Conquering Cravings

First of all, I’m loving all the comments on possible posting topics.  Note that I asked simply to guide for my incredible indecisiveness.  It’s one of those times where I have too many options and not a ton of time, so nothing ends up getting done.  But hopefully that’s done with for now.

[[Keep commenting on this post if you want to make sure you’re added to my upcoming blogroll page!]]

Second order of business(?): You may have noticed that I did not do WIAW.  Why? In all honestly I just really didn’t feel like dragging my camera around and taking the extra time to take pics of everything.  Do not get me wrong, I think it’s a great way to share a day’s worth of eats, but school, midterms, and my own mental health are more important.

Which leads me to the real topic of today’s post – cravings.

[[disclaimer: I am not a health professional, all statements on this page are based on my own personal experience]]

If you say you never crave anything, you are probably lying.  It may not be food related, as I know a good deal of people who just eat when they’re hungry and could care less what they’re actually eating.  But we all crave something.  Comfort, space, warmth, release, sweets – something.

Being the crazy foodie that I am, I crave specific foods all the time. Some of these cravings are really weird – like kale… And some are quite typical, like chocolate.

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[[source]]

So here’s the big question: when is a craving really a craving, and not just a desire to eat for comfort?  Are there times when it is better not to indulge your impulses?

As someone who has a history of comfort eating, this is something I have to ask myself almost on a daily basis.  I have a huge sweet tooth.  I eat when I’m bored, and when I’m alone for long periods of time.  I could easily have chocolate and baked goods every day if I wanted.  Physically speaking, I could easily eat dessert after every meal.  I could easily eat the portion sizes of a large man.  I could easily eat decadent restaurant dishes every day.  But would I be happy with that? No.  It weighs me down, and does not feel good.

I know this is exaggerating a bit, but regardless – comfort eating is almost an addiction.  There came a time when I needed to learn to exercise some self-control.  I’ve actually heard that self-control is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it gets.  I guess that’s where restriction comes into play. Luckily I never got that extreme, but there was a brief period where eating a whole cupcake was forbidden – it was too much of an indulgence, and couldn’t be done.

I’m writing this now, because I think I’m starting to finally figure out which of my cravings to honor, and which to divert.  For example, I had ravioli for dinner the other day.  Random, right?  I have no idea why, but all day I couldn’t get ravioli out of my head.  And not whole grain or vegan or gluten-free – just goat cheese, red pepper and basil ravioli made with semolina flour.

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served on steamed kale with some goat cheese on top. Had to get my serving of leafy greens as well!

Pasta was one of those things that I stopped craving when I stopped eating so much of it – which I’m totally fine with.  But that made this random impulse so weird.  Regardless, I thought long and hard about it.  After some serious deliberation, I knew that I would kick myself if I did not allow this meal to happen.  And I am really glad I did.  In no way is this a particularly unhealthy meal.

However, there are other times when I do have to use my self-control muscle.  Almost every time I walk past a shop with pastries in the window, I start thinking about how much I want cookies or cupcakes.  Every time I walk past the chocolate aisle at a market, I have to remember that I don’t need to eat a full chocolate bar per day.  When there is one item or serving left of something, I have to convince myself that I don’t want it – because it most often appeals to me because it’s the last one.

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solution - make my own treats to control indulgence levels: homemade PB cup. see my recipe page! (this was actually AB)

Those kinds of cravings are comforts, ones that I would most likely indulge too much, and regret if afterwards.  These are the ones I am learning to control.  It’s not an exact science, but I think I’m getting better at it.  And of course, I feel better when I indulge now and then.  The more I honor the little things I truly want, the less likely I am to gorge myself with desserts at a party or impulse-buy unhealthy indulgences.

Now that I can allow myself to give in to little treats, I find myself craving healthy things more and more.

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there are times when all I want is WF salad bar, a box of veggie-goodness

If I eat a huge plate of quality, nutrient dense foods, I’m less likely to want that chocolate bar.

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...and there are times when I make random things out of flavors I can't stop thinking about, like this stuffed acorn squash with curried seitan and okra

And I’m starting to get more creative in the kitchen.  Which is fun and rewarding.  Which again, leaves me with no void to fill, no real reason to comfort eat.

Now, it is midterms week, and I have made one promise to myself.  I will not restrict, and I will not over-indulge.  I know I’m going to want chocolate, and all kinds of sweet things in the middle of the night.  So I’ll have a small taste, but try my best to leave it at that.  I will fuel myself with delicious, good nutrients, as I know I will feel better in the long run – and most likely have more energy.

