Today I’d like to talk about getting through the struggles that come with eating a restricted diet. For now I have to avoid all grains, refined sugars, corn, soy, most dairy high fructose fruits and high FODMAP foods as well as nightshade vegetables.
I know. It’s A LOT.
But if I can do my restricted diet, SO CAN YOU.
Here’s how I, personally, manage different scenarios:
It can be extremely difficult to not be able to eat the foods we truly enjoy. I make sure I don’t get super hungry. If I get too hungry I’ll crave the foods I can’t have. Why do that to myself? That means preparing foods to have ready to go in the fridge and bringing food with me in a lunch bag when I go out.
I do not make him special meals. I make a dinner that I can eat (which is one we can both eat). He really doesn’t care what I make and will eat anything so he’s usually OK with this. He also buys his own frozen dinners and snacks to have for when he wants something different. If he’s going to eat something like a cupcake or cookie he does not bring it home. He eats those things outside of the house if he wants them so that I don’t get tempted. My husband is trying to eat healthy so it is OK with him to eat the way we do. He doesn’t have restrictions but I do. We are a team. He took the time to understand my health issues and special diet. He doesn’t want to ruin that for me because he wants me to get better. I would do the same for him. He’s lost 15 pounds himself by eating mostly the way I do. He knows it’s a better way to eat.
Honestly, I, personally, pretty much can’t. My diet is very strict. It’s almost inevitable that at least one of the ingredients I can’t have will be in a dish served at a restaurant. I can’t do Chinese (soy, rice and MSG are out) or Mexican (too many carbs). Can’t do Italian (pastas and bread). Greek, Polish and even take out pizzas are out. Fast foods are definitely out. If I don’t know what someone put in a dish I will not eat it. Period. If, for some reason, I found myself in a situation where I had to go out to eat with a group, I’d make sure I ate first so I wouldn’t show up very hungry and then I’d have them bring me a salad and a piece of chicken with simple seasonings. Or just a salad (no dressing). It honestly would just be something to nibble on while everyone else is eating. It is just not an option for me to get sick when I can prevent it. It would also be a good idea to check the menu before going and have a plan.
Kind-hearted people who love me (or random people) want to tell me what I should and shouldn’t do once they find out I’m on a special diet. “It’s too restrictive,” “you’ll get malnourished,” “you should try such and such diet.” The list goes on. I know they mean well. They just don’t get it. If I eat certain foods I get SICK. I can’t work or sometimes even function due to eating poorly in the first place. I’m not at a place in my health where I can just experiment with different diets. I had to eliminate a lot from my diet so my intestines can rest and heal. I’m not even fully better yet and have a long way to go. I need to stick to one program. So I let them know that I’m doing my research and am following a knowledgeable and trusted health care provider’s recommendations. I need to do this so I can heal. (I’m following Dr. Osborne’s and others’ diet recommendations and plan to see Dr. Osborne online soon to have him do some tests and customize a diet plan for me). For the meantime, that’s what I say though. Unless you choose to tell people the details of your health issues they don’t really need to know. They may need to know you can’t eat certain things if they are preparing a meal for you but that’s all. It’s easiest to just say “I’m allergic to a lot of things” instead of, “I have gluten and other food sensitivities which resulted in dysbiosis and leaky gut.” Keep it simple. If someone insists on telling you what to eat, just say “I wish I could, but I’m allergic.” They have no business to pry further but if they do just tell them you really appreciate their concern but you have a health plan you need to stick to.
Eat first and bring a dish you can eat. It doesn’t matter if anyone else eats it. Have something there that you know you can eat. I have a large bag I can easily carry baggies of food in. You can be discreet about adding it to your plate. You don’t even have to be discreet if you don’t want to. I have no problem bringing my own foods with me everywhere I go. It isn’t for sharing unless I specifically bring extra. This is how I have to live. People can like it or lump it. If there’s someone there that doesn’t know, I’ll just tell them I have multiple food allergies and have to eat this way to stay healthy. If they think it’s weird or rude, so be it. My family and close friends understand what I go through and how hard I’m trying to be healthy. They wouldn’t do or say anything to sabotage my efforts. People I get to know will get used to me pulling out something to eat from my bag. Educate your inner circle and don’t worry about the rest. You’re not here to try to change others’ opinions or judgments. Whatever people think is their own business. I really don’t care. If they want to eat your food just say “Sorry I can’t eat anything else here but I can send you the recipe if you’d like.” Or “You can get this at Sprouts if you want to try it.” Obviously, I don’t just eat in front of people who aren’t also eating. That’s just rude. They have their food and I have mine.
I don’t get a break just because it’s my birthday or Christmas. I would rather make my own birthday cake and share it with anyone who wants some. If someone wants to contribute a regular cake for everyone else that’s totally fine. I understand that not everyone likes the taste of my meals. It takes getting used to. I would also not mind buying a pre-made pie or other alternative for others. Again, I’d make sure I’d bring a dish I know I can eat and share with anyone who wants to try it. And I’d bring my own food, as mentioned above. It is what it is. Some people have to bring their medicine with them. I have to bring my food. It’s better than being without it and drooling over everything when I’m suffering and starving. I won’t do that to myself and you shouldn’t either.
There will be good days and bad days on this journey to health. Sometimes I’ll eat something I didn’t realize I had a sensitivity to. I’ll get all of my old symptoms back. I may get really bloated and uncomfortable. It may affect my sleep. I’ll likely have a headache or nausea or some other symptom besides the typical GI stuff. These symptoms can last for days. It can get depressing finding out there’s yet ANOTHER food I can’t have that others can. I have my moment of sadness. I feel it. It’s OK to feel discouraged and disappointed. It’s OK to sometimes feel sad. I just don’t unpack and live there. I try to focus on the bigger picture and my ultimate goal which is to live my best life. I turn to my husband who is very supportive and understanding. I turn to my favorite motivational people on social media whom I follow (or I’ll just look up “motivational” on YouTube, Pinterest or IG and find some positive quotes or photos). And I just think about how grateful I am to be alive and to have this chance to experience anything I want.
I am breathing. I am learning. I am still enjoying life. I use every challenge as a lesson to grow. If I need to practice detachment from food then that’s what I need to do to practice detachment. It’s just an item of food. There’s so many more things to choose from to keep my body alive and healthy. I try not to make a mountain out of mole hill. Though there are a lot of people who are healthier, physically fit and can eat whatever they want, there are also a lot of people out there who would love to be able to have my level of health. Some are being fed by g-tubes. Some are taking 20+ pills a day. Some have symptoms far worse than mine and are in and out of hospitals a lot. And some are dying. We each have our own journey. This is mine.
I’m going to do my best to be brave and grateful for what my health has to teach me. I won’t sit around crying for too long. Life is too short for that. I’ll get up off my butt and find some new recipes or make some up. The most important thing is that I’ll keep growing and learning.
So, there are some challenges and how I deal with them.
How are you dealing with your personal health challenges?
Do you have food restrictions like I do?
I hope something in this post was useful!
Thank you for reading!
May you be happy and well.