When food is more than food

My Grandma Shirley passed away last week. Even though computers and emails weren't her thing, she was signed up for my newsletter list and she learned how to use her iPad so she could read and reply to my weekly emails (and ask me follow up questions when I'd chat with her on the phone or see her in person).

Today I'm sharing a story I posted on Instagram this weekend in her memory. While I'm understandably mourning the fact that she is no longer with us physically, I'm comforted in knowing that these memories (especially those linked to common place activities such as food and cooking) will live on in my heart.


When I was a little girl, my brother and I would have sleepovers at my grandparents house and we’d always make chocolate chip pancakes in the morning. My grandma had these molds so we could make our pancakes in the shape of dinosaurs and teddy bears, the chocolate chips creating eyes and faces on these shapes.

As I grew older, pancakes took on other memories: making them for my friends after sleepovers (Bisquick mix of course),  later enjoying stacks at IHOP when we got to go into school late because of standardized testing, and most recently discovering paleo pancakes made from egg and bananas, and treating myself to these healthified yet decadent cakes on special occasions.

Each time I have pancakes I’m reminded of those mornings with my grandma and brother - the glee that came from getting to eat chocolate for breakfast and the special connection that truly only exists between grandparent and grandchild.

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Food holds memories.

Food can remind us of a feeling, or of a different time and place.

Food is so much more than calories or nutrients.

Food is love.

We haven’t had a chocolate chip pancake morning in a long time. My grandma had diabetes and me being me won’t touch Bisquick with a 10 foot pole.

On Friday I found myself ordering a stack of paleo pancakes at one of my favorite NYC spots. I wasn’t really that hungry, and I knew the chocolate and coconut flour and egg wouldn’t be the best for my gut. But I knew this wasn’t about the pancakes themselves; it was about a memory.


I feel so fortunate to have these memories and many more. And if I need to use food sometimes to access them, to feel that memory in my body in a more visceral way, I’m okay with that.

Food is so much more than just food.

And I hope it stays that way.

Love you and our special memories Grandma Shirley, pancakes and beyond.

In loving memory of Shirley Elaine Nachazel (March 31st, 1933 - January 18th, 2019)

Cravings and emotions

If you’ve been following me on social media you may know that I’ve been eliminating foods in an effort to gain clarity on what may be irritating my gut.

In this post I’ll be sharing a bit more about the emotional side of cleansing. Maybe you’ve seen friends doing a Whole30 or maybe you’ve been inspired by my posts to try out an elimination diet, but what many people don’t share or talk about is the emotions, feelings and thoughts that come up when you start to limit the foods (drinks, experiences) you’re saying yes to.

Hello from me and one of my favorite detox-friendly foods!

Hello from me and one of my favorite detox-friendly foods!

Cleansing and detox is not an easy topic for me to write about because I know it can trigger a lot of people who have had or have a disordered relationship with food.

Obsession, restriction and addiction are all too common in today’s society I think mainly because of media and what we portray as “successful” or “healthy” or “beautiful” but also because so many of us were raised without really being taught how to have a healthy relationship with food and our bodies, and taking it a step further, our emotions.

I want to be clear that my current elimination and desire to cleanse was not and is not about weight loss (although I’ve definitely done cleanses or clean eating programs in the past where that was one of my goals). I’ve been in a lot of pain the last year and I’m finally taking action.

I heard best selling author and coach Alex Jamieson once say “Food is sex with your pants on” and she’s totally right.

Food is love.

Food is pleasure.

Food is connection.

Food is comfort.

Food is also safer (easier, and usually more readily accessible) than having sex, or asking a friend for help or striking up a conversation with a stranger.

It’s not a bad thing that we entwine our feelings with food. The trouble begins when we avoid feeling our feelings and connecting with our selves and with others, and instead “eat over” these things.

There’s a lot to say on this, and I’m more than happy to continue this conversation (in the comments below or 1:1) but really what I want to talk about today are some specific cravings or urges you might experience while detoxing or eliminating certain food and drinks.

Hmmm… I wonder what this craving is really about?

Hmmm… I wonder what this craving is really about?

I'm sharing what I’ve noticed through my studies and self study to be the root cause of these cravings, and what you can do instead.

CarBs > for comfort

I’m not a pasta person (I know, shocking!!) but gluten free toast and muffins are definitely my comfort foods of choice. And for a good reason: carbohydrates are thought to increase the amount of serotonin in your brain, which has a calming effect.

You can totally swap your white pasta (or white bread) for an “upgraded” carb like whole grains, potatoes and sweet potatoes, but here are some non-food ways to experience that same calm:

  • Meditation (it’s helpful in ALL situations, but especially here)

  • Self massage

  • Deep belly breathing

Caffeine + sugar > to push through

One of the foods (well really “substances”) I’ve been working to eliminate is caffeine, and boy is it a tough one to let go of, mainly because we live in such a go-go-go society. It’s easy to push forward and get through your to-do list when you’re on the high of caffeine or sugar, but unfortunately coffee and sweets usually leave us feeling MORE depleted after the initial rush has worn off.

