If you’ve been dealing with any sort of health issues, I’m sure that some sort of dietary plan or maybe even an elimination diet has crossed your path. Maybe you’ve been on one and found it helpful and moved on. This post might not be for you if you’ve already tuned into what works for your body and feel you have a peaceful relationship with food.
Yet, most of the people I know just end up living in complete fear and anxiety around food all the time, especially after attempting this type of plan. They often feel like their food isn’t being digested or tolerated well by their bodies and are in search of a solution to “fix” themselves.
The first thing we usually blame is food and/or our body.
I agree that what we eat is important and that in our country we have an overabundance of foods in our environments that maybe aren’t the best for our bodies all the time. I believe it’s important to be informed about our food choices when we can. Yet, most of us that are dealing with these food sensitivities and trying out elimination diets are already doing the best we can and eating, for the most part, a nutrient dense diet. You may already be choosing the best quality foods you possibly can and doing everything you can to eliminate anything you may have learned or read somewhere could have questionable effects on your body. The more you try to dig deeper to fix yourself, the more the anxiety, fear, and frustration begins to rise with food and your body.
There are a lot of well-meaning healers, providers, coaches, etc out there who are providing individuals with restrictive eating plans in order to lower inflammation in the body with the intention of helping you feel better in your body. What hardly gets acknowledged is maybe food isn’t what needs to be focused on in this restrictive way, especially if this creates more fear, stress, and anxiety in their lives. There are companies out there providing the supplements and dietary plans for these same people (and marketing to you online) who have the SAME message of diet culture, just wrapped up under a new label of “wellness”. Buy our products: get healthy, lose weight, feel better, get the body you’ve always wanted, heal your gut, and so on. You’ll finally be “fixed”. They have a new plan to sell in their latest book. It’s the SAME thing we KNOW does not work, another diet just rebranded. We’re drawn in because we are so uncomfortable in the moment that we are looking for ANYTHING to help. We just want to go back to our normal selves. Symptoms are often our bodies way of getting our attention, they want us to slow down and listen. Yet, we keep ignoring what our body needs and looking for the answers elsewhere.
After years of dieting and crazy workout programs (which at the time I just considered to be a “healthy lifestyle”, but looking back I can truly see just how disordered, controlling and isolating it really was), my body finally hit a breaking point. I was having all kinds of weird symptoms I didn’t understand happening. I had lost a lot of weight, but it never felt like enough. I was technically within a “healthy” range for my body, but I felt terrible. My hair was falling out, I lost my menstrual cycle, I was so tired I couldn’t do my normal activities, my body was even starting to gain weight again even though I was eating less and less. Even though I was trying to push myself with workouts. My digestive system was a complete mess and I lived in fear around what to eat and how it would react in my body. I ended up finding out that I was having autoimmune thyroid issues going on. I was then obsessed with learning how to reverse my autoimmune issues (understandably) and heal my body. I switched my restriction now over to having to do an elimination diet. I just knew that if I could eliminate these foods that were supposedly causing my body to be inflamed that I could “fix” myself.
The moment you tell yourself you can’t have something, the cravings immediately kick in. Restriction also leads to binge eating and feeling out of control with food, which is something that I had dealt with on occasion in the past with dieting, but was now taking over my life. (If you want to read more about this, check out this post)
I felt so much fear and anxiety around food that I could barely eat in some moments and felt completely out of control around food in other moments. Even when I could follow the plan for a few days or however long I could make it, I was still having symptoms. I was simply told that I wasn’t giving it enough time or shamed for the fact that I couldn’t stick to it. And even for those who do stay on it, it is only meant to be done for 21 -30 days max before re-introducing foods…..yet they stay on it because they too are in fear of what happens when eating a particular food.
Here’s the thing that no one else really talks about:
What we eat matters, but more important than what you eat is your RELATIONSHIP to food – i.e. HOW you eat and your mindset around the food you are eating. (Your relationship to your body is another one, but that is a whole other layer and topic)
The other key component that gets left out is that there are SO many other things that can be going on and changing what you eat is going to have the least impact comparatively. How is your sleep? How are your relationships? Is there something you need to say/speak up about? How are your boundaries? Do you take time to fill your own cup back up or nourish yourself? Is your nervous system stuck in overdrive due to past traumas? Are there harmful things in your environment? Are you an empath and taking on too much from your surroundings? So. Many. Other. Factors.
If going on an elimination diet or changing how you’re eating is stressing you out and you feel completely overwhelmed when it comes to food, you’re creating more stress chemistry in your body. If you perceive food or your body as the “enemy”, this is a stressful mindset for your body (stress chemistry in the body takes you away from the goal of healing, which only happens in the parasympathetic state i.e. “rest and digest”)
How can you tell if a food is causing your digestive issues, fatigue, or other symptoms if you have judgment and fear around the eating experience? You can’t. You have to learn how to relax around food first.
I don’t agree with the need for a restrictive elimination diet, but if you’re truly sensitive to a food and want to find out, the only way to tell (unless it’s an allergy you’ve had medically diagnosed, which in case you KNOW that food is not for you) is to work on your relationship to food FIRST by practicing mindful eating and creating awareness around your meals. This allows you to explore how certain foods make you feel with curiosity in a RELAXED state. Otherwise, your fear alone of the food can cause a reaction. Take a moment to consider the amount of energy being utilized trying to make a decision about what to eat and how to eat when you’re in that place of fear and overwhelm? Talk about exhausting.
There could also be other things going on in your life that make you feel more sensitive within the moment to certain foods and items in your surroundings (not enough sleep, strained relationships, travel, time change, moving, many others including energetic influences we sometimes don’t even understand or recognize)
Work on your relationship to food first (HOW you’re eating, your mindset around food) with mindful eating practices. Over time you will start to notice how certain foods make you feel. You may even notice a connection between your mood and your cravings. With your cycles and cravings. Being able to tune into this leads to you having a more peaceful and flexible relationship with food. You don’t have to be “perfect”. You don’t have to stress over what you’re eating because you begin to trust your body. You begin to learn how to tune back into your natural internal hunger cues and trust what your body is asking for. You begin to learn how to eat more intuitively. (Intro to mindful eating here, videos soon to come!)
I’m a sensitive soul and empath. There are certain things that I can hear my body tell me clearly that just does not feel good for me. It took time for me to learn how to trust that. I don’t feel I am restricting myself if I choose not to eat it because I can make that decision from a conscious and empowered place. I choose not to eat it because I don’t want to feel uncomfortable afterward, or I choose to eat it because my desire to enjoy it now outweighs the temporary discomfort. Whichever I choose, it’s my choice. I own that choice and I move on with life. You don’t have to drown in fear and shame around food anymore. Don’t let fear or shame make that choice of what you eat for you.
PS. You may have noticed I have the word “fixed” in quotations this entire post. That is because you my dear are NOT a problem to be fixed. You are not broken. No matter what the voice inside your head says, no matter what the company or person says who is trying to sell you something. There are no quick fixes that you need. You are enough. You are whole and complete, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment. Trust that you are healing, trust that you are doing your best.