I’d love to hear some thoughts on how you deal with cravings.

Do you listen to every little thing impulse you have?

Are there certain cravings that you know are only comfort related?

How do you exercise your self-control without going too far?

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Days Off

I’m not a super social person.  My Sundays are usually spent sleeping in, creating and eating a glorious breakfast, lounging & cleaning, going to dance class, a bit of cooking for the week, and lots of homework.  Today was slightly different – there was no homework involved.  What? Yes.  I still have two more days off school for silly national holidays, so I took the day to just chill a bit.  I wish I could say I went to an awesome party or something, but the things I do aren’t generally that exciting.

Saturday’s fast went rather well (I slept most of the day), and I broke my fast that evening with some Jewish deli food – bagels, etc.  And about an hour after I was hungry again, so a friend and I went to 16 handles, for $8 worth of self-serve froyo.  I wish I had taken a picture!

Today was much of the same Sunday routine, except I decided to go on a little adventure – with or without company.  It was actually really nice to walk just walk around the city by myself.  I didn’t have to worry about timing, or anyone else – and I did some quality people watching and photographing.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking:

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breakfast - buckwheat blender cereal with walnuts & (the last of) homemade pumpkin butter

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second breakfast? sprouted toast w/ PB and fresh figs

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gear for my little adventure: water, snackage, comfy shoes, lululemon mini-backpack

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I went to the High Line Park! It's an old rail track that's no longer in use, and was converted into an elevated park.

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the standard hotel at the high line - this building is right on it! some great views 🙂

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Of course, I stopped for a green juice, as there was a juice bar right by the stairs to the park. Perfectly refreshing!

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Life on the park, right under the hotel

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14th St. from above

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...quality people watching...

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Gelato on the high line - this place looked so good! But I wasn't in the mood, and didn't have enough cash. Next time.

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the tracks are still in tact, they did the landscaping around them

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more cool buildings

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...and a green elevator?

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the best part - sunset over the Hudson River. Oh hey, New Jersey!

I also did a bit of cooking 🙂  Which recipe to post first… one with squash? or with chocolate…

Did you do / cook / eat anything interesting this weekend?

Do you ever go on solo adventures?

Why do we care?

[[disclaimer: I am not an RD or any kind of certified health professional. My writings are my thoughts and opinions based on personal observation and experience.]]

In my recent interactions with friends and family members, I have come to realize something that seems somewhat strange to me.  It is about how we view food intolerance and eating habits.  Specifically, the difference between how health-nuts/foodies view them vs. how ‘normal’ people view them.  And by ‘normal’ I mean those who don’t focus on food, but enjoy the foods they like without thinking too much about what they are eating. [[this is not meant to offend anyone, I was having trouble finding a good way to articulate this difference]]

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vanilla mint chia pudding w/ spirulina. would I have eaten this a year ago? probably not.

The majority of people I know have favorite foods, and foods they are not particularly fond of – they don’t eat their food based on which vitamins it has, or what color it is.  Some of these favorites may include large amounts of processed sugars, animal fats, and foods that many have an intolerance to such as gluten and dairy.  I’ve seen statistics that say something like 60-75% of adults cannot properly digest dairy – yet I’m sure that hardly all of those adults cut out all lactose from their diet, or are even aware that they have digestion issues.  And many don’t really notice, and don’t care – they are happy with their eating habits, and a little stomach-ache now and then isn’t a big deal.

Lately we hear more and more of people with food intolerance, sensitivities, allergies, and other special dietary restrictions.  I have heard some people say that those who claim to have intolerance and sensitivities think that “the world is out to get them” or that it’s all psychological.

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oats & chia with cinnamon & sunflower butter. complex carbs, healthy fats, protein, no processed sugar, nutrient-rich breakfast.

Sometimes I don’t know what to believe.  I hear things that lead me to think that everyone has an intolerance or sensitivity, but some are more in tune with their bodies than others.  I know that there are people with serious food intolerance issues that makes them unable to function at times.  But I also hear things that lead me to believe that such intolerance does not have a significant effect on daily life unless we play them up, and make ourselves uncomfortable.

Yes, I know that modern medicine has advanced a great deal in the past few decades, and that we are now able to test for things like sensitivities and intolerance.  But are these always serious issues? Or are they just things that will not really hurt us, and only cause mild discomfort.

