When I started on the journey of radically changing my diet, I was completely lost. To be honest, I still feel lost quite a bit of the time. Food is more than fuel in our culture and it was certainly more than sustenance growing up. Food is celebratory, it is a coping mechanism. It is social and a bonding experience. It is a way to show support, sympathy and love. A welcome and a goodbye. It is way to enjoy time together and a way to fill time when we are lonely. There is, most certainly, an emotional connection to eating, and science has shown there is a chemical connection as well. All these things make it extremely difficult to change our relationship with food and our eating patterns. Even when it makes us unhealthy. And even when we feel continually horrible, like I did.
Hopefully along the way, I can talk more about the anthropological reasons we are connected to food. And dig deeper into our emotional addiction to the way food makes us feel. Or the societal and cultural norms that make changing our eating habits feel so radical. But in this point, I wanted to introduce that there is help. The day I decided I needed to change my relationship with food was difficult. I didn’t know where to get help or who to talk to for support. And the day I got my food testing results and knew there were foods I needed to avoid for my health, I felt lost. I felt a loss of freedom, a loss of connection to my immediate culture and most certainly I felt like I didn’t have many options. A picture of me eating alone at the school lunch table like an outcast was the immediate image running through my head. And as crazy as it sounds, I felt depressed, lonely and scared. I knew if I didn’t change the way I ate, I would continue to feel sick all the time. I also knew no one else who had to make these changes in life. And I knew that I was losing the freedom to go out and eat with my friends, the freedom to order a pizza when I was lazy and didn’t want to make dinner, the freedom to grab something from the vending machine when I was hungry. And I don’t think we realize how connected we are all to them as a society.
If you are going through, or have gone through, a similar experience, you can understand what I am describing. Those of you who have gone through this know that it helps more than words can describe, to have at least one resource. For me, I had a friend who was going through something very similar at the time, which proved to be invaluable. But I also had to be my own advocate and find the resources that would help me take control. My hope is that I can give you a few resources to start your journey…or to help you along the way. I want to give you 5 tips for getting started. Things you can do TODAY to feel like you are putting one foot in front of the other.
1 – Allow yourself to feel frustrated. It is ok. There is a deep connection with our food and our emotions. Changing that relationship feels like a break up. And a mourning period is certainly allowed. It is also, in my experience, necessary. Take the time to enjoy the last ice cream treat if you are cutting out dairy. Enjoy the last sandwich or piece of pizza if you are cutting out grains. Enjoy the last … well anything … if you are going vegan. Know that it is ok for it to feel good to eat it and say good bye.
2 – Throw out the food you know you can’t eat. After you have said good bye, cut the ties. Not having it around helps exponentially. Make it a party, a celebration. Create a game of basketball out of it or keep away with the kids. If you have children involved, explain to them why this is happening. Food is fuel and we are going to take steps to make our vehicles run more efficiently. They will understand the logic and will enjoy having fun with you.
3 – Avoid going to the store for a bit. I know it sounds counter-productive because I just told you to throw your food away. And you certainly need to restock with food that you can eat. But the store is the devil’s playground when you first change your eating habits. All you see are the things you cannot have, and it makes you feel even worse. For the first few weeks, order groceries online and have them delivered. You can search for specific recipes and foods, and you aren’t tempted by those Little Debbie’s at the front of the store that always call your name as you pass. Ask someone else to go to the store for you. Go to the farmer’s market instead, or a small healthy food store. Avoid for just a bit until you get more comfortable. (not forever as avoidance doesn’t help us get stronger, but at least for the first couple weeks)
4 – Find ways to move. When you start changing your eating habits, especially if they are drastic, you will probably feel lethargic and lazy. And for me, I felt sorry for myself. 😊 Movement is difficult when your body is processing the change, but it also helps. Even if it is a walk, or a bike ride, or playing tag with the kids. Find ways to move and help your body recognize it can still function with the change. If you are going through grain flu or detox, it is important to help your body process through those activities. Don’t go extreme, take it easy, but don’t stay in one place all day long.
5 – Take time to seek advice and do your research. Set aside some time to find books at the book store about your particular diet change. Look online, there is an abundance of information. Call and talk to a trusted doctor if you have one or do research to find one. I had to cut out a lot and the closest thing I could find to my new diet was AIP Paleo. So I went to Barnes and Noble and looked for anything AIP or Paleo, for how to make the change and commit. I looked for recipes and blogs that helped inform me but also gave advice that I could fit in to my life. The more connection you find to your change, the more you will realize you can do it. Others have done it and there are people out there who understand. Seek your people!
In this daunting process, 5 steps are doable, right? If 5 seems like too much, do 1 today and 1 tomorrow. Work your way up. Do what you feel comfortable with but keep moving. It is hard. But you can do it. I still struggle tons, but it does become normal and you do find little ways to make it easier and to make it manageable. And if you get stuck, email me. I will certainly help in any way I can! From the bottom of my heart, Good Luck. I believe in you!