This post is from contributing writer, Danielle Eaton Hart from To The Beat of My Heart.
Have you ever thought, “It couldn’t happen to me?” Sometimes it is great to think this way instead of walking around paranoid about everything.
But it’s also dangerous because it can limit your ability to feel empathy and it sets you up to be blindsided occasionally.
I remember when we got head lice and it ended up being the type that’s resistant to the pesticide in over the counter treatments. I cut 8 inches off my own hair because I was so mad. (See photo.) When dealing with lice you want guaranteed results and this was one of those sad times when even doing everything right didn’t stop everything from going wrong!
These super lice kept going around at church and at school for months, but after advice from a professional nitpicker we learned how to stay safe. I fell into the trap of thinking we were immune. Until that fateful Christmas Eve when I hugged my daughter after dinner and saw a live bug in her fine blonde hair!
We canceled our Christmas vacation and spent the evening singing carols while shaving the baby’s head and nit combing through 3 girls’ hair! And then our own. My husband went to the local drugstore and bought 5 bottles of Cetaphil facewash so we could shrink wrap and suffocate anything we missed (how to treat super lice.)
When Life Hands you Lemons…
Hindsight has a way of sweetening life’s sour moments. Have you ever found yourself learning in hindsight?
While I was overly disappointed about our canceled plans and having to scramble to make the holidays fun while being quarantined, I learned. I can do hard things. I am not invincible, so sometimes a challenge really is too big for me to handle alone.
Speaking of hard things, I thought that anorexia would be the biggest challenge to my eating healthy. And in some ways it was. But I would also say it prepared me for an even bigger challenge: food allergies.
My choir professor suggested I get tested. The trouble with food allergies is that their symptoms are less consistent than other allergens. Even doctors don’t fully trust blood test results. After visiting my ENT/allergist and a D.O. we got an accurate diagnosis and I was ready to relearn healthy eating. For the second time.
I had a close friend once suggest that maybe my eating disorder was a blessing in disguise. I think I called him crazy. But his logic made a crazy amount of sense.
“No really, think about it. If most people were told they couldn’t have flour or eggs or dairy or peanuts, they would probably just not eat. They wouldn’t know what to eat.”
“Well, I’m not sure what to eat either!”
“But the point is that this time you won’t stop eating just because it got hard.”
Anorexia vs. Food Allergies
I grew up doing a lot of the things Katie suggests in her 10 baby steps, thanks to my mom. Our family was probably one of the few households in the country where we had to work at including fat in our diets. And when we did, it was usually the healthy kind.
With food allergies, I have had to customize a few of these helpful, healthy suggestions. As I practice being aware of what my body needs and what my family needs, we’re able to make those adjustments in an effective and lasting way.
I’ve dealt with two residual side effects of my eating disorder: control issues and an unhealthy gut. I’ve often wondered if I am somehow to blame for some of my food allergies because I destroyed my gut through anorexia. But having food allergies early on in my recovery has been a blessing.
I was already aware of how food made me feel. I was attuned to the emotional and mental side of eating, so balancing my diet became so much more than balancing nutrients and portions.
Eating healthy can be hard. For some of us, just plain eating is difficult: sleep-deprived parents with newborns or toddlers, dedicated hard workers who get too busy too often. It’s not just medical limitations that can challenge us in our quest to eat right and be healthy. Being healthy isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone.
Eating “Right” with Allergies
If you want to eat healthy and learn to be a wiser steward of the miraculous physical body you have, Katie has some baby steps that make it easy. All of Kitchen Stewardship is set up to make the journey to health a life-changing way of mindfulness. If you haven’t already, I invite you to explore the site as I did just a few months ago.
With food allergies and being chronically underweight, I have to make adaptations to any “healthy lifestyle” I’ve researched. I have to know my body and know the science, so I can sort out what my body needs. But it doesn’t have to be unpleasant.
There are countless resources for learning to cook and bake gluten-free. Vegan websites have helped me find ways to avoid egg whites and dairy without cutting protein or giving up on baking all together. Yogurt is one of those healthy foods I haven’t found a satisfactory substitute for, and that’s okay for now.
Remember those 10 Baby Steps of Katie’s I mentioned earlier? Numbers 3, 5, 8, and 10 stand out to me despite my allergies.
Learn What is Right For You
Number three is “Plan ahead: meal planning is a must.” There are very few pre-made snack and meal options that are hypoallergenic and most aren’t affordable. So almost EVERYTHING I eat is made from scratch. This requires planning!
Number five is “Make traditional bone broth.” The lower part of my digestive tract will never be the same thanks to the health challenges of my college days. But from a vegetable broth from a trained naturopathic in Australia and Katie’s bone broth, I’ve created a real food that gives my family unreal health benefits.
It helps me heal from my allergic reactions and has shortened the cold and flu season at our house! Recently we added the flavors of Alton Brown’s perfect Thanksgiving turkey to this broth with delicious success!
Katie’s eighth suggestion is to “Learn to eat nutrient-dense food.” I mentioned last month that my mom always tried to feed us nutrient-dense food. If we ate something “zero nutritional value” like Ramen noodles or Jell-O, she added tons of veggies or fruit. I thought eating nutrient-dense food was normal. It’s a bit less normal for me with certain food groups, now that I have so many allergies. But it’s still doable.
Healthy Doesn’t Mean Repression or Denial
Katie’s final suggestion is to “Reduce your dependence on sweeteners.”
While using conservative amounts of sugar, this year I bake gluten-free, lactose-free, even soy-free and vegan desserts: brownies, strawberry lemonade bars, stained glass sugar cookies, and whipped shortbread! Stay tuned to watch me learn to bake hypoallergenic eclairs.
Thanks to having to bake practically everything from scratch, I am more aware of the amount of sugar my family consumes. At least half of our baked goods are made to give away. I have given up mostly on corn syrup as a sweetener and I’ve never trusted artificial sweeteners. But I may not give up white sugar for years. Right now eating healthy means making sure I have enough calories. And sometimes that means eating a giant slice of hypoallergenic, homemade chocolate cake for breakfast!
So whether you have medical limitations or other challenges to your mind and body’s ability to eat healthy, I am here to boldly declare that you CAN have your cake and eat it too.