Sometimes it can be hard to figure out what to make for dinner or how to turn my favorite recipe into a healthy, plant-based version that even non-vegans will love. Recently we cooked for some friends and made a meal that we absolutely love – Mac and “Cheeze” – but they weren’t quite as enthusiastic about it. And I completely understand. It can be hard to get past the fact that there isn’t dairy or meat in a meal. Trust me, I’ve been there. Stepping outside of the “normal” food-box can be very uncomfortable and even create anxiety.
Now, it doesn’t bother me to not have dairy or meat. A craving is just a craving. It wasn’t always so simple though. When I was 20 years old, I became unable to digest cow’s milk. I dealt with terrible stomach aches for about 6 months, tried several over the counter stomach and digestive aids, and then finally went to the doctor where they had me cut out dairy. And I immediately felt better. After the initial few weeks of trying to figure out what I could and could not eat, it became easier. I began to find some alternatives for milk and eventually things like cheese and ice cream. I found out I could eat (and I thoroughly enjoyed) goat cheese. The most important lesson I learned, though, was to let go.
It’s strange to think that “letting go” would be the lesson to learn with a food intolerance, but it honestly was the best teacher for me. If I had a craving for a food that I knew would make me feel sick afterwards, I would eat it anyway – at first. I would take an enzyme to try and help digest better, or deal with a terrible stomach ache, because I “needed” that “normal” food. But after awhile, that grew old. I didn’t want to feel bad or sick. I didn’t want to go home from work or class early because of a stomach ache.
I began to see that food is only food. A craving is just a craving. My life would not be better if I had a piece of cheese, a slice of pizza, or a bowl of ice cream. Afterwards, I would still be me, whether or not I ate that food. What I would focus on instead is how the food made me feel. Was it worth the pain and discomfort? Nope. Would the craving eventually pass? Yup. I simply learned to ask myself these questions, and remind myself of why I didn’t eat these foods. When I had this internal reminder, I was able to harness my will power and see the meal or snack for what it was or wasn’t. It gave me clarity.
If you suffer form a food allergy, intolerance, or are looking to change some aspects of your diet, I encourage you to remind yourself of the why when you begin to doubt your choices. I now also follow a plant-based, low-gluten diet. It can seem extreme to some, but for me it makes sense. Dairy and gluten give me stomach pains. I choose not to eat meat and eggs for health reasons. If I crave one of these, I look and see that my diet may be lacking (low iron? sugar crash?), I remind myself of the why , and I let go. One of Life’s simplest and best lessons from a surprising source.
And this is how I slowly began my journey into healthy, organic, and eventually plant-based foods. But we’ll save that for another time…
What food intolerances or cravings challenge you? How do you work through these?
Peace and love to you all,