Having food sensitivities doesn’t have to be limiting to your lifestyle. Dr. Doni shares some stories and strategies for changing your mindset to actually start to love the process of choosing new foods.
One of the things I focus on the most in the work I do with patients is helping them change what they eat in order to improve their health. Notice I don’t say that I “put patients on a diet” or even that I recommend a “diet.” Personally, I find the idea of a “diet” has too many negative connotations and, as a result, it usually ends up being a temporary experience instead of the long-lasting change we really need to successfully optimize our health.
This type of diet change can be difficult for some patients, especially in cutting out foods they used to eat all the time. It is a process to find new favorite food options and learn how to eat with others who are not making those same diet changes. Patients report feeling as if it is a punishment or that they feel deprived to not have the foods they love. And yet time and time again, once patients start choosing different foods every day, they find that it sets off a whole shift in their values about their health and themselves – making themselves and their health a priority – and it feels good. Instead of feeling deprived, they start to feel better than they’ve ever felt before and then they start looking for ways to feel even better.
And they realize that they would rather feel good than to eat foods that negatively affect their health. And when you realize that you can feel good (and happy) while eating different things, you experience a freedom that inspires you to make other choices that also benefit your health. You become less attached to any one food and more connected to your goal of feeling healthy.
Food Choices Can Have a Huge Impact
I want to share an example of one of my patients, Isaiah. I first met him when he was about 10 years old. His mom, Silvana, brought him to see me because he had warts on his hands and knees that kept coming back no matter what they did. We tested Isaiah for food sensitivities and found he was reacting strongly to gluten and dairy products. Silvana looked at me and said, “What am I going to do? I’m a baker, professionally – that’s what I do. I work with gluten all day long.” And I said to her, “Maybe you could try baking with gluten-free and dairy-free ingredients.”
And do you know what? That’s exactly what Silvana did. She started baking and writing recipes that were gluten-free. She wrote a whole cookbook with her recipes, called Cooking for Isaiah. Then she published another one after that, called Silvana’s Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Kitchen. And she even recently came out with her own line of gluten-free flour and baking products. She took on this need to choose different foods wholeheartedly, and it changed not only Isaiah’s life, but hers too.
I had a chance to see Silvana and Isaiah a couple weeks ago. They came to my office for a visit and Isaiah, now almost 20 years old and over 6 feet tall, talked about how much this change had improved his health. Not only have the warts not come back, but he has been healthy overall. He hardly ever catches a cold, and when he does (say if he eats a bit of gluten), he recovers quickly.
Finding Out About the Foods That Affect You
I want that for you too. I want for you to be able to experience what it’s like to feel good by eating foods that benefit your health. I know that it can seem hard at first! From childhood, we are exposed to so many messages about foods – what we should eat, can’t eat, or can only eat at certain times – that we end up creating beliefs that confuse the truth about foods.
Testing for food sensitivities helps clear up that confusion. It shows you exactly which foods are causing problems in your body, and which foods are not. The results help us understand your body’s particular needs, so you can make good decisions about the foods you choose.
Today, I want to focus on ways to help you “create space” between you and your food so you can change your mindset and actually start to love the process of choosing new foods. With time and practice, it will become so much a part of your life that you won’t even think about it anymore. Choosing foods that benefit your health will simply become part of who you are. You’ll be living life fully and having food sensitivities won’t seem like a burden at all.
Of course, when we think about it, we all have food sensitivities. Our bodies are responsive to our environment, and food forms part of that environment. So how could we not respond to it in some way? We are not robots! We are human beings that respond in very unique ways. We are not given instructions at birth or taught in school how we will respond to certain foods. The only way to find out is to try different foods, and see how we feel. But when we eat the same foods every day – and then start to feel awful, it’s hard to tell which specific food is causing us to feel that way.
In order to truly know, there are two paths:
- We either need to start from scratch, eliminating all but the least reactive foods and then reintroducing foods one at a time to see how we respond. But this can be really hard to do, especially when you have a busy lifestyle.
