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The Effect of Dietary Restrictions

On Monday, I posted some basic dietary recommendations for those with chronic pain and illness. The goal of those recommendations is to support the reduction of inflammation in the body, which is very often related to chronic pain and illness. Today I’d like to talk a little bit more about dietary restrictions, because it becomes a big topic when you’re using nutrition to aid in healing.

After becoming a Registered Holistic Nutritionist several years ago, I spent a fair amount of time working on developing a diet that would heal my body and eradicate my medical conditions. I put hours of research into each of my nine conditions, noting which foods to avoid, and which ones to eat in order to combat each illness. Once I had finished compiling all the lists for each condition, I merged them into a master list and cross referenced them with the results from the food allergy testing I had done. The outcome? All that was left for me to eat was white fish, yams, rice, carrots, and ginger.

At first I thought ok, this is going to work! But after a couple of weeks on this new plan, I was so sick of fish, yams, rice, carrots, and ginger. I didn’t want to see any of them ever again, let alone eat them. And this is the problem with getting too strict about dietary regimens. They’re not realistic.

Really restrictive diets, even ones intended to heal, are impossible to stick to. Unfortunately, people with irritable bowel diseases do often need to limit the foods they eat to a high degree, which is really challenging. As humans, we need flavour. And variety. And the more restricted we feel, the more likely we are to binge on the worst foods – deep fried, sugary and/or overly processed.

Where does that leave us?

Well, we need to find a middle ground.

This is my middle ground: I realized I had to come up with a realistic plan for my meals, something I could reasonably stick to. So I went back to the basics. Drinking enough water, eating only whole, unprocessed foods and good quality fats. I made sure I got the right amount of protein in my diet, and that each meal and snack was a good balance of

protein, fat and carbohydrate. If I ate some tomatoes once in a while (definitely on my “avoid” list), it wasn’t going to be the end of the world. I might be in some discomfort the next day, but better to eat tomatoes than a tub of ice cream. And if I want some ice cream once in a blue moon, so be it. I’ll be prepared for the consequences, and a few scoops isn’t going to be the end of me.

Here’s the bottom line: it’s better to make a few small changes for the rest of your life (like drinking enough water and eating mostly whole foods), than go on a crazy restrictive diet for a few months every once in a while, and then fall back into poor eating habits the rest of the time. Consistency and moderation are key. It’s ok not to be perfect about what you eat. In fact, it’s better for your mental health not to become obsessed with your eating habits.

Ultimately you need to figure out what works for you. The strategy I use for myself isn’t going to be a fit for everyone. Listen your intuition and act on the messages theyour body is sending you.

What is the first thing you are going to do to improve your diet?

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