad. My times were terrible, I had equipment failures, I was distracted and unfocused… and yet, I ran. I found, incidentally, that 2 min run / 1 min walk intervals are perfect for this. I didn’t have the willpower, or the mental capacity, to run much more than this, and “just doing whatever” was actually more stressful because it involved making choices – something I had already been doing way too much of this week. Intervals gave me a structure, a purpose, and a framework, plus I could run full-out for 2 minutes if I wanted knowing I had a break coming. Though by every metric my runs were terrible, for me, they were great.

I also worked on my strength training. I mentioned that I am starting to go through The New Rules of Lifting for Women. Even though without Hermes in the house I could have slept in, instead I got up, got out my weights and went to work. I’ve been walking too. One day this week while I was waiting on a call from the vet, I headed out for an hour-long lunch hour walk. Another morning, before weight training, I went for an early morning power walk.

Sunrise. I took this on an early morning walk this week.

Sunrise. I took this on an early morning walk this week.

This is all really new to me, and believe me, I understand why it wouldn’t be appealing. One of my coworkers is going through a rough time too. He said, “I am having to do enough stuff that I don’t want to do right now, I am not going to make myself run as well.” I get that! And even though it briefly occurred to me to take the rest of my chocolate into the office and put it on the “free food” table in the break room, I haven’t – there is a still the long road of recovery ahead.

Here’s the point – I think everyone deals with stress a little differently. I am not going to judge anyone for how they handle it. For myself, I am surprised that exercise has become something I’ve started turning to. I’ve heard for years that exercise is good for stress, but it always seemed like a lot of blue mud. How could sweating, and panting and working hard feel good? Yet here I am, workout clothes hanging in the laundry, running shoes ready to go.

 

 

* Did I just get Tom Petty stuck in your head? Please tell me I did.

The Curse of the Craving

Cravings:cupcakes on wheels by albastrica mititica

So, I wrote this post about Cutting Out Cravings. I have to confess, it isn’t going quite as well as I had hoped. Sigh….

It started awesome. For a couple of days, just having the little mantra in my head of “whether you give in to them, or whether you don’t, cravings go away” helped incredibly. I ate well and felt really good.

Then I got mad. Not at cravings or anything to do with food – it was just one of the moments where something ticked me off. And at my office one of my coworkers had put out a whole bowl of mini Snickers bars. We see where this is going, right? I had successfully avoided those little tasty bricks of worthless calories for a couple of days, but when my temper went up, my willpower went down.

A day or two later, Julian and I celebrated our anniversary and went out for a wonderful dinner. I deliberately decided to just enjoy myself and not worry about calorie tracking or any of that – after all, it was a special occasion. But between the day of the baby Snickers binge and evening of elegant dinner… it was like a floodgate opened up. Most of last week I was like: Mantra? What mantra?

And sweets, good night have I been craving sweets! Ack! I’ve been wanting more sugary confectionaries than I ever remember craving – even at my heaviest. I’ve been trying to do a little mental therapy and ask myself what I am thinking about when I am craving this junk and trying to figure out where I am emotionally. My body responds with: we are thinking about chocolate chip cookies and we are feeling like getting some right now!  What do you think, idiot?!?!

Um… yeah. I spent last weekend up at my cabin and was hoping to reset and get back to firm footing. There are pros and cons to this. On the pro side, the cabin is fairly isolated, and once I’m there, I rarely feel like leaving. So, the only food I have with me is either what I keep there or what I bring up. It’s a good place to be very deliberate about food. On the con side, the cabin has always been a place of complete relaxation. It’s where I take all the restraints and bindings of daily life off and just be. This means I have a rather nicely stocked little bar up there and I always have some kind of chocolate snacks about. Evenings looking out over the lake with glass of wine in hand and a bite of dark chocolate in the other… heaven.

The first night up at the cabin didn’t go particularly well. I think I had some pent-up steam to blow off, but the next two days were much better. All the time outdoors and on the lake made a big difference to how I felt. I started feeling stronger, and my reserves of energy and willpower (and just good old-fashioned sleep) were growing.

Then came Monday.