- Alternatively, we can run a test that will tell us which foods your body is reacting to, then all we need to do is follow what the results show us.
Making a Choice About Food – Today
So what if the tests show that you are sensitive to gluten? Don’t panic. Life without gluten doesn’t have to be boring at all. There are so many other foods available to you – all varieties of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds; gluten-free grains (rice, quinoa, millet, and more); fish, poultry, lentils and beans; as well as herbs and spices. When you think of it that way, you realize that it’s truly a matter of mindset. It is just that we are used to choosing what is most familiar.
For instance, what if you learned that a particular food is increasing your risk of having a heart attack, getting diabetes, cancer, and/or Alzheimer’s disease? Those foods may not taste as good once you know that they are negatively affecting your health—even if it is a popular product, the only thing on the menu, or just “the way we’ve always done it.” Sometimes it is even more empowering to realize that certain foods could be disrupting your sleep, causing digestive upset, making your joints hurt, and/or affecting your mood. And to find out that you can do something about it other than taking medications – how amazing!
That’s the thing – you can choose differently every day. Don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow. Today you could go to the store, buy something different, or you could order something different from the menu, because it is for you, and you are important.
Remember the health goals we talked about a couple weeks ago? Pull out your health goals and remind yourself of what you are aiming for. You have the ability to accomplish your goal. You have the ability to choose what you eat every day – and what you eat affects your health, each and every day.
Be creative. Enjoy the process.
Change your mindset. Eat for you!
Embrace a different way of living – that’s what my naturopathic approach is all about. It is also why I developed my Stress Remedy 7 and 21 Day Programs. Both programs guide you every day, step-by-step, to make different choices – choices that benefit your health. They include a menu plan, recipes, and daily email tips to guide you along the way. So by the time you finish the program, you are much closer to reaching your health goal. The Stress Remedy Programs focus on four areas: 1) what to eat, 2) how to gradually add movement/exercise into your day, 3) getting enough sleep, and 4) making sure you include “stress remedies” each day.
Again, shifting what you choose to eat each day is a process. Don’t put pressure on yourself to make an overnight change. In fact, I find that patients are more successful when they learn as they go.
Taking Control of Your Health
I first created the Stress Remedy Program over 13 years ago when I was adjusting my own diet based on the foods that cause me to not feel well. My daughter, Ella, was a baby and had severe colic, and I had been struggling with allergies, migraines, and digestive issues for as long as I could remember. I was willing to change anything about my diet if it meant both of us would feel better.
So I started avoiding gluten, dairy and a few other foods, and sure enough, Ella started to feel better. A food sensitivity panel showed that I reacted to both dairy and gluten, confirming what I had already noticed. It made such a difference to both my own health and Ella’s that I never turned back. Instead, I made it my focus to help others who have also been reacting to certain foods but didn’t realize it. I reviewed the research, not only about the health issues associated with gluten, but also leaky gut – this was over 10 years ago, before much was known about leaky gut. I gave lectures and helped patient after patient learn how they could feel better simply by being willing to embrace changes in their diet that result in improved health.
It’s my passion to help people with their health, and to do so by learning from my own body as well as studying the science that explains what we experience. I’ve also learned a ton from my patients and what they find helps them to feel better. We don’t come with an instruction manual! But we do come with an ability to tell our minds what to focus on and to learn from our experiences. And that is what I enjoy sharing with you in this blog, in the Weekly Wellness Wisdom e-Newsletter, and in the Empowering Wellness Naturally podcast.
We are in this together.
My hope is that all this encourages you to know that you can make a difference to your health, each and every day, based on the choices you make about the foods you eat and the activities you choose. Your health is up to you.
13th July 2016
For more about my friend Silvana, please see her website: silvanaskitchen.com.
She has lots of great resources for eating gluten-free!