For years, I’ve had stomach problems. Nothing serious but frequent and annoying enough to be disruptive. Frequent bloating, gassiness and mild heartburn along with other symptoms that seemed unrelated like eczema, headaches and brain fog. I did my due diligence and saw my doctor for my yearly exam, I’ve even seen a gastroenterologist in the past. Overall, it seems I’m pretty healthy, except for the above symptoms. So being a dietitian, of course I looked to what I was eating. I kept track of my symptoms and foods looking for patterns which most times can help you identify the issue. Not this time. I decided to seek out help which lead me down the path to blood testing for food sensitivities (here’s more information about the test I took) and boy oh boy, was I unprepared for what I was about to learn.

Turns out, according to the test, I am sensitive to A LOT of foods – wheat, corn, soy, oats, coffee, cocoa, cane sugar and caffeine just to name a few. At first, I was stunned. I then entered into what I like to call my Stages of Food Grief.

Let’s start with denial – definitely not just a river in Egypt, folks. When I first got the report back, I thought to myself “No way! COFFEE?? Coffee would NEVER betray me. This report has to be wrong!” Then as I sat back and looked through my food journal, things really did start to make sense. I could line up the foods on my report with the symptoms I was experiencing. It was then I knew it was true, and my only course of action was to move forward and start the elimination diet as prescribed.

Next was anger. This was a fun stage. I remember distinctly standing in the frozen food section of Sprouts, ready to throw a package of frozen potatoes across the aisle because not one…single…item… was made without one of my new forbidden ingredients (sugar, apple, soy). I also found myself getting angry with those around me for enjoying foods that were now off limits. I was not a happy camper. What got me through this phase was a supportive and empathetic husband who let me be angry but also said “well, let’s focus on what you CAN have.” I started to look up creative recipes using only ingredients that I could consume. I started to look at finding recipes that fit my needs as a challenge. I dug in and mustered all the resourcefulness I could to find a way to make this work.

As my anger softened, I got a little sad. Food no longer held the pleasure it once did. It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying the foods I was making (EVERYTHING has to be made from scratch), but I had to learn in hurry that food could no longer be an instant pleasurable reward (I can no longer just grab something quick). I would have to find another way to get past any cravings I had and get comfortable sitting with uncomfortable feelings and “deprivation”. That has been an important lesson to learn, not just for food but for life.

Finally, I find myself in a place of acceptance. That is in no small part due to the fact that I feel so much better. My gut is eons happier, I have more energy and my eczema is better. Here are a few other things I’ve learned along the way:
  • I really can live without caffeine.
  • Cashew ice cream is the single best thing I’ve ever made. Period.
  • I’m like the Macgyver of meal planning – I can take seemingly random food items and turn it into a meal!
  • Maple syrup is magic – when it’s the only sweetener you can have, you get really really resourceful.
  • If you want to make homemade nut milk – get a nut milk bag. SO WORTH IT!
  • You can’t take canned meat through TSA, they will confiscate it!
  • It’s ok and normal to feel angry or sad about change.
  • Feeling good is worth my time and effort.
Change is hard. It doesn’t matter if it’s a change you’re electing or a change that blindsides you. You might find yourself going through the stages I went through and that’s perfectly normal. Seek out those that can help make the process just a little easier. If you happen to be contemplating a change to your diet, RESULTS dietitians would be happy to help. Schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation here.

This post was written by Danielle Heuseveldt.
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