So, why do some of us care so much now? And why do some not care at all?  Why do some people work out even when they’re in pain, and pay little attention to injuries?  Why do some people notice every little thing that happens with their bodies, and some are perfectly happy not to have to deal with any of it? [[yes, I know this is probably an exaggeration, I am by no means an expert on the subject]]

You may wonder why I’m writing this, and why I am writing it now.  Since I’ve started reading blogs and writing my own, I’ve become more aware of my diet and overall nutrition.  I pay more attention to getting necessary nutrients, and to the effects that certain foods have on the way I feel.  For example, I’ve always known that onions upset my stomach – but for the longest time, I just left it at that. No onions, happy body.  But now I’ve noticed other things about the way I feel after eating a variety of other foods, and how I feel without eating certain foods.

So what do I do? Do I go on, just steering clear of the few little things that make me uncomfortable and not worry about it? Or do I make it a point to figure out what causes my upset stomach, bloating, lethargy, and other emotional and physical changes.  Is it worth it to get blood work or other tests done to confirm some of my suspicions?  Is it worth it to perfectly fine tune my diet? Is it even realistic? I have no idea.

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vanilla avocado-banana pudding, hemp seeds sprinkled on top. allergen free. all natural, whole foods. protein, carbs, healthy fats.

I sometimes wish I could go back to ‘not caring’ about what I ate – even though I know I am much healthier now, and doing great things for my body.  But what about for my mind? I am not unhappy with my diet now, but am I better off just trying to stop worrying? Or will I be happier knowing what is causing my minor discomforts?

What is your take on how food affects the way we feel? — I’d love to hear your personal experiences, advice, anything you have to share on this topic.

Love and Light

I’m taking a break from writing about my usual topics (food and health) to write about something a little bigger – Love. Such a strong concept, and I still can’t define it for you.

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(source)

It makes the little things amazing, and gets us through the bad days – yet it’s so easy to forget about it.  I go through more days than I would like without stopping to smile, or think something or someone I love that makes me happy.  Of course, this is not to say i am miserable – that is far from true.

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(source)

But sometimes I forget.  I get caught up in work, school, people, health and other stressful things that I forget to stop and think of the big picture.  I forget that one missed class or assignment won’t make me any less of a person.  I forget that eating too much or being lazy now and then will not make me a less love-able person.  Because hey, if I don’t love me, how can I convince anyone else to?

Too many people struggle with self-love, and I know that it is not something we can make happen overnight.  Some have the willpower to learn to love themselves on their own – and I highly admire that.  But there is nothing wrong with getting support from others.  Whether it’s a friend, family member, significant other, or the community, we are meant to lean on each other – nobody is meant to live alone forever.

(I’m getting to the point, I promise.)

I have never been one to get involved with community service organizations, or charity and wellness foundations.  Not because I don’t support the causes, I wholeheartedly do.  Which is why I am all for supporting those people who do take a stand and get involved.

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me (left) and my lovely sister Miriam (right)

For the past few years, my sister Miriam has gotten involved with some fantastic organizations, namely those promoting self-love.

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Mir's writing of "love" on her arms

Every year, she participates in To Write Love On Her Arms day, supporting TWLOHA, an organization to help people struggling with depression, addiction, etc. – to promote self-love, to raise awareness, and remind those in need that they are not alone.

Recently, Miriam has gotten involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, participating in their Out of the Darkness community walks. These walks are held to honor those loved ones lost to suicide, to raise awareness, and to support those struggling from a lack of self-love.  They start the walk in the early hours of the morning, and walk through the sunrise – out of the dark and into the light. She is doing her local walk this year, and is raising money for the event.

[[donation link]]

Now, I do not want to purpose of this post to be lost.  She (and I) would be touched if you wanted to give, but do not feel obligated to – that is not why I wrote this.  The purpose is to raise awareness, and in writing this, I only hope to open your thoughts to those in need of some self-love.  I do not mean to turn this blog into a means to ask for money, but this is a cause that I strongly support, that I feel often gets overlooked.

So please, donate if you feel like, or don’t.  But I ask that you leave a comment, and send your support to Miriam and all the people that she will be walking for.

What are your thoughts on self-love?

Do you regularly take part in any awareness fundraising events?

[[regular posts will be back tomorrow]]

On the Brain

It seems that I am not alone in having chocolate on my mind!  The overwhelming majority of commenters requested the recipe for the chocolate loaf – and I’m glad, because that one was more fun to create.  So, as promised, here is the recipe. (I’ll work on the banana bread, and make it really blog-worthy!)

Actually you’ll have to scroll down for that, and feel free to skip this little rant that follows – I have a few more things on my mind.  Well, one thing really.

