How to Deal with Stress Brought on by Healing Diets
Being on a healing journey, you learn very quickly that food is a huge piece. How many times have we heard, “Food can heal”, “Food can make your illness better, or make it worse”, “Food can make all the difference”, “It starts with your diet”, “You will never heal if you don’t eat perfectly”.
What do I believe? Healing is about loving yourself and living a balanced, fulfilled life. It’s about thriving and not stressing. Diet is an enormous part of it, of course, but obsessing over it gets sticky. Obsessing over anything at all, including food, is stressful to your mind and body… period.
Let’s take a step back here. Eating a healthy, nourishing diet is indeed necessary. However, what about when it becomes so stressful and obsessive to eat perfectly, that it becomes another device to be hurting ourselves? Healthy eating, healing diets, and stress can often go pretty hand in hand.
Now, this doesn’t apply to anyone who eats a healing diet or a healthy diet in general, thrives both mentally and physically and doesn’t get stressed. Plenty of people are able to balance it properly and don’t get stressed over their diet. If this is you, great! Honestly, I’m a bit envious of you… because I can get pretty stressed over my diet some days, and I know that plenty of others would agree with me. I’m not at all saying that healing diets create stress for everyone. We’re all different, but I know that there are plenty of people like me out there who just want to stop obsessing and stressing over every bite they put in their mouth (or don’t for that matter).
The autoimmune protocol isn’t easy, nor is the paleo diet, low FODMAP, GAPS, etc. Not to suggest that they can’t be done stress free, but they require a lot of mental energy, physical energy, and can cause a lot of added stress for many. “How am I going to navigate this party or restaurant menu?”, “How do I feed my family on this diet?”, “How can I afford all of this food?”, and so forth.
Trust me, I’ve been there! Honestly, I can still be there often.
You may know you’re suffering from “perfect healing diet burnout” if you’re:
-constantly thinking about what your next meal
-looking to validate what you’re eating by looking to others
-weighing and measuring everything
-recording everything you eat
-you just feel burnt out and like something is off (you know you and your habits better than me!)
If this has ever been you, don’t feel guilty! These healing diets can be so mentally stressful. Healing takes work!
However, spending so much time in the kitchen can consume you. I think quote from Proverbs 31 Ministries sums it up so well.
So, how do you find a balance? How do you eat amazing healing food, but not have it stress you out and run your life in a negative way?
Here are my 5 tips to be stress-free around food while on a healing diet:
1. Get your mind on something else, and focus on something bigger than yourself.
Food is fun. Seriously, I love to cook. But when I’m obsessing over my next meal, and thinking about food every single hour, it’s time to focus on something else. One thing I like to do is listen to podcasts like “Stuff You Should Know” which is about anything and everything, read fashion blogs, go to yoga or to the gym, etc. There is so much more to life, healing and thriving than consuming nutrient dense foods!
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own lives, problems, and day to day frustrations. In reality, there is so much more of a big, wide world out there that goes beyond your dinner plate and meal prep. It may not feel like it, but it’s true. Always remember that life is bigger than just your diet.
2. Don’t compare your diet to others.
Looking to others for inspiration is always helpful. However, this journey is yours! What you like to eat, and what you chose to consume is your choice. Maybe you can actually have chocolate and you’re fine… maybe cauliflower makes you sick. Remember that just because something is known as a healing food doesn’t automatically mean that it’s healing for you and your body. Whatever it is, this if your journey. Fitting in with the dogma of what a true healing diet is just for the principle of it will never serve you if it’s not actually therapeutic to you.
3. Remember you can have that non-healing food that makes you feel sick if you really wanted.. it’s not “off limits” but you’re making the healthier choice to not do so right now. It’s all about mindset.
Peppers make me sick, period. I do not feel well when I have them. However, when I shift my thinking to “it’s not that I can’t have it… I can have it if I really want to pick it up and eat it… but I’m making the healthier choice to not have that right now”. Maybe one day, I can have it again and feel well. But right now, I’m making a choice.
4. Keep it simple!
If I spend all of my time thinking about how in the world I’m going to make things like nightshade free, gluten free, dairy free enchiladas, I’m letting my eating occupy way too much of my mental energy. Keep it simple, and straight forward. I love making salads with leafy greens, canned wild caught fish, and some sort of fat, veggie and a starch on the side if I’m feeling like I’m needing some extra carbs. Check out my Easy AIP Salad and Easy Butternut Squash Soup recipe for just one idea of many!
Not to mention kitchen tools like a slow cooker or an instant pot can be life changing when it comes to meal prep. Doing a ton of prep and watching food on the stove is draining and not always necessary. Keep it simple as possible at least 90% of the time, and reserve only 10% of your meal prep time for fun treats.
5. Accept that you can’t be perfect.
Stressing over being perfect is just what it sounds like… stress. This can be really, really hard. I know that I’m the type of person that likes to think I can do it all. But guess what… I can’t do it all. I can’t work full-time, consult, blog, go to school and meal prep perfectly every single week. Sometimes I fall short. Thus adding to more stress, and a vicious cycle.
I have to accept that I’m not perfect. None of us are. We will fall on this diet, and we will fall in life. Being kind to yourself is literally one of the most healing things you can do… arguably more healing than liver.
This is one of my favorite verses regarding my own perfection… we may not be perfect, but God and His plan for us (whatever that may be) is!
“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” (Psalm 18:32).
All in all, take it day by day. Even these 5 steps could be to overwhelming to just take and start implementing tomorrow. Take it slowly, ask for help, and do what’s right for you.
If any of this resonates with you, please check out one of my favorite resources on food and emotion, Maddy Moon. She’s all about having a healthy relationship with food, and has an awesome devotional program coming out for those who struggle with disordered eating. Maddy is doing amazing work and even if you don’t suffer with a full on eating disorder, you’ll find some great tips on stress and obsession associated with healthy eating.
Do you stress out over food? What do you do?
I definitely stress about food. I have a pretty varied job. I could be out in the field for 12 hours or I could be at my desk behind a computer for 8, however I always like to plan as if I’m going to the field and pack plenty of food. A lot of time this leads me to being late to work and having to work later, which then reduces the amount of time I have at home before bed (sleep is another thing I stress about). I am always taking a ton of food wherever I go and I often just don’t even feel like trying to eat out. I think the key for me when I am really stressed is doing something that I love. Riding my bike, doing yoga, or watching a funny show with my boyfriend and my cat. It is definitely something I need to work on and make time specifically for stress relief. Thanks for sharing your tips 🙂
Hey, Meg! It’s so hard not to stress around food. It’s just one of those things that we have to face every single day but comes with so much decision, context, time, and potential fear. I’m always carrying around tons of food too to try and alleviate the stress of being away from the house all day and not being able to just pop through a drive thru. You can almost always find me with an apple and a can of tuna 😉 Finding ways to de-stress are SO important, and I’m so glad that you’ve found that! I believe that we really underestimate the power of just chilling out and taking life simply… the impact it has is huge! Thanks for sharing, and for reading!! 🙂
I really needed this today. It helps to know I am not alone and others and struggling with similar issues. Another piece of the struggle for me is fighting through the brain fog that comes with my autoimmune. That adds to the challenges of meal planning and making any decisions in general. I needed the encouragement that life is about more than food and not to give up. Thank you for sharing!