Food restrictions as self-care

On the surface, “restricting” and “self-care” sound like polar opposites and I know this is such a core issue that so many of us experience in the gluten-free community.  Generally we think of restrictions as a way of saying “no”, of controlling and denying. I’m sure everyone knows or has seen someone take even concepts about healthy eating and eating the “right foods”, and push them too far.  Yet for people with food allergies, Celiac, gluten sensitivity, etc., food restrictions can really be a way of simply living more fully, or taking better care of health.  Chances are if you’re on this blog, you know where I’m coming from.

I hate the idea of “dieting”—the regimented set of rules that are about contorting and what you do until you lose enough weight so that you can get to go back to live the way you want to.  I don’t think that works for most people in a real way or long-term, because it’s so external and designed as temporary fixes.  And yet, here are so many of us on a gluten-free or dairy-free or whatever “diet” because we’ve learned that it’s something we have to do to manage our health, avoid stomach aches, or migranes, or joint pain, or fatigue, or…(insert your own symptoms here).

Avoiding certain foods as self-care is like walking with a different set of muscles.  You may end up getting to the same spot, but the mindset isn’t the same.   The motivation is different.  It comes from the sense of “I like myself enough to not eat what will make me sick”, rather than “I need to avoid this so I can like myself better.”

I have many food restrictions beyond gluten, and so I’ve developed my own internal framework, both for peace of mind and to avoid feeling deprived.  As far as I’m concerned, as long as I’m eating good real foods, eating a balanced diet on most days (for me, that’s eating protein throughout the day to avoid getting grumpy) and exercising as I’m able, that’s it.  I’m not going to restrict, measure or count anything else.  I know that tools like a diet diary and tracking can be helpful for many people who are trying to change.  But I’m someone who tends to obsess and worry, and things like that tend to be counterproductive, especially since I have a happy balance.   Those are my  “rules” I’ve stuck to for most of the last decade.

I’ve recently developed pretty severe reflux, and this has thrown me for a loop. I know the general reflux guidelines: no tomatoes, no chocolate, no citrus, no late night munching, no alcohol, no mint…and to be quite honest, I’m struggling with them.  I love chocolate.  I love tomatoes.  I know that both don’t love me back.  That’s not new. But I am such a late-night nibbler, and I enjoy it.  Sometimes it seems to cause more reflux, sometimes it doesn’t.  I’m sure the quantity is a big part, and yet I’ve resisted making these changes.  My inner five year old says I’ve changed enough.  The irony is, of course, that I’ve eaten more chocolate and mint since I’ve decided not to as a form of rebellion, which is particularly unhelpful.  I’ve learned in the past that I can absolutely make changes, and they happen when I’m ready and properly motivated.

So my self-care goal is to be mindful of what I’m eating, especially after 7.  That means taking at least 30 seconds to breathe and center…and check in and see what I’m really needing or wanting.  I may decide to journal evening foods and moods and see where that goes.  I am quite certain I eat at night because I like to and I find it more comfortable to eat later in the day, not because I’m really hungry.  And it also means making a conscious decision.  Ideally, I’d love to cut out even half the late night snacks and see if/how much of a change that makes.

I am hoping that the self-care retreat helps keep me more accountable to myself on this front, because *sigh* these are changes I’m not eager to make, and this gives me a nice extra little nudge.

To learn more about the self-care retreat and/or to join us, there’s more info here! And here’s the rest of the lineup:

July 7th: Valerie of City Life Eats                                 Support and connection

July 14th: Shirley of Gluten Free Easily (GFE)         Movement

July 21st: Carrie of Ginger Lemon Girl                       Creativity

July 28th Iris of The Daily Dietribe                              Inward Reflection

About Cheryl Harris

Life played a funny trick on me. I've studied nutrition for years, and much to my surprise, found out that I could manage many of my health issues via diet. I've been GF for years, and I've got a bunch of allergies and sensitivities. But it definitely doesn't keep me from cooking, baking and enjoying my food. Thanks for stopping by.
This entry was posted in cheryl's musings, self care carnival. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Food restrictions as self-care

  1. Morri says:

    And this post is one of the reasons why I think you’re an amazing person. There’s honesty, integrity, and dignity in this post, honoring your body for the temple that it is.

