Food Stress

My Dear “Kindred Spirit,”

So I was realizing in reading over my last “health” post that I kinda sound like a quitter:

“Yeah, so I really changed my diet… for 10 months. And now I’m back to eating ice cream. Let me give you some excuses about why I’m such a quitter…”

Ok. This could get really self-bashing really quick. I need to be easier on myself.

Let me give you some of my actual reasons for relaxing (not giving up on, just relaxing) my diet (I am mourning all the jokes I could be making right now about quitters and excuses…).

So after ending up in the hospital earlier this year, I found myself in what I have been referring to as a “food crisis.”

I didn’t know what to eat!

I felt as though “the diet” had failed me. It was supposed to help me heal, and instead there I was in a hospital bed.

I also felt guilty. Because I had “cheated” occasionally over the past month or two before landing in the hospital.

It was far too easy to blame myself.

“Golly, if I had just been better about it… If I had just stuck more rigidly, 100%, to the diet, this wouldn’t have happened…”

Suddenly it wasn’t just the diet that had failed, it was me that had failed.

I know… really healthy attitude. SO conducive to de-stressing, taking care of myself, and healing…

But I continued with this attitude for a few weeks, eating *mostly* the food I was “supposed” to eat, and half the time wondering why I was even doing that. If it hadn’t been able to keep me out of the hospital, why was I even bothering? Just eat pizza with the rest of the family!

I was still ill, and had trouble just finding the energy to do the bare minimum. Cooking was no longer fun, it was work. Hard work!

And, frankly, I was tired of feeling so isolated.

Let me back up a little. Over the past year I had eaten this very restrictive diet, and although it was something I did of my own free choice, and I believe it was a good thing for me to do (it definitely helped with my symptoms at the time), it was also not easy.

The year I changed my diet was an eventful year. Among other things, my brothers and I went to a few intense gunfighting classes in Pennsylvania (heh, heh, yeah… I’m not quite a “super warrior” – yet), and we also spent a week up in NH for Porcfest (I got to meet Joel Salatin! I got to meet Joel Salatin!!).

I – being the woman – was in charge of food during these travels. And I can remember stressing out quite a bit about the “food situation,” too.

I basically had to plan and prepare two different menus – one for the boys, one for me.

They didn’t care much what they ate, but they wouldn’t eat my food (when I first made the dietary changes, the running joke in our house was “Yeah, Naphi doesn’t eat *actual* food anymore…”).

I didn’t want to feed them junk, though… So I was trying to make them somewhat healthy stuff to eat, and make myself grain-free, sugar free, etc, etc, food to eat…

I can remember eating cold butternut squash and homemade sausage in Pennsylvania for multiple meals. Yummy. (It actually wasn’t that bad. But I do prefer my squash heated up. Helps melt the butter).

It was stressful. And isolating.

Then, later that year when I occasionally started “cheating” on the diet, I stressed out about that too.

It happened because I was spending a good deal of time at a friend’s house, which included eating there. I couldn’t do my own cooking at someone else’s house like I could at home, so that meant just eating what was offered to me.

I stressed because I felt as though I was not being very gracious about accepting their hospitality. I wanted to be able to eat everything that was offered to me, but instead had to say no to what felt like almost everything. And although my kind hosts completely understood the “gluten free” aspect of it, I could never quite bring myself to explain just how much other stuff I was avoiding as well…

It’s a scary thing to tell someone who is trying to be hospitable and cook for you: “I’m grain free, sugar free, and lactose free. Oh, yeah. And no potatoes.”

It’s too much to expect anyone to “cater” to, and yet you know if you tell them, they’ll try to accommodate you anyway. I really didn’t want to put that burden on anyone. So when the understanding became “gluten free” I just went with that, and unfortunately stressed out a good bit about everything I ended up eating that was not “allowed” on the diet I was on.

So I would stress out about my diet, then feel guilty when I “cheated” on it.

Add to that physical stress (winter = cold and flu season!) and emotional stress going on in my life at the time, and it’s no surprise I ended up in the hospital!

It was a few weeks after I was out of the hospital when I stumbled upon a blog post that talked about our attitude toward food. I don’t remember the whole thing, but the gist of it was that food is more than nutrition. Food is community. What we eat, and our attitude toward our food doesn’t just effect our physical health, it also effects our emotional health.

It got me thinking: So. If I’m completely stressing out about what I am (or am not) eating… is it really helping me??

This is the main reason I have relaxed my diet. I’ve decided it’s not worth stressing out about eating sugar. Or lactose. Or grains. Or potatoes (especially potatoes).

I understand the need to heal my gut, and that one of the best ways to do that is to avoid a lot of sugar and difficult to digest foods (such as grains). So when I cook for myself I still cook that way (although lately I’ve been adding more things back in to see if I’m able to tolerate them – but that’s another post for another day).

However, for the sake of my emotional (and mental) health, I’ve stopped stressing. I’ve stopped trying to rigidly follow one set of dietary rules. I prioritize eating healthy, but I don’t sweat it when I’m eating out, or eating at someone else’s house and the food isn’t up to my “standards.”

Because sometimes healthy just doesn’t happen.

And let me tell you, it feels really good to not stress about my food. To not worry about every little thing I eat.

Totally worth it.

Love, N.

P.S. And, yes. I do enjoy my ice cream. A little too often, I’m afraid.

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