A few weeks ago I wrote one of my favorite entries, Can I be Allergic to my Eating Disorder?. I had always wanted to share with my readers how food allergies changed my eating disorder recovery in a myriad of ways. Even though food allergies make recovery more difficult, they have helped me overcome and stay on top of my eating disorder (for the most part). I stay on top of my ED with a few simple tools: learning a new way to eat, inventive ways to prepare/cook food, meal planning-my ultra super secret weapon.
I grew up eating, enjoying, and cooking good ole Southern food. You name it I can make it. Chicken and Dumplin’s, beef stew, biscuits and white gravy, pound cake, layer cakes of all kinds, buttercream frosting, casseroles, apple butter, canned green beans, etc. If it was a cheese dish, you added extra cheese. If it was a cake, more frosting! And like all Southern kids, I spent quite some time stirring the jelly in the copper pot while complaining my arms are getting tired. It took many years to master the subtle art of Southern-Appalachian cooking however, when I was diagnosed with food allergies I had to adapt to this new world of food. Gluten free cooking/baking a horse of a different color. I had to learn about flours and how they interact, how to make blends, how to decrease contamination. When it came to dairy free cooking/baking I learned how to make my own buttermilk, how to create dairy free cheeses out of tofu and nuts. I even learned to make my own nut butter since I was allergic to peanuts. It was, and still is an ongoing and fun process! I enjoy learning new ways of approaching food and the challenge of making gluten-dairy-nut-free food taste good.
Lets take that a step further and add eating a mostly vegetarian, sometimes vegan diet. It definitely makes things more difficult, maybe I am a glutton for punishment or I just like my tummy to feel good, possibly both. When you cook vegetarian or vegan fare it takes finesse, skill, and an understanding of spices/herbs, how you can make non-meat (tofu, mushrooms, beans, lentils, I don’t eat “fake meat”) taste like meat and manipulate the textures to make it tasty. When you have a meat loving husband you try even hard to make your allergen free, meat free, food taste better than their gluten and meat filled counterparts. It is fun to read cookbooks, find pins on Pinterest, and go on your whim-take what you already know and play with what you are learning or what you think would work. In other words: YOU COOK! I have had epic fails and amazing successes. All in all when I rely on good food I know I am nourishing myself which is exactly what Melvin (my ED) doesn’t want. Cooking is a way to shut him up and feed him yummy, tasty, delicious allergen free, meat free fare.
I have also started to incorporate mindful eating and a more yogic perspective on eating. The book Yoga of Eating inspired me so much. When I eat more mindfully, as in I eat slowly and listen for hunger cues, I can stop myself from binging. I can also stop myself from getting sick and irritating my GI issues. I also try to eat smaller portions slowly so I can fully fill my stomach get full and go back for more if I need it. I also try not to pigeon hold myself into traditional dinner rules or other eating rules. I may not have any grains in a day and that is ok because my body may not be able to digest it. I may have more grains than fruit. I may have more vegetables that anything else. Whatever it is, I make sure I get enough nutrients and listen to what my body wants. When I eat what my body wants and not what I want I again have set myself up for success against Melvin.
Lastly, my biggest tool against my eating disorder that I have learned in my fiveish years of this lifestyle, is to meal plan. I never really understood meal planning till I got married. I had to plan our meals and maximize our budget. Then that changed once I stopped eating meat. I had to plan my own meals, his meals, maximize our budget, and make sure I have enough food for snacks (which I have a hard time doing because I just think of three meals). I sit down each Monday and meal plan for at least two weeks, sometimes I get through one. I peruse Pinterest, cookbooks, and my recipe collection, pick similar recipes or recipes that use similar ingredients. I also look at my pantry staples and see what I can already make out of them. I write down my recipe ideas, usually three to five dinners/lunches (it’s just me and I LOVE leftovers), three snacks that make multiple portions (raw bites or smoothies), and then I pick up some go to prepared but whole food snacks that I can supplement as well (bean chips, whole grain corn chips from Aldi’s, with their peach mango salsa is a must!). I have noticed that when I don’t plan I go to the grocery store more I rely more on packaged, processed foods like Amy’s Meals, while great on occasion, aren’t the best all the time. Or drive thru Bo-rounds and their Cajun Pintos. I also notice that Melvin is more rampant. I tend to refuse to eat because “I have no food” or I binge on junk food (vegan ice cream anyone?), I also feel hungry. My body isn’t properly fueled and can’t sustain itself with my busy and active lifestyle. Ages ago I could go on hours of exercise on little to no food. But now as I am older and more aware this yogic dancer needs her food or else I am not pirouetting or down-dogging!
All of these tools I learned or honed because of my food allergies. Without being diagnosed with food allergies I would not have learned how to use these tools to manage my ED. I am continuing to develop these tools and adding new ones to my arsenal. How do you use food to manage your ED or other food plagues? For my fellow allergen followers what have you learned from your food allergies? I would love to hear what you have to say in the comment section!