    Thank you for the new perspective.

  2. Morri,
    I think you’re tremendously sweet to say that. Thank you.

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  4. Joan says:

    I don’t have any allergic reaction to the kinds of food I’ve been eating but I still “restrict” myself from eating more than required. We have a history of cardiac arrest and I’ll soon have the same fate if I don’t take care of myself. I want to live longer and, along w/ exercise and positive outlook in life, loving myself by eating right will make this possible.

  5. Loved this: My inner five year old says I’ve changed enough.

    I know that feeling! Thanks for the great post.

  6. Trish says:

    I found your post very interesting. I have similar food sensitivities as yours except I can have corn (so far). I have recently found, in the last six months, that I don’t do well on any of the nightshade family and that has been very hard because I have always enjoyed tomatoes, as well as most of the nightshade family. I also have reflux and I have an adjustable bed so that I can elevate my head at night and it has helped tremendously. I used a wedge pillow for awhile but kept sliding off it so it was of minimal help but I know others have found them helpful. My doctor said anything (food, supplements, Rx meds) that relaxes the smooth muscles will relax the sphincter and allow more reflux because the sphincter is a smooth muscle. I find if I have anything with caffeine in it (tea, coffee, chocolate, etc.) in the morning that I will have reflux that night. Regular reflux products don’t work for me but found a homeopathic product that has been very helpful, it is called Reflux-Away by NaturalCare. A friend told me about it and I order it on the internet because I have been unable to find it locally. It does not say gluten free on the bottle but I talked with the company and they assured me that it does not contain gluten and I haven’t had any problems with it. I was diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus about six years ago and when I had my last endoscopy a year ago they couldn’t find any evidence of it. I had been off gluten about nine months at that time and I think that contributed to my improvement as well. Thank you for sharing with all of us.

  7. Joan,
    I think it’s wonderful that you’re choosing to start a new family trend.

    Thanks for joining us! We all have feisty inner 5 year olds, I think.

    Thanks for your input, and I’m glad you’ve been successful managing your reflux.

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  10. Maya says:

    Hi Cheryl-I just read your guest post on Tiny Budda and loved it! So, I made my way over to your blog to subscribe :o) This was a great post too. I’m in the process of a food intolerance check where I’ve eliminated a large number of foods and will start reintroducing them back individually to see how my body reacts to them. I’ve been struggling with other people’s reaction to it all and comments like “Can you have that?” “Oh, I picked that up from the store, but you can’t eat it can you?” I have tried to suggest just asking me if I want something or not, or just letting me know what’s in a particular recipe, rather than framing it like what I can/can’t have. The complexity of what I’m eating when is more than I want to explain and I’m definitely tired of what I eat being the topic of conversation in general. I sure wish it was more common for people to just check into how different foods affect them and then to make decisions based on that rather than setting it up like a can/can’t have situation. I identified a gluten intolerance many years ago so am used to this whole process, but I’m finding that when other people’s react this way I have more trouble feeling like I’m taking good care of myself instead of just depriving myself. Anyway, your post was a great reminder, and I’m looking forward to checking out your site!

  11. Cindy W. says:

    I love the idea of this series of posts, Cheryl. I have written down your quote ” I like myself enough to not eat what will make me sick” rather than “I need to avoid this so I can like myself better”. I am going to post it on my frig as a good reminder. I have no problem not eating gluten but am struggling with gaining weight after healing. I can’t seem to get over the deprivation “thing”.

  12. Maya,
    Glad it was a help. I absolutely can see how restrictions wouldn’t make sense for someone without that experience, and I’m happy to hear you’re doing what you need to to feel your best.

    Great! And I am delighted to be on your fridge.

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  19. Meredith says:

    Hi Cheryl,

    Wow, finding your post at this particular time in my life is perfect as I am transitioning into – or at least attempting to transition into – a raw food lifestyle. And what you’re saying here, that by restricting certain foods we are actually showing more love for ourselves is so on point with what I’m feeling. It took me forty looooooooong years to figure this out, and I appreciate having this thought validated with your wonderful post!

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