A Day in the Food Of (and other reflections on intuition and self-care)

1 Nov

Monday, I had pizza. I had it for lunch, and then I had it for second lunch. It was so good and made my taste buds so happy. My stomach had entirely different feelings about it. By the end of the second lunch (so I eat like a Hobbit sometimes, OK?), I was at exercise ball Swall of bricks with gnome with sledgehammer batting around a spikey like a badminton birdie.

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I stopped at a gas station and parked in the back so I could change my clothes … from elastic pants to bigger elastic pants.

I know better. I know pizza does this to me. Sometimes we do things despite the consequences just so we can … and that’s OK. Just make sure you’ve got those backup pants.

Then when I got home from this near-week in New England where my motel didn’t have a fridge like in the picture and I ate a whole bunch of crap, I hit the grocery store and bought things I felt would make me feel good. I couldn’t wait to get some fresh fruits and veggies!

With irritable bowel syndrome that has waffled back and forth from IBS-C (with constipation) to IBS-D (with diarrhea) over the past 20+ years, only to be exacerbated by my fibromyalgia and its digestive symptoms, I’ve been on a long journey of understanding food.

It doesn’t help that I. LOVE. FOOD.

My best breakthrough in managing this mess of intestines was when I went on the keto diet two years ago. It was fabulous! I felt great! My bloating all but ceased. My poops were nearing normal. And as a bonus, I lost 20 pounds!

There were two big drawbacks to the keto diet for me. The first was the incitement of vanity. I started the regimen because I heard it makes people have more energy and be more clear-headed, and that right there combats my two least favorite symptoms of fibro: fatigue and brain fog.

But once I started losing all that weight — weight I’m certain came on due to my fibro, as the timing was spot on — I got caught up in the whole skinny thing. I started obsessing over losing more weight. I fantasized about a Hollywood body. I was going shopping for new clothes. I forgot all about why I went on the diet to begin with.

Vanity has its uses. Like presenting oneself or one’s space in a way that makes people around you feel good. Also, hygiene! But vanity taken too far can be super negative, egocentric, a distraction from things that truly matter, and majorly counteractive to compassionate self-love.

The second drawback was how terrible it was to go off of it. A simple cheat day indulging in a favorite thing I desperately missed would result in extreme, painful bloating. My body had totally forgotten how to process carbs and raged when I asked it to do so anyway. And I’d gain weight almost instantly.

I went off it, and back on, slowly gaining weight over time and having may miserable days of bloating. I noticed when I’d go back on the diet, it was less about making my gut healthy and more about losing the weight again. There was that vanity rearing its mean evil head.

Here’s a secret about losing weight on keto: For most, it works miraculously fast the first time you do it. For most, any subsequent time on the diet is utterly lacking in that miracle. It’s a lot of work.

If you’re considering keto, I won’t discourage you. It has a lot of benefits. It can reverse diabetes and do so much more. Definitely research it. But know that going off of it can be a mess.

Many people can stay on it and be happy. It’s really not that terrible to eat a bunch of bacon and peanut butter. I made peanut-butter-covered bacon and it was life. But there are other things I really missed.

This year has had adventures where I wanted zero dietary constraints. My 10-week road trip this past spring and summer I actually did try to stay close to keto. I left with my car full of low-carb non-perishables. Then on day two, someone set pasta salad in front of me and I was like, “Yeah, never mind that keto thing. I’m gonna eat America.”

I got back. I avoided the scale like an ex-coworker in the frozen foods aisle. I went back on keto … to lose the weight I’d gained. (See, there it was again.…)

Then I hurt my back very badly, to where I couldn’t do the things. Fast forward through food drop-offs (they asked me what I “can’t” eat and I said nothing! because I won’t be picky about charity), two 10-day courses of prednisone, a town’s supply of ibuprofen, which potentially does cause weight gain with long-term use, and a fair share of good old fashioned comfort eating.

My scale is dead to me.

I bought bigger pants.

