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The Daily Beet: Tips, Advice and Stories

Peace With Food.

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I sat outside of a sandwich place, soon after I changed my diet, crying. All I wanted was a tuna-melt. That’s it. For three weeks I had eaten really healthy, my blood sugar was coming down, my weight was dropping, I was feeling better than ever, less depressed, less anxious, and in that moment? All I wanted was a tuna and cheese melt.

I called my friend Grace. Grace is a New Yorker, like myself. She doesn’t hide her feelings, she says it like it is. “NATALA YOU ALMOST LOST YOUR LEG!!!”. A few weeks before this melt down over the tuna melt, I was looking at severe complications from an infection in my leg, from my out of control T2 diabetes. That’s how bad it got. And now, all I wanted was this stupid sandwich. “How could you want that? It’s your leg or a sandwich Natala”.

I mean, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but let’s be honest. Had I consumed that tuna melt that day? I might not be writing this blog post right now. Why? Because I would get stuck in these pleasure traps, and once they started, they did not stop. I don’t do moderation, I don’t do a little bit of anything, I knew myself well enough (even then) that once I took the bite, that was it. For me, food (that is super high in caloric density/sugar/salt) is like a drug. I don’t do well just having a bite of something.

I remember back in my days in weight loss groups, they would often say to get the fun-size of various candy. So I did. Do you know what happened? I’d eat the entire bag of fun-size candy. Not the one little bag, the ENTIRE bag with all of the little bags inside of it.

I like to eat. I still like to eat. That has not changed. For a while I fought a lot with myself. I was angry about what was being “taken away”. It seemed like at every corner, there was something else I couldn’t have. In the first part of my journey, despite that my new eating habits saved my life, I found myself angry, a lot. I couldn’t go out to our favorite places to eat, I couldn’t go on vacation and eat anywhere I wanted, I couldn’t have big parties where I made very decadent Italian food and desserts with plenty of wine. For me, it was as though some part of my identity was being taken from me.

This feeling got less and less, but then a couple of years ago, I did something crazy. I went to True North Health Center in Santa Rosa, CA. True North is a medically supervised fasting center. Some of the best doctors in the world practice there. And they are known for doing “nothing”, as Dr. Alan Goldhamer will often say. Before I go on, long-term fasting should ONLY be done at a medically supervised facility. There is a lot that can happen durring a fast, and not everyone is the same, so make sure that if you want to fast, you only do it in a facility where there are MD’s.

Water splashing into glass

That being said, fasting gave me a peace about foods that I will be forever thankful for. I’ve done 2 fasts. For a few weeks I only drank water. A lot of things happened health wise. My blood sugar was even more in control, my blood pressure was better than ever. But the thing best thing that happened? After my fast, food was amazing.

Like I said, I’ve always loved food. But I never would have thought that something as simple as a cucumber would make me really happy. Turns out after not eating for a few weeks, cucumber becomes your best friend. When I bit into a watermellon for the first time after fasting? I actually had tears in my eyes.

All my years of  S.A.D. eating really did a number on my taste buds. While I was plant-strong, I wasn’t truly enjoying my food. The fast took care of that. All of a sudden had a tremendous peace about eating. I was content, and lost all the cravings for the really bad stuff, it just wasn’t an issue any longer.

Now, I don’t think that everyone needs to go and water fast right this minute (though I highly suggest it if you are struggling with pleasure trap addictions and or a serious health issue), I think that we can come to a place to truly enjoy food. It’s going to take a little work, but I’ve come up with a few ways to re-set those taste buds and start feeling great about the plant-strong food you are eating.

1. Eat clean. I can’t emphasize this enough. Every time a S.A.D. food touches down on your tongue, there is an assault on your taste buds. All of a sudden your brain starts sending signals, kind of like it would with a drug. Salt, sugar and fat hit pleasure centers in our brains, and make us (temporarily) feel great. The way to avoid this? Stay away from those harmful, drug like foods. I know this sounds easier said than done, however the more days you can get under your belt, the easier it will get. Really try to keep to a clean diet, with lots of natural and real flavors. Savor every bite. Try to really taste the subtle flavors in the food you are eating. Too often, we rush the process of eating, and we end up missing so many great flavors. The next time you buy a cucumber, try eating some of it plain, and see if you can pick on flavor that you haven’t tasted before.

