The beginnings of cravings creeping in
After a two or three days of this diet, I started to tire of the salad. Sure it was good and healthy, but I was feeling a longing for something starchy, crunchy, oily, or meaty. I wanted something substantial that would stick to my bones, not that watery feeling like I ate a bunch of rabbit food. Dr. Fuhrman wrote about this sensation/craving in his book, Eat To Live. Although it felt like hunger, it was something else entirely. It was withdrawals from all the addicting junk/fatty foods I have been eating my whole life. These withdrawals very much resemble hunger and cause sensations of weakness, fatigue, and headaches. I have always associated these sensations with hunger, but they are not. Analyzing these sensations, I could see that they indeed matched the false hunger described by Dr. Fuhrman. I took Dr. Fuhrman at his word on this and trusted that the withdrawals would eventually subside.
Defending against the cravings – short run
While I was adjusting to my new diet, I dealt with these withdrawals by having on hand several mandarin oranges, mangos, or some other of my favorite fruits. The mandarin oranges are quick and easy to peel, and are filled with sweet natural sugar, perfect for a quick “pick me up.” The mangos are a little more work to peel but are incredibly delicious and well worth the extra work. Each time I would start to feel my withdrawals/cravings for conventional foods, I would quickly eat one or two of these fruits. This satisfied my immediate hunger and staved off my cravings until it came time for lunch or dinner. It also gave me a reward (sweet treat) for choosing not to give in to my craving. This reward is a powerful tool in retraining my brain and to create new habits. It made it progressively easier to resist the temptation to eat conventional foods. For example, during my first week on the diet, I visited my two daughters in college. While I was there, we became hungry and wanted to eat at a Mexican restaurant. There was nothing on the menu that fit my diet, so I simply brought in some strawberries we had just purchased while grocery shopping. I sat at the table with my daughters and while they enjoyed their Mexican food, I was able to enjoy my strawberries. They were afraid, as was I, that their eating right in front of me would cause me undue temptation and anguish. It did not. Of course the food smelled good, but I knew my body also really enjoyed the sugars from fruit, so I gave it what it wanted: fruit, particularly fresh strawberries. I ate a lot of them. With that basic need met, the will power I had to spend to resist the temptation was minimal and I was able to sit at the table and enjoy a wonderful time with my daughters. It was an amazing experience and an eye opener for me. I have been able to use that strategy over and over since then. A delicious piece of fruit is the perfect medicine for a craving.
Defending against the cravings – the longer run
Another thing I did to minimize the temptation to cheat is to have my lunch and dinner on time. This required me to have a nice supply of food readily available. The idea was to avoid long periods of hunger. In the past, I frequently got carried away at work and would delay my lunch until 1:00 or 2:00 or even later. Sometimes I wound up missing it altogether. When this happened, I would be so hungry that I would grab whatever I could find, especially the sugary and fattening foods. Little Debbie snacks and chips were my favorite. I now aim to eat my lunch at 11:30 or 12:00 noon and dinner at 6:00 pm. By making my lunch and dinner time sacred, I do not get overly hungry and exhaust all my precious will power. (Yes, will power is finite – I will probably make a post on that later.) With timely meals, I am much more able to avoid dwelling on and longing for junk foods.
My lunches and dinners included a huge salad,
and a heavy dose of cooked vegetables, including beans, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and steamed asparagus,
and a beautiful assortment of fruit.
The cooked vegetables did wonders at curbing my cravings for conventional foods. The beans in particular were very effective at helping me feel like I was getting enough protein. This was food that would stick to my bones and leave me satisfied. I also had on hand a 1 oz. baggie of almonds. This gave me something good to crunch between my teeth. With the salad as the main source of nutrition, and the starch from the sweet potato or the brown rice, the protein from the beans, the sugar from the fruit, and the crunch from the almonds, I had met all my body’s needs and had neutralized the strongest sources of food temptations.
This does not mean that ALL my temptations were gone, just that MOST of them were gone, or better said, they were MOSTLY gone. The diet/lifestyle still requires dedication and about as much will power as I have. But what I have is now enough.