Chronic health issues and mindfulness

Many years ago when I was visiting Vermont with my best friend and her family, her father made a comment that stuck with me (for a variety of reasons). I was eating something, I can’t recall what, when he said “I hope you never gain weight, because you love food too damn much to not be able to eat whatever you want”.  At the time, I didn’t realize how much I conveyed my love of eating while I was eating (apparently I make mmm mmm noises as I eat). While I’ve never really worried much about my weight (and really, why bother, there are so many other things in life to get worked up about), now I do have to worry about what I eat. And it sucks.

The diagnosis of IC has been a hard adjustment for me. I already had a restricted diet, since gluten and dairy were already triggers for my belly. I eliminated all the triggers recommended when I was first diagnosed with IC and have been slowly adding them back in. At this point in the process, I’m aware of a number of different foods that either cause an IC flare, or cause problems with my stomach. So far, I know I can’t have soy, citrus fruits, onions, root beer, vinegar, chocolate, blackberries, cheese, strawberries, apples, garlic and tomatoes. I avoid the foods labeled with “caution” on the IC Food List, and sometimes try the ones listed as “try it”. Yet, I still struggle and feel deprived at times.

In reality, I know that I am not all that deprived. I have plenty of food to sustain me on a daily basis and don’t have to worry about going hungry. Yet it is a pain to have to plan meals out in advance every single day. I can’t forget lunch and grab something quickly because that will result in painful consequences that will last a week or more. I can’t just go to a party or out to eat with friends–I have to plan ahead to figure out if there will be food I can eat. And if not, I have to eat before I go. I also have to communicate with friends, acquaintances, and co-workers to clarify what will be served and what I can and cannot eat. Sometimes these conversations are uncomfortable. When I practice mindfulness all of this is a bit easier to cope with. It helps me be more intentional about planning meals, and more aware of the reactions I am having to my food choices. If you are struggling with food allergies and aren’t practicing mindfulness, I highly encourage you to give it a try. Check out these sites for more information on mindfulness practice:

http://www.mindful.org/

http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mindfulness

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