Everything went right out the window… again. I found myself angry, frustrated, punchy, and giving into almost every craving that even slightly whispered my name. Ridiculous. There was no obvious reason for any of it – not the moodiness nor the lack of willpower. I did do one thing though. I decided not to go to the local sweet shop and go crazy over their chocolate covered graham crackers, (don’t get me started, I love those things,) and instead, drove over to a local butcher shop. I picked up some beef jerky, some cheese and a bit of lunch meat. While perhaps not perfect food, it was something that felt like an indulgence and filled me up so fast I couldn’t even pretend I was hungry.

I think there are a few things going on. One is that I am not getting enough sleep. I did better at the cabin (thanks to some fabulous naps on the couch with my sleeping dog. Really, is there anything better?) but I haven’t been sleeping well at home. I know I feel better and have stronger reserves when I am well rested.

I’m also working on sticking to my eating guidelines. I don’t like the idea of “free days” but I do know that typically, I can eat more deliberately during the work week (when I have a set schedule) than I can during the weekends. So, for a couple of days this week, I am going to really stick to the way I like to eat. No outside snacking, no giving in to cravings. My house is stocked with great, delicious, healthy food right now, so I should be able to do this. I’m packing huge lunches with tons of snacks that fit the way I want to eat. I am not trying to deprive myself of food, just the sugar for a couple of days. My hope is it will let me reassess what’s  going on, and help me build up my “Saying No” muscle over my “Giving In” muscle. I’m going to get more sleep, start repeating my mantra again, and see if some of these things make a difference.

I’m not beating myself up over this. I realize that I am only 3 months in on learning how to maintain my weight loss. I pretty much hit my goals in May, so I’ve got a lot of learning to do in how to keep them! I’ve noticed that flours of any kind are pretty much out of my diet now. I finished up what I had, and just haven’t been buying bread, pasta or even rice anymore. I haven’t even noticed it. I have it when I am out or on social occasions, but that is about it. I am hoping I can do the same with sugar – even though it is fighting me a lot more than flour ever did!

 

Photo credit: albastrica mititica on flickr

Eating Like a King!

peppercorn steak by Stefano A.It all started with a petite filet mignon.

A couple of weeks ago, I pulled a lovely little piece of meat out of my freezer and thawed it out. The next morning I covered it in a delicious cracked black pepper and garlic rub. I was going to grill it for dinner that night.

Then something happened. I got unexpected dinner plans.

To be honest, I forgot about my little steak waiting for me in the refrigerator, until I got home late that night and went to put something in the fridge. There it was, looking at me, accusatory. I mentally reviewed my calendar. To my dismay I realized that the rest of the week I wouldn’t be home until after 10:00PM. There was only one thing to do –

The next morning, I had it for breakfast.

My family has never been a stickler for having to have breakfast food in the morning, (my Mom loves soup for breakfast, for example,) so this was really no big deal. I had fresh melon on the side, and enjoyed my meal completely. The interesting thing was how it made me feel. I usually get really hungry around 11:00 – 11:30AM on weekdays, and this day, I was fine. Noon rolled around and I realized I had forgotten my snack. I also noticed I had a lot of energy and felt great.

Later that day I had a salad for lunch, and since it was one of those late night days, I ended up with a homemade smoothie with greek yogurt and fruit in the evening. I felt good all day, satisfied, and it got me thinking.

It makes sense to me to eat more protein at the top of the day, before I am active, and eat less in the evening, when I am typically just a few hours from going to bed. I decided to try to high protein mornings, light protein lunches and vegetarian dinners whenever possible. Apparently I am not the first to think of this. When I described it to my sister she said, “Eat like a king at breakfast, a queen at lunch and pauper at dinner.” I don’t know about that pauper business, though. Whoever made up that saying obviously hadn’t priced out the organic vegetables I eat!

