When I first learned that I have celiac, an allergy to wheat, rye, and barley, all I could think about were all of the croissants that I would never have again.
In all honesty, I hadn’t even eaten croissants all that often. So it’s not like I was really missing something that I was accustomed to eating all the time. I wasn’t upset about bread or pasta or even cookies for that matter, which I would eat much more often. I was upset about croissants.
Why? The croissant, for me, is really more about a memory. Croissants remind me of the days when I traveled around Europe and lived abroad, back in my 20s and early 30s. I would stop each morning in unique, little coffee shops, filled with lots of character, and have a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, an aromatic café au lait, and a luscious, buttery croissant.
Croissants take me back to the days when I allowed myself to do whatever and whenever I wanted. I felt free and adventurous, avant-garde and oh so European.
The croissant was more about the feeling it inspired in me, the person I wanted to be.
I may very well have enjoyed those moments tremendously. But I can almost guarantee you, without documented proof, that afterward, my sugars either soared or went low or a combination of both. I’m pretty sure that an hour later, knowing what I know now, I must have stopped on some park or art museum bench and shoveled down sugar packets.
Back in the days of croissant eating, I can also almost guarantee you, without documented proof, that I was actually stressed out about something – whether work, relationships, money, or health. I knew that croissants were going to wreak havoc on my blood sugars, and I ate them anyway. And when I ate that croissant, it symbolized a moment of pure pleasure, an escape from what was really getting me down.
I used the croissant to suppress feelings. Instead of allowing my feelings to be, I stuffed them with sugary, high fat carbohydrates.
When I was first diagnosed with celiac, the thought of a buttery croissant was the first thing that came to mind, what I would miss, what I longed for. But the croissant was really a longing for what I deemed as carefree days.
The croissant became, yet again, a way to suppress what was really going on.
And in the days of celiac, the croissant began to symbolize something new. The memory of my croissant became yet another thing restricting my life. Another thing to analyze, weigh, and dissect. Another thing that I can’t have. I wanted to taste the forbidden fruit. Because doesn’t life seem so much better on the other side?
Not eating the croissant became about control. Restriction.
When you truly allow yourself to have whatever you want, you find that you may not even necessarily want it, Geneen Roth says in Women, Food, and God, the book I’m still currently engrossed in.
Geneen Roth uses the example of chocolate cake, rather than croissants, to explain her reasoning.
She says that it’s like when you really want a piece of chocolate cake, and all you can think about is that piece of chocolate cake. And then you get yourself a piece. And you have a bite. That first bite tastes so good. The soft, moist, chocolaty flavor. Even the second bite tastes good, but a little less. And then, by the third bite, the chocolate cake kind of loses its excitement, and by the fourth, you’ve forgotten about it entirely and your mind drifts off to something else entirely. And by the time you're done, you've eaten an entire cake, while only really enjoying one or two bites of it.
Geneen advises people – who are seeking a healthy relationship with food, and therefore with themselves – to give in to their cravings. BUT with a few caveats which she calls her seven eating guidelines; to summarize, eat only when your body is hungry, and stop when you are satisfied. So basically what she is saying is that if that chocolate cake isn’t satisfying by the third or fourth bite, then stop eating it.
Okay, that’s great, Geneen, but I can’t allow myself to have what I really want. High fat, high carb, glutinous foods wreak havoc on my body. So what do you say to a person like me?
Geneen says that whenever you eat, and you aren’t really hungry, the food is really about something else. Which I have demonstrated through my own relationship with my lovely croissants.
Here’s what’s totally amazing: Once I became aware of what a croissant really means for me, and since I have learned to accept that I have celiac, my palate has changed. I’ve become a more creative eater. I’ve discovered new foods. I’ve become more of that adventurous, avant-garde person I was searching for back in my 20s than I ever was when I was eating a croissant. And I’ve actually stopped craving croissants entirely. I’ve stopped craving a whole lot of foods that were never that good for me.
And since I’ve begun paying attention to my body's real cravings, and eating when I’m hungry and stopping when I’m satisfied, I have also found that I crave foods like salad with lemon juice and olive oil, dates, quinoa, grilled fish, and nuts. My body naturally craves healthy foods most of the time. And yes, sometimes my body craves chocolate. But when I'm eating it, I usually find that one bite is more than enough to satisfy the craving.
Our bodies are seriously smart. And once you take the forbidden out of the fruit, accept what you have, and practice awareness, you find that your body craves what’s good for you and what your body needs.
So now I ask: What are you really hungry for?