April 19, 2016

A Note to Those Who Make Fun of the Gluten-free, Dairy-free or Vegan Eaters.

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Oh gosh. Another one of those people.

From the way they order in restaurants and the requests and modifications that they make, to abstaining from foods at social gatherings and the social media posts in regards to eating this or that way.

Can’t they just relax on the whole foods thing and live a little?

Well, I have a little secret from some of the people who eat this way:

Really living is actually exactly what they’re trying to do.

Although I’d love to believe that balance, moderation and variety are always the keys to life, balance and moderation don’t actually work for everyone—and I want to shed a little light onto why that is.

I’m not at all promoting elimination of certain food groups or conversion to veganism. But I am here to give a little glimpse into the reality of those with specific dietary preferences and needs.

There was a time in my life where every single thing I ate (including just fruits and vegetables) caused my belly to bloat to what I imagine I’d look like if I were I’m seven months pregnant. Here’s a cute photo of my bloated belly in action.

I constantly felt extremely hung-over without drinking an ounce of alcohol. More often than not I was experiencing headaches, gut wrenching stomach pain, and all my muscles and joints ached frequently. I went through years of doctors appointments, diagnostic tests, multiple hospital visits, and was experiencing a myriad of both immediate and delayed physical reactions after most meals.

I was so exhausted I would pull over and take naps in my car throughout the day. I developed extreme anxiety around meals, especially in restaurants, in fear of having a reaction and having to go home or to the hospital (which happened numerous times).

It got to the point that I would avoid certain social settings, nervous about having a reaction or being questioned as to why I was only eating certain things (as well as the tedious task of asking for all the ingredients in every item).

Before I go on, I understand health is multifaceted and it’s not always possibly to pinpoint the cause and affect of symptoms (and self-diagnosis can be a slippery slope). But through extensive tests, experimentation, and working closely with practitioners, we were able to pin point certain foods that were eliciting the extreme reactions in my experience.

Could things in my life have been worse? Hell, yeah.

But is that a reason to just make the best of it? Absolutely not.

I think all people deserve to not just continuously cope and get through this life, but to really and truly thrive.

What grinds my gears is when people rag on, ridicule or make fun of people experimenting with their diet. Because the truth is, they most likely have a suspicion that they can feel better and enjoy more vibrant health than they’re currently experiencing.

And they most definitely deserve that. Don’t we all?

Isn’t that what we all want? To feel as good as possible, as often as possible? To be physically, emotionally and mentally well enough to live out our wildest hopes, dreams and visions?

I don’t think people need to scream from the rooftops (or in this day and age, write post after post on social media) claiming their way of eating is the right way, best way or more spiritual way. But they’re probably excited about their new-found energy and vitality, and want others to live their best lives too.

The thing is…what works for them won’t necessarily work for you. Food is not just a science, it’s equally an art and an experiment.

There is no right, wrong, better or worse way. There is your way and my way and that should be dependent on how the food we eat makes us feel. How we feel when we eat this, or how we feel when we have less of, or stop eating that.

For example, I don’t eat dairy, eggs, sesame or nuts. But I do eat meat, grains, lots of vegetables, and ghee. (And very dark chocolate…because, yum.)

These choices are not based on science, or the latest trends. It’s based my own diet experimentation—with or without these things—and noticing how I feel. My why is: that’s how I feel the best. Plain and simple. And this way of eating may very well change throughout the many seasons and phases of my life.

After years of experimentation, as well as extensive studying in school, I have come to this conclusion: 

What works for your mother, brother or celebrity crush will not work for you.

Because you are not them. You are you. Individual, unique and perfectly imperfect.

There is an abundance of articles, buzz trends and media on fad diets and the new super foods. The top 10 foods to eat, and the top 15 to avoid. The amount of information in regard to what, how and when to eat can be a little bit overwhelming.

But what we really need to do is read less, and shift our focus to our felt experience when we eat the way that we do.

I’ve witnessed and experienced in my own life the feeling of needing to explain the whys of what we do or don’t do (including our food choices). But I’m happy to now be at a point in my life where I use “No” or “No thank you” as a complete sentence. Any additional explanation is often completely unnecessary.

Food intolerances are real, allergies are real and we simply can’t know to what extent these food intolerances are impacting people’s daily lives.

It’s completely unwarranted to make fun of others or to say they’re just joining the new fad.

I think it’s important to keep in mind that everyone’s just trying to figure out how to take care of themselves, how to most optimally fuel themselves, and ultimately just how to feel their very best.

So the next time we feel like shaming or poking fun (and even if we’re on the other side and defending), we need to remember to pause, breathe, and keep our own eyes, forks and knives on our own plates. And enjoy our beautifully, intuitively, individually tailored own damn meals.

We don’t and can’t know what goes on behind closed doors (whether it’s a mental struggle, confusion over food or physical, tangible symptoms). Added criticism, pressure and battles over right and wrong aren’t helping anyone. And just like everyone else here, we’re all just trying to live the best possible life and feel the absolute best we can while doing it.

Lastly, a quick note to anyone currently overwhelmed, confused and fed-up with food: as exhausted and frustrated as I was at times, my experiences slowly and sweetly (well, not so sweetly initially) redirected my life in the most wonderful of ways—from what I studied (both in and out of school), to my lifestyle and now my dreams and visions.

What once felt like an anchor holding me back now feels like a best friend who was asking me to slow down, learn and more deeply listen.


Author: Alexa Torontow

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo used with permission from: Karolina Gnat

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