Stop trying to eat like everyone else. Just STOP.
On any given week, I receive well-intended yet unhelpful suggestions from people who believe they can “help” me. Sometimes it’s from a well-meaning Vegan person who thinks my Paleo options are not only immoral and cruel, they are unhealthy for me. As usual, I kindly ask that person to design me a minimum 1538 calorie meal plan free from nuts, dairy, seeds, soy, legumes, beans, gluten (including no corn), alliums, goards (pumpkin, squash, cucumbers), and certain oils, certain sugars, plus more calories on my training days that are easily absorbed, do not cause my guts to rebel and fall apart, and deliver iron, protein, and healthy fat well enough that I don’t suffer a loss in cognitive processing.
Every person I’ve encountered who has looked at that list usually tells me it cannot be done without severely compromising my health.
And so, here I am again, stating the obvious: nutrition is an individual matter. Stop eating like everyone else.
Instead, eat like only you can, and only you should:. Eat like you.
Among my friends, they have a reply to newcomers who mean well when they suggest a food or new recipe to me: “That sounds safe, but is it ‘Imei safe’?
They say this because I am my own canary in a coal mine: if it isn’t safe for me to eat, it might not be so good for them either. Why? Because while all of the ingredients in processed foods are FDA-approved for public safety, a good amount of them will still leave me writhing on the floor, vomiting, cramping, racing for the toilets, or leading to poor nutritional status over time.
Yet the real truth of eating well and transforming your life is a journey of discovery, trial and error, and extreme customization. What we’re learning more than ever is that a nutritional profile that works for one may not work perfectly for another.
The good news: there exists one shared food factor among those who have autoimmune disease and food allergies, one in which no health expert would ever argue against. It is a simple equation: eat a natural diet free from highly processed foods.
By doing so, you will not eat in the manner of everyone else. You will eat like you.
Stop Eating Like Everyone Else
I noticed a common pattern among food bloggers, particularly food blogger with an emphasis on medically-necessary diets.
Click on any of the photos of the beautiful food you see, and you will find the following:
Sugar. Emulsifiers. Corn and High Fructose Corn Syrup. Xanthan Gum. Substitute flours. Common foods in the top eight allergens. Processed food.
Did I mention sugar? 😀
These ingredients make up the attempt to help people on a medically-restricted diet eat foods that they remember, that they find comforting, foods that remind them of their childhood, and foods that help them feel like they can eat just like everyone else. It’s eating via Nostaligia, but not Nutrition.
For example, around holiday time, cooks are busy in their kitchens make Christmas sugar cookies. Sugar cookies have sugar in them. They taste great! So, you and I aren’t surprised how many pictures of cookies there are this time of year.
It’s a real mind-shift to tell yourself it’s time to stop eating like everyone else. Yet, a mind-shift is exactly what you want to see happen in order to experience a positive change in your health.
If you have an Autoimmune Disease or chronic illness requiring a medically-necessary diet, or if you have severe food allergies that have compromised your health, pouring sugar and substitute grains into your body simply because they are rendered gluten free by adding Xanthan gum doesn’t transform those cookies into something healthy to eat. It just masks the flavor and texture. That’s not a mind-shift; that’s a mind block! Yet that is exactly what many people are trying to do — eat like everyone else, doing the bare minimum so they can still have their gluten free cake.
When you stop eating like everyone else, you have a choice to start eating like YOU.
What You Get When You Eat Like You
What do you get when you eat like only you should eat?
- Improved energy.
- A Happy Tummy
- Clear skin, no rashes
- No emergency trips to the hospital
- Ability to apply yourself to other activities, mental and physical
- Better sleep (oh, how I love how deeply I can sleep!)
- Enjoyment of meal time with others, instead of worry
- Relaxed family members (they don’t have to worry about you becoming ill)
- A simplified routine of regular foods without the guesswork
I can’t tell you how much #10 has changed my life. By creating a batch cooking menu of about 20 different options and rotating them in every other week, my diet stays routine enough to be easy to plan for, yet diverse enough to provide a nutritional profile that meet the demands of my life.
It also allows me to create a quick plate for a guest, customizing that meal because the foundational ingredients are allergen free. My husband can also build his meals off of my batch cooking sessions to augment his own meals, as he can eat gluten and other dishes that contain foods I cannot have. We separate those foods in the refrigerator, so we never risk cross contamination. You only need to remember a simple rule: never double dip.
How To Get Started Eating Like You
How do you learn how to eat like you? If you have never known how much and what kinds of foods to eat, I highly recommend starting with an appointment to see a Registered Dietician with specialized knowledge about your food allergies, intolerances, and GI disorders.
From there, you want to find out what kind of nutritional profile you would need help keep you maintaining the level of activity that keeps you happy and healthy. There are tests and measurements that can be done to get accurate numbers back across the amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as blood tests to find out about any deficiencies or areas of improvement you can make regarding micronutrients.
Next, I would recommend going through your cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer, and removing foods, condiments, and processed foods that don’t line up with food options that will get you to your goal. For example, after I discovered I could not eat any foods with emulsifiers in them, I went through my cabinet and dumped them or donated them.
Finally, start with a few simple recipes and easy -to-make meals that you can repeat, and try batch cooking the ingredients separately, learning how to assemble the ingredients on the plate. This will help you learn how to “build a meal”, and also have a variety of pre-cooked items that you can mix and match as you add more and more meals to your list.
Still Feel Overwhelmed?
I get it. Learning to eat a whole new way is a daunting task. Learning how to feed yourself in a way that is drastically different from your average time-starved individual who eats in a “grab and go” world is like swimming against the current. Grocery stores often cater to this average customer instead of the ones like you and I, who must eat natural foods and can’t eat out at restaurants.
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, I am just a few more weeks away from launching a Beta test group of individuals like yourself who want to experience this shift with other like-minded people. I’ll be starting a Virtual Group of My Allergy Advocate “Hungry Hamsters”, and no matter what your food needs are, I’ll be helping each person make the lifestyle change from home to office to travel, helping you customize your eating lifestyle, based on the information you give to me regarding your customized nutritional profile.
You see, just because you are told what to eat doesn’t mean it’s easy to execute. That’s where MyAllergyAdvocate comes in. That’s what I do best — helping you make food fun again, and making it work for you.
Happy Eating! And let me know if you are interested in joining our Inaugural 2017 Hungry Hamster group by sending me a note via our contact form.