I don’t think I’ve ever had a healthy relationship with food. I moved multiple times growing up, but one thing that was always consistent was the hand-painted plaque that hung in every kitchen/home my family lived in. On this plaque was the statement, “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”. The message was surrounded by sunflowers (as if this was a cheery saying). The message to me was clear though, and it was this: that I needed to be skinny.
My goal in sharing some of my childhood memories and experiences is not to rag on my family, or to blame them for all of my adult problems, but to hopefully expose the original source and unpack from there. I feel it is necessary to say that we are all trying our best and I know that their intentions were not to cause harm.
As early as I can remember, I have been obsessed with food both positively and negatively. The positive in this would be that food is how my family shows love. All life events are marked with favorite and special meals. We believe in food being an experience, an indulgence, and an appreciation of it as an art form. Food is a major bonding point for my family. We love discussing, breaking down meals, taking it all in, and spending time together doing that. I come from a long line of amazing cooks and bakers, and some of my fondest memories are cooking with and learning from different members of my family. This, I believe, is the beautiful side of food, a sharing of an experience with others.
While I treasure those family associations with food, there is another side to the metaphorical side of the coin. I was raised in an “ingredients only household,” and my mom was always dieting. The term that is now used is “Almond Mom” (feel free to look it up on TikTok), and though I know my mother’s intentions were to raise us happy and healthy, and she accomplished that in many ways, I took away other messaging as well. There was never “junk food” and there were many things that were forbidden (white bread, for example). This is where my unhealthy/negative obsession started. It may or may not surprise you to hear that I was a bit of a rebel as a child and anything I was not allowed to do or have, I would find a way to have it. I may not have even been interested in something but not being able to have it made me want it that much more.
The second I could get my hands on junk food I would binge, feeling like I would need to take full advantage of the opportunity—because who knew when it would come again. I would look forward to going to certain friends’ houses and raiding their pantries with all the chips, snacks, cookies, etc. I would tell my friends how lucky they were that they could eat whatever they wanted … and I would be met by their confused blank stares. It was to the point where family members outside my immediate family would stock up on the snacks I liked when I would visit because they knew I was not normally allowed to have them.
This behavior continued on well into my adult life and I would begin the cycles of binge and then restrict. I have struggled to find the happy medium and to not look at food as the enemy. I struggle with feelings of guilt and shame when I am eating, and oftentimes feel like I am being judged when I am eating (because only “skinny” people are allowed to eat). I know this is a lie, but as you know, it is hard to unlearn things that run deep from our childhoods and the culture of our lives.
In an effort to try and heal my relationship with food, I stopped counting calories/macros as this had become an obsession as well. I was to the point of planning out what I was going to eat weeks in advance, and there was no room for flexibility. I would dread parties and was scared to deviate from my “plan” or would starve myself all day so that I could “save” all my calories for one big indulgent meal. This was obviously not sustainable and it was not healthy to have food occupy so much of my thought life. So I dropped all of it. I am unsure if this was ultimately the best way to go about things but I just needed it to stop.
It has been a few years since I deleted all my food tracking apps and programs. I try to have general rules for myself like focusing on eating three meals a day and trying to get more protein, but nothing that requires a lot of thought or decision making.
So what does all this have to do with going gluten and dairy free? I like to approach life through humor and I have made jokes about how eliminating these things from my diet is “my greatest fear”…and I would say that is mostly just for dramatic effect, but on some level it really is a major fear. I fear losing my freedom. I have tried really hard to eliminate food out of my internal dialogue,life, dismissing intrusive thoughts, and working to not be triggered by people making normal statements about food. I struggle with decision fatigue and the thought of needing to go back to planning and having to make constant decisions about what I am going to eat feels heavy right now.
To put it simply, I hate thinking about food – especially in the “you can’t have it” manner. I dislike every aspect of having to tell people that I am gluten and dairy free, and having to answer the inevitable questions of “why”. These are completely normal questions for people to have and I know their intent is from a place of curiosity, but I still feel like I have to defend and explain my choices. I don’t want to have the conversation because I know how triggering those have been for me in the past and can continue to be at times, and the last thing I want to do is inflict any of the pain I have experienced onto others.
My hope is this: to bring light into difficult conversations and to share that it is not easy. I don’t know what you have had to eliminate from your lifestyle, whether permanent or temporary, but whatever it is, I think we can agree that it takes a lot of effort.
I see you and honor the work you have put in. We really are all in this together, and thankfully do not have to do life alone. So I am doing the gluten and dairy free thing, kicking and screaming at times, but doing it nonetheless. I will be going GF/DF for the next 6-8 weeks (per Anya’s instruction). We will assess at that point how I’m feeling and if my symptoms have improved. And I will be honest with you…I am fully committed to doing the gluten and dairy free thing, kicking and screaming at times, but doing it nonetheless.
Feelings this week: trepidatiously moving forward, trying to remain optimistic.
Favorite moment from experience: Clients giving me amazing gluten and dairy free recommendations, and encouraging me on this journey!
Something I am currently loving: Sharing my hesitancy and being met with both kindness and support.
This is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute any practice of medicine or professional health care services of any type. The use of information on this blog is at the user’s own risk. The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, for diagnosis, or for treatment. Please seek the care of your health care professionals for any questions or concerns.