Nurture/Connect: the Princess and the Pea

Apparently, I’m a bit sensitive. I’m also a bull in a china shop, so while I pick up on all sorts of signals, I still go crashing through my life.

I recently have had some gut intuitions. I have been slow to act on them. I didn’t entirely trust them. Instead of accepting that I was receiving reliable information from my gut, I was waiting for a stronger signal from my body.  If I’m not breaking out in hives, how can I be sure that a food doesn’t agree with me?

Go back to my birthday in May where I turned 50. I ordered luscious, healthy carrot cake from La Montanita Co-op. Though it was gluten-free and sweetened with maple instead of cane sugar, it did include dairy. There was way too much left after the party (I blame you, party attendees). 

I ate a piece and then more and then I ate as if I’d been starved for a decade. I ate until I was stuffed, for days, eating leftover party food and cake. Though I had avoided dairy for the previous two years (I ate some but not often or much), I was indulging big time. It wasn’t a fun indulgence. It didn’t feel pleasurable. It felt compulsive and out of control. 

In the 9 months since then, I have struggled with eating that feels unnatural in its rhythm. I eat when I’m not hungry, I eat until I’m overfill, and I eat foods that I know don’t nurture me. 

I created a story about these past 9 months: that I was older and entering menopause, that being achy and gaining weight was part of a necessary transition. Eventually, I’d move through this transition and be fine. I was pretty worried that my new fine would be a lot less fine than my old fine, but there wasn’t much to be done about that. 

I had a gut intuition that it was that carrot cake that sent me down the road to eating in a way that’s less than fine for me. 

Now, food is a tricky thing, and food is my guru. It’s not as simple as a mouthful of carrot cake. I’m just saying, some part of me knew that I’d messed up my balance. My best daily nutrition excludes dairy and anything made into a flour, which means carrot cake is on my no fly list. When I eat dairy or anything made into a flour, I eat more food over all. I eat fewer veggies. I end up eating more sweetened foods. Happens every time. I can keep proving it to myself. 

We all have food stories: this food is good for me, this food not so much. My husband’s food story is that food is food and just eat it and enjoy it and don’t worry. He has no trouble counting and limiting calories, when he wants, and he kind of assumes every body could be the way he is. But I’m a Princess. A small amount of something makes me so uncomfortable that I can’t sleep right. 

It turns out that I had way too many peas in my system. 

First, it was the energy bars with peanut butter and pea protein. Then it was the cheese alternative Daiya made with pea protein. Every day I was eating the almond milk yogurt that also had pea protein. They were all “healthy” (umm, I’m supposed to say “healthful,” I know) and they were all processed foods. 

I was having trouble sleeping. My jaw ached terribly. Aching in my hip would keep me up at night. I didn’t even want to go to sleep because I felt a bit haunted; I couldn’t entirely relax. I had slight headaches. I was a bit congested. I began having hot flashes. 

At Nia, I was sore and it was difficult to move. I knew something wasn’t right. I was wiped every afternoon, not able to read or do anything productive, and not able to rest really either.  

In bed one night, I wondered if there was something I was eating that was affecting me because this didn’t seem to be just the usual winter blahs.

I wrote a Better and Bolder email about the elimination diet. I was not thinking I needed an elimination diet, though.

How could I not be thinking that? How could I not have thought, well, my energy is low, I’m achy, I’ve gained weight and have been eating compulsively -- maybe it’s something I’m eating? Maybe I’m not being nourished? 

One evening, I was eating a lentil burger with Daiya cheese on top when I felt my throat constrict. I was having an allergic reaction. 

I hadn’t been willing to accept that the body signs I’d been experiencing (and lamenting) pointed to an intolerance to a food. I needed to be hit over the head with a frying pan. Because while I’m sensitive to foods (I’m a princess!), I’m also bull-headed. Feeling my throat constrict was scary enough that I was jolted out of my story. 

When we eat too much of one food, we can become less tolerant of that food. I think (or my gut intuition says) that for months, I’d been taxing my system with foods that upset my balance. I had been eating too much food, which also upsets my balance. 

Once the digestive system is inflamed and upset, it takes much less to throw it off. During allergy season, it’s not uncommon for a person to react to foods that are fine the rest of the year. Most food isn’t good or bad for us: it depends on a lot of factors. Some foods are always not good for us if we have a true allergy. 

Once I stopped eating all legumes, it suddenly became easier to stop eating compulsively. I chose to stop eating any foods that I had been eating several times a day, every day. I chose to stop eating processed and sweetened foods. None of this is forever, by the way. This is a therapeutic diet, a healing diet, one intended to let inflammation die down and return my body and mind to a rhythm that feels right and natural.

Within days, I felt better. I felt relieved.

The hot flashes went away. I slept better. My jaw didn’t seize up. Even my achilles seems to be a bit more resilient.  I could stop eating before I got full. I will add that I also had started acupuncture, and some of the relief of my symptoms could be due to that support. 

Part of what has made me feel better is that my gut knows -- finally -- I got the message. I also enjoy feeling hungry again. Really, for months, I ate until I was full or overfull. I was eating every two hours and if it was too long between meals and snacks, I couldn’t focus or relax. 

I hadn’t realized how uncomfortable I was in my body. I sort of knew I was eating too much sugar and chocolate and I was strung out, but I couldn’t stop. I felt out of rhythm with my body and my life, and I was disheartened and dispirited. 

Within days of switching my diet, I felt better physically and emotionally but most importantly, I felt better spiritually. I felt like myself again. I don’t know why it took me so long this time to get here, back to my body and back to myself. I must have had a lot to learn in those 9 months and a lot of transitions to make. Food is my guru, and once again, I am delighted to take pleasure -- real joy -- in the path.