This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get when new members join my free FB group, Autoimmune Well with Kel. And I think it's also one of the questions that I asked the most after I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and an eating disorder within the same year.
Is it possible to eat intuitively when you have a food avoidance, sensitivity or intolerance? How do you feel good and okay (and not restricted) while cutting out foods that cause physical symptoms and reactions in the body? How do we eat in a restrictive manner without emotionally feeling restricted at the same time?
Since you're here (asking this question, too!), then you know how much friction lies in the wait for an answer. There's just a lot of tension in this place. Because we want to do what's best for our bodies and our physical health -- i.e. cut out foods to which we respond negatively -- but we also want to do what's best for our emotional and mental well-being -- i.e. feel free and not controlled around food.
It's like we have these two strong values -- (1) to feel good physically and (2) to feel good mentally -- that stem from an overarching desire to simply feel good. And yet, we're so confused, frustrated and sometimes so defeated because we don't know how to move forward in a way that will actually get us there.
It kinda feels like we have to pick one or the other, right?
If you've known me for a while, you'd probably be surprised to hear that, at the moment, I don't work out regularly. You'd probably be surprised to find out that I don't go to the gym, I hardly work up a sweat and I no longer care about how much weight I can lift or how fast I can run.
You'd probably also be surprised to learn that I haven't felt better in years.
On the other hand, if we're just know getting to know each other, you'd probably be surprised to hear that I swam competitively all through college. That after college, I trained for a half-marathon, took up Crossfit and barely gave myself more than one day of rest each week.
You'd probably be surprised to learn that I went from two-a-day collegiate swim practices to daily 60-minute Crossfit workouts to the 30 minutes (or less) of restorative yoga I do now.
I promise, I'm not sharing this to discount the value of formal activity or a good daily grind at the gym. That type of repetitive movement and pushing of physical and mental limits was all I did for years -- and it was one of the greatest forms of self-care I could have possibly imagined.
Instead, I'm sharing this because there came a time in my life where my love for a good workout was no longer helping my body (or my health). There came a time where the desire to push my limits and move in traditional ways didn't leave me feeling well. I'm sharing this because I had to rewrite the beliefs I held about exercise, health and what makes a workout "good" -- and sharing because maybe you do, too.
This is for you if you find that traditional exercise advice isn't all that practical for the season of life (or health) you're in!
In an effort to heal and feel better with autoimmune disease or chronic illness, we're often trying a variety of different techniques, tools and healing approaches.
We might make dietary changes, swap out toxic products for less-toxic alternatives, add daily exercise to our routine or attempt to reduce the stress in our lives.
And yet, before we make any of these changes, there are a few questions we should be asking ourselves first. These are the questions that make sure whatever we're doing (whatever dietary or lifestyle changes we're making or want to make) has the best chance of actually working.
After all, that's why we implement these shifts, right? We want whatever diet or stress management plan to work and, by that we mean, we want it to help us feel better.
In other words, most of us aren't going Paleo or practicing daily meditation solely because we think doing so will be super duper fun. Sure, it'd be great to fall in love with the practice eventually, but we're usually motivated upfront more so by the desire to feel better and the hope that this change is what will get us there.
That's why these questions are really helpful to ask before you actually make any dietary or lifestyle tweaks... especially if you want to feel better and heal from autoimmune disease!