Picture this: I'm in 11th-grade. I'm on a packed school bus traveling back from a field trip when a rumble in my stomach sounds like an alarm bell.
🚨 I need a bathroom now! 🚨
I head up to the front of the bus and ask the driver if we can make a pit stop.
"We stopped a half-hour ago. Can you hold it?" he asks.
"Not really. I'm so sorry, but this is an emergency."
"I can pull over to the side and let you find a bush to go behind."
"Um, this is kind of a toilet situation."
Starting to sweat, the driver looks over and senses my panic.
"Okay, hold tight," he says as he proceeds to the next highway exit.
The next few minutes were unbearable, and I almost didn't make it to the gas station bathroom. Worse, the whole bus knew what happened.
I was mortified. But, hey! Everybody poops.
My whole life I’ve had stomach issues and my 11th-grade field trip to Asheville was just one of the many embarrassing times I've had to race to a bathroom. This past summer, I decided to see a holistic doctor and figure out the cause. After many tests, some blood work revealed a massive list of food sensitivities.
A true food allergy causes an immune system reaction that affects numerous organs in the body. In some cases, an allergic food reaction can be severe or life-threatening. On the other hand, food sensitivity or intolerance symptoms are generally less serious and often limited to digestive problems.
While food sensitivities are quite common (i.e. lactose intolerance), it is not common to have so many. In my case, to truly avoid my sensitivities, I would need to cut out grains, dairy of all kinds, various seafood, pineapples, vanilla, and an assortment of vegetables. The effects of these foods build when eaten in combination, but thankfully I can eat small amounts of the offending food without trouble.
I’ve learned to embrace my diet as a lifestyle. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way:
Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are your friends
When it comes to allergen-friendly foods, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods reign supreme. No matter your dietary restrictions, these stores can accommodate your needs. #ProTip skip Whole Foods if you're on a budget!
Invest in an air fryer
The air fryer is by far my favorite kitchen tool. It makes cooking a breeze and the healthiest foods feel like a treat. I love roasting brussels sprouts and mushrooms or making home fries.
Eat paleo as much as possible –– It’s the way God intended
There's no way around it –– processed food is bad. No matter your dietary needs, it's always best to eat as many raw fruits and vegetables as possible. You’ve likely heard of the Paleo Diet, or the hunter-gatherer diet to describe a way of eating that mimics the diet of our ancestral past. Unfortunately, there's a lot of misinformation about the diet, but when you get down to the basics, it's just eating a lot of vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish, eggs, and some nuts and seeds. Essentially what you'd find at your local farmer's market!
Enjoy a cheat meal once a week
Once. A. Week. This is the key. Don’t let a cheat meal turn into a cheat day or a cheat week. Everything is okay in moderation and if you’re going to cheat, do it right and enjoy it. There's no sense in even having a cheat meal if you're going to feel guilty afterward. One of my favorite health and fitness influencers, Cassey Ho of Blogilates, uses the phrase "good for the soul" when she talks about cheat meals. I love this concept. It's important to nourish your body, but you have to feed your soul sometimes too!
Track how your eating makes you feel
Have you ever had a stuffy nose or sore throat and wished more than anything to feel better again? I always do, but I forget how awful being sick is once I'm back to full health. It's easy to take our moods and current states of being for granted. Keep a log of how you're feeling as you improve your diet. If you can recognize how good you're feeling, you're more likely to keep at it!
Follow positive social influencers
When I'm feeling down or unmotivated, it helps to find solidarity with others. I like to follow positive social influencers on Instagram to keep me feeling inspired.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Plan out your meals for the week
There's nothing worse than shelling out $100 for groceries just to throw it out days later as the fresh fruits and veggies you bought go bad. Do yourself, and the environment, a favor by planning your meals for the week in advance. Your wallet will thank you!
Find three go-to snacks and meals
I've found that the hardest part of eating with dietary restrictions is not being able to eat out. It's rare to find a place that is willing to accommodate food sensitivities, especially if, like me, you have a lot of them. I find myself cooking a lot more and it can be time-consuming. So, one of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to find three go-to snacks and meals. That way, if you're in a rush or feeling lazy, you won't succumb to eating out at the cost of your diet.
Some of my favorite quick and easy meals are the cauliflower gnocchi from Trader Joe's, eggs and cauliflower rice stir fry with coconut aminos, and lettuce-wrapped turkey burgers. For snacks, I recommend fresh fruit of any kind (I love granny smith apples with almond butter), CHOMPS sticks, and Target's cashew date bars. Stock your pantry with quick and healthy options for on the go!
Don’t let your diet define your life
If you have dietary restrictions, it’s possible to fuel your body without taking the fun out of life. Self-care isn't just face masks and bubble baths, it's taking action to preserve or improve your health even if it's hard. Feed your body right and you'll reap the benefits later! That said, enjoy your weekly cheat meal, and if you mess up once in a while, give yourself grace.