I’m way off routine, again.  And I just feel off.  I’ve mixed up my foods and workouts, but nothing seems right and satisfying.  The extra pounds are still coming on, but I don’t know how to eat less.  Some days I feel great, some not so much.  For the moment I’m blaming the stress of getting back to school – but I want a way to regulate it.  I want a way to physically feel good, even when I have a million things to get done.

I feel like that is not impossible.  Or at least that it shouldn’t be impossible. I know, it’s college, and I could learn to let go a bit.  I have so many years to worry about health and such, but I can’t help but make it a priority now.  I know it is harder that I’ve chosen a field in which many people choose to work on projects for hours on end, without eating, or sleeping, or seeing the daylight.  Yes, this is an exaggeration, and my intention is not to criticize anyone – I just know I could be happy that way.

Last year, I somehow managed to find a decent balance between classes and other things.  I had a good 2 or 3 hour break each day where I could workout and shower, which was just the right amount of time to decompress for the day.  My schedule was fairly regular, and the routine settled in pretty quickly.

This year, many new variables were introduced.  I no longer have a meal plan, so lunches have to be packed or bought every day.  No two days ever have the same schedule, and there is one day a week when I have classes from 9:30am to 6:10 pm, with a few 1.5hour (or less) breaks in between – the days when I really need a good sweaty gym session, but can’t fit it in before 10pm.  And as much as I love my rest days, I like to take them on weekends, when I can actually rest and relax a bit.  Otherwise it doesn’t feel like rest, I just have all of this excess energy that needs to get out.

By the end of the week I usually feel a little more on top of things, but by the time Monday or Tuesday rolls around I get thrown off again!  I don’t really want to call this a slump, but I just don’t really know where to go or what to do.

This is not meant to be a negative post, and not meant to say that I am unhappy – I just needed to get it out there.  I will gladly take any advice you have to give, or stories you have to share about similar experiences.

Now, onto the good stuff!

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Rich Dark Chocolate Loaf

This chocolate loaf is not to be confused with your everyday chocolate cake.  It is stronger and richer in chocolate flavor, but much less sweet – and has a consistency closer to that of crumbly bread.  It’s a great, lower sugar remedy for a carb-filled chocolate good craving.  [[makes 1 standard 9×5 loaf]]

prep time: 10-15 minutes, cook time: 45 minutes

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 c flour – I used spelt
  • 1/2 c cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c sucanat, palm, or brown sugar *
  • 1.5 t baking soda
  • 3/4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ground ginger
  • 1/4 t salt
  • a handful of unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped (or other mix ins added at the end)

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 c greek yogurt
  • 2 T maple syrup*
  • 1/4 c melted coconut oil**
  • 1/4 c applesauce**
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/4 – 1/2 c almond milk (or any liquid)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F, and grease a 9×5 loaf pan (I used coconut oil cooking spray)
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Using a mixer, sifter, whisk or your hands, make sure there are no clumps in the flour or cocoa powder.
  3. Whisk all the wet ingredients together except the milk. Whisk for a minute or so, until everything is well combined and the mixture is slightly whipped.
  4. Gently add the wet mixture to the dry, and stir until just combined.  Slowly add the milk, until the batter has reached the desired consistency (thick, but drippy). Be careful not to over-mix, as it will make your loaf more dense.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chunks or any other mix-ins (chopped nuts, coconut, you name it!)
  6. Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes at 350F
  7. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before popping it out and slicing.
[[substitution notes: if you prefer sweeter, feel free to add up to 1/2 cup more sugar or 2-4 T of maple syrup, or both – just adjust the amount liquid accordingly.  For the oil, you can use all coconut oil for a fluffier, cake-like loaf, or all applesauce for a denser, ‘gummier’ loaf – or some combo.  Feel free to sub mashed banana or pumpkin for the applesauce as well.  to veganize: add 2T of ground flax to the dry mixture, and add 1/4 cup of liquid to the wet.  Use soy or non-dairy yogurt. (note, I haven’t actually tried this, let me know how it goes if you do) ]]

In pictures!

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dry ingredients on the left, whipped wet ingredients on the right

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thick-but-drippy batter

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add in some rich, unsweetened chocolate (I used TJ's baking chocolate)

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pour into the pan and smooth out the top (check out my notebook in the background there)

hot 'n fresh out of the oven

goes wonderfully with a glob of PNut butter!

Do you prefer super-sweet or extra-rich baked goods?

How do you get yourself into a new routine?