I know there are a lot of readers who in a perfect world would be doing an hour of yoga every morning, meditating during lunch break, thinking only pure and grateful thoughts throughout the day, and eating a 100 percent raw, vegan, organic diet at all three meals. There is a tendency to want to make a resolution to “do it all” at once. And that might work for about .001 percent of you, but for the rest of us, it’s more about incremental change.
Dealing with Food Addictions
Those of us who have grown up on a contemporary Western diet have food addictions galore. I know I do. Fortunately, my three-year-old daughter does not. She has never eaten foods like refined flours and sugars, highly-processed foods, meats, or dairy, all of which create negative addictions. We are helping our daughter create a very healthy and positive relationship with food.
What works best for almost everyone is a steady, gradual, and gentle movement toward a healthier, happier you. Setting unreasonably ambitious goals is only setting yourself up for disappointment and disempowerment.
In diplomacy, steps toward resolution are referred to as “confidence-building measures.” Since we’d all like to have more peace, it might be a good idea to think of our own progress this way: small, achievable steps that are doable and help create a momentum in the right direction.
So, how about ten minutes of yoga and stretching every morning? What about a fifteen-minute walk before you start your workday? Perhaps five minutes of meditation before you turn in at night (tuning in before you turn in).
How about one totally healthful meal each day? Or maybe set a goal of eating raw only five or six days a week, so you don’t have to face the prospect of life without that Grand Slam breakfast! Start with something achievable. Breakfast, for example, is so doable — there are so many delicious, easy-to-make recipes including smoothies, oatmeal, and granola. Plus, you can make a smoothie any time you get hungry!
Once breakfast is conquered, adding in a salad for lunch is a breeze. You can even learn how to bump up that salad until it’s a delicious and filling nutritional powerhouse. And then you are on to soups, desserts, dips, breads, crackers, and more. So have fun, and enjoy your food!
But most of us were brought up with a less-than-optimal diet and a relationship to foods that includes an emotional attachment to eating them. We often have deep-seated and mostly unconscious feelings of giving ourselves a treat when we choose to eat many foods that we now know are far from optimal.
We can help the next generation by giving them a healthier start. But for the vast majority of us, we must begin by recognizing that we ourselves are food addicts — and not getting down on ourselves because of it! It simply is what it is, and now it is up to us to decide what to do about it.
Many people who learn about the incredible benefits of raw and living foods try to use willpower to overcome their food addictions. While this will work for a while, usually willpower alone doesn’t work in the long run. Instead, it’s best to take the opportunity to become aware of our beliefs and attitudes about food, educate ourselves, and be loving and gentle with ourselves as we evolve toward a healthier relationship with food.
I will give you an example. There have been times when I have really felt like having a piece of traditional baked pizza. This is not terribly surprising considering the fact that I grew up in an Italian American family, that my dad makes an incredible pizza, and he also taught me how to make one at a young age. Consequently I have had an emotional attachment to pizza. So how do I handle the hankering?
When I first feel a desire for a slice, I usually think back to when I was giving up smoking many years ago. The trick was not to ask myself “Do I want to smoke a cigarette?” but to ask “Do I want to live life as a smoker?” A single cigarette isn’t going to significantly harm me. However, living life as a smoker would seriously compromise my health, as well as having many other negative effects on my life. And life as a smoker always begins with the next cigarette.
So, with food addictions I try to do the same thing, changing “Do I want to eat a piece of pizza?” to “Do I want to live my life as a pizza eater?” While asking the second question, I envision a very round version of me eating pizza (as I mentioned, my last name, Rotondi, means “the round ones” in Italian). I really don’t want to be round. I like being slim, light, and energized. So this thought often helps me get past the pizza hankering.
However, sometimes the hankering comes back — again and again. What to do? Use willpower to suppress my desire for pizza? If a desire for a specific food comes up repeatedly, I will go out and eat a small portion of that food. However, I will do it consciously. I will tune in to how my body feels before I eat the pizza and then focus on how the pizza smells, looks, and tastes. I will also be conscious of how I feel five minutes after I eat it, and thirty minutes, and an hour later.
Usually what happens is that the first bite is okay but mildly unsatisfying. The second bite is really not a treat at all, and I realize what I am eating tastes like cardboard (keep in mind that when you eat a raw-food diet for any length of time, your taste buds change and cooked foods don’t taste the same anymore). Then after five minutes I feel a heaviness in my stomach. After half an hour, I feel lethargic and already wish I hadn’t eaten the pizza.
The point is that if we try to suppress all our cravings, in the end we get wound so tight that the spring may break and we might run out and eat three large pepperoni pizzas with extra cheese! It’s better to get out of judgment mode and work on evolving our relationship with food. The more we exercise our body consciousness and really listen to our bodies, the more we will replace old food habits, thought patterns, and addictions.
By the way, if you have any other addictions in your life, moving to a raw-food diet can often help in kicking them as well. Once we can control the food we put in our mouths, everything else becomes easier.
Rod Rotondi is the author of Raw Food for Real People. He teaches about raw food through DVDs, retreats, and online and in-person classes. The founder of the Leaf Organics retail product line and Leaf Cuisine restaurants, Rod caters events and lives in Los Angeles. Visit him at www.leaforganics.com
Excerpted from the book Raw Food for Real People 2010 by Rod Rotondi. Printed with permission from New World Library.