A short note to those of you struggling as you make dietary changes in the name of health, whether it be because of food allergies or intolerances or autoimmune conditions or simply just to feel better:
It gets easier: everything from the cravings to the limitations to your social life to the central role the challenges play in your daily life.
First, the cravings go away. This happens so much sooner than you think. When I tell those who ask (and even some who don’t, frankly) about the foods I’ve been told to remove from my diet, the most common response is Oh, I could never give up…[bread, cheese, lattes, whatever]. But you can, you do, and after a while, it really isn’t all that bad. Trust me. Yes, at first you gaze playfully at the foods you are supposed to be avoiding. Then maybe you agree to a bite or two. Then perhaps you feel ill, and the message is clear: you don’t eat these things anymore, at least while you’re healing, perhaps never again (at least intentionally). That’s a hard thing to wrap yourself around. But you you because what other choice do you have?
Weeks or months later and you have a new diet: definition: the kinds of food that a person habitually eats. You aren’t shocked by what has gluten (spoiler: most packaged things) and you aren’t perpetually stumped or upset over what to make for each meal. You’re exposed to new foods. You feel good, most of the time anyway.
You don’t crave the foods anymore because you’ve found newer, better foods that fuel you rather than hurt you.
Next, social outings become easier. You don’t panic (as much) in the face of invitations to events that include food at their center. Instead, you do your very best to be up front, decline dishes as politely as possible, including a brief excuse, and snack or sip on what you can. Oh, and you eat before you go; a hangry* guest is a fussy guest and that just won’t fly. Most importantly, you’ll realize it really just isn’t that big of a deal. There.
With that, the most important and game-changing transition is when, yes when, your restrictions just stop being the focal point of your life. Oh, sweet relief! Considerations, sure, but the perpetual lament subsides. Simply put, it just stops being such a big deal. You eat what you eat, you don’t eat what you can’t. That’s it! There is no inner conflict. There are less frustrations and tears and most importantly, your health progresses.
So if you are committing to your health in this new year, perhaps attempting an elimination diet to see what’s what, or else you have been given strict orders by your doc to ease up certain foods that may be exasperating a condition, just remember, it gets easier. It gets a lot easier. And try your very best to be kind to yourself in the meanwhile. And remember to treat yourself.
*hangry: when you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both