For me food has always been intricately tied to significant moments in my life.
As a little girl, the homemade blueberry and strawberry pierogi that my Polish grandmother made me every summer when I would visit her in Chicago is a memory that is imprinted upon my mind every time I have a pierogi, whether it is savory or sweet.
A single pierogi transports me back to humid afternoons in the Midwest, where cups of sugary sweet cranberry juice with a few ice cubes was always my beverage of choice. Decades later, I am on the constant search for fruit-filled pierogi, hoping to find a taste that transports me back to the comfort of childhood.
Over the years, there are many dishes that have continued to comfort me and connect me to the people and places where I have lived. Butter soft borek stuffed with melted cheese and spinach inside makes me ache for Turkey. Steaming hot shrimp dumplings from a tiny storefront on Clement Street, a block away from where I grew up, reminds me I am truly home.
For the past month though, I have been resetting my body, putting these memories on hold.
Instead, I am slowly beginning to realize how hopelessly I was addicted to sugar. How my carb-heavy diet propelled my stress levels and made me a restless mess. How clear my head feels without dairy.
But now the question remains, how do I find a balance between being able to continue to eat for pleasure and connection, but at the same time nourish my body as well?
I hate to put strict food restrictions on myself, but I also know how easy it is to fall back into a carb and sugar overload. So here are a few ways that will hopefully help me find that balance between gluttony and feeling like I am constantly in food jail.
First of all, ALL sweets will be removed from the house. Sugar is my biggest vice. It is so easy for me to mindlessly eat it when it is readily available, especially if I am bored/stressed/tired/etc. I always tell myself I am just going to buy one bar of dark chocolate and eat a few squares per night, but it always turns into a slippery slope. Somehow I’ve eaten the whole thing and I’m trying to bribe myself to go back for another.
I have decided that if I am going to eat sugar it should only be outside and for special occasions (and no weekly fro-yo trips do not count). Also, I will try to eat less sugar when I do.
Secondly, our weekday meals will consist of no more take-out, instead we will make homemade meals that include protein, veggies and healthy fats. A big part of this is meal prep on Sundays. Having meals already prepared when it is 6pm and you are hangry is something that has been seriously life changing.
Lastly, I need to put a plan into motion for when I am on the road. Any hope for a nutritious meal goes out the window when I am traveling and I am hoping to fix that for good. Again being prepared in advance is key, where choosing healthy snacks that I can bring along with me is important to balance out all the unhealthy, but momentarily gratifying food choices that I am guaranteed to make.
A special thank you to Mustafa, who despite his unrivaled love for beer, bread and cheese decided to support me by doing the Whole30 as well. If that ain’t love I don’t know what is.
Photo source: AZ Cookbook (borek)