Have you said or thought the following?
- “I know that changing my diet would help me feel better, but it’s not practical for my life.”
- “I’ve tried taking X, Y, or Z out of my diet, and felt a little bit better. But it wasn’t worth the effort.”
The reasons you give to avoid or procrastinate on dietary changes may vary: you have kids, eat out a lot, don’t have the time, you’re on a budget, or you don’t have support.
I understand. Radical dietary changes can feel intimidating and isolating. I remember the first time I began a gluten free diet, years before I quit grains entirely. I was 15 and walking the aisles of the grocery store with my mom. We kept picking up my favorite foods off the shelves, reading the ingredients, and putting them back feeling utterly demoralized. Preparing meals used to be simple and easy, but now seemed disorienting and dire.
Years later, I began a grain-free nutrition protocol in an effort to avoid an impending surgery. My food options became even more limited as I removed grains, dairy, and refined sugar.
This time, however, I colored the experience with a different mindset. I saw this nutrition protocol as a path to freedom, rather than a restriction of pleasure. As a result, I felt motivated and powerful rather than limited and discouraged.
A ‘restricted diet’ is not inherently restricting. It only feels that way if we tell ourselves a disempowering story.
I want to alter the mindset and language we use about nutrition, in order to empower others to make the dietary changes that will transform their lives.
Here are three ways to change the way we think about a restricted diet.
Self-discipline is freedom, not limitation
When I say I follow a grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free diet, I don’t consider myself limited. I consider myself FREE of the effects of these substances on my health.
When I ate an unlimited diet of processed foods, pasteurized milk, and desserts, I experienced both physical and mental limitations. My autoimmune disease would frequently flare up, leaving me hospitalized for days, doubled-over in pain. I also did not know how to stop running down the rabbit trails of anxiety and anger in my own mind.
I had freedom in my diet but not in my life.
In our culture, we consider a self-indulgent diet freedom, and a self-disciplined diet limitation. We’ve got this the wrong way round.
Consider the ancient spiritual paths of yoga, martial arts, or monastic lifestyles. Individuals underwent rigorous schedules of chants, meditations, and fasts.
One could look at these ancient practices and say, “Wow, that’s a super limiting way to live.” But dedicated individuals eventually became masters of their art. In doing so, they reached the mystical realization of freedom or enlightenment.
Self-discipline is not a personality trait; it’s something we practice like the piano. The more we do it, the better we get. And self-discipline paves the way to freedom.
To begin, we can start with our food. Then we can bring our self-discipline into other areas such as a meditation practice, or a creative venture.
I’m not saying changing your diet will make you an enlightened master, but it can put you on the right path. 🙂
2. Independence in eating means independence in life
Another challenge to eating an unconventional diet is what I call the, ‘Self-Perceived-Wierdo Phenomenon.’
Perhaps you pass up the birthday cake at the office and get the comment, “Why can’t you just have a piece of cake to celebrate with us?”
Or, you’re out to dinner and have some extra requests regarding a menu item to make it more suitable. Perhaps you choose to eat before going out, knowing you won’t find an appropriate option. Colleagues or friends may give you enquiring looks.
In response, you perceive yourself as a weirdo through the eyes of others. You may feel embarrassed or self-conscious, thinking: “Oh my gosh, they think I’m being rude! Maybe they think I have an eating disorder. Maybe they think I’m super high maintenance.”
In these circumstances, you may feel painfully misunderstood. You may also feel uncomfortable with the attention your bringing to your food choices, when all you really want is to eat that Epic bar and bag of carrot sticks in peace.
In situations where your food choices make you feel weird or self-conscious, take the opportunity to claim your independence. Independence requires following your own path, in spite of naysayers.
My point here is this: if your diet is nonconformist, it can put you on the path to further nonconformity. That’s a slippery slope to greatness.
3. Eating natural foods brings us back to our true nature
The body’s inborn wisdom guides its healing. It’s the same wisdom that instructed a blob of cells to develop into a highly complex human being. This intelligence, or evolutionary force, compels every plant and animal towards health and reproduction.
Whole foods provide nutrients that work in synergy with our bodies. When we eat the foods our bodies have evolved to eat, we speak to the body in its own language.
The body contains its own manual for healing, written in the language of Nature. It understands how to use the nutrients in whole foods to orchestrate healing processes.
On the other hand, providing the body with highly processed food is like speaking to it in a foreign language. How can we expect the body to heal when we cut it off from the language of Nature? It’s like wanting a child to speak Spanish, but speaking to him/her only in French.
Substances we call ‘food’ like refined sugar and artificial ingredients, are a perversion of nature. As a result, they pervert the body’s own nature.
Processed, ‘fake’ foods not only confound the body’s mechanisms for healing, but also quiets our intuition. That’s because the healing wisdom in the body is our intuition. This wisdom offers to guide not only our physical healing, but also our mental, emotional and spiritual healing.
We clarify and amplify the voice of our intuition by eating whole, natural foods. Fake food, pharmaceuticals, and alcohol can all distort our healing wisdom and intuition.
When we provide our body with the foods of nature, we can experience our true nature. This state is one of health and intuitive knowing, rather than disease and confusion.
The Freedom Diet
The path to your health may mean giving up familiar comfort foods such as grains, sugar, and dairy.
But I encourage you to consider not what you give up, but what you gain. You’ll gain self-discipline. You’ll experience independence. You’ll expand your intuition.
That is freedom, not restriction.
This is beautiful! Thank you for such insightful words of wisdom.
Thank you! Your post is very well said and has much truth to our well being. It is encourging to have this new perspective on my journey to eat foods that will not make me ill. I try to be off sugar, gluten, and dairy and struggle with being consistently on this way of eating. It’s everywhere! Having more self-discipline is what I need. Thank you for your reminders and support, oh and your recipes!
Thank you for writing this so eloquently! It is SUCH an important topic! You truly shed such inspiring light onto something everyone needs to embrace. I see processed foods and much of our current western diet as I do consumerism, media indulging, junk magazines , body comparisons and judgement….they are all means of disconnecting with our inner selves. Distractions from our truth. Blankets and comforters over the bed of our subconscious. When we eat whole foods we are forced to reckon with our selves. We can’t help but take an inventory of our system. We eat pure and so we become pure. We eat truth and so we become truth. That scares people. You are what you eat is so true! To eat well is to live in freedom. Many prefer to live in chains. It’s just so comforting for them and all they have ever known. It truly takes a brave spirit to embrace a empowering diet. It also takes a great person like yourself to guide them. You’re a blessing!
Beautiful post. I could not agree more. I have been on a restricted diet for 6 months now and what once seemed like a prison sentence now feels liberating. I currently follow a modified version of the AIP and have actually reintroduced seeds, spices, tomatoes and grains. My question for you is- do you think eating grains will lead me back down the road to leaky gut, SIBO and candida overgrowth? My diet is full of organic meats, vegetables, fats, etc. I soak all of my grains and seeds to reduce phytic acid but I guess I still worry that I am going to ruin all of my hard work. What are your opinions? I would avoid grains altogether but I was just laid off and now have to budget a little better so I’m trying to save money by replacing some of my meat-heavy meals with grain based ones. Let me know your thoughts!
Thank you for those words! I feel much better about my situation. Would you consider writing an article in the future that explains how you personally eat enough calcium on a daily basis for you and your family? Thank you! This is an area that I have struggled with for a while.
I LOVE this. I had never consciously thought about it that way, that choosing our food carefully brings us freedom in life, but it is so true and I actually got goosebumps reading this. Thanks for the inspiration!
Thank you for your comment, I’m so glad this post resonates with you!