So, I have been eating like this for a few weeks, and so far, I really like it. For breakfast I’ve had steaks, scrambles with ham and cheese, lean sausages… even hamburgers. I still have a side of fruit with it, or I load up on veggies (like in the scramble.) However, I don’t have any kind of bread or bun with it. (While I refuse to restrict anything from my diet completely, I’ve pretty much eliminated those things from my home. Breads and pastas have become special occasion foods.) I even made this wonderful Lebanese Recipe: Egg Stuffed Kafta Roll. (Note: Try not to mind the typos on this site. I linked to it because it attributed the recipe properly. It comes from Taste of Lebanon, one of my favorite cookbooks. It does not however, make one serving as it says. It makes 2 large 8 serving meatloaves.)

For lunch, I’ve been enjoying summer salads or soup. Sometimes I have dinner leftovers with a small amount of meat added, or breakfast leftovers with extra veggies. I have also been loving this recipe from Simple Bites: Avocado Egg Salad Lettuce Wraps with Bacon. I’ve made that several times. (I usually skip the bacon, because it isn’t something I keep in the house, but it is good either way – and with any kind of lettuce, or just on its own.)

For dinner, my vegetarian meals help not just in how I feel, but they are also making things easier on food prep. My veggie dinners tend to involve a lot of chopping and take a while, so it is nice to move the labor intensive meals away from when I am trying to rush out the door. Or, if I am home late, I can eat something light and not feel weighted down.

There is one other advantage: I tend to do my weight lifting in the morning. I like following that with a high protein breakfast. On the other hand, I like to run right after work. Having a lighter protein lunch means my I feel energetic, but not full.

Please know that I am not advocating this as a diet for anyone. We all need to find what works for our own lives, bodies and health. It also isn’t anything I am setting in granite for myself. There are times, especially when dining with others, that I will eat more traditionally, but I have been doing it for a couple of weeks now and I really like it. It helps that this time of year there are amazing choices at the farmers’ markets. It also helps that Julian has been supportive, so when we go out to eat, we frequently look for a place that has vegetarian options for me. My body seems to like it too, not only do I feel good, but my weight has settled and seems to have stabilized. (I was bouncing all around there for a few weeks.) So, I am going play with it a bit and see how it goes. So far, so good – bring on the steak!

Photo credit: Stefano A. on flickr

Cutting Out Cravings

crave cupcakes rachel kramer busselMy boyfriend Julian, who is studying Sociology and Psychology, shared something with me this weekend that blew my mind. It’s about cravings. (If you don’t suffer from cravings, stop reading this right now go read one of 23 Thorn’s posts on owls instead. He has several, and they are awesome.) If you do struggle with cravings, however, read on… I am about to change your world.

Julian has been reading and studying about cognitive therapy which, according to Wikipediaseeks to help the patient overcome difficulties by identifying and changing dysfunctional thinking, behavior, and emotional responses. The founder of Cognitive Therapy is Dr. Aaron Beck, who has written extensively on the subject. Dr. Beck also has a daughter, Dr. Judith Beck, who is a psychologist and who also is known for her work in cognitive therapy. Dr. Judith Beck has written several books, including works on diet and weight loss. I tell you all of this because it really helped me knowing this came from someone with authority in the field, if I had heard what I am about to tell you from some random person it would have been easy to disregard it. Here it is:

Cravings pass. Whether you give in to them, or whether you don’t, they eventually pass.

Seems ridiculous, right? Obvious. Think about it again though, let it really roll around your brain: Whether you give in to them, or whether you don’t, cravings pass.

How do you act when you get a serious craving? I have three methods of coping with them:

1) A Little Goes a Long Way: If I am craving something decadent like wine or chocolate, one way I deal with cravings is by having a small amount of what want, but of high quality. So, I might have a small bite of seriously wonderful, expensive chocolate from a local sweet shop, rather than having a full Milky Way bar.

2) Bait and Switch: instead of having what I want, I try to find something that is similar or has similar associations. Instead of having a bowl of ice cream, I might have a low-fat Fudgsicle instead.

3) All In: If the craving isn’t something I consider unhealthy, I will go ahead and indulge (and sometimes even if it isn’t.) In fact, sometimes, I will go ahead and deliberately eat more of the item than I normally would to “quench” the craving. I did that with fruit not long ago.

What I don’t do? Simply let it pass.

