5 Healing Diet Challenges and Ideas for Navigating Them
In my experience, the most difficult part of adopting a restrictive, healing diet is not removing certain foods or even all the extra cooking and resultant cleaning. The hardest parts, to me, are the social aspects, navigating a busy life without the convenience of takeout, and needing to plan ahead for every. single. meal.
Reminding myself that my healing diet is temporary relieves some of my stress. Eventually my body won’t need a strict autoimmune paleo diet, and I will have more flexibility. I’m slowly encountering this as I successfully reintroduce some foods. My hope is to get back to a regular paleo diet, and I plan to avoid gluten forever, as I’ve discovered I’m extremely sensitive to it. Remaining gluten-free means I will continually encounter social and lifestyle challenges.
I’ve compiled a list of five difficult situations I’ve experienced and how I personally have dealt with them. I’m still learning to navigate all of this, and my intention is to share what I’ve learned so far with you.
1. Social Gatherings
Food and socializing go hand in hand. Both are basic human needs, which, if your company and food are healthy, contribute positively to your quality of life. However, when on a restricted diet, the thought of gathering with others for an extended period of time can be intimidating, as the need to eat will inevitably arise. When visiting others, it might feel rude or unsafe to expect your host to accommodate your dietary needs. My husband and I enjoy entertaining in our home, so we often invite others over and cook for them. When we are guests, we bring food for ourselves to eat to relieve stress from our host and ourselves, as we know all of the ingredients in our meal. Some of my family members understand my dietary limitations and have cooked for me, which I appreciate, as well. Finding and/or forming a meet up group of people on the same diet is another way to meet your dietary and social needs.
2. Other People’s Opinions
Everyone seems to have an opinion about everything, even if they don’t understand it. Letting other people’s opinion of your diet rule your footsteps will have you going in all sorts of directions! Only you know your body and what works best for you. The best advice I’ve heard for explaining the reasoning behind your diet is to simply say, “This works for me.”
3. Time Limitations
Planning ahead for and cooking every. single. meal. definitely takes more time than grabbing takeout on the way home. I wrote a separate post to share some time-saving tips, which includes spending a little time prepping for meals to save time cooking, putting kitchen appliances to work, keeping healthy snack foods stocked in the kitchen, and keeping a food inventory to make grocery shopping easier.
4. Feeling Deprived
My naturopath said it best, “Don’t focus on what you can’t eat. Think of all the good foods you can eat.” You don’t need grains or dairy or refined sugar to make some of the most delicious treats ever! In my opinion, cooking from scratch yields especially tasty food, which will make you think that everyone else is actually more deprived than you. 🙂 Ask someone you trust to cook for you or make you a treat if you need a break.
5. Travel / Eating Out
Since being on the AIP diet, I haven’t actually had much experience with travel or eating out yet, but I’ve observed others successfully navigate traveling by prepping lots of food ahead of time and bringing it in a cooler (as long as their destination has a kitchen or at least a small refrigerator and microwave). Eating out is tricky, as you must trust the staff to accommodate your needs, which, with the AIP diet, are many! I heard an interesting idea recently about creating a business card listing your food intolerances to present to restaurant staff. However you choose to deal with eating out, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself, asking questions and making clarifications when ordering food. You are the one who will have to deal with the aftermath of any potential food allergen/intolerance exposure, not your waiter/waitress!
I would love to hear your experiences and ideas on handling social and lifestyle situations related to a strict diet. Please share in the comments below!