Are you wondering how to eat intuitively for chronic illness, autoimmune disease, adrenal fatigue, or another health challenge?
If so, I'm so glad you're here!
I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease as a teenager. I started medicine, made a few life changes, and have trucked along pretty okay ever since. Then, a few years ago, I realized it might be possible to support this autoimmune disease naturally -- and to maybe even reverse the effects of it. Experts and anecdotal evidence seemed to point to The Paleo Approach by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne.
Unfortunately to me, that looked a lot like a super rigid and restrictive way of living + eating.
What I read sounded like a good way to support my body and reduce inflammation. However, after my diagnosis, I was put on a medicine called Prednisone. It came with a pretty intense appetite and I gained 5 pounds in a week. I might have needed those 5 pounds (and it might not sound like a lot), but I freaked out and, simply put, became terrified of gaining more weight.
It took me awhile to fight through this eating disorder and disordered relationship with food, so I wasn't comfortable with another diet -- even if the diet was "for my health".
I had learned that my mental and emotional health were important -- maybe even just as important as my physical health.
These things mattered and I had learned that firsthand. Living a life that felt controlled by food... living in a mind that could think of nothing beside losing weight before the next big event or counteracting something I'd just eating... this wasn't the way I wanted to live. So, when I read the rules I'd need to follow to fit in line a diet such as the Autoimmune Protocol, I was skeptical and frustrated to say the least.
I mean, I didn't ask for an autoimmune disease.
I didn't ask to need to make these changes to begin with.
I didn't want to be told that this was for my health and that should be important enough.
Or that this was actually all easy and just required a dose of willpower.
I didn't want to be scolded for eating a bit too much sugar, coconut sugar at that.
Nor have to skip out on events so that I could keep to my diet.
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 the practices of the Paleo Approach to heal my body... while following the principles of intuitive eating to continue healing to my mind and soul.
We shouldn't have to choose between the health of our bodies or the health of our minds, right?
Unfortunately, I didn't find much. (And this might be exactly where you are right now.) There seemed to be two camps. (1) Those who fought for intuitive eating and no restrictions at all ever under any circumstance, especially if you really want to find healing from food and body image... and (2) Those who claimed following the Paleo Approach or Autoimmune Protocol wasn't that hard. It should be something I can do cold turkey.
I might be picky, but didn't like either option.
Wasn't intuitive eating for chronic illness possible?
Wasn't there another approach to take?
How come nobody else was talking about this?
Did nobody else struggle emotionally or mentally when thinking about or practicing a restrictive diet like this - even if that diet was for your physical health?
I decided that I couldn't be alone... and that even if I was I was willing to find another answer. To find a way to make intuitive eating for chronic illness work. So, over the two last years, I've been learning how to do things my own way -- how to follow principles of the Paleo Approach AND intuitive eating at the same time.
I'm sharing this because if you've tried to heal your body naturally or feel better and alleviate symptoms, then you may have tried Paleo or the AIP diet. And it might not have gone well. You might be looking for a way to make intuitive eating + chronic illness work together.
(I'm also sharing this because I can believe these two camps CAN go together. And the answer lies in mindset.)
To eat intuitively for chronic illness, we need to make CHOICES out of love... rather than FORCE things out of fear.
We need to choose foods because of how those foods make us feel physically and emotionally (and because of how we want to feel in any given moment)... rather than force certain foods and meals because we "have to", "are supposed to", or even because we're afraid of another illness popping up.
For example, let's say you've tried the Whole30. And maybe hated every minute of it. Maybe the first time you did the Whole30, you were left feeling pretty miserable. And, honestly, maybe it didn't do anything for you or your health. Maybe you spent the entire month wishing you didn't have to eat this way. You spent each day missing all the other foods. (Or, was that just my experience?)
The goal when it comes intuitive eating + chronic illness is to get to the type of lifestyle you want to be living (eating a certain way, moving a certain amount, and living with certain values in place) through the concept of CHOICE - through want and love and desire - not FORCE.
This is important, and something I'm reiterating, because anything that is stressful... such as doing something you hate, doing or eating foods that you don't like, feeling restricted because you can’t eat food that you want to eat... puts the body into the stress response. This type of chronic stress, stress that we put our bodies into day after day, is going to increase inflammation, store fat and stop digestion... which will likely only leave us feeling worse.
Marc David of The Psychology of Eating teaches us that the properties of the food itself loses power when you compare it to every other nutritional factor at our disposal. Which means that you could potentially get the same type of benefit for your OVERALL health by eating a quality cupcake in a super pleasurable way as you can by eating chicken and broccoli that you absolutely hate - that you’re stuffing down because it's the worst thing in the world.
In addition, Isabel Foxen Duke teaches us that emotional deprivation - or restriction - can cause the same type of response as physical deprivation. Which means that unless you’re CHOOSING to eat Paleo, but you know that you could eat anything else at any time of the day, you’re in deprived state. Since, as Isabel teaches, binging is a biological response to physical and emotional deprivation... if at some point if you fall off the Paleo wagon, you’re going to binge, eat a bunch of crap foods, and likely negate much of the work you just did.
Intuitive eating for chronic illness has less to do with behavior and more to do with mindset. Which means it has less to do with what you do or do not eat and more to do with how you feel and what you think about what you do or do not eat.
It's about choosing foods out of love rather than fear. It's about knowing you could ultimately eat anything at any time and NOT feel ashamed, broken, or guilty. It's about taking the moral obligation OUT of the health conversation. It's about breaking down diet mentality, the fear of weight gain, and body image challenges.
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 wholeheartedly recommend joining The Wellness Boulevard today. ($29 / month. No contracts.) Once 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... between mental health and physical health... Let me shorten the curve for you.