I bought more bigger pants. At Wal-Mart.

My intestines were angry and writhing and I got super grumpy as I do when my gut is grumpy. Seriously, I can have a grumpy toe or a grumpy sinus or a livid L4-L5 disc and NOTHING makes me grumpy like a grumpy gut.

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At some point in this mix of helplessness and … let’s call it “self growth” (hehe) … I realized that in my life of so many restrictions that I cannot control, why would I add even more restrictions? Why would I say, “no donuts!”?

And hence more bigger pants, but I was making headway.

Then I heard about intuitive eating. It’s the anti-diet. It’s basically about eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full. Having what you want, but if your body doesn’t react well, don’t have it again or just have it in moderation. It’s about trusting your gut to know what’s best for you, and it’s also about self-love.

I lovingly bought the bigger pants. I considered everything I’ve learned on my dietary journey, from low FODMAP to anti-inflammatory to, yes, keto.

I came home from New England and declared I was going to avoid gluten and dairy and processed meats and foods I know cause me bloating. I stocked up on delicious things that I enjoy. I resolved to not count calories or aim for intermittent fasting or even turn down a donut if one comes about.

My gut is SO HAPPY right now, and I’m maintaining in my mind and heart that that’s all that actually matters. So, I’m happy.

I’m going to share specifically what foods are working for me, in case they may work for you (we’re all so different, but you never know). Here’s a day of meals:

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Breakfast:

  • oats with frozen blueberries and raw honey, and a little sea salt, almond milk, and coconut oil
  • grapes and half a banana
  • almonds and walnuts
  • hard boiled egg with black pepper, sea salt, and extra virgin olive oil
  • a vat of black coffee

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Lunch:

  • salad of mixed leafy greens, cucumber slices with the skin cut off, green onions, oregano, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, black pepper, and salmon, with gluten free crackers
  • a hot cup of bone broth with ginger and cinnamon, with raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar (added after I pour the rest in the cup and it sits a moment, so the good bacteria doesn’t get cooked to death)

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Dinner

  • chicken cooked in olive oil with sea salt, black pepper, cumin, and smoked paprika (I always just grab random spices and play)
  • zucchini tossed in the skillet with the chicken, added dill and sea salt
  • smashed sweet potato with sea salt, avocado oil, and raw honey (next time I’m going to toss on a pad of real butter instead of the salt and oil because there’s no need to be absurd)

For snacks, I grab fruit, nuts, crackers or dark chocolate when I feel like it. I haven’t been offered a donut yet, but I won’t say no. Even if I bloat, I’ll fix it by a return to my routine, and I want to keep the ability to process sugar and gluten in my body’s memory, anyway. I take my probiotics.

I’ve not experimented much with alcohol thus far. I had a couple glasses of white wine the other day, and they made me really tired. I also had a flare coming on anyway due to weather changes. It did reaffirm my avoidance of happy hour, because when I get that tired early in the day, it ruins my productivity for the evening, and I’ve got books to write!

Meanwhile, I’m rocking my new bigger pants with comfort and love and confidence. My scale is still in … well, it’s in Guam for all I know.

It feels really good to feel good!

If you’re interested in intuitive eating, here are a couple good places to start:

But wait, there’s more!

What I’ve learned from intuitive eating goes beyond intuitive eating. Trusting one’s gut doesn’t have to be just literal. There are messages here that can be applied elsewhere, like in fitness, work, play…little things from what TV shows we watch, to big things like choosing friends and romantic partners….

  • After doing something, check in with how it made you feel, and keep doing only what feels good.
  • If it doesn’t feel good, stop.
  • Shift your mindset from denial to allowing.
  • Treat yourself with love and compassion and acceptance. You’re beautiful!
  • Do not force yourself into others’ rules or standards.
  • Do things in harmony with yourself, not to spite yourself.
  • Be sure to do each thing for its benefit to you, not as a harmful coping mechanism.

What other affirmations from intuitive eating resonate elsewhere in your life?

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