This is a guest post by Michelle Hoover. Read About the Author Below to learn more about her work.
I love the idea of food freedom. Having that mindset of honoring your body’s innate intelligence and not feel restricted is both freeing and sustainable long term. Forcing yourself into a restrictive mindset is incredibly exhausting, and not health promoting. However, no matter how much I may like the idea of waking up in the morning and having the option to eat scrambled eggs, or oatmeal, or bacon, or whatever my heart desires, I have to face the facts… I have some pretty significant food allergies and intolerances. The number of people with food allergies and intolerances only continues to grow, and I’m clearly not the only one with this issue of trying to eat intuitively while having health restrictions. With intuitive eating being based on the idea of eating what you want, when you want, can food freedom, intuitive eating and restrictions due to food allergies live in harmony?
Like many others that I’ve meet with this problem, I haven’t had food allergies my entire life… or at least that I knew of. My first reckoning of my food allergies came when I was 12 at an Italian restaurant in the form of a brownie with nuts. Minutes after the encounter, I was itching like crazy, my breathing became restricted, and I was being rushed to the emergency room. I went from a normal girl who thought she could have anything she wanted anytime she wanted to constantly reading labels, talking to waiters, and taking every precaution necessary to avoid nuts. Talk about non intuitive.
My nut allergy wasn’t the end of food intolerances… not in the slightest. At 16, I began feeling sick after everything I ate. I kept asking my mom to change brands of bread, cereal, turkey, and still found myself feeling tired and nauseous after eating and suffering digestive issues. Just a few months into this seemingly random issue, I began getting heart palpitations, migraines, and was extremely fatigued. After entirely too many doctors, I got the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Disease, which is an autoimmune thyroid disease in which my immune system attacks my thyroid and throws off basically all of the things. In a couple of years, I learned more about the gut, autoimmune connection and starting linking my systems and diagnosis to poor digestion and food intolerances.
Fast forward to today… I’m 25 and no longer am plagued by symptoms of Hashimoto’s Disease. My blood work is normal and after using nutritional therapy practices to correct things like poor fat digestion, and low stomach acid, my digestive issues are significantly better. However, I’m still also highly intolerant to soy, gluten and nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, all peppers) and I’ve linked grains and excessive dairy to worsened symptoms, and I often rotate my foods to keep from eating the same things and getting a variety of nutrients. So, that’s a lot. I’d be lying if I said that I can walk into an unknown restaurant and be intuitive. Far from it.
Arguably one of the worst parts of having food restrictions is feeling restricted and deprived. It’s the feeling that you can’t go into a restaurant without having a panic attack from not knowing what to eat. It’s the feeling that you can’t go to a party without bringing your own food just to be safe. It’s feeling like you’re the farthest thing away from being intuitive and total lack of food freedom. It’s feeling like that in the beginning… but you can make yourself truly believe otherwise. As a matter of fact, adopting a mindset of food freedom is what allowed me to throw the feelings of deprivation out the window.
Regardless of my food intolerances and choices that I’ve made for my health and well being, I still have a mindset of food freedom, and intuitive eating. I may not be able to have any food that I want, but I still feel nourished and satisfied with what I have. So, how do you do the same?
Here are the 5 things that you need to know about food freedom and eating intuitively with food allergies to help keep you from feeling deprived, and restricted.
1. Understand that food freedom and intuitive eating are a mindset… not a diet with set amount of foods.
No matter what you can or cannot eat, you can still eat intuitively if understand that it’s a mindset, not a diet. That’s the whole point really. You may not have as wide of a variety of foods to be intuitive with as someone without food allergies, but that doesn’t change that you’re still eating without arbitrary restrictions.
2. Know that there is an adjustment period.
When I was first coming to terms with my intolerance to tons and tons of foods and rotating what I ate, it did not feel intuitive in the slightest. It felt obsessive, and exhausting. However, my eye was on the end goal, and that was my long term health, not feeling miserable from eating food that made me feel bad, and reversing my autoimmune disease.
It wasn’t easy and it felt like a long time until I was being intuitive while avoiding so many foods. However, it becomes the new normal at some point. After months of feeling deprived from having to avoid tomatoes, I didn’t even think twice about them.
Know that it takes time, to get used to your new normal, but keep your eye on the end goal and trust that you’re doing what’s best for your body.
3. You can still be intuitive and feel a sense of food freedom within the foods that you can eat.
Let’s say I can only chose between scrambled eggs, gluten free pancakes, or a veggie hash for breakfast. For the record, that’s not actually what I can eat, but bear with me here. No, I can’t run to McDonald’s for hashbrowns, but I have 3 things to choose from and can intuitively choose which one I want.
When we take the glass half full approach rather than the glass being half empty, we can take whatever “x” amount of foods that we can have and just be intuitive within those foods.
4. Ask for support from friends and family.
Not everyone is naturally supportive especially when they can’t relate to it. Nothing bugs me more than having people tell me how restricted I am when I’m trying to be intuitive. Explaining your situation to your friends and family and asking them to not remind you of your restrictions is a huge help to both being and feeling more intuitive about your choices.
5. Nourish your body with delicious, whole food that you love to feel more satiated and happy with whatever food choices you have rather than deprived.
When you nourishing your body with foods that you enjoy but are still healthful and make you happy, you’ll begin to satisfy both your body and your mind. Many cravings for junk foods are often brought on by the body being out of balance within the realm of digestion and quality of nutrients that are absorbing, or just mentally feeling deprived. Loving the food that you eat and having it offer value to your body is the one of the best things that you can do for both your mental and physical health.
When I first began avoiding my food intolerances, I basically lived off of Rice Chex. It was food that I could tolerate and a food that made me feel like I was being intuitive. However, was 2-3 boxes of cereal a week really serving me? Or was it just leaving me hungry, unsatisfied and unfulfilled? I felt deprived and didn’t really even know what my body was telling me anymore. It kept me from moving on with my intuitive eating journey if I wasn’t even going to be eating half way decent in the first place.
Again, there was an adjustment period, but I slowly started swapping out the cereal and random junk food for foods that were richer in nutrients, healthy fats, proteins, and carbs. By making nourishing meals a part of my journey, it’s kept me from feeling restricted regardless of my food allergies. I simply just don’t feel restricted or deprived if I’m eating a delicious meal that both fills me up, and one that I know my body wants.
So there you have it! What I will leave you with is the assurance of a friend that you have in me who knows what you’re going through if you relate to this, and the success story that food allergies are not the end of food freedom. Reframing your mindset, and resetting your expectations allow food allergies and food freedom to live harmony.
About the Author of 5 Ways to Intuitively Eat with Food Allergies and Severe Sensitivities
Michelle Hoover is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and writer of everything you’ll find at unboundwellness.com. After struggling with chronic digestive issues, headaches, fatigue, and restrictive food issues, she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Thyroid Disease and multiple food intolerances as a teenager. Through shifting her mindset and managing her health holistically, she has been able to find balance, restored health and freedom regardless of chronic illness and food restrictions. She works one on one with others as an NTP to help get to the root of digestive issues and nutritional imbalances, and helps guide mindset shifts, nutritional healing and transitional changes to a lifestyle that is sustainable for longterm health and healing.