Intuitive Eating and a Smack in the Face
When it comes to my intuitive eating journey, I have been so gosh darn proud of myself lately. In fact, two days ago I said to my husband how drastically different our lives are now that I’m not obsessed with food, micromanaging how much salt he puts in meals, asking him to hide cookies from me so I don’t binge, forbidding there to be any ice cream in the house, and, most upsetting of all, bursting into tears after every meal because I hated the feeling of being “full.” Today, we have a minimum of 3-4 pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in the house at all times and we eat it whenever we want it. It has become such a normalized food, as have Oreos, chips, pizza, and any other kind of fear food that I had. For the last few years, I have been crushing it when it comes to letting go of my food rules.
And yet, I still haven’t felt well physically, as you may have read about in my previous blog posts.
But yesterday I finally received some answers!! We traveled two hours to see a highly recommended doctor to help me figure out what is going on with me, and I must say – she was fantastic! To summarize the appointment, I am intolerant to the following foods: onions, garlic, gluten, dairy, beef, and anything fermented (alcohol, kombucha, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, etc.). Because I have been freely consuming these foods, my body is having a major inflammatory reaction in the form of weight gain, water retention, painful joints, aches, fatigue, and my personal favorite, an excess of candida (yeast), which would explain why I have had about five yeast infections in the last two months. SO, the goal is to kill off the excess candida in my system by eliminating the above foods, plus maintaining a low carb and low sugar diet. I’m also taking supplements that will help kill off the candida so my gut bacteria can get back to its normal state. I will do this for about 3 weeks, go back to the doctor to see how I’m feeling, and from there I’ll see if my body can tolerate some of these foods in smaller amounts.
So hooray! Off I went on the drive home, talking about how nice it is to hear someone tell me that my aches, pains, and weight gain aren’t a result of laziness and over eating. I was all rainbows and sunshine and butterflies for about 3 hours until I went home and tried to find sauces, spices, and other foods that don’t contain ANY of the ingredients listed above.
And suddenly I was back in it – “it” meaning my anorexia. From about 2pm-10pm, my husband and I sat on the couch, hard-pressed to find meals and sauces that had no trace elements of onions or garlic, only to realize how near-impossible it is. I mean, for the love of God, I’M ITALIAN! How DARE I be intolerant of garlic?! I scoured the internet, reading the find print of every ingredient list and nutritional info chart, thinking to myself “Okay, if there are no onions or garlic in something, then there’s dairy. If there’s no dairy in something, then it’s high in sugar. I should be low in sugar, but how much sugar is too much? What did the doctor mean by low sugar? Should I just eliminate sugar? Yep, I’ll be the best patient ever and I’ll eliminate ALL sugar and ALL carbs and I’ll just eat steamed veggies for the next 3 weeks. NO, I can’t do that. I’m starving just thinking about it. WHAT THE #*%$ CAN I EAT?!”
Around 10pm, I slammed my laptop shut and sobbed out of fury. Because WHY? Why did I work SO HARD to become an intuitive eater only to end up feeling like crap and needing to go back on a ridiculously restrictive diet? What’s going to happen to me? Am I going to start eliminating these foods and then just fall right back into my anorexia, continuing to restrict until I waste away? Am I going to start binge eating again as a result of not being able to have certain foods? I don’t want to die, whether it be from starvation or chronic binge eating. Eating disorders kill, and now I have to figure out how I can do this without letting mine resurface and kill me. It feels like all of the hard work I have done has gone right out the window and I’m infuriated. Not to mention, in the middle of our hunt for foods I can actually tolerate, we ordered dinner. I ordered scallops with gluten free pasta and steamed veggies from one of my favorite places in town, and to add insult to injury, they forgot my gluten free pasta, and both the scallops and the veggies were quite literally smothered in garlic, despite having asked for zero garlic. So I sobbed. I yelled. I let out every single thought and feeling I was having. I went to bed and despite being utterly exhausted, I tossed and turned until 3am, wondering if I’m being punked (Ashton, where you at, man?!).
I needed (and still do need) some time to process all of this. It’s a major ask for me to have to monitor and ask questions about every single thing that goes into my body, because it is so triggering of my diet days, when I clung to the Weight Watchers program like it was the gosh darn Bible. But now that I’m a little bit removed from the initial meltdown and now that I have 1. joined a Facebook group for folks allergic to onions and garlic (I know, I know, I’m secretly 89 years old), and 2. found some sauces from a company that I can try out (and I only had to spend a small fortune!!), I feel a bit more relieved. I realize that other people have it worse and that this isn’t the end of the world, but when I watch my husband eat sourdough garlic bread while I chomp on celery sticks, it sure as hell feels like it.
In my fury, I actually wanted to blame intuitive eating on why this is so hard for me. It sounds ridiculous, but at one point I truly was like “Screw you, intuitive eating! If I never knew how much freedom came with giving up my diets and restriction then this wouldn’t be so hard!” But beneath my fury, I am beginning to realize that all of this is another lesson in intuitive eating.
