I was talking with a client this week who is following a therapeutic diet that is quite restrictive. In addition to a lot of digestive issues, she is struggling with a lot of feelings about having to follow this diet and finding that she starts the diet and then is easily thrown off track only to stop for a few weeks and then start again. She wants to feel better and asked me how to navigate this constant feeling of struggle.
I thought for a moment and reflected on my own recent experience. I spent several months this summer and fall feeling especially tired, puffy, and with dark circles under my eyes even when I got a good night’s sleep. I strategized with a colleague (yes nutritionists sometimes consult other nutritionists on their own nutrition) and ordered a food sensitivity test. The same test I recommend to my clients.
To my surprise, the test showed that I was reacting to several foods that I was eating all the time including eggs, lentils, and dairy.
What? How could that be? My exact words were not that nice.
I knew I would need to give these foods up for several months at a minimum and focus on eating healing foods. I love lentils, Greek yogurt, and I had just gotten into making a vegetable and feta cheese sheet pan dinner that was divine, but when I thought about it, giving up eggs was going to be the most difficult. I sat with it for a week or so and finally set a date to officially start my own therapeutic diet.
I felt a lot of feelings during that week and after. I felt sad, angry, and empowered over and over again. I worked on my thoughts about this diet. I made a list of dishes and foods that I would have to avoid and put together some alternative breakfast and lunch ideas. I did some digging around on the internet and through my cookbook collection and found some new recipes to try and a few that I had forgotten about.
It’s Working, but Not Always Easy
It has been a few months since I stopped eating these foods. I am happy to report no more dark black circles under my eyes and that puffiness is gone. I have generally made peace with this diet, but I still find that I have moments when I am angry, disappointed, and sad. A couple of weeks ago my husband made our son a flourless chocolate cake (one of my favorites) for his birthday. I knew I would want some. I started the spin cycle in my head going around and around it wasn’t fair that I could not have any cake, which of course made me want it more. I recognized the struggle, tried to change my thoughts, and created an alternate plan. I bought some really high-quality dark chocolate and fresh strawberries to enjoy at our dining room table celebration.
Creating a Workable Strategy
As my client and I talked, she acknowledged her feelings, honoring the sense of loss she felt. She set a time table to start her diet and we put in place an exit strategy when she would very methodically reintroduce one food at a time to see how her body would react. We created some alternate choices and set a time to meet again in two weeks to regroup. She made a plan to talk with her family and let them know how they can help her be successful. By the end of our session, she felt supported and much more positive about moving forward.
Changing your diet can be hard. It can be frustrating. And with the right support, it can be empowering. I am here to help.