Post 88 – Prioritizing Health

If I’m being completely honest, I haven’t been feeling as well as I could lately. I love to eat and always have, but my love for food has begun to take priority over my health. My discomfort has been mostly internal, which makes it easier to hide and easier to deny. I am the one to experience all of the symptoms and whether or not other people around me are affected depends mostly on my experience of the symptoms. Is it bad enough that I am complaining constantly and no fun to be around, or do I discreetly hide my discomfort with a weak smile? Having digestive distress is embarrassing and awkward to have to explain to people. No one likes to talk about bodily functions (and dysfunctions) and no one wants to hear about yours. Yet if it affects your daily life, your social interactions, and your meals it is tough to avoid.

Since the fall of 2012 I have struggled with what first manifested itself as acid reflux symptoms, which I initially dealt with through medication. I have since decided that this approach is not sustainable and healthy in the long term. After doing a lot of research and reflection I have realized that I must change my approach to food and eating in order to change the way I feel. Eating should be about balance as well as pleasure – nourishing your body and your spirit through the consumption of food, but also the company of others. When I am sad and alone I fill that sadness with food. When I am surrounded by those I love and I can appreciate the moment, food loses the center of attention. I can focus on being with people that are important to me while also savoring a meal. When I let my guard down, I convince myself that eating whatever I want (especially if everyone else is doing it) is okay despite the consequences that come later. Though I have tried several different remedies to alleviate my symptoms from medicine to eating gluten free to eliminating seemingly every category of good food, I still have not found the solution.

One category of foods I have been reading about for the past several months is a group of poorly digested carbohydrates known as FODMAPs. These foods are found across nearly all food groups, except animal proteins – wheat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, sweeteners, and beans and can cause digestive distress in certain people. My next step is to try eating a low FODMAP diet to see if these foods are the problem in addition to focusing on portion, context (am I really hungry or does that food just look good?), and stress.

I am sharing all of this information with you because I want to feel better and I need your support. My love for food has caused me to prioritize the pleasure I get from eating over my health (and the discomfort that comes later).

In taking the next step, I will focus on these goals:

1) following a low FODMAP diet

2) listening to my body to determine when I am hungry and when to slow down

3) finding ways to relax and be stress-free when eating (as much as possible) to allow for proper digestion

The weeks surrounding my wedding I enjoyed wonderful food, surroundings, and love from my family and friends. At the time I wanted to be able to fully enjoy those foods without restricting myself too much. Now the celebration has ended (though the happiness continues!) and I must recognize that prioritizing my health over my stubborn desire to eat whatever I want is a necessity.

As I’m beginning to learn, my problems come from not only what I am eating, but also how much and how often. One of the toughest challenges is adapting a healthy lifestyle within American cultural standards as we are a nation constantly on the go and eating junk. If you struggle with food issues, I invite you to reflect on the emotions surrounding food in your life and what you can do to change them. This is your one life to live.

Thank you for your support in this journey. I look forward to sharing my low FODMAP recipes in the near future!

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6 thoughts on “Post 88 – Prioritizing Health

  1. Oh Erin, I feel for you! I went through a few years recently with what we finally decided was IBS, and it was so awful. Traveling, eating out, etc were all getting to be so stressful because I never knew when I would feel icky. (Answer: Most of the time.) I vaguely tried the low FODMAP diet for a bit but decided I just couldn’t do it and maintain my vegan diet at the same time. Things have gotten a lot better in the last year or two, but I definitely notice feeling much worse when I’m out of my normal, somewhat boring, whole foods routine of eating at home. And that’s hard, because I love cooking and trying new recipes, and sometimes eating rich, fun foods. Balance just isn’t easy sometimes. I hope you have some luck with the FODMAPS though–I’ve heard from a few other people that it really helped them. I did find out while I was experimenting that too much soy is a big trigger for me, so at least I got that out of it!
    Try not to get too discouraged! It sounds like you’ve been trying to make the best of it by trying new dishes that do work for you, and that’s so great.
    All the best!

  2. Erin, you are most certainly not alone! In addition to my own digestive troubles, I’ve been dealing with an undiagnosed autoimmune condition of some form or another for the last 6+ years. My docs are “fairly” certain that the digestion and autoimmune issues are not mutually exclusive, so food experimentation for symptom management has been on my radar for some time. Don’t get me wrong, I love the wholesome foods that do so much good for my body, but damn if I don’t also like to occasionally scarf down the best(worst) bolognese I can find (knowing full well that heartburn and stomach cramps are a 50/50 soon after). I’m really excited to hear about your adventures in low FODMAPS foods because hopefully you’ll be able to share some good (and good for you!) recipes that will make the constant struggle just a little easier!

    PS. Pro Tip: Republic of Tea has a tea called Get Relief: Herb Tea for Digestion. It has been very helpful for me, and it’s really yummy too. I’ve also found ginger-based teas and candies really helpful for symptom management.

    • Hey Aubs,

      Thanks for the insight. It’s always great to hear from people suffering from similar problems (though sad to know that others are suffering too!). What kind of doctors have you been seeing? Have you found any particular “diet”/type of food that works for you? Thanks for the tip on the tea 🙂

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