Note from Jennifer: Today’s wonderful story comes from a friend and client who is one of my favorite writers.
She understands the emotional ups and downs and heartbreak that can come with removing food after food from your diet in the name of healing.
I have this vivid memory from the early days of my health crisis in which I’m hanging over the lip of my chest freezer sobbing over bags and bags of ruined breast milk.
My nausea extended far beyond a symptom of my disease.
I was grieving.
I had pumped every morning for six months, sometimes pouring two feedings worth of milk into little, expensive bags, squirreling them away in the freezer for such a time such as this.
And in my hour of need, I pulled them out one by one only to find they had all soured.
Hot tears rolled down my face as I threw them into a black garbage sack, which might as well have been a body bag for how I felt about it, and buried them in the garbage bin outside.
Then I dried my eyes, and set myself to figuring out what I was going to feed my baby.
I didn’t know much about “real food” back then, but I knew enough to pass on processed formula.
Corn syrup solids?
No, thank you.
I settled upon the Weston A. Price Foundation’s (WAPF) homemade formula using goat milk. I nixed the raw liver because I was still very low on the crunchy totem pole at the time, and no way was I going to feed raw liver to my baby (I totally would now, by the way).
Once successfully weaned from breast to bottle, my six month old left behind a world of chronic ear infections, a weak immune system, projectile vomiting, hourly feedings, colic from hell, and zero sleep for a dream dimension in which ear infections and RSV were no more, record setting spews became cute little dribbles, colic left the building, we finally had a reasonable feeding schedule,
…and sleep became a thing. An all night, every night thing.
All because of a diet change.
Now breastfeeding is wonderful for most people, but due to my extreme health issues, Sara was ingesting lots of nasties through my milk, which upset her system. Weaning her from her preferences wasn’t easy, but it was for her good.
Those I tears I shed, that grief I felt over the sour milk?
I’ve experienced that several times over the last eight years. I have followed rigorous dietary restrictions out of necessity for a long while, and have tried all kinds of protocol—gluten-free, GAPS, Paleo, low-ammonia, low-sulfur, and most recently low-histamine AIP on a four day rotation (which has been fabulous) in an attempt to get a handle on my health.
Note from Jennifer: It was so wonderful to see Melissa get excited about food again when she started the Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) protocol foods with a rotation.
The combination is where I start all nutritional therapy client in need of deep healing.
Each time I’ve altered my diet, I’ve had to give up beloved foods (i.e. pizza, coffee, chocolate, tomatoes), and while there may not be literal tears, I always hold a tiny funeral in my heart for each delicious food that has to go.
All of these changes have taught me a few things about “food grief.”
7 Ways to Feel Good about Your Healing Diet
1. Skip the denial stage if you can.
Tell yourself the truth: “Life is more than food. Some foods contribute to my disease. My sick body needs and deserves better nourishment so I can live life to the fullest. ”
I have taken a few emergency plunges into diet restriction. Sometimes it’s necessary. But if you can think it through, study, and plan it out before you begin, it won’t feel as impossible and you won’t be as tempted to jump ship.
3. Be patient with yourself.
You need time to learn how to eat a new way. Changes are difficult. Consider taking “Baby Steps” if the whole thing feels like too much.
Don’t begin GAPS or AIP at busy times of the year. Begin on a weekend in the middle of January or August.
Better yet, take a couple of days off to retreat from the noise of everyday life. There is quiet magic and quick healing in lovingly preparing good food for yourself and your people that you will miss if everything feels frantic.
4. Reorder your thoughts.
Empower yourself by saying things like, “I choose to eat this way because it is good for me” as opposed to “I can’t eat such and such anymore.”
You make yourself a victim when you say “I can’t.”
You become a hero when you choose good.
Be grateful for every bite. Good food is a luxury.
Chances are even if you are on the strictest of protocols, you have access to a greater quantity and quality of food than 2/3 of the world.
5. Visualize healing as you eat.
Visualization supports good eating habits like sufficient chewing, and it really does something. I don’t understand what that “something” is, but I can’t deny the thing I’ve experienced for myself.
6. Find your happy.
There are always delicious foods to be enjoyed on healing diets. On GAPS, I looked forward to my steaming mug of chicken broth every morning. I’ve always been a fan of herbal teas. There are so many to choose from!
Recently, I have discovered frozen blueberries.
Oh. My. Stars.
If you don’t eat frozen berries, you are missing out on life.
7. Keep your eye on the prize.
The ultimate goal is not to clean up your eating habits. A better way to eat is just the means to an end. The goal is a better you.
Feeling better is a worthy reward for your sacrifice. And your sacrifices feel less and less like sacrifices over time, especially when you learn a few tricks like turning plantains into brownies and bananas into ice cream.
(Tip: Pinterest. You need it.)
A Better You
Feel free to grieve your losses, but be quick to find your joy again. Better things are coming! I will never forget the change in my daughter when we switched to formula.
Every time I remember my tears over all that sour milk, I am filled with gratitude. I smile at the loss that became gain. At all the losses that have become gain.
Melissa Keaster is a wife and stay-at-home mom of two with a degree in Music Education.
After nearly a decade of illness which led to a health crisis, she was diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation Disorder, and is successfully using natural medicine and nutritional therapy (via Jennifer Nervo) to manage her disease and heal.
Melissa enjoys reading, writing, music, and cooking fresh, nutritious meals for her family and friends. She also has a personal blog at http://melissakeaster.blogspot.com/.