Monday, April 29, 2013

Can You Have Food Sensitivities Without Them Controlling Your Life?

I've been sharing this picture on Facebook to promote my new program, The Anti-Diet 30 Day Spring Challenge. At face value, this photo is aimed at women who are dieting to lose weight. In fact, in my post yesterday introducing the challenge, I talked about the women I used to work with at Jenny Craig. Of course their objective was to lose weight. And this program was designed with those women in mind. But it was also designed with the food sensitive and food allergic person in mind. Why? Because I am both of those women. I am the woman who worries too much about her weight and I am the woman who also has very real food sensitivities and cannot just forget about my diet.

Today on Facebook, someone left a comment that she had food allergies and so food did control her life and she wished it could be otherwise, but it couldn't. So today I want to address those of you, like me, who have to monitor everything you eat. I want to tell you why this program is just as much for you, if not more so, than it is for the woman who has no food sensitivities.

How can I advocate an ANTI-DIET challenge when I have to follow a strict diet myself?
Isn't that irresponsible? Yes. At least it would be if I were telling you to forget about your gluten free diet, to go ahead and eat dairy (or whatever it is you need to avoid), to eat whatever you wanted and just focus on your mental and emotional state. Let me tell you something. I've tried that and it DOES NOT WORK. I've thought a lot about orthorexia (the coin termed for people who are obsessed with following a specific diet, to a point where it becomes emotionally unhealthy) and the Intuitive Eating program. The Intuitive Eating program is about creating a healthy relationship with food and rejecting the diet mentality. I agree with both, and in theory I love the idea of Intuitive Eating. But one of the practices for it is to go ahead and eat things you tell yourself you shouldn't. The idea is to take away the power of "forbidden food" which only makes you want to eat it more. I agree with that too. But in reality, that doesn't work for people with food sensitivities, or I personally think, for people who are addicted to sugar. When I've tried taking that route and have let go of my restrictions, I've ended up in physical pain and just caused more inflammation in the long run.

I want to be very clear here. The Anti-Diet 30 Day Spring Challenge is not about ignoring, letting go of, or otherwise denying your very real food sensitivities or allergies. But it IS about not letting them control your life.

How is that even possible? I can hear what you're saying because it's in my head too: I have to monitor everything I eat. I can't go out to eat without worrying; I can't even eat at family members' houses without anxiety. My food is more expensive and I can't just go pick up a cheap meal at a fast food joint. When I go on vacation, I have to consider whether the location can handle my diet. When I go to weddings, I have to bring snacks and worry about what I'll eat. I have to remind my boyfriend not to kiss me right after drinking a beer. And don't even get me started about friends and family who think it's in my head. So on top of everything else, I have to walk around defending myself and my food choices to everyone around me. Of course my diet controls my life!

All of that is true. It is absolutely true and I'm not trying to tell you otherwise. Who am I to deny your reality, especially when it's also my reality?

But does that mean you have to give your energy to that reality?

I designed The Anti-Diet 30 Day Spring Challenge for myself. After one too many anxiety-ridden days spent scouring the internet for yet another article on how to heal my gut, after one too many failed attempts to follow a specific diet perfectly, after wallowing in guilt because I couldn't do everything right, after berating myself because I ate a damn banana and that wasn't on my OK list...after telling myself one too many times that my food sensitivities were my fault because I couldn't stick to the restricted diet I prescribed myself for healing... After all this, I decided to try something different.

I still follow a very restricted diet. I have to. It's absolutely necessary for my health, even though I wish it weren't. I never cheat on the gluten free diet. But sometimes I eat a banana. Sometimes I eat an orange. Seemingly healthy foods can increase inflammation in my obnoxiously leaky gut. The other day, I bought a gluten free cookie. And I enjoyed every single bite of it. Was my face puffy the next day? Yes. Did I wallow in guilt? A little. But then I stopped myself. Because it's not worth it. That's not why I'm here on this earth.

I want you to eat whatever way is healthiest for you. I also want to encourage you to join me for 30 days. Because for 30 days, I'm going to challenge myself to take tiny steps towards looking at my life differently and using my energy differently. Ultimately, this challenge is about looking at why I'm here on this earth and what my purpose is. I am tired of crying over food. I am tired of thinking about my weight and how if I could just calm the inflammation in my body, I would lose the bloating and puffiness. I am tired of telling myself that it's my fault if I have a headache. Yes, I have food sensitivities and I have to think about food more than other people do. But when I get myself so worked up over my diet, I cause more inflammation in my body simply due to stress. And if I'm doing that, then I'm cancelling out all the good work I'm doing with trying to eat right. 

Will you do something for me? A little challenge right now? Step away from the computer, find a quiet spot to lie down, and just breathe. Feel yourself settle into your body. You don't have to try to quiet your thoughts or do anything in particular, just breathe and imagine settling deeper into your body with every exhale. How often do you allow yourself to just be? Emotions might come up. Sadness, anger, anxiety. Maybe peace or happiness. Let them in. All of the emotions. Cry if you need to. Laugh if it comes naturally. Just continue breathing and continue to be.

Allow yourself to lie there and breathe for as long as feels right to you. Then I want you to get a piece of paper and answer these questions. Be honest with yourself and know that every question has an answer. If your answer is NONE, take another deep breath, and write down whatever comes to you when you exhale:

What could be the benefit of trying this challenge for 30 days?

What could be the downside of trying this challenge for 30 days?

If I do this challenge for 30 days, I might __________ (fill in the blank with all the beneficial outcomes you could receive).

If I do this challenge for 30 days, I might __________ (fill in the blank with all the negative outcomes you could receive).

Now let all of it go and just answer with your gut instinct.

Will you take the challenge with me?  

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