Heartbreak in the grocery aisle.

Dear friends,

I think it’s obvious that food has been on my mind lately. A lot.

Clearly, food being on my mind is what led to the cleanse. And now that I’m a full five weeks into the cleanse, food is on my mind for a different set of reasons. Some of the conclusions I’ve drawn are what I expected; others have surprised me. I thought I would share these thoughts with you — and the easiest way to do so is with a list. Er, two lists actually.

What I miss:

  1. Cheese: Cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese! I miss cheese so much I can’t describe the feeling. I knew I would, and I was right. And the craving for cheese and the enjoyment of cheese hasn’t diminished one bite. Er, bit. I haven’t cut cheese out entirely, but I estimate I’m eating about 20% of the volume of cheese I used to eat. I no longer eat cheese every day. And a typical serving is now 1 oz. In case I haven’t said it, I love cheese. I miss cheese. Cheese broke my heart. And is there anything more tragic than heartbreak in the grocery aisle?
  2. Wine: I haven’t given up wine entirely, but I’ve really limited my intake. As much as I enjoy it, I remind myself it’s liquid (empty) calories. And it’s hard to drink wine without craving cheese. They’re the devil’s duo in my life.
  3. Crunchy, packaged snack foods: Cheetos, Doritos, Pita Chips, Pretzels, Fritos, Triscuits, Pork Rinds, Saltines . . . you name it, if it crunches and comes in a package, I miss it. I crave it. Whereas I have managed to moderate my cheese intake, I can’t be trusted around the salty, crunchy stuff. I don’t go near it. Can’t. I know you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy comfort and it comes in a Pringles can.

What I don’t miss:

  1. Butter: I can’t believe I’m saying this. I love butter, always have. But giving it up has been one of the easiest transitions to healthier eating I’ve ever made. Haven’t missed it for a single second.
  2. Sugar and sweets: Just like butter. I simply don’t need sugar and never find myself craving it. Once you give it up, you realize how naturally sweet many vegetables and legumes are. Or, maybe I was born with a cheese tooth instead of a sweet tooth. Whatever it is, I’m doing fine without sugar. I miss baking. Actually, I miss baking a lot. But sugar? Not at all.
  3. Salad dressings: There are so many hidden calories and weird ingredients in most commercial salad dressings. I gave it up immediately in favor of a teaspoon each of olive oil and red wine vinegar. Now, I don’t even need the oil. A sprinkle of vinegar allows the texture and flavor of salad greens to really shine and it’s amazing how much flavor exists in a salad if it’s not drowning in dressing. I’ll never go back.
  4. White rice and bread and pasta: This one really surprised me. I thought I would die without bread. And pasta. Guess what . . . I’m doing just fine. In five weeks, I’ve eaten one slice of bread and two small servings of pasta. And there have been no nervous breakdowns. Who knew?
  5. Huge portions of meat: I like to call myself a “flexitarian” because although I enjoy meat, I’ve never been a devoted carnivore. Four ounces a day has been easy breezy. And surprisingly, on the two occasions I’ve exceeded my daily limit, my gut has made sure I realized the error of my ways. Earlier this week I ate lunch at a nice cafe, where pan fried chicken livers were the daily special. In spite of the fact I knew they’d be breaded in white flour, I ordered them. And I really enjoyed every single bite. But you know what? Two ounces were all I needed to feel entirely satisfied.
  6. Huge portions of anything: I’ve been weighing all my food at home even though I’ve gotten really good at judging by eye. I’m truly surprised how satisfied I can be with four ounces of just about everything.
  7. 13 pounds: I can’t believe I’ve lost 13 pounds in five weeks. I’m astounded. And now I realize how much crap I was eating and what it does to my body.

I’m wondering if you find it interesting that there’s only three things I miss and seven things I don’t miss. I never made it past Algebra II, but I think the math is working in my favor on this one. Although, have I mentioned I miss cheese?

I’m also not missing a rigid adherence to arbitrary rules. I told you I’ve always had trouble with moderation. So I’m trying to do better about not sweating the small stuff. Last night, Mr. Mom and I went out for dinner at a very nice restaurant. I had salmon and risotto. The risotto was loaded with cheese and butter, but instead of fastidiously avoiding it, I ate a few bites. It was pretty good, I have to say. And since the salmon filet was huge — probably a good eight ounces — Mr. Mom got a second entrée with half of my salmon and most of my risotto. He thoroughly enjoyed it (in addition to his Italian sampler). By the way, I took two bites of his stuffed veal Florentine. It was oh-my-god good and I didn’t feel guilty for one second. That’s real progress, folks.