On that note, avoid the worst offenders: fat, sugar, salt. Stay away from oil, which is the most calorically dense food on the planet, or as I like to call it, “liquid fat”. Reduce your sugar intake greatly, stick to 1-2 tbs of extracted sweetener per day (of ANY type of sweetener). Reduce your salt consumption, and that includes anything with lots of sodium in it like soy sauce, tamari or miso. Salt should be something you sprinkle a little on after you are finished cooking (so it’s on the surface of your food) or, you can do what I do, skip it all together. Since skipping the salt, food has tasted even more flavorful! il_fullxfull.355396343_q1hh


2. Have a day in which you just eat fruits and vegetables. You can re-set things a bit, by just focusing on eating fruits and vegetables for an entire day. The day after, your taste buds will thank you, and all food should start to taste a little more flavorful.

3. Get happy about your food. So often, we can really start to feel bad for ourselves and all of the food we are “giving up”. What if we approached the food we can eat, with a sense of joy? We are so fortunate that we are able to go out and buy a beautiful assortment of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole starches, whole grains and beans. Rather than becoming bitter about the things we are letting go of, let’s be thankful that we get to eat this amazing assortment of food that gives us a tremendous amount of health back. How fortunate are we that the food we eat can cause us to experience our best health?  More so, how fortunate for the majority of us that we do not have to worry about where our next meal will come from? There is an abundance of plant-strong food available to us, anytime we want it. For some of us, we can even grow our own food!

4. Be thankful for your food. Growing up, my Grandmother taught us to always be thankful for what was on the table, she grew up in the depression and would tell us about how when she was younger, food was not always a given. Having a good amount of gratitude regarding your food can go a long way. green and red healthy food

5. Find new ways to enjoy plant-strong food. I’ve had many blunders in the kitchen, since becoming plant-strong. I have never let my failed kitchen escapades to get me down. I just try again, or try out a new recipe, or flavor combination. Personally, I like things simple. Give me a potato, plain any day and I’m happy. Find what works for you. Try new fruits and vegetables, try new spices. If it doesn’t go your way? Have a back up plan. We always have oats and fruit in the house, just in case a meal doesn’t work out the way we thought it would, or if we’re just really busy and want something simple.


If you have just started on your plant-strong journey, or you have been eating plant-strong for a few years now, I want to encourage you to really embrace and enjoy the food you eat.


I hope to see some of you at our upcoming Farms 2 Forks events in Atlanta and New York! I’ll be talking about my plant-strong journey, the truth behind why some of us are overweight, and how to regain your health.

About the author

Natala is the director of communications for Engine 2 Diet, she is also one of our coaches on our support site, Engine 2 Extra. A few years ago, Natala was at the end of her rope. She was on almost 15 medications daily, had out of control Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, issues with nerve damage, and was morbidly obese. She was just over 30 years old. She decided to take her life back by becoming plant-strong. She has lost over 200 pounds, got off of all of her medications and now has great health numbers. Natala plays the violin and studied music therapy. She became passionate about plant-strong nutrition, received her Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University, a certificate in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and is currently pursuing a degree in nutritional sciences. Natala is also a featured speaker at our Engine 2 Retreats she talks about the reality of our nations obesity epidemic as well as providing practical steps to becoming a healthier person.

26 Responses to “Peace With Food.”

  1. healthygirlskitchen says:

    Great advice! I always love hearing your stories, they ring so true for me and I’m sure that many, many other E2 readers feel exactly the same way. I’ve moved toward much simpler food on a daily basis just this week and I feel so good about it. It has taken me about 3 years to get to that place though, where I am ready to just eat simply on most days. I have heard people talk about it in the past, but I wasn’t ready for it until now.

  2. Tina says:

    Great job, Natala! You are such an encouragement!

  3. Tara :) says:

    Can’t wait to hear you speak in August, Natala!! :)

  4. Shirley says:

    It’s about time they got smart and have you speaking at events! Win for the plus-sized girls!!!

  5. Marcia says:

    Amen to that! Loved the post, love even more that you are going to be a speaker!! Shirley is right, it’s a “win” for all of us, especially those of us who struggle. Way to represent!

  6. VeganBanana says:

    YESSSSS I just got the Forks Over Knives newsletter and I’m going to sign up because you will be there. Love all the speakers, but nice to see that they are giving the stage to someone who has lived it. Great article, you are always so inspiring.

  7. Karina says:

    Yes, I can really relate to the early emotions of loss that you describe. Your journey makes me so happy… Even a two or three day rest from food can really help, or for some, a brown rice and vegetable weekend. Great blog, Natala!

  8. Litein502 says:

    Thank you for posting. I empathize greatly with how you describe your relationship with food. I’m two years now trying to be plant-strong, and it has been a challenge. I’m much better than I was, but there is so much more that I can do.

  9. Sue in Sacramento says:

    Great article, Natala! You really inspired me and gave me hope that I, too, could regain my health when you spoke to us at Meals for Health 2011 in Sacramento. You had lost 150 lbs then. Congrats on the rest!!!!

