Crazy sexy veggie wrap (and my Food Story, part 3)

This is a continuation of a series of posts about my evolving relationship with food.  You can read parts 1 and 2 here and here.

For the first week or two after I changed my way of eating, I experienced serious cravings for the foods I'd given up.  I'm not talking about fleeting pangs, either.  I couldn't pass the cheese section at Whole Foods without running my fingertips wistfully across the fat wheels of Camembert and hunks of nutty Gouda.  I gazed longingly at loaves of freshly baked baguettes, flanked by tidy arrangements of Nutella jars, mocking me with their creamy hazelnut deliciousness.  Every chocolate bar called my name.  And once, I caught myself literally daydreaming about Spaghetti alla Carbonara.  The cravings were physical (partially, anyway), but the real battle was being waged in my mind.  For those ten or so miserable days, I felt constantly uneasy and on edge, surrounded by temptation at every turn and only one weak moment away from a cupcake-fueled meltdown.

Around Day 14, something interesting happened.  That morning, for the first time in maybe years, I woke up feeling bright-eyed, clear-headed, and totally refreshed.  Gone was the usual fogginess that had, for as long as I could remember, clouded each waking moment before 10 a.m.  Gone, too, was the dull thudding ache that used to stake its claim in my coffee-addicted brain as soon as the alarm went off each morning and stick around until I could get my morning fix.  Similarly absent?  The tingly sugar hangovers that had begun setting in on a too-regular basis, and the weird congested sensation that followed a rich or dairy-heavy dinner, and the...well, I could go on, but it isn't very pretty and I think you get the point.

Looking in the mirror that morning, I had the uncanny experience of simultaneously recognizing and not recognizing myself.  I mean, of course it was still me, with my usual crazy sleep-matted hair and blue polka dot pajama pants.  But what I mean is that I felt somehow transformed, and I say that without hyperbole.  I had become so used to waking up and feeling somewhere between mediocre and crappy that I had forgotten what it felt like to wake up feeling, well, pretty great.  That's when it hit me that, along with all the other nasty symptoms, the cravings, too, were gone.

Three months later, I'm still feeling great.  Better every day, in fact.  What a revelation it is to feel in control of my appetite (and mood), instead of victimized by its every whim.  After struggling to find balance with my physical self for so long, achieving this non-antagonistic relationship with food is a huge deal.  It's a huge deal that I can look at a plate of brownies and think, I could take it or leave it.  And you know what?  Sometimes I take a bite or two or three.  Part of finding this balance has been learning to indulge (usually with a glass of wine, a bit of chocolate, or a teeny piece of good cheese) without overindulging or feeling wracked by guilt.    

This détente between food and I is hard-won though, and I can count on it lasting only as long as I keep up my end of the agreement.  So, about 98% of the time, I stick to whole, healthy (and mostly organic) ingredients and completely avoid animal products (including dairy), sugar, alcohol, and simple carbs.  I base most of my  meals around whole grains, LOTS of fresh veggies, and beans or some other form of plant-based protein like tofu.

I've found that it's easier to maintain this commitment to healthy eating when I make it easy on myself.  Thus, one of my favorite healthy meals is also a cinch to assemble.  Start with a large tortilla of your choosing (I like Food for Life's sprouted whole grain tortillas) and add about a half cup of brown rice and a half cup of black beans or chickpeas.  Now - this is the "crazy sexy" part: go wild with the vegetables.  Seriously...go bonkers.  One of my favorite combinations is a mix of baby greens, sprouts, avocado, shredded carrot, and scallion (shown above), but you could use almost any vegetable here: cubed butternut squash, radish, cucumber, artichoke hearts, red onion, broccoli, watercress...the permutations are endless.  Next, add a fresh herb or two.  I used cilantro, but basil or parsley would also add some nice herb-y flavor.  Top with fresh salsa or a dressing of equal parts tamari, toasted sesame oil, and brown rice vinegar and a teeny sprinkle of garlic powder or sea salt.  Wrap it all up, and YUM!  This dish always leaves me with so much calm, happy energy. 