Today’s big meal is also about progress. I’m just betting you I can be happy with one small piece of fried chicken and no cake. Not that long ago, I wouldn’t have cooked such a meal in the midst of a cleanse mindset. Feast or famine, you know. But I enjoy cooking so very much (and my family enjoys my cooking so very much) that it seemed ridiculous not to do something we all love. And like I said, boiling brown rice and making vegetable soup just isn’t all that interesting.

So today I shall cook. And I shall eat. With joy and without guilt.

With gratitude {for moderation, blessed moderation},

Joan, who wants to make certain you know she misses cheese and always will


  1. I gave up dairy and significantly limited simple carbs several weeks ago and it has been pretty easy. I found when I started eating whole grains, fresh veggies and fruits I didn’t crave much of anything. My decision was based on lactose intolerance and fear of diabetes (both parents had Type 2). I splurge on occasion but by bulking up on the good stuff I seem to be able to indulge on occasion without losing control. Oh and I’m down 10 lbs.

  2. texasdeb says:

    This is so timely. I was eating so well for so long and then something snapped and I’ve been ch/eating off and on for weeks with the predictable weight creep to show for it. The report from your own front line has inspired me to do some serious thinking about how to shake up my current set of bad habits. I know I won’t escape all my less healthy tendencies, but I can certainly stop behaving as though any small slip is an excuse to abandon even trying to eat in moderation.

  3. Allison — I hear ya, sister! I’m the only one of my grandmother/mother/sibling line that doesn’t have diabetes. I’m determined to avoid it. And “bulking up” is such a good strategy. I can eat half a cup of brown rice with a cup of vegetable soup for lunch and be satisfied until dinnertime without snacking.

    Deb — “I can certainly stop behaving as though any small slip . . .” In Okie-land, we say “Katie bar the door!” And, lordy, don’t I know what that feels like. Good luck shaking things up. And I’m glad I provided a little inspiration. Phoo-D did it for me and I’m happy to pay it forward.

  4. Wow congratulations on 13 lbs! 🙂 Not only that but your organs, brain cells, and nervous system are probably happier than ever and are going to reward you with better hair, skin, and metabolism, and therefore reflection. Yippee!

  5. Congratulations Joan!! You are doing wonderfully. I’m so proud of your resolve and results! Even after a year I still miss cheese. It has gotten better but if Mr. B has a high quality cheese in the house it is impossible not to enjoy a bite. The good thing is I’ve found that a bite or two of whatever I miss almost always satisfies. (Unless I am having joint pain and then I don’t even have a bite.) Vegan cheese substitute doesn’t even come close to replacing the real thing. The same goes for gluten-free breads. I need to experiment with baking a bit more as I do miss it. But in generall cutting out the breads means no empty carbs in the house which is nice. The benefits of feeling good so strongly outweigh the pleasure of eating the offending foods I don’t even crave them anymore. It is amazing to witness the change in your digestion when you eat this way and it is so helpful in making the lifestyle a permanent one!

  6. bungalow56 says:

    I’m curious. This cleanse? Is it something you’ve created or are you following a program?

  7. Dana — the cleanse is my own plan based on years of reading about nutrition and experimenting with my own body. To boil it down, I’m eating fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins (limited to 4 oz per day), legumes, and whole grains (which for me is mostly brown rice and oatmeal because I haven’t yet stocked up on other kinds). So basically, I have cut out most dairy (except for a small amount of cheese and 1-2 TBLS of milk in my oatmeal), white flour and refined grains, sugar, and all packaged foods. It’s been shockingly easy to modify my eating habits. What hasn’t been so easy is fulfilling my need to cook elaborate and decadent foods — thus, my crash course today in Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc” recipes. I just finished baking his Pineapple Upside Down cake. It’s beautiful, but I won’t eat it. And if I won’t eat it, why do I crave making it and serving it to others? Part of it is my mothering/nesting instinct — part of it I’m still figuring out.

  8. The emotions tied to eating are the hardest for me. I hate living in a place of lack or guilt or denial even when I know certain foods aren’t good for me. I’m currently in week 2 of a paleo diet which means I’m eating meat, fish, nuts, seeds, veggies, and fruit. I don’t feel that deprived. I feel a bit foggy-headed but that’s to be expected the first few weeks. I don’t really miss bread and like that I can tell when I am full because my body isn’t all whacked out from excessive carbs and sugar. Will I never eat a piece of cake again? Hell no. But it’s a good experiment and a way in which I can get to know my body better. I’m always trying to find that balance and a sense of peace.

    Good for you for finding a way that works for you!

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