    Since going plant strong at MFH, I’ve lost 65 lbs. I still have 35 lbs. to go. I am considering a trip to True North…several friends reversed their diabetes there. My blood sugars are improving, but this may be the step I need to take next.

    I just want you to know, that when I’ve been most discouraged, I remember you…and I’ve found the strength to keep going because of your story. Keep up the great work!

  10. Brenda Rowe says:

    Thank you for this I now know I am not alone. I can’t eat just one cupcake I just keep eating them. I have to just stay away for that kind of stuff. I have been having a hard time lately I have been wanting sweets. This has helped me put things in perspective. I to like things plain and simple. I can’t eat a plain potato though it is too dry for me. I have to moisten it with something. I usually just add plain lite soy milk. I can eat a plain sweet potato though. I like to add a little cinnamon to it.

  11. TADinator says:

    thank you so much for this…yesterday was so very tough… on my way home from work (after eating well all morning… I sat in the D’angelo’s parking lot for a long time. I really wanted that #9 as much as you wanted your tuna melt. I had to say “Pleasure Trap” several times to get myself to drive home. It is a tough journey…so so so so worth it when your Doc say….OMG, how did you get your A1C Down to a 6.2?!!!

  12. Karen says:

    Thank you, Natala. I am struggling with this and gave in last night. I debated and debated whether to eat something and I gave in and ate a sugary treat. Today is a new day and I will carry your words with me.

  13. PleasureTrapGoddess says:

    Wanted to chime in, got the FOK e-mail, saw your name and was so proud of you. I feel like you’ve been this hidden gem, all of us know on E2X how important you are, glad the “boys club” finally saw that, now I’m going to have to go, maybe to both events. You are a light, don’t forget that. I loved this post, I think it’s time I stop having tantrums and just start all in, no excuses, I’m too old of excuses.

  14. Jennie says:

    Great article. I love hearing your stories.

  15. Kathy McLean says:

    Congratulations and keep up the great work!Q

  16. Juanita T says:

    great article. inspires me to keep it simple and clean. need that today.

  17. [...]  Every single thing about this post from Natalia at Engine Two on Peace with Food.  Honestly, I am understanding more and more each day that what most of us are [...]

  18. Mstudzinski says:

    I have been eating a vegan diet for 18 months but still fall off the wagon with oil and cheese very so often. I have fallen into bad habits of eating the healthiest crackers I can find but tend to buy hummus and salsa from the market. Since I am battling plaque buildup in my arteries I need to get better. I am a single guy and don’t always like to cook so when I go fast it is usually some take out vegetable lo mien or Asian vegetarian dish which I know is loaded with oil. I am trying to go back to basics but it is very hard. I am always saying ” we’ll I am not eating any meat fish or dairy so I’m not doing that bad”. Because your a vegan does not mean your healthy.

  19. Mandy Mauerman says:

    Thank you so much for writing this Natala! I struggle being plant strong but and am SO stuck in the pleasure trap. Coming to terms that I too have to just ditch those foods that keep me going back…and I’m embarrassed to admit I feel angry and sad about it more than positive but I am consciously choosing to change that. Hearing that you struggled at one time and came through the other side is so encouraging. It is a journey! I can do it! ;)

  20. Amy says:

    Great piece (peace)! I am going to share like crazy. But I am wondering what are the three kitchen tools that you take with you when you travel??

  21. Patti says:

    That article was very encouraging! I am thinking of starting the Engine 2 diet (bought the book months ago) because I feel like I am dying a little more every day. I am at the end of my rope and am feeling hopeless. I need to lose 70 lbs and am on hb meds and thyroid meds. Reading your article gives me some hope. Thanks

  22. Sunshine says:

    You need a book. I’m happy that you’ll be at the Farm events now, I went last year but you were definitely missing, I know the other people care, but you actually live it. That is huge in my book.

  23. Lori says:

    I think I’ll go to an E2 event now! Which do you suggest the Atlanta one or the farm Is the farm going to be comfortable for fat people?

  24. Amy says:

    Thank you all for posting, it does me good to know I am not alone. I did the plant strong diet 6 months ago and got a lot of my weight off and felt great but then felt it was too hard to keep up with a family who likes meat and potatoes but now my health has suffered and I have had to double my diabetes meds and feel horrible, no energy. I plan to go back to it again and hope to continue reading blogs that will help me stay focused and I think my husband will be more supportive this time. Thank you

  25. Denise says:

    I was in Atlanta and think that you did a great job with speaking. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us. I think you are a Great asset to the E2team.
    It made the whole weekend complete after listening to everyone else.
    I bet you grandma is smiling and very proud of you. God bless you