Another summer, another precious Paris trip. No, I’m not independently wealthy. My husband, the extraordinary Audun Utengen, was invited back to speak at Doctors 2.0 and he was thoughtful enough to bring me back to my happiest place on earth.
Paris never gets old. The food, the gorgeous language, the window shopping, and the energy flowing through the air. I always learn something on my trips there. In previous years, I found that loving food means eating and savoring really good meals, that what you think about food affects whether you are truly free to eat whatever your body wants, that I am blessed with everything I need to nourish myself, and that being healthy and enjoying good food are not mutually exclusive.
On this, my third time to the City of Light, I shouldn’t be surprised that the French have a reservoir of lessons to teach.
Before we left for our trip, I was getting unbalanced. I was trying to see current and new clients before taking off, scheduling blog posts so you’d have some food for thought, recording podcast episodes, and taking care of the other duties and privileges of life—being a bridesmaid, keeping the hubs well-fed, planting and nurturing our 12 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and on and on. And as I felt myself teetering out of my equilibrium, I noticed something. Cravings!
Maybe you can relate. Like a poor little frog who doesn’t notice that his nice bath is now a boiling chamber of death (ok getting a little dramatic here!), it’s easy to let the “little things”, the “exceptions”, slowly and surely get us to the point where all of a sudden we realize that things are terribly off. Cravings can be one of those major warning signals. Yes, even dietitians get cravings. Yes, even normal eaters crave. It’s how we respond to the cravings that matter.
Cravings can be a scary trigger. It’s scary to have a strong desire for foods that maybe you’ve been avoiding, feel that you “shouldn’t” eat, or have been previous bing foods. And it’s plain NOT EASY to deal with powerful feelings in general, and then when they’re begging for that luscious Cronut…have mercy!
So, the story goes that my cravings for were sweets. Makes sense since they’re a nice (though fleeting) source of serotonin for the brain. In other words, I needed my happy. I know that answering the craving without solving the source of my imbalance brings only temporary relief.
Sorry to say that I lived in emergency mode for over a week, but as anticipated, I got a beautiful slap in the face by my detox from electronics and social media paired with the permeation of the French lifestyle and relaxed approach to food and life. As the days of walking, sitting at cafes, gazing at the Seine, the parks, and architecture, and eating the best food in the world (tied with Japan from a poll of my tastebuds), it hit me—the cravings were gone!
I’m not going to give jet lag the credit. The secret was balance. I got out of the mad race of achieving, producing, and doing. I read over 5 books. I coddled a cup of tea and just looked and looked and breathed and smiled. Meals took at least an hour. Our pace of walking, talking, and thinking slowed down. Stress dissipated, anxiety left, and peace took over.
One other thing. I knew that every day (at least once), I would be eating special, utterly delicious food. French breakfasts are made of baguettes with butter and jam or a croissant au beurre. Lunch and dinner always have a menu offering: appetizer + entree + dessert OR entree + dessert + drink OR some other such combination. In my observations, most (French) people ordered the menu when available. And no one looked apologetic for having dessert at lunch on a Tuesday. Everyone, rather, looked like they were rather glad to live in a place where you can have a rhubarb crumble or any of hundreds of options in a place where food is treasured.
I ate macarons from Pierre Herme, a black sesame eclair from Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki, a baba au rhum from Gerard Mulot, chocolate from Patrick Roger, bread from Eric Kayser, ice cream from Berthillon, and the best crepes from Little Breizh. Every day, sometimes twice a day, I partook of a delectable French dessert.
This is what I’m talking about when I say that knowing that you can always have dessert takes away the anxiety around eating it and the urge to finish every last bite even if you’re already full. I knew I could have more later that day or the next. I knew there was something just as good if not better. In this atmosphere, I had freedom, and the cravings fled.
Now that I’m back, I know that maintaining my balance, peace, and aligned priorities is the best prevention against cravings…along with keeping an attitude of freedom and permission around food, especially dessert.
What do you crave? How do you handle cravings?