Trigger Warning: If you are at the beginning stages of eating disorder recovering or sensitive to any talk of dietary changes, this post may not be for you. It’s okay if you need to skip this one.
In my last post, I opened about my recent gut issues and how I’m working to find healing. Part of this healing protocol has involved changing my diet and lifestyle, which to be honest I never imagined I would ever have to do. After years of restricting food (both amounts and types of food) and then finding recovery and intuitive eating, I swore I’d never restrict food again. That’s not the life I wanted to live. Thankfully, up until recently, my health has allowed me to have freedom with all foods.
I actually used to be super skeptical of anyone who cut out certain foods, even if they were doing so because of health concerns. Since then, my heart has softened to understand that some health conditions do benefit from a certain diet, and following that way of eating is actually intuitive for that person. Where I do see an issue, is choosing to cut out certain foods because everyone else is doing it or XYZ social media influencer said it’s healthy. Every single person is different and has different needs. If you do feel like a certain food is irritating you, I encourage you to reach out to a medical professional to get proper testing. And before doing any type of elimination diet, make sure you are in a healthy spot with your relationship with food.
Okay, all this to say that I do not go into changing my diet lightly. I resisted it for a while, until my symptoms escalated, and I went to see a doctor. We’re still working on an official diagnosis, but per my doctor’s recommendation, I have been following a specific healing diet and avoiding foods that exacerbate symptoms (like coffee, sadly). This diet is not intended to be long-term at all. The plan is to bring my gut back to normal and then slowly reintroduce foods to see what’s bothering me, with the ultimate goal of eating as many foods as I can again. Again, this is NOT forever, this is just a healing protocol, and I’m doing this in combination with other healing practices, like taking targeted supplements, reducing stress, getting enough sleep, deep breathing, and working on mindset. The whole picture is key, because food is rarely the only culprit and rarely the sole solution. Healing requires looking at every aspect of life.
Going from eating all foods, to needing to be conscious of everything I eat has been a challenge, but I’m thankful to be in the spot I am with my relationship with food and my body. If this happened 6 years ago, I would have been tempted to let this be an excuse to restrict and lose weight. However, prior to these gut issues, I was in tune with my body, listening to its needs with food, movement, rest, etc. and honored its needs. My aim in health was to work with my body in gentleness and compassion. So when these gut issues arose, my aim has stayed the same, but practically looks a bit different.
My intention is still to eat enough food and satisfying food, to move my body in ways that add energy to my life, to slow down when I’m tired or stressed, and to focus on all aspects of health (spiritual, emotional, relational, physical, etc.). I’m learning that intuitive eating and living can fit into a healing protocol, and that they really come down to motivation and intention.
Your motivation is the why behind what you do. In my disordered eating days, my motivation to exercise and eat a certain way was to lose weight so I could be good enough, acceptable, and beautiful. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel beautiful, but I put my full energy into it, and I did it at the cost of my body. I tuned out my body’s signals for food, rest, and joy to reach my goal. Right now, my motivation to follow a healing protocol is not because I’m inadequate as I am, but because I want to feel better and I want to honor my body’s needs. The pain and negative symptoms I’ve been experiencing are my body saying that something is not right – that my gut is out of balance. By avoiding foods that exacerbate symptoms, I’m not giving into diet culture, I’m listening to and honoring my body. That is intuitive eating and living.
Your intention is your goal or purpose. In my disordered eating days, my intention was to do be at peace with myself. I thought if I did everything perfectly and had the ideal body, then I could love myself. My intention served a purpose, but I was going about everything in the wrong way. Instead of working to love myself they way I already was, I thought I had to change who I was in order to love myself. Right now, I am able to practice intuitive living in this protocol because I work from a place of self-love and compassion. Instead of my body being the enemy, I see it as a little child who needs love, care, tenderness, and attention. That means honoring when it’s hungry, resting when it’s tired, and using kind words towards it.
So, I have that full healing will come, but in the meantime I will continue to listen to and honor my body within the limitations I have, and continually practice compassion when it’s hard.
I hope that this post gives you a peek into what intuitive eating and living looks like in real life. If you are struggling with digestive issues as well, I recommend first working on decreasing your stress around food and incorporating mindful eating techniques such as deep breathing, then connecting with a medical professional before making dietary changes. Working with a non-diet health coach or reading Intuitive Eating can also be a great place to start.