4 Steps to THRIVE on a Therapeutic Diet
I’m writing this article for all the amazing people taking charge of their health who are committed to following a therapeutic diet to heal their bodies. If this is you, than please take a moment to acknowledge your awesomeness because it’s not always easy and down right challenging sometimes. Choosing to be on a therapeutic diet to improve your health can completely change your life, elevate your possibilities and be an amazing opportunity if you allow it to be.
A therapeutic diet includes or eliminates different foods and/or nutrients with the specific intention of bringing your body back into balance and improving health in some way. They can be short or long term. Sometimes you progress to different healing phases as you improve however continuing may be required. You know a therapeutic diet is working for you when you have some measurable positive outcome or a reduction in symptoms.
It’s fair to say there are other lifestyle factors involved too. We know scarfing down all the right foods with 3 seconds of chewing is enough to sabotage the most ideal meals but we’re not talking about that here. This is about re-defining the deprivation and owning the motivation of a therapeutic diet so you can let go of the struggle and embrace your results.
Step One: Connect with the heart of your motivation and know what you are saying YES to.
Take a step back and explore WHY you are committing to this diet in the first place. Are you trying to manage inflammation, digestive symptoms, improved your mood or get more energy? If it’s for a reduction in symptoms then that’s great, especially if you’re in the bathroom every hour or have joint pain. However, getting crystal clear on what you really want out of the experience beyond an absence of symptoms is a lot more powerful. In other words, define it’s purpose and the part it’s playing in the bigger picture of your life. Deprivation is one of the biggest struggles on a therapeutic diet. Once you’ve gotten clear on the purpose you will know what you are REALLY depriving yourself of if you don’t follow through. Saying no to foods that won’t serve you is a lot easier when you know what you are saying YES to.
Also consider that while healing CAN contribute to your overall happiness, it doesn’t mean it will. Often the rock we need to look under is the one we keep avoiding. If you’ve been on a your diet for a period of time and your results have plateaued or your not sure it’s serving you anymore than consider experimenting in a different direction. I’m not suggesting abandoning the diet but often there are other things that need our attention that aren’t diet related in order for us to heal.
Step Two: Transform the stress into empowerment.
You’re likely taking foods out of your diet that you are used to eating and enjoy. This can feel like you are in FOOD JAIL, which for some is scarier than a real jail sentence. You can feel totally defeated if you break the rules and scarf down one cookie, which turned into three or ten…oops.
Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t!
There’s nothing that makes you want something more than someone telling you that you can’t have it. What you appreciate, appreciates. If you can’t have chocolate or cheese than all of sudden there are NO OTHER FOODS except for chocolate and cheese you can possibly think of eating. Are there any other foods? The entire grocery store is chocolate and cheese.
How about when you are the one cooking and everyone wants you to make that “thing” that only you make. It’s so delicious and you aren’t supposed to have any. So unfair!
Or the social scenario of everyone having ice cream and you are dead in the middle of a healing protocol that restricts sugar and dairy. You decide to join in (a little won’t hurt) because you hate to feel left out and your aunt is pressuring you to have “just one bite”! Then you feel guilty for cheating or maybe you didn’t cheat but you truly felt left out and sad you couldn’t join in.
Hmmmmm …..Got STRESS? Because I got stressed just writing that and those are all very real situations when following a diet with restrictions. Stress will sabotage the purest health efforts even more than three cookies.
Here’s the thing: the reality of a therapeutic diet is that to get results there will likely be things you will not be able to eat however I invite you to look at it in a different way. What if you decided nothing was off limits regardless of your diet? Because it’s not really. You can always eat whatever you want because the conscience choice is yours at every meal. You get to decide. If you really want chocolate and cheese then you can have it. The point here is that lightening is not going to strike you if you decide to eat something off your diet nor is your health practitioner going to slap your hand with a ruler if you reach for the wrong thing.
The responsibility is yours and it has to be owned by you for results.
This is a helpful way to look at it because just taking things away is simply disempowering and stressful. Expanding choice is one of the most important parts of successful, lasting change. Doesn’t it feel better to know you can absolutely eat whatever you want, but you are choosing not too because it’s for your highest good?
Step 3: Let it Go!
There’s some mourning and letting go that happens when we have to say goodbye to certain foods for a period of time AND mourning the version of you that is in need of the healing. Ask yourself:
What might you have to let go of to follow through?
Answering this question takes a lot of courage but it is helpful to allow your self to explore it. See what comes up when you do, because on the days you are feeling like it’s time for a bottle of champagne and pizza, you’ll want to know what you are holding on to that’s so dear that’s preventing you from moving forward. (Hint: It’s not the champagne and pizza). We’re always letting go as we grow and heal so being aware of the experience you ARE wanting is so important(Step One).
It can be a huge loss to let go of certain foods especially if that food is part of the strategy of your day. Eating can bring pleasure, energy, stress relief, joy and pick me ups. The hope of feeling better or reducing nagging symptoms is enough for some people but most need to find new strategies to replace what they were getting from the foods, especially if there is a strong emotional eating pattern. This is tricky because whatever you are replacing the food with has to be AT LEAST as effective as what you got from the food or it’s unlikely to stick. There’s some deconstructing during this process and it’s a perfect opportunity to examine our habits, patterns and to once again expand our choices so we aren’t feel so restricted by what we can’t have.
Consider that there can be more to let go of than just the food.…
The other piece that deserves mourning is the version of you with the health challenges or symptoms. Our health status and our body image can penetrate our identity so as we start to heal it can feel very uncomfortable especially if we haven’t felt good in a while or ever. Sounds strange but for some, feeling good can actually feel bad or foreign. Ever notice that when things are going really well that seems to be the time the sabotage sets in or things start to go wrong in some way?
Step 4. Don’t expect people to get it but deeply appreciate it when they do!
No one likes to feel left out. You still belong and are loved even if you aren’t eating the same thing. It can be very confronting to other people around you who may not have the courage to own their health(yet). It may not be apparent at first but know you are inspiring the people around you. When you do meet people who get it, let them know how much you appreciate it!You’ve got this! You don’t want to embark on a therapeutic diet without considering these 4 Steps. It will not only alleviate stress but more importantly it can help you get more from your health endeavors than you ever imagined!]]>