Monday, September 6, 2010

Food Addictions

One of the first people I ever heard talk about his experience with the raw food diet was a guy named Nature Love on a We Like it Raw podcast about a year ago. When asked about his diet, he said he mainly (and almost exclusively) ate cruciferous greens and only certain fruit types. He explained that he chose those foods not out of restriction, but because over time he had come to notice that his body didn't optimally digest most other foods at all. He noticed through small cues, whether a minor skin reaction to citrus, or faint digestive problems due to raw brassicas. At the time, being only a couple weeks into my raw journey, I couldn't help but find that he seemed to be an extremely picky eater. Look who's talking now...

A year later, I find myself totally getting where he was coming from. Though I'm nowhere near that exclusive in my food choices, I know better now then to be too quick to judge. What most people don't realize is that the longer you are on a raw food diet, the better you can discern the tiniest shifts in you body's optimal condition. I'm talking shifts I would never have been able to notice before, whether minor bloating from eating cauliflower, to a funny feeling in my mouth when I use nutritional yeast. But food reactions aside, I've also been able to tell the very important differences between foods I want for health reasons and food I have to have for purely emotional/physiological/chemical reasons. I've come to know the difference between wanting a food for health, and wanting a food out of addiction.

Now most people will scoff at the idea of food addictions, especially if you are a healthy looking person. But how many people guiltily admit to needing their morning coffee to function properly, or to having to have their bag of super salty chips to relax when they get home from work? I've learned that these aren't guilty pleasures so much as they are chemically-produced addictions to certain foods because of the very things contained in those foods themselves. It's like food Darwinism: only those foods that are able to create an addiction within us, get to survive.

Having started a more hardcore approach to 80/10/10 I've reflected on the three food types I've come to realize can easily be mistaken for a guilty pleasure, while they may actually be something more:

1) Salt: This has by far been the hardest condiment to let go of, though I actually managed to go without it today. I'm kind of a salt junkie. Salt tastes good on everything, it even brings out the flavor of sweet desserts! Regardless of the fact that I may be using fancy sea salt or himalayan crystals, at the end of the day, they're all salt and they create that dependency within me. For example, I had a salad for dinner tonight sans vinaigrette, and while I've had plenty of dressing-less salads before, just the knowledge that I had stopped myself from putting salt in my dinner gave me this incredible need to have it. While I made up for it by pureeing a mango to make a kind of dressing, it wasn't salt. For me, forgoing salt is kind of like going through withdrawal. I really had to mentally push myself not to run to the pantry and sprinkle it all over my food today. But don't we need sodium, Some of you may ask? Yes, but we can get a sufficient amount through plenty of veggies, most notoriously through celery. Sea veggies can work as well. As of right now, I'm going to see if I can end my dependency on salt... we'll see.

2) Chocolate/Cacao: I've never been a chocolate person. When I was little, I'd opt for a fruit tart or the vanilla ice cream over chocolate any day. The only chocolate I really did eat was when my dad would bring back dark chocolate from his trips to Europe or when we went over there to see family in the summer and I could get my hands on 85%+ chocolate. Yep, I was a kid who jones-ed for the super dark stuff... Some time in college, I realized that I could dark chocolate around here too, and that opened these terrible cacao floodgates. The yumminess of raw chocolate didn't help either. Increasingly over the past few years, I've often found myself wandering into the kitchen, going through the pantry, just looking to eat anything with chocolate. If there isn't any, anything with cacao will do. People say it's the caffeine that triggers such a strong response for cacao, and not being a coffee drinker, I guess I wouldn't know what a caffeine addiction feels like. Apparently though, I created one in myself. It actually took me the better part of last month to get over this one, though I believe I have. Luckily a trip to the seemingly chocolate-free country of Greece inadvertently cured me since I was busy eating other things. So I'm better now, though while I don't feel this absolutely drive to find some form of cacao, I can't guarantee you I'll forgo it forever.

3) Sugars and Sweeteners: We've all probably experienced at least one sugar rush to know that sugar is a powerful thing. To me, the raw diet sugar culprits are dried fruit, maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, and anything else that will pass for a healthy alternative to what most people consider to be sugar. They are all concentrated amounts of the stuff, and while they are obviously much healthier than table sugar because of their minerals and enzymes (or in the case of agave nectar, because of a low glycemic index), sugar is like salt and cacao in that the more you use it, the more you need it. I've gone through high sugar periods during which every recipe would taste better with just a dab of sweetener, and while it might have been true taste-wise, optimal dental health would seem to disagree with the rest.

Once again, in moderation, I'm sure all these foods can be great. The same goes for cooked foods, dehydrated foods, and nuts. However, I prefer to go cold turkey when I make food choices, so that's why I've chosen to eliminate these altogether for the next little while. My health will thank me I'm sure. It's no crime to be addicted to a certain food because of the chemical dependency they have created in our bodies... just realize your need for a food for what it's actually is. It's okay. So if you're shy, I'll be the first to raise my hand and say that I too have fallen prey to these addictions at one time or another, but I'm quickly on the mend.

Workout of the Day:
Stability ball ab routine
20 minutes of HIIT on treadmill + 5 minute cooldown
10 minutes of stretching

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