This is a guest post from my friend, Morgan Koter at Mint + Mo.
I developed an eating disorder in college and spent multiple years living a life driven by food and exercise. After overcoming the mental difficulty it took me to eat all the foods I feared for years, my body let out a big loud “STOP.” About a year ago, I started having serious digestion issues and feeling sick all of the time. I went to several doctors, and after a long process, tests showed I had multiple food intolerances and SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth).
I was taking enzymes to help me digest everything I ate and avoiding foods I was intolerant to, but I still felt awful. I was constantly in stomach pain/ discomfort, exhausted, nauseous, had trouble thinking clearly and got headaches regularly. In addition to the physical health issues, all of these obstacles were seriously adding to my stress and beating away at the positive mentality I had just spent months building up.
I went many specialty doctors and even took a trip to the emergency room, but no one could offer me anything to make me feel better. That’s when I knew I needed to work with someone who approached health with a healing mindset. Thankfully, I am now working with a clinical nutritionist who is helping me to naturally heal my gut, anemia and adrenal fatigue through a specific diet, vitamins & minerals, and lifestyle choices.
While I am thrilled to have an approach to heal my current health issues, I can’t help but often think about how similar some of my habits are now to when I was in the dark stages of my eating disorder. I’ll be honest, I was resistant to eliminating so many foods from my diet to heal my gut because I was afraid the disordered eating mindset would rush back. I am eating a restrictive diet, even more so than when I was in my “dieting” stage and many of my decisions I make are because of how my body feels. Sounds similar to disordered eating, right? I consistently remind myself that the process of healing my body to gain health is not an eating disorder and here’s what has helped me to distinguish the fine line between the two.
5 Ways to Distinguish Your Gut Healing from Disordered Eating
Do Not Label Foods
Although your diet is limited while healing your gut, do not label foods as “good” or “bad”. It is important to remember that there are no bad foods. However, at this time, some foods are going to help you gain health while others will not. You are focusing on eating the foods that have the most nutrients to heal your body now. This does not mean that you will necessarily have to eat like this your entire life, but right now, you are focusing on nourishing yourself with the best foods that will help you.
Disordered eating can be isolating. I spent a lot of time avoiding social situations so that I could maintain the food and exercise rules that I created for myself, which in-turn left me feeling lonely and depressed. Eating a diet to heal my gut has also made maintaining a social life more challenging because it seems like everyone socializes over coffee, dinner and drinks.
However, I realize that it is so important to maintain strong relationships with people to reiterate that there is so much more to life than food and your body. Call a friend when you are making meals, invite your people over for a movie night and take control in your social situations. Finding happiness in people and activities that are not food related helps you accept your gut healing process and gives you support along the way.
Respect and Accept Your Relationship with Your Body
When I was in my disordered eating stage, I made most of my decisions because I disliked my body and wanted to change it. I am so happy that I respect my body enough now that I listened to it when I was not feeling well and sought help. Be happy that you too respect your body enough to seek help and healing. You are now making decisions that will help you gain health because you care for yourself. Appreciate where you are in your relationship with your body.
Social Media Detox
I spent hours drooling over “foodie” Instagram accounts and scrolling through Pinterest pages of baked goods that I wanted to eat during my restricted eating days. I’ll admit, I still follow some social media accounts that make my mouth water. However, if you know seeing such images will cause more harm than good, it’s time for a social media detox.
The content we consume alters the way we think.
Unfollow all the social media accounts that trigger you to have an unhealthy obsession or relationship with food and your body. Only connect with or follow people and accounts that promote body healing and a positive food and body relationship that fills you up.
I have felt so restricted at times knowing that the foods I can tolerate and eat during this healing process are limited. However, I allow myself to make decisions about what I want to eat and the quantity that I do eat of these foods. Change your mind from thinking in scarcity, to thinking in abundance. You may not have a wide variety of foods to eat, but you can still eat those foods without restriction. Focusing on the ‘lack-of’ will never make you feel good. Think of all the blessings you have in your life now and accept the challenges you face with food and your body. You are enough.
I understand the difficulty it takes for someone with a disordered eating past to eliminate foods for gut healing. Our relationships with food and are body are always evolving. Healing your gut is a huge step in creating a loving and nurturing relationship.
Think abundantly and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable about your struggles. There is a good chance someone else is going through a similar battle!