I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease as a teenager. I started medicine, made some life changes, and have trucked along pretty okay ever since. (That might be the short, pretty version... here's the longer, messier story.)
A few years ago, I realized it might be possible to heal my autoimmune disease naturally. That I might be able reverse the effects of the disease or, at the very least, I might be able to feel better and even get off medication.
From everything I could tell, experts and all of the anecdotal evidence (aka success stories) I could find online seemed to point to The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne. Sure, I would love to eat a bunch of whole foods and not eat anything that could upset or cause harm to my physical body... but also that approach look like a super rigid and restrictive way of living and eating.
What I read sounded great. It sounded like the way I "should" be managing my autoimmune disease. But after I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at 14, just 7 months passed before I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. Meaning, I wasn't thrilled (or comfortable) with a diet. My mental and emotional health had become too important and valuable and I didn't want to lose the recovery I had worked so hard to get.
I wanted to know how I could implement the Autoimmune Protocol to heal my physical body... while continuing to follow the principles of intuitive eating for my mental and emotional well-being.
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 when I looked for answers. There seemed to be two camps: (1) those who fought for intuitive eating and no restrictions at all... and (2) those who claimed following the Autoimmune Protocol just wasn't that hard.
I didn't resonate with either option.
So, over the last few years, I've been learning how to do things a different way. I've been learning how to eat (and not eat) certain foods WHILE practicing intuitive eating at the same time.
I'm sharing this because, if you're trying to feel better, you may have tried Paleo or the Autoimmune Protocol. You may be like me and looking for a way to make intuitive eating + the autoimmune protocol work together.
But mostly, I'm sharing this because I think it is possible to eat intuitively on an elimination-based diet.
What we need to do is start by addressing that there's nothing wrong with choosing to eat in accordance with a set of principles or ideas. With choosing to eat in accordance with underlying health challenges or symptoms (like autoimmune disease or chronic illness).
The difference between a diet that may cause more harm than good and a way of eating that supports our nourishment is internal. The difference is found in our FEELINGS - in force, restriction, emotions, and deprivation AS OPPOSED TO love, freedom, and choice.
Let me explain.
Imagine that you decide to try out what I call The MERGE Method. (A way to bridge the gap between intuitive eating and food intolerances.)
You've addressed any amount in which you were eating to control, explored natural healing treatments, and discovered that certain foods affect how you feel physically. For example, maybe gluten leaves you with digestive troubles. You now have important information that gets to inform your choices.
This is the difference between a diet and way of eating.
You get to use information to inform your decisions rather than relying on external guidelines to make those decisions for you. See that subtle, but massive difference? You have free will, power, and choice in the former… and you’ve given up that power and freedom in the later.
THAT is what I think determines restriction. Do you know that you can make a DIFFERENT choice at any point and still be a worthy, deserving, loving, important, valuable person? One who can STILL value herself, her body, and her health? In other words, how entangled is your worth with what you eat?
For example, one person may eat 100% gluten-free as a diet, as a forced set of rules and regulations that carry emotion and emotional attachment. (A concept talked about in depth by Isabel Foxen Duke.) Another person may eat 100% gluten-free as a current choice, as a decision made each and every moment about what would feel best, all while knowing a different choice can be made at any point along the way.
The reality of these two situations look the same on the surface but are drastically different underneath.
The former may "give in" and eat a piece of bread. In addition to feeling physically crappy, she may feel even worse about herself emotionally. She may beat herself up, wonder why she can’t get it right even when her health is on the line, and be trapped in a cycle of downward thoughts/emotions. But, on the other hand, if she had opted not to eat that bread? She was doing so because she was supposed to and because it’s bad for you. Secretly, she just really wanted the bread and feels bitter about not being allowed to have it. She thinks about that bread for the rest of the day or even while trying to engage in conversation with others.
Because of THIS emotional entanglement, and because our emotions can impact our physical bodies, the latter will be much more likely to optimize her chances for healing (assuming that's why she is eating gluten-free to begin with). The person who is eating gluten-free as a current choice, not a diet with hard and fast rules, can eat a piece of bread, feel physically crappy, and go on with life. She can also opt to not eat a piece of bread, simply because she would rather not risk a physical reaction, and go on with life. It's not big deal, right?
If this resonates with you because you WANT to be eating in a certain manner -- you want to be following a diet like the Autoimmune Protocol -- but you don't want to feel restricted or deprived along the way, take a look at what I call The MERGE Method. It's a way to bridge the gap between intuitive eating and food sensitivities.
I also invite you to join The Wellness Boulevard! When you join, you receive immediate access to materials that will help you feel better in days and weeks... rather than months and years. It took me over 10 years to bridge the gap between intuitive eating and illness... Let me shorten the curve for you.