Welcome back to the July 2011 Self-Care Retreat, which I am hosting with Cheryl of Gluten-Free Goodness and our guest hosts, Shirley of Gluten-Free Easily, Wendy of Celiacs in the House and Iris of Daily Dietribe. Wendy addressed the topic of food as self-care for this installment and her post really spoke to me, as did Cheryl’s post on food. The thing is, food and self-care can mean so many things to so many people, whether our lives are touched by Celiac disease, autoimmune issues, food allergies, food intolerances, or none of the above.
My relationship with food started being terribly complicated at about age 6 – in hindsight, that is about when I started getting low-level nausea after eating, had frequent stomach aches and had almost continuous joint pain. Right around my 7th birthday, I started thinking my weight was a problem. But as I got older, it was not just about weight – it was about the fact I always felt like everyone else had more energy than I did. For me food and energy and weight was all interconnected, and it all felt very negative to me, seeing as it always seemed like I had too much appetite, or no appetite and lots of nausea, combined with no energy and weight gain that always seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. I spent most of my teenage and early adult years being a very restrictive eater as, ironically, the less I ate, the less sick I felt to my stomach. Eventually, though, I attempted to not let food dictate my life by eating intuitively and really believing in self-acceptance. Eating intuitively (using an 80% healthy 20% indulgent approach) + various health problems led to me putting on 50 pounds in 5 years, on top of being on the heavy side to begin with. The thing with eating intuitively meant that while I was attempting to break restrictive patterns and indulge in food, I still had the stomach aches and nausea, so I still associated food with discomfort, despite trying to be more intuitive.
In 2008, when I put on the last 20 pounds of the weight after a course of steroids for my sinuses, I decided it was also time to start losing some of the weight. My knees were hurting more than ever, and I really did not feel at home in my body. I lost 40 pounds but continued feeling exhausted, so I decided to investigate Celiac disease and other forms of gluten intolerance or sensitivity. By the time I realized gluten was a problem, milk and eggs had also become foods that caused me reactions. When I did allergy testing I also found out I was intolerant to sulfites.
I discovered all of this gradually, and over time have come up with a strategy that has turned food into a friend rather than a frenemy I feared or that caused me to become lethargic. Food now is about nourishment rather than discomfort, which has made a world of a difference for me. I can view a meal as a form of self-care and, in turn, my relationship with food feels more peaceful than it has ever been, even during past years when I attempted to eat intuitively. Today, food as self-care means the following to me:
- Eating a strictly gluten-free, mostly vegan, and semi-raw to high-raw diet
- Packing a lunchbox for work and most times I am away from home for more than a couple hours.
- Having 16-32 oz of a green drink every day – some days that is vegetable juice, some days a raw cacao spinach smoothie or other sweeter concoction, some days, like last night, it is green raw soup made with spinach, zucchini and miso with some water – but whatever option, I made this a daily habit instead of a 4-5 days a week habit a few months, and I really felt a positive difference.
- Enjoying produce from the farmers’ market, which makes eating locally far easier.
- Avoid all refined sugars and exercising mindfulness with all non-refined sugars, even the natural ones like maple syrup.
- Limiting eating out – I never limit business lunches or dinners, but when I socialize with friends, food is less the focal point that it used to be.
Limiting eating out is probably the hardest of the above categories – our society is inherently focused on socializing over food and, in my life at least, this usually means eating out. My solution has been to spend time doing activities with friends – going for a walk, getting a pedicure, going to a yoga class – and on eating out at the handful of restaurants where I can usually count on a safe meal (this is not foolproof, as my epic glutening over July 4 weekend at a favorite restaurant, Firefly, proved). My husband and I did not eat out often to begin with, but even that has been further reduced. Ultimately though, viewing food as self-care and nourishment has had a very positive impact on my relationship with it as well as my energy level and sense of well-being overall.
This virtual self-care retreat is to inspire you all to make July a month of reflecting on self-care and the many ways to nourish ourselves. We encourage everyone to participate in this event in a way that feels appropriate to them, whether through personal reflection, journal or other self-care. If you would like to share your experience with self-care, we would love to include you in the experience, whether you join us for one week or every week. You can write generally about self-care, or focus on one of the themes (movement, food, family/friends/pets, creativity and meditation and mindfulness), or write every week about each of the themes. We ask that you link back to this post so that more people can learn about this retreat, and leave a comment for the weekly theme host, too!. If you would like to be included in our roundup, please email a link to your post, along with your name and blog name, to us at selfcareretreat at gmail dot com by July 30, 2011. Feel free to use the badge in your posts. Non-bloggers who would like to contribute,please email the full text to the same address and it will be included in the roundup.
Be well and take care of yourselves.
General Disclosures & Disclaimers