Treatment Guide

Food Restrictions As Self-care

Cheryl Harris Gluten Free Works

food restrictions as self-care

Photo: Cheryl Harris

On the surface, “restricting” and “self-care” sound like polar opposites and I know this is such a core issue that so many of us experience in the gluten-free community.  Generally we think of restrictions as a way of saying “no”, of controlling and denying. I’m sure everyone knows or has seen someone take even concepts about healthy eating and eating the “right foods”, and push them too far.  Yet for people with food allergies, Celiac, gluten sensitivity, etc., food restrictions can really be a way of simply living more fully, or taking better care of health.  Chances are if you’re on this blog, you know where I’m coming from.

I hate the idea of “dieting”—the regimented set of rules that are about contorting and what you do until you lose enough weight so that you can get to go back to live the way you want to.  I don’t think that works for most people in a real way or long-term, because it’s so external and designed as temporary fixes.  And yet, here are so many of us on a gluten-free or dairy-free or whatever “diet” because we’ve learned that it’s something we have to do to manage our health, avoid stomach aches, or migranes, or joint pain, or fatigue, or…(insert your own symptoms here).

Avoiding certain foods as self-care is like walking with a different set of muscles.  You may end up getting to the same spot, but the mindset isn’t the same.   The motivation is different.  It comes from the sense of “I like myself enough to not eat what will make me sick”, rather than “I need to avoid this so I can like myself better.”

I have many food restrictions beyond gluten, and so I’ve developed my own internal framework, both for peace of mind and to avoid feeling deprived.  As far as I’m concerned, as long as I’m eating good real foods, eating a balanced diet on most days (for me, that’s eating protein throughout the day to avoid getting grumpy) and exercising as I’m able, that’s it.  I’m not going to restrict, measure or count anything else.  I know that tools like a diet diary and tracking can be helpful for many people who are trying to change.  But I’m someone who tends to obsess and worry, and things like that tend to be counterproductive, especially since I have a happy balance.   Those are my  “rules” I’ve stuck to for most of the last decade.

I’ve recently developed pretty severe reflux, and this has thrown me for a loop. I know the general reflux guidelines: no tomatoes, no chocolate, no citrus, no late night munching, no alcohol, no mint…and to be quite honest, I’m struggling with them.  I love chocolate.  I love tomatoes.  I know that both don’t love me back.  That’s not new. But I am such a late-night nibbler, and I enjoy it.  Sometimes it seems to cause more reflux, sometimes it doesn’t.  I’m sure the quantity is a big part, and yet I’ve resisted making these changes.  My inner five year old says I’ve changed enough.  The irony is, of course, that I’ve eaten more chocolate and mint since I’ve decided not to as a form of rebellion, which is particularly unhelpful.  I’ve learned in the past that I can absolutely make changes, and they happen when I’m ready and properly motivated.

So my self-care goal is to be mindful of what I’m eating, especially after 7.  That means taking at least 30 seconds to breathe and center…and check in and see what I’m really needing or wanting.  I may decide to journal evening foods and moods and see where that goes.  I am quite certain I eat at night because I like to and I find it more comfortable to eat later in the day, not because I’m really hungry.  And it also means making a conscious decision.  Ideally, I’d love to cut out even half the late night snacks and see if/how much of a change that makes.

I am hoping that the self-care retreat helps keep me more accountable to myself on this front, because *sigh* these are changes I’m not eager to make, and this gives me a nice extra little nudge.

To learn more about the self-care retreat and/or to join us, there’s more info here! And here’s the rest of the lineup:

July 7th: Valerie of City Life Eats                                 Support and connection

July 14th: Shirley of Gluten Free Easily (GFE)         Movement

July 21st: Carrie of Ginger Lemon Girl                       Creativity

July 28th Iris of The Daily Dietribe                              Inward Reflection


Author Information: Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD, LD, Alexandria, VA, USA.
Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD, LD, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist.  Her passion is teaching people to live and love a gluten-free diet in the Northern Virginia area. For more, or follow on Twitter @cherylharrisrd

About Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD, LD

Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD, LD, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist. Her passion is teaching people to live and love a gluten-free diet in the Northern Virginia area. For more, see or follow on Twitter @cherylharrisrd

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