Intuitive eating is about normalizing “bad” foods and allowing our bodies to determine what we want to eat and how much. If I’m being intuitive, then I have to recognize that something is very wrong with my body right now and some foods are not jiving with me. It is my job to honor my body, to feed it what feels good. And truthfully, any time I have had any of the foods listed above, I end up in agony, crying to David, asking him why I feel like I binged after having a decent-sized meal, and wondering why my body is storing fat at an unbelievably fast pace. So if the goal is to listen to my body, then eliminating these foods is doing exactly that.
Just when you think you have it all down, just when you feel like you’ve mastered the art of listening to your body, you get a curve ball thrown at you. It’s unfair, but it’s another challenge I will fight to overcome. And at the end of the day, it’s going to make me stronger in my own eating disorder recovery and stronger as a therapist working with others in their recovery. Intuitive eating really does look different for each and every one of us at different points in our lives, and for me right now, this is what it looks like. Is it ideal? No. Is it triggering? Yes. But I will tell myself over and over and over again that this is my choice. Despite the doctor’s recommendations, I can still choose to ignore her and eat however I want. But what I want more than anything is to feel better, so right now, this is how I’m going to feel better. I will not starve, nor will I restrict my caloric intake. This is an opportunity for me to listen more carefully to my body and to experiment with alternatives types of foods and ingredients.
While this major change in lifestyle is admittedly very frustrating, this journey will help strengthen my ability to tune in to my body’s needs, and in turn, I will be able to help others who have food intolerances to do exactly the same. There’s my silver lining!
You’re Not Listening!
No one likes it when they feel as though they aren’t being heard. For me, over the years, not being heard has become a debilitating trigger. Sometimes it feels like all I do is scream at the top of my lungs and people don’t seem to hear me – especially when it comes to my health.
I have known for months, if not years, that something is wrong with me. But because of my history of trauma and because of my weight, I typically get one of two responses from doctors, therapists, etc.:
1. “It’s the trauma! Your body is holding so much pain.”
2. “It’s your weight. You’d feel better if you worked out a little bit.”
I mean, I typically would say “don’t even get me started” when it comes to healthcare providers saying this type of stuff, but who am I kidding? We all know I’m about to get started!
1. Perhaps this is shocking coming from a trauma therapist, but I truly don’t believe that every single sickness is a manifestation of trauma. Sometimes people are, in fact, sick. I don’t know how many times I tried to tell my therapist “my body hurts, I’m so tired. I cant function” only for him/her/them to go “Well of course! It’s the trauma!” This therapist believed that people get illnesses due to undigested trauma, and while I do absolutely agree with that, I don’t think that means that trauma therapy is the be-all, end-all cure. I think I needed a medical doctor, stat, but never got one because I was told the trauma therapy would cure it all.
2. Ah, the “It’s your weight” comment – a personal favorite. Here’s my truth: You could put me in a boxing ring with a man ten times my size, and STILL, the strength of my right hook alone would knock him off his feet. So what is it that these doctors want me to do when they tell me to exercise more? Push-ups? Not a problem. Deadlifts? Child’s play. Planks? Sure! Triathlon? Let’s go!
And the most dysfunctional thing of all about doctors telling me to move my body more is that they incorrectly assume that exercise is a weight-management tool (it’s not!!!). Doctors are taking one look at me, observing that I’m fat, and assuming I’m lazy (not true for anyone, fat does not equal lazy). Therefore, in their minds, the solution must be that I need more exercise.
Thus, because of my weight, because of my trauma history, I am stigmatized. I am not heard. And quite frankly, I’ve been getting downright disgusted by it. A few weeks ago after being told by yet another doctor that nothing is wrong, I was ready to quit and live the rest of my life only maybe 40-50% of the type of person I knew I could be if I were feeling better. But thankfully I have a supportive partner at home who reminded me that I have never been one to give up or take “no” for an answer.
And so I continued to fight. And over the last few weeks, my fighting is starting to pay off. I have seen multiple doctors who have run tests on me that have never been run. I went back to a doctors office for the second time in a month and requested a new doctor because I didnt’ like the answers I got from the previous doctor. And this time, I got a few more answers. I was HEARD. This doctor, bless her sweet soul, sat down next to me and handed me tissues as I cried and told her how horrible I felt. She validated me, listened to me, comforted me, and after an examination she gave me a diagnosis. She confirmed that what is going on with me is NOT my fault and that my weight gain, fatigue, and chronic pain is a result of this diagnosis, NOT a result of being lazy.
I am now being referred to a doctor who specializes in this specific autoimmune disease, as my doctor suspects that I have multiple autoimmune diseases that are contributing to my symptoms. All in all, I still don’t have all the answers. I have a few different doctors that have varying concerns ranging from issues in my brain, potential loss of vision, multiple autoimmune diseases, etc.
But low and behold, people are finally listening to me. I have no idea what will come of the journey ahead, but I am so much more hopeful knowing that people are hearing me, believing me, and truly wanting to see me feel better.
It’s so easy for us to fall into silence and not question anything when a doctor is not giving you the proper time and attention that you deserve. But it’s so important to push through your triggers and never stop fighting for your right to be heard. You know your body better than anyone else, so if you feel as though something is wrong and you are not getting the answers you want, use your voice! Use it one time, ten times, or a hundred thousand times if need be and I promise you that someday, someone will hear you and someone will provide you with the answers for which you’ve been searching.