AS YOU PROBABLY CAN TELL, I’m a healthy eater and love creating recipes that are healthy alternatives to normally unhealthy things (i.e. Protein Infused PB Cups and my Healthy Pancake Book). My healthy eating stems from a desire to feel good and to eliminate the terrible symptoms of IBS and GI distress I’ve had the last few years after eating certain foods.
Until recently, I had eliminated gluten, dairy, high fodmap vegetables (onion, garlic, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, broccoli), and nightshades (tomatoes and peppers). The list of things I COULD eat was dwindling, and I was more and more confined to the same few foods over and over. I found myself eating mostly lean protein, a few veggies, and pasta and dessert made out of vegetables.
These are all healthy things, and I truly do love all of them, but I didn’t realize how restrictive it caused my mindset to be. When going out to a restaurant, I always chose the healthiest meal, instead of choosing the meal that would taste the best. This always involved checking the menu before going out somewhere to see if they even had anything I could eat, and what alterations I would have to make.
It was a huge planning process, but I was fine with it and always enjoyed a huge bowl of veggies. My indigestion and bloating were almost gone. I had my safe foods, and I didn’t stray from them. I thought that I had developed a diet that was both healthy and fulfilling for my body. But there was still a lingering restriction in that I never had anything unhealthy, my desserts were made of potatoes, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had a real piece of pizza.
It hasn’t been until I’ve gone “all in” in trying to recover from amenorrhea that I’ve had a revelation about all the foods I was missing out on in eating ONLY the healthiest options and having all of the restrictions. And almost magically, many of my intolerances have subsided too.
I mentioned in my last post, Life Update! Back to school and Amenorrhea Recovery that the process of going “all in” with amenorrhea recovery included no exercise and eating a lot more in order to gain weight. This is the recovery process explained in the book, “No Period? Now What” by Dr. Nicola Rinaldi, and it also includes eating ALL foods, not just the healthy foods.
Dr. Rinaldi explains the importance of eating a variety of foods, and the benefits that simple sugars and fatty foods have on the female reproductive system:
“Ingesting a larger variety of foods will activate many different pathways to restart your hypothalamus… Researchers have found that high concentrations of glucose in the body (which occurs after you consume simple carbs like bread, pasta, or sugary treats) cause your GnRH nerve cell to fire at a faster rate, which, as we discussed in Chapter 5, leads to an increased production of FSH and LG and more growing eggs…. Even so called “bad or “unhealthy” foods can help get your system going again; think of them as recovery or fertility foods instead of feeling guilty for indulging.” (pg. 115).
She also recognizes that most women dealing with HA (hypothalamic amenorrhea) that have lost their cycle do to intense exercise and weight loss also have restrictions around food. No ice cream, only vegetables and lean protein, no sugar.. etc. are all “rules” that we establish to maintain a healthy diet, but it’s easy to lose balance by totally eliminating foods considered to “unhealthy”.
A huge part of the recovery process is mental, in liberating yourself from negative thoughts about your weight or body, overcoming the fear of missing a single day of exercise and learning how to eat all foods and not have guilt.
And physically, your body learns to tolerate these foods again! It sounds crazy and I didn’t believe that it could happen, but Dr. Rinaldi explains how restrictive eating, stress and overexercising can damage your ability to digest certain foods (most commonly gluten and dairy). Many women give testimonials in the book about overcoming previous intolerances of these foods, so I decided to give it a try.
This weekend I had real pizza (with real cheese and crust and stuff) and didn’t have any symptoms. None at all. Then I had real ice cream. I haven’t had any IBS symptoms in weeks, and the foods that would have previously given me terrible GI distress now seem to be fine.
This isn’t to say that most people dealing with food intolerances could easily get rid of them by eating a lot more and trying to incorporate these foods into their diet, it’s just my experience (and that of many many women that have recovered from symptoms of HA like restrictive eating and over-exercising).
In the last month, I’ve gone from eating the same meals of vegetables, zoodles and lean proteins to including all foods. It’s been such an eye opening experience of the restrictions I still had around food, not even knowingly so.
Going to a restaurant to share pizza with my family instead of having to order something “gluten free, dairy-free, with no tomato sauce or peppers or onions and hold the garlic please” was more liberating that I knew pizza could be.
Challenge: are you someone that feels anxiety about going out to eat, or you feel like you have been stuck in a rut of eating the same healthy foods over and over? Next time you go out to eat, pick the meal that looks the best to you without considering calories or nutritional value. Then order dessert. You may be surprised how difficult this is, but how amazing it is to eat something simply because it tastes good.