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In Conversation With: Nutritionist @JulieDaniluk (Meals That Heal Inflammation) talks cravings and the path to healing. (cc: @RandomHouseCA)

Julie Daniluk, author of Meals That Heal Inflammation.

Julie Daniluk, host of Healthy Gourmet.

Walk with me, barefoot in the snow, back to the summer of 2006 where a group of post grad book publishing students have just presented their final project, a hypothetical publishing house. I was one such student and presented a hypothetical title written by a young nutritionist I knew from The Big Carrot in Toronto. Flash forward, and Julie Daniluk—having since added TV Host to her many gigs—has indeed written her first book, Meals That Heal Inflammation: Embrace Healthy Living and Eliminate Pain, One Meal at a Time (Random House).

What better way to catch up with Julie than to ask her a few questions for Canadian Bookshelf?

In particular, we focus on the often complicated and conflicted emotions that accompany a shift in diet, how to counteract the fear and shame of giving our bodies what they need to heal, and how to start that conversation with our loved ones.

Julie Wilson: I'd like to theme the questions, if possible, around the emotional legwork one needs to do to get to healthful place of self-worth, to make a choice that is best for their own mind and body and not the needs of their friends and family. My guess is that there's a lot of shame and fear associated with maintaining a healthy diet, possibly akin to taking a strong political stance. Would you agree?

Julie Daniluk: Eating is a very emotional activity. Our friends and family show their love by providing us nourishment, so if we reject their food, it could translate into the equivalent of rejecting their hug. I am a firm believer that there are 7 billion diets for 7 billion people. The trouble with the modern day diet is that our intuition about what foods are healthy for us is being replaced with cravings for artificial foods that further derange us, leading to a lifestyle of unhealthy eating choices. For example, the love of one's grandmother's wholesome home cooked roast chicken is being replaced with rewarmed deep fried chicken fingers with disastrous results.

The way to counteract the fear of change for friends is to walk the talk verses pushing a new dogma. Take time to transition so this way of eating becomes more of a 'Live-it' verses a 'Diet'. People are moved into action when they see results instead of being told that they should get on board.

JW: Is craving a primarily emotional state?

JD: I think it is both physical and emotional. When your stomach is empty it produces a hormone called ghrelin that causes hunger. Think of ghrelin like the gremlin that is sabotaging your weight loss efforts. If you let yourself go hungry, your cravings will be too intense to resist! The trick is to stay full. The way to get rid of the “ghrelin gremlin” is to eat wholesome foods that suppress your appetite. No gimmicks, no crash diets, just consistent tools to help you stay full and satisfied.

When you have dealt with your physical triggers, and you still experience cravings, then you are most likely using food for comfort. In chapter 2 of my book, I talk about emotional eating. It's important to ask yourself the question, "If I'm full, am I eating because I'm upset, lonely or bored?" The pleasure of eating allows us to briefly escape feelings of negativity. The trouble with giving into our cravings is after the rush of "feel-good" brain chemicals, our blood sugar crashes and we are left feeling lower than before the binge. If we retrain ourselves to reach for healthy yet fun options then we can have short term and long term happiness. This is what I write about in the "Treats" chapter of Meals That Heal Inflammation.

JW: What would you say are the most common excuses a person will use not to, say, audit their lives for signs of toxicity and stress that are negatively impacting their health and, ultimately, happiness?

JD: The number one reason I hear is that people don't have time. I have made an awesome lunch in my hotel room in half the time it takes for my co-workers to go out for fast food, so it is not a matter of physical time as much as it is about taking a few minutes to plan ahead, which can save much more time in the future.

The second most common excuse is that people say they can't live without their favourite food. I don't judge anyone because I remember how strong my food addictions were. Unlike giving up a drug or alcohol, a food addict must continue to eat, so it is a real accomplishment to let go of an emotional crave food. What worked for me was finding incredible substitutions that became my new favourites. This way I never felt deprived of the emotional satisfaction eating food can bring.

JW: For people who would like to get their families on board, can you offer some tips on how to begin that conversation?

Julie Daniluk, author of Meals That Heal Inflammation.

Julie Daniluk, host of Healthy Gourmet.

JD: The only tool for dealing with our family’s fear is communication. When I started my path to healing, I had to explain to my grandmother, who makes the best cabbage rolls in the world, that cream was causing me digestive pain. I said, "Grandma, I know you love me. You would never want to see me in pain, right?" She said, "Of course! I love you, that is why I want to fill you up." Instead of just saying no to her food gift, I asked, "How about we try to make a new version of cabbage rolls using coconut milk so that I can enjoy your amazing talent without paying a heavy price after the meal?" She was not completely sold but she made an attempt because I created a solution instead of flat out rejecting her. At the table she said, "Not bad, they are not as good mine, but I am glad you enjoy them." "Grandma," I replied, "they are AWESOME! I love that you made them special for me."

If your family is not on board, then offer to cook something for the next gathering that everyone can enjoy. I find pureeing vegetables is a good way to serve them for those who have a mental block about eating their veggies. I have a cauliflower whip in Meals That Heal Inflammation that is such a close match to mashed potatoes that even my father in-law was fooled! Now, this recipe is a mainstay in his house.

JW: Can you talk a bit about cost effective ways to maintain a healthy diet? Is this a myth that to eat according to your body's needs will hit your back account harder than if you continued to shop down the middle aisles?

JD: I think it is a myth that eating healthy is expensive. Eating fast food is more expensive than cooking the exact same items from scratch, as frozen, fast and prepared food is much more expensive then buying fresh choices. To demonstrate this, I created a natural burger, salad, baked yam fries and lemonade for less money than a Big Mac, fries and pop.

If people are on a strict budget here are some suggestions:

  • A menu plan helps to save money. The average household wastes 14% of the food they buy. If you spend $100 a week, then you may of just thrown out the equivalent of 3 home made gourmet lunches. By planning out your meals you only shop for the fresh items you need for the week. Any extra portions can be frozen right after you make them so they avoid becoming leftovers in the back of the fridge.
  • Buying from the bulk bin is the greatest savings. Organic Millet is only $1.00 a pound so anyone can afford this pantry essential. Become friends with your slow cooker. By cooking soup and using mason jars, you can make a tasty organic lunch for $2.00 a jar! Recently I have hosted four potlucks (a party where everyone brings a dish of food to share) for the same cost as one expensive meal out, and the best part was the richness of community.
  • A lean cut of meat can feed a family for days. The grass-fed eye-round is only $7.99 a pound versus expensive organic cold cuts at $54 a pound. For those on a really tight budget you could go meatless for a few meals a week. The most expensive items on anyone's shopping list are meats and cheeses. Consider eating a bean dish mixed with a grain such as brown rice. Meals That Heal Inflammation describes many vegetarian protein options that you can cook for less than $4.00 a meal.
  • Consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). You can buy a share in a farm, which supports a local farmer. They will deliver fresh produce to your door all summer long. Locally grown foods are better for the environment (fewer planes and trucks spewing pollutants and carbon) and for our health (fewer post-harvest preservatives and pesticides). Farmer's markets and farm websites are great resources for ways to cut back on eating out.

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January 17, 2012
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