Here’s what to do instead of reaching for that second cup of joe or dipping your hand in the office candy jar:

  • Take a break or nap

  • Drink a glass of water

  • Go for a walk

  • Expect less of yourself (i.e. take your to-do list down from 5 items to 1 or 2)

When in doubt: DRINK WATER

When in doubt: DRINK WATER

Alcohol > To relax and numb out

Ahhh alcohol - the magical liquid that makes our worries melt away and helps us be more social, even in the most awkward situations. We unwind with a glass of wine, connect over a cocktail and celebrate with champagne. Drinking is woven into our culture, even though alcohol is truly a pretty toxic (and extremely addictive) substance.

If you’re feeling stressed, anxious or uncomfortable, here are some things you can do instead of reaching for the bottle:

  • Calming breath

  • Take an Epsom salt bath (or, if it’s available to you, book a session in a float tank)

  • Infrared sauna

  • And if you’re in a social situation… go to the bathroom and let yourself out of the spotlight for a bit

Note: If you are seriously worried about your drinking habits or relationship with alcohol, please contact your local AA support group or seek the help of a trained therapist.

Chocolate (also sugar) > FOR A dopamine hit

Similar to caffeine, chocolate is my go-to when I need a boost in energy or mood. Also similar to caffeine, chocolate has been one of the harder things to eliminate. Again, science explains why this is the case: Chocolate contains small amounts of a compound called phenylethylamine, which acts like an amphetamine, stimulating your brain cells to release dopamine (which is your “feel good” neurotransmitter).

While I totally believe that chocolate can be a part of a healthy diet, here are a few other ways to boost your mood:

  • Have a solo dance party (I have a specific playlist of songs that I know are good for dancing)

  • Work out! Endorphins also make you happy!

  • Add in this mood boosting adaptogenic herb: mucuna pruriens

Any food > to distract or avoid feeling

We can really use ANY food to distract or to avoid a feeling or situation. And while it may be a little “healthier” to distract ourselves with a tray of roasted sweet potatoes compared to a bag of chips, at the root there’s still an issue.

I know this all too well. During a particularly stressful time at my corporate job years and years ago, I would leave every afternoon to get a Cashew Mylk from the Organic Avenue by my office. Although this was probably one of the healthiest “treats” out there - gluten and dairy free, no refined sugars, made locally, etc etc… I felt crappy about it because I knew deep down the Cashew Mylk wasn’t going to help the real issue. Plus, I didn’t really need (or want) to spend $12 every day or have that rich drink every afternoon (too much of a good thing is still too much!). Instead of honoring that I was feeling trapped and stressed in my job, I used food to self soothe.

If you’re feeling like a certain food has control over you, there’s probably something else that needs and wants to be looked at.

Here are a few ways to get in touch with these feelings and emotions:

  • Journal

  • Call a friend and talk it out

  • Have a session with a healer or therapist

  • Work with a health coach ;)

As one of my clients said “Journaling helps loosen things from the heart.”

I know there’s a lot to digest within this blog post, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed or not sure where to start, start with awareness. Nothing can change if you don’t first hold the space to see it for what it is. Next time you have a craving, take a moment to pause and ask yourself: Is there something else going on here? Is there another way I can support myself instead of automatically reaching for [insert your most craved food here]?

And please be compassionate with yourself during this process! No one (at least no one I know!) is completely free of using food to self soothe. It’s simply about cultivating awareness, starting that conversation with yourself and having tools you can turn in the moment.

As always, I’d love to hear from you. Do you noticed yourself craving certain foods when you’re stressed or lonely? Have you done a detox or elimination diet and felt these feelings more intensely? Leave a comment below and let me know! <3

Treat yourself with these three sweet recipes!

Let's wrap this month up on a sweet note shall we?

Healthy doesn't have to mean deprivation, or totally giving up on desserts and sweets. It simply means finding better for you versions that taste great AND make you feel great. Yup, it's possible, and if you've been hanging out with me for a while you know it's something that I specialize in ;)

This week's tip: Find "upgraded" versions of your favorite sweet treats so that you can indulge with ZERO guilt (or belly aches).

Here are some easy recipes for you to start with:

- Love ice cream? Try Banana NICE Cream
- Craving a candy bar? Grab yourself a Stuffed Chocolate Date
- Cookie monster? Reach for one of these Raw PB Cookies (so healthy you can have them for breakfast!!)

Practice this: What's one treat you can "upgrade" this week? Maybe you use one of these recipes, or find one of your own, but commit to making ONE small shift this week. And let me know how it goes! Post a picture on social media or share in the comments below! I can't wait to hear how you TREAT YOURSELF!