Restriction and Food Mindset
Food, food, food
As a nutritional therapy practitioner, I have A LOT to say about food. Quality, nutrient density and cooking are the more obvious topics. However, I also have A LOT to say about topics directly related to my health journey. Sometimes I believe so much more! Topics that people are ignoring. Topics about food mindset and the impact of jumping from one trendy diet to the next. I'm not only talking about weight loss but also our desperate desire to HEAL OUR BODIES.
Food has been and continues to be a focal point in our lives. Obviously, we need to eat to fuel our bodies. But as a society and especially women, we are becoming fixated on "fixing ourselves" by being perfect on _____ diet. Viewing it as the ONLY way to heal. I know you might be thinking, Cassandra, you are a nutritional therapist - holistic nutrition and eating is what you do. Correct! However, I want to make a switch. I want to inspire women to stop "fixating" on one symptom, their body weight, their image and start living a NUTRIENT DENSE, SUSTAINABLE HEALTHY BALANCED LIFESTYLE addressing not only food but mind and soul.
Seriously, if one more person tells me they are going keto and how so and so lost so much weight in just one month, I think I might scream! (FYI I'm not talking about qualified practitioners that specialize in the complexities of keto.) Weight cannot be our only goal or focus.
My food story: short version
Ladies, I totally get it. I have been there. Using food as the only source of healing, so desperate for a change in how you feel. Striving to be off of the medicine, to have more energy, and less fatigue. Striving to have the perfect body weight. Eating paleo totally worked for me. But then my digestion got a little funky when I was training for a marathon and I thought hey, let's try AIP. Everything went pretty smooth. Digestion improved. Life was good until it wasn't. Stress set in along with perfectionism. Plus a ton of emotional life stuff combined with an overachiever, more perfectionism, A-type personality. Then I had a relapse with Graves' and that's when using restrictive diets for long-term became more harm than good. With symptoms 100 times worse and my life totally not grounded, I wanted to heal so badly.
I went on a protocol combining low fodmap and AIP (as recommended by a practitioner) to help eliminate a chronic infection and chronically low white blood cells. But I was eating from a small list of foods. It helped a ton but I do not recommend that because of the nutrient restriction and consequences of mindset. I now do not believe you NEED to be that restrictive to heal. An extreme restriction of food is not the answer to lifelong, sustainable health. I made it a month and a half. My thyroid hormones dropped. I was able to get off my medication for the second time but my T3 was now low and would be for some time. (Ladies, your thyroid hormones are seriously complicated and many factors impact how they work and how they are producing.) Next, we worked on blood sugar regulation and here is where things got complicated. I completely cut carbs besides what is in non-starchy vegetables AND combined it with AIP. Yikes! My T3 was still chronically low which meant I was always tired. I was told that stomach weight was because of too many carbs. That's when I became afraid of sweet potatoes.
Energy + Restriction
I did feel great for the first 4 weeks and had an increase in energy. However, after that my body would always become desperate for energy and food! Enter gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. Extreme restriction, low carb and craving balance, security and healing in my life led me to binge eating and chronically LOW T3. It was a lesson I needed to learn. An important lesson as an NTP. The consequences of restrictive eating have been harder to reverse than my thyroid condition itself. For more reading, I especially love this article about Carbohydrates for Fertility and Health.
Proper liver function is so important to many aspects of our health. Our liver is responsible for blood sugar regulation, it plays a key role in digestion, and helps eliminate and convert hormones. The above article linked mentions that because the liver has so many responsibilities it can easily become taxed. Adrenal stress. Environmental toxins. Autoimmune conditions. Skin issues. Mineral deficiencies. So adding additional stress of getting adequate energy from a low carb diet can be too overwhelming for some.
How I Healed
It was a slow process and I'm still working today to boost my T3 a little more. I truly stopped fixing. I had to work through and process comments like "you are one of my most complex autoimmune cases" and "I'm not quite sure what to do next." I had to take a step back instead of forward.
A huge part of my journey was on an emotional level. Using affirmations, meditation, and essential oils to heal and forgive. I found a coach that understood my frustrations and lifted me up. I listened to my body when I kept asking, what do I do? The response was EAT REAL FOOD. Eat the sweet potato. Eat spaghetti squash. Make food that is full of flavor and spice! Slow down. Keep supporting you. Keep loving you. I started working on healing my relationship with food. But really A LOT OF LOVE. I stopped seeing restriction as the only way and opened my heart to MORE! This was difficult because I had to start trusting what was in my heart, tune into my intuition and use that as a guide.
Now certified as a nutritional therapy practitioner and having five years working through Graves' disease, there is ALWAYS more going on than just your weight. I take my experience with being desperate to heal and am able to hold a compassionate space for my clients. I understand the struggles and the pain even if they are not exactly the same.
We have to stop viewing ourselves as "broken" and "not enough." We have to move towards a loving relationship with our bodies. Then address foundational imbalances with love, compassion and abundance. Start supporting our bodies and helping it run efficiently by addressing the whole picture, not one small symptom. It is a delicate process. One that needs respect, nurturing and encouragement. Please say goodbye to perfectionism, guilt, and beating yourself up. Yes, there are some important eliminations like gluten and reducing sugar. Yes, we should find quality sourced food. But everything else, all of the fine details should be personalized to YOU, not a one fits all protocol. The goal should be building and creating a sustainable, long abundant life of health supporting mind, body, and soul. Let's regain balance!
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