If any of you have made similar changes to your diet, what effects (mood, cravings, etc.) have you noticed?  How do you maintain your resolve?  How do you make it easier for yourself?  I'd love to hear your experiences...so spill! 



robyn michelle-lee said...

such an encouraging post to read! i totally am inspired by the way you share your food story, ani! my husband and i ate a totally vegan diet when we first moved to europe last year, and it transformed the way that we look at food forever. i totally understand the feeling of - "i could take it or leave it" when i look at a plate of brownies - how empowering! what i especially love, is that although your food choices have changed, your still engaging in the food experience and loving your relationship with food and life - i think that is key. in fact, i think we way we relate to food and relish in life is even more important than the food we choose... i love to read about how you nourish your body and your soul. xoxo.

shelly said...

i LOVE this post! i felt this way when i gave up meat 2 yrs ago...AMAZING. that bogged down feeling after dinner is such a thing of the past. i still struggle with the bread and the cheese...but when you love food as much as we do- why do you HAVE to totally give up something you love so much? as long as it is in small doses, i think it is ok. i do NOT think it is ok to deprive yourself of small, simple pleasures. just don't sit on the couch and eat an entire hunk of gouda that is the size of your fist, right? life is too short to beat yourself up over food....as long as you are eating healthy and MINDFULLY.

i so love reading about your similar relationship with food :)

TheAnalyst said...

Sounds and looks delish!

Kristin said...

Thank you for this post. I've been wanting to overhaul my diet but haven't taken the plunge yet. It's time!

stephanie alaine said...

first of all, you are a fabulous, powerful & wise writer. i LOVE reading your posts about food, feelings, and wellness. i sit here and think: "That is what I feel like toO!!!!!"

also thinking:your clarity around your choices is impeccable. i am so happy for you and really appreciate you sharing about this journey. our vulnerabilities are not easy to share, you have done so with eloquence and wisdom.

appreciative of your words as always!
much love

p.s. your email was equally as fabulous...can i just say i am SO excited for your "leap!" might have squealed with a little bit of joy for you my dear!

Lavanya said...

It is amazing what a difference food can make in one's life isn't it?..I find that when I eat mostly low glycemic foods, my energy levels don't spike and drop and I hardly have any sugar cravings..I have been trying to add more fresh raw veggies(hello kale!!!) and whole grains/nuts into my diet too (cutting out refined/processed food almost completely)..My husband says he has more energy as well! I am trying to make my indulges (relatively) healthy too(like maybe dark chocolate and homemade dairy-free fudge)- as I recently indulged in store-bought 'gourmet' cupcakes and realized my body did not like it at all. white rice will probably remain an occasional weekend indulgence

oh- by the way- I tried the nature's path oatmeal on your rec- and liked that it was not as sweet as the other ones- it tasted healthier (and was yummy as well)..

I don't use milk/dairy too much in my cooking but I I'm working on cutting it out completely and experimenting on how that makes me feel. Did you cut out dairy for health reasons- if yes, do you have any sources/references on why dairy isn't good for health?

Analiese Marie said...

Thanks, everyone, for your support! As a couple of you mentioned, it truly is AMAZING what a difference food makes. I am so lucky to have the encouragement and support of all you wonderful ladies.

Analiese Marie said...

Lavanya, I'm glad to hear you liked the Nature's Path Oatmeal! I especially like it in the colder months and oatmeal sometimes feels a bit heavy in warmer months, doesn't it?

As for your question about why I've given up dairy...I realized that I just feel so much better when I don't eat dairy products. It tends to irritate my stomach and just generally makes me feel sort of icky and weighed down. Not a very scientific explanation, huh? I found that Alicia Silverstone's new book, The Kind Diet, contains some good information about dairy and its effects on us which confirmed my own aversion to it.

Lavanya said...

Thanks Analiese! I think I have a similar reaction to milk sometimes- I've already switched to almond and rice milk. will cut other dairy too and see if it makes a difference in general
I've been mixing raw cacao powder with almond milk and nut/seed based cereal(or granola) for a not so warm (as oatmeal) breakfast..very tasty!

oh and I was wondering if you had any particular recipe you follow for the pearled barley risotto (or if you made it just like regular risotto- but sans dairy)

Analiese Marie said...

Lavanya, I think you asked me about the barley before and I'm so sorry that I forgot to respond! It's loosely based on this recipe by Heidi Swanson: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/001560.html

The recipe calls for creme fraiche or parmesan, but I don't use them and I've found it to still be quite delicious. I've made it with both veggie broth and mushroom broth. The latter added a little extra earthiness to it that I really liked. Let me know if you try it out!

Lavanya said...

No problem!- I will try the recipe- I've seen Heidi's recipe before but was not sure if it would work without the cream and cheese- thanks for the info!
will let you know how it turns out..:)

Kirsten said...

I love that you are sharing your food story. It's such an inspiration and so much fun to read! Not sure if you saw, but my friends and I started up a new blog - all about vegan food and cooking! Some posts will certainly be healthier than others, but I would love if you checked it out. xoxo - Kirsten

Linda said...

I love the responses as much as I love your post! Would snatch it right off the shelf if all these showed up between hard cover, especially with all of your beautiful photos.

Meg said...

Great post! I'm so inspired now. :)


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