Since starting The Wellness Boulevard, the most asked question I get is... How to eat intuitively with food allergies? Or, more particular, is it possible to eat intuitively with foods allergies?
I'm really passionate about addressing this topic -- about sharing what I've learned when it comes to eating intuitively with food allergies -- because, after fighting my way through an eating disorder and disordered relationship with food, I'm not comfortable with another diet... even if the diet is "for my health".
I had learned that my mental and emotional well-being were important, maybe even just as important as my physical health. Living a life that felt controlled by food... living in a mind that could think of nothing besides losing weight before the next big event or counteracting something I'd just ate... this wasn't the way I wanted things to go anymore.
So, when I thought about testing food allergies and cutting some things out in support of my physical challenges and in hopes of getting off medication, I was skeptical - and frustrated - to say the least.
I didn't ask for an autoimmune disease.
I didn't ask for sensitivity to certain foods.
I didn't want to be told that eating "for my health" should be motivation enough.
I didn't want to hear that willpower was what I lacked.
I'd done that already. I didn't want to go back.
So, like I do with most things nowadays, I took to Google for help. I wanted to know how I could implement healing practices and foods... while following the principles of intuitive eating (a practice that helped me heal my relationship with food and body in the first place). Essentially, I wanted to know how to eat intuitively with food allergies.
I shouldn't have to choose between the health of my body and the health of my mind, right?
Unfortunately, I didn't find much. There seemed to be two camps out there -- those who fought for intuitive eating and no restrictions at all ever under any circumstance. And those who claimed following a paleo, vegan, gluten-free, or even AIP diet wasn't that hard. That it's something to do cold turkey and figure out along the way.
I might be picky, but I didn't like either option.
Wasn't intuitive eating for allergies possible?
Wasn't there another approach to take?
How come nobody else was talking about this?
I wondered... does no one else struggle emotionally or mentally when thinking about or practicing a restrictive diet -- even if that diet is for allergies or physical health?
After a quick temper tantrum about the injustice of it all, I decided I couldn't actually be alone in these questions... and that I would take on the challenge to find an answer myself.
Here's what I've learned.
To eat intuitively while eating for food allergies, we need to make CHOICES out of love rather than FORCE things out of fear.
This is so very important, and the crux of The MERGE Method I've developed, because anything stressful puts our bodies into a fight or flight stage. Into the stress response. And this type of chronic stress, stress that we put our bodies into day after day while trying to stick to a diet we feel forced to follow, is going to increase inflammation, store fat and stop digestion... three things that will likely leave us feeling worse.
Plus, emotional deprivation (a concept I first learned from Isabel Foxen Duke) often causes the same type of response as physical deprivation. Which means unless you’re CHOOSING to eat gluten-free or AIP, but you know you could eat anything else at any time of the day, then you’re in deprived state. Since binging is a biological response to physical and emotional deprivation... if at some point we fall off the "wagon", then we're going to binge, eat a bunch of "off-plan" foods, and potentially negate much of the work we just did.
Eating intuitively while eating for food allergies has less to do with behavior and more to do with mindset.
It's about choosing foods out of love not fear.
It's about knowing you could ultimately eat anything at any time and NOT be broken or flawed.
Instead of feeling forced to eat certain foods and avoid others, everything becomes a choice. Which means that the consequences of what we eat — how we might feel afterward — is also a choice.
When THIS mindset is in place, and when we're operating in tune with our bodies, we will NATURALLY want to eat the foods that leave us feeling good. (The foods that leave us feeling good being different for everyone.) Slowly... eventually... over time... we will eat foods that leave us feeling good for the simple sake of wanting to feel good.
I'd love to hear from you: How do you feel about the foods you eat? How do you eat intuitively for food allergies?