Living with food restrictions has changed so much more than my diet. Its encouraged me to explore my uniqueness, to stop apologizing for something I can’t control and live fearlessly, pushing boarders beyond societies normal. This has taken some time, a positive attitude and lots of room for forgiveness. Whether you are gluten free, dairy free, Paleo or even vegan I would suggest the following 5 Steps to Living with Food Restrictions:
#1 Cooking at home becomes a big deal
We spend the better part of Sunday cooking and baking to make the week a little easier. I’m not talking about creating elaborate dinners. It’s time spent on preparing ingredients for simple everyday meals. Breads, muffins, pasta sauces even pre chopping veggies helps the mid-week dinner rush a little calmer.
Admittedly, I was overwhelmed at first. But this has turned out to be a true blessing. Preparing, as well as eating, meals together has become a source of comfort, pride, health, relaxation and invaluable family bonding time. It’s a great lesson for the kids and provides a chance to share feelings on the trials and opportunities living with food sensitivities presents. And don’t forget the important life skill that many kids these days are missing with all the restaurant and frozen dinners!
Cooking isn’t a mysterious activity that just somehow happens — good food is a hands-on affair allowing you to maintain control of what ingredients make it to your plate. I find it less stressful than the uncomfortable conversations with restaurant staff on what we cannot have or the uncertainty they understood.
#2 The jokes (or sympathy) will never stop
Learn to accept the jokes and more importantly – understand that it doesn’t always indicate a lack of respect. Just about every family or friendly gathering provides a joke from someone who must think they’re the first to make it. “Want extra cheese on your pizza? Oh, that’s right … hahaha!”
The same holds true for the sympathizers. “Bless your heart, once you do find something to eat, I bet it’s so bland.” Actually, no. It’s the opposite. Frankly – this is just an indication of just how disconnected society has become to food and its source.
Either way – Get used to both. Laugh them off, or take the opportunity to explain how important your diet is to you. Up to you.
#3 Sometimes it feels lonely, but you are not alone
The weird thing is, I’ve never wanted to “cheat” for pleasure, rather out of convenience or not wanting to draw attention. I would tell myself it’s okay because they (folks we’re with) didn’t choose this diet, so they shouldn’t be impacted. Or I apologized profusely for being a pain, as if there was a choice; knowing one dietary slip would take days, sometimes weeks, to undo.
Since the beginning of this journey, there have been several points where I felt like we were alone in the way we eat, and those moments were tougher than any brief longing for food based pleasure or convenience.
I constantly remind my sons, and myself, that we’re not alone. There are millions of people working through food allergies and restrictions (vegetarians and vegans too!). Connecting with those folks through online communities and blogs such as this one, helps energize and empower you to keep fighting the good fight. Oh – and keep your eyes peeled when at an event, we seem to always find at least one person walking a similar path. There is strength in numbers!
#4. Living with food sensitives tends to be more expensive
I know, I know… on the surface, this doesn’t add up. Buying ingredients to make food at home typically yields larger amounts for less cost (i.e.: cookies made at home vs. pre-packaged). You absolutely right.
So why did my grocery budget go up? Because when you are forced to live intentionally with food, you become very aware of the inadequacies in food production processes. As a result, we have become ultra-health-food enthusiasts. I shop at farmers markets and co-ops, Earth Fare and Whole Foods more than I ever did before. I paying extra for local produce and organics. This benefits our bodies (pay it now, or pay it later in health care costs), the local economy as well as the earth (less travel time for my food). Win-win-win!
#5. No matter how much you try, it’s a big deal
I like to think that we are a relaxed, chill family. While we get excited to share our findings, we certainly don’t try to push it on anyone. But without a doubt, we eat meals with friends and family about half much as we did before our diet changes.
Living with food sensitivities is a huge deal. Your ability to survive and thrive pushes you to understand quickly, both physically and emotionally. As it becomes habit for you, others are still processing. Some people will think you’re judging them and won’t even try to prepare a meal for you out of fear of failure. Others just don’t want to make the effort. Both are totally understandable.
On the flip side, there’s no reason we couldn’t invite those same people over to our place just as often as before. We’re talking about our family and friends… we just need to get over the fact that they may or may not like the meal. A compromise anyone who cares about you would make.
It would be careless of me not to mention – The flip side of eating less meals with friends and family is that you will learn there are folks who think it’s really awesome that you eat this way. Folks who will go out of their way to make sure you’ve got something to eat at any event they host, and who are eager to try your food or ask you intelligent questions about how you eat. These people are truly wonderful making you feel respected, loved and normal.