Since Julian told me that simple phrase that he had read, its been going around and around in my mind. (It seems so obvious, but that’s always the way with hindsight.) Every time I start to crave something, (and it is surprising me how often I have cravings,) I think of this phrase – like a mantra. “Cravings will go away.” You know what? Cravings aren’t a thing. They aren’t like a cold or headache. They aren’t a gremlin with a knife to your throat. It won’t kill you if you don’t give in. Cravings are simply thoughts, and these thoughts are made stronger by thinking about them. Once you choose not to give in to the craving, and I mean really decide, (no takebacksies) the craving starts to go away.

The thing is, we now live in a world where we can give into our cravings whenever we want. Pineapple in December? Done. Eggrolls at 3AM? Easy. Past generations never had this. If they wanted Grandma’s homemade cherry pie in February, it was just too darn bad. You had to wait until cherry season – and grandma to get around to making it. Now we can drive to a store and pick up whatever we want.

Here’s what I wrote back in January about cravings:

Usually if I have a specific craving, I figure my body is telling me something – sometimes it is a needed nutrient, (Craving steak? Maybe I am low on iron.) and sometimes it is a symptom of something emotional. (Craving chocolate? How are the stress levels?) I normally just have a bit of whatever it is and the problem is solved.

Now, I think it is something else. I think a craving is my brain’s way of distracting me from something else:

Last week a bag of sugared cinnamon almonds stole my soul. Someone had brought them in to work and left them on the “free food” counter. I thought I would have a couple with my morning coffee, and I decided to leave the sugar out of my coffee to balance it out. The almonds were delicious… and then, I could not stop eating them. All day I kept popping up from my desk to have just a couple more, long past when I knew I should stop. Thinking about it now, I think what was really going on was that my brain was desperately trying to avoid the big ugly work project that I have been procrastinating on. The whole “Will I? Won’t I?” battle in my brain kept me happily distracted from the work I was supposed to be doing. Our minds are amazing at finding ways to fool us.

I also think cravings are habits, as in “at this time, I aways want (x).” I’ll give you an example – after Julian and I had this talk, I kept thinking about it. Then Sunday night he and I went out for Asian cuisine. I had an amazing dish of spicy green beans. Afterwards, I found myself craving something sweet. The little fortune cookie that came with it was not nearly enough. I almost suggested going out for ice cream, and then I thought: cravings go away. I really looked at what was going on. I wasn’t hungry – far from it – I was stuffed with a great meal. There were two things behind this particular craving: 1) I was having fun with Julian and didn’t want the date to end, and 2) I have a bad habit of always following up spicy/garlicky food with something sweet. But that’s all it was – a habit. I didn’t need it. I sat with it and just reminded myself that the feeling would pass. It did, and our date kept going because we wanted it to, not because I had to throw something else in there.

When I got back to work on Monday… there were still some sugared almonds on the break room table.

I didn’t have one, and the funny thing was, it wasn’t even a struggle. Part of it was that I had gotten that dreaded project done, and part was that every time my brain would send up a little craving thought, I noticed it… and then went back to work. Instead, I set times throughout the day that I would eat. I decided what I wanted to eat, how much, and when, based my goals, not on cravings.

I want to eat well. I believe in eating delicious food. However, I am going to make those decisions consciously. And as for the in between times when I have a cravings?

They will pass.

Photo credit: Rachel Kramer Bussel

Sweet Like Candy

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I am not a big one for rules, but this little quip made me laugh.

eat less sugar

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I do have something of an addiction to sugar. By that I mean I don’t crave traditional sweets – cakes, pies, cookies or anything like that, but if I choose to have a piece of candy or chocolate, I get really intense cravings for more. So, as long as I stay away from it, I don’t want it and I’m fine. However, if I decide to have something with sugar, it gets a grip on me that is hard to shake. The cravings last for days, and if I give in, they seem to get worse.

Honestly, that scares me a little. Health reasons aside, I don’t like anything that has that kind of control over me. I make my own decisions, and no chemical is going to dictate that for me! So, yeah, a little less in my diet would be a good thing – after all, I am already sweet enough!