Most of us are aware at a certain level that there is a strong link between food and emotions. Most of my earliest memories involve birthday parties, meals with grandparents, Christmas baking, dripping watermelon all over myself, eating mangoes and oranges straight from the tree and picking home grown snow peas. Most people never need to confront the emotional connection that they have to food until problems surface such as disordered eating, emotional eating, and in my case, those plus food intolerances.
Like most people I have dieted in the past, but this usually took the form of replacing unhealthy choices with more healthy choices eg fruit vs a biscuit, diet yoghurt vs regular yoghurt, diet soft drink vs regular soft drink. This didn’t really mess with my mind as I found easy replacements. When I first experimented with avoiding wheat in my early 20’s I could sometimes track down spelt flour in obscure places, but eventually it was all too hard and I gave up as I couldn’t find those easy replacements. These days we are really lucky that there is such a recognition and acceptance of alternatives to wheat, so finding spelt flour, spelt pasta and spelt bread or gluten free equivalents is much more simple. Again, these are simple replacements for what we are used to.
My IBS problems started to unravel when it came to fruit, as it turned out fructose malabsorption is my most significant intolerance. In order to be ‘healthy’ in the generally accepted sense I had replaced the unhealthy biscuit with the fruit and now I was being told that I couldn’t eat the fruit? Those first 8 weeks of following the low fodmap diet were difficult as I was so reluctant to reduce my fruit intake. For me I think it was more than the simple taste component as my emotions seemed to be caught up in the issue – what would be left for me if I didn’t have it? I persisted with eating fresh dates for weeks as my dietitian thought they might be OK. Definitely NOT OK. My homemade muesli bars with cranberries, apricots and sultanas were out, as was my homemade cereal. At night I started eating dark chocolate or lactose free ice-cream to give me the sweetness and emotional comfort I was after.
Over the past 3 years I have slowly reduced my fruit intake to from 3 serves a day to 2 to 3 serves a week (usually berries or kiwi fruit) and to be honest this is the most I can tolerate. I had to do this slowly as I found I was constantly in an internal struggle with myself. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I also find it easier now to also minimise my sugar consumption (again I did this over a long period of time). I’m not a complete sugar nazi, but I limit it to few times a week rather than a daily treat otherwise I get relentless cravings! I still find snacks the most difficult to navigate. I have started eating more at breakfast focusing on protein and vegetable options and find that I don’t always need a snack – this has taken so much stress out of my day!
I find that, for me, food is a complex and emotional issue and the low fodmap diet has tested me mentally and emotionally over the last 3 years and I am only recently feeling that I am making peace with myself.
What have been your crisis points on your low fodmap journey?
If you are interested in reading more on this topic, try this post: “When the low fodmap diet turns into an obsession”.