I disappeared this last week - into work, into studying for organic chemistry, into occasional bouts of self-pity, and into a baking frenzy. After my success making sugar and dairy free banana muffins, I was determined to try my hand at pumpkin bread. What followed were many nights of baking that have yet to produce a bread good enough to post. Good enough to eat, yes. But would I stake my reputation on any of the recipes? Definitely not. I'll keep trying though. Until...well, until I come up with a great recipe or get really tired of pumpkin. Whichever happens first.
In the meantime, I owe you all a post and a wrap-up of my elimination diet. I've been avoiding writing this because I wasn't sure how much to share. I've seen so many bloggers writing about how wonderful they felt on the elimination diet, and I wanted to be able to write a triumphant final post about everything I've learned and how much better I feel now. Unfortunately I can't exactly do that. While I think the elimination diet is a great idea, and most likely will do a modified version again at some point, there was something I didn't take into account when I started this plan: I'm a former binge eater. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know how I've struggled with bingeing for years. And it's taken me years to get to a moderate and healthy place with food. Because I was feeling so good about food before I started the elimination diet, I thought I would handle it fine. The truth is, while I did learn a lot about how my body handles different foods, restricting my eating so much set me up for a major rebound. Perhaps this would not have happened if I were not so stressed, but I also chose a rather silly time to do a major diet overhaul. I'm working, taking classes, and applying to grad school. So of course being the perfectionist that I am, I decide now's the time to start a healthy diet plan that requires even more time in the kitchen. Uh huh... You see where I'm going here, right?
People who binge tend to think in black and white when it comes to food. And for years, that was exactly how I thought. I was either perfect or ate everything in sight. Letting go of bingeing has meant letting go of my idea that I had to eat perfectly all the time. Most of the time I eat healthy, but not all the time. And that's okay. But when I decided to follow the elimination diet, I felt I needed to be perfect. I think that the people around me could see what I couldn't. That in my quest to heal my body, I was only harming it more. I can't stress enough that this had nothing to do with the diet itself, which I still wholeheartedly endorse, but with the way I handled it. In needing to follow it perfectly, I set myself up for a fall, back into bingeing.
When I eventually added everything back in (except for gluten), I found I couldn't control my impulses. Whereas before I had been able to have sweets or cheese in the house without going overboard, I was suddenly incapable of stopping myself. I have to admit to you that for the last week, I've disappeared into bingeing as much as everything else I mentioned. And I haven't completely climbed out of the hole yet. I'm getting there, but it was a shock to find how quickly I went back to a place I haven't really been to in years. At least, not to this extent. The one thing that has saved me from completely disappearing into the hole is the same thing that helped me climb out of it years ago. I used to wallow in guilt when I binged. Which got me absolutely nowhere. Now, when I binge, I don't allow the guilt to linger. There's no point to it. How does it help to feel guilty? It certainly doesn't stop me from bingeing again. Instead, I take the binge as a gift, a learning opportunity. If I can figure out what happened, and why, and how I might handle the situation differently in the future, then I can move on with more confidence. So, this week, although I binged almost every day, I refused to wallow, and instead chose to learn. I had to relearn how important it is for me to eat steadily throughout the day. I had to let go of the desire to cook all my own meals, and buy frozen meals for nights when I was too tired. I had to learn to ask for help, something I've never done with much grace. Mostly, I had to let go of the idea that I can do everything. I can do everything, if I want to end up comatose on the floor.
So what's next? Continuing to reign myself back in and go back to healthy and moderate gluten-free eating. Continuing my quest for a sugar and dairy free pumpkin bread, as well as continuing to learn how to bake healthier in general. Continuing to eat deliciously healthy meals that I learned to cook while on the elimination diet, like the mung bean stir-fry I'll be sharing with you soon. And continuing to explore ways to find a balance with eating healthy and having a healthy relationship with food. Which, as we know, is not necessarily the same thing.