As I am approaching the 3 year anniversary of following the low fodmap diet I have found myself reflecting more and more on my experiences adjusting to life with a restrictive diet. One of the themes that keeps rising for me is around loss and feelings of grief that I struggled with. On paper, this idea of experiencing grief around food seems ridiculous, however on closer examination, it could be that if we do not allow ourselves to fully experience our feelings of loss when it comes to food and this restrictive diet of ours then we can unwittingly create resistance to change.
Let me share an example of my own with you by considering a fruit that holds a special place in my heart, the mango. As a child I lived in a house in a rural, remote part of Queensland. The house was framed either side by enormous mango trees that must have been at least 40-50 years old – the trunks were wide and strong and I spent much of my childhood climbing and hanging off different parts of these trees. Each year the mango trees hung heavy with fruit and as they ripened we were never able to pick enough. What we could pick we shipped by the boxful to neighbours up to 50 kilometres away. What we kept for ourselves we dried, pureed, froze and, of course, ate whole, warm from the sun, juice dripping down our arms, chin, legs. So, as you can see, a simple fruit represents to me much more than a piece of fruit, it is my memories and the many emotions that go with that.
So when I talk about food and grief, I am talking about a strong sense of loss that comes with being told. and knowing,. that I will never eat a mango without experiencing strong negative consequences (due to fructose malabsorption and how that impacts my digestion system). Now, the practical ones out there would just tell me – if you want to eat it, eat it – get over it! And, naturally I could. But I don’t. Knowing this doesn’t diminish my sense of loss and when someone says this (or I say it to myself) it actually de-values my experiences, because of course, they are my experiences and simply for this reason they are completely valid and real.
I found that the more that I resisted grief around this and many other high fodmap foods, the more difficult I found my transition to the low fodmap diet. It was only once I gave myself permission to grieve and acknowledge the validity of my feelings that I was able to move though this resistance and start to let go of my attachment to certain foods.
No one wants to have IBS, we didn’t ask for it and we certainly don’t deserve it. However, it is also part of us, and as much as I tried to deny it, I had to accept it as part of me, which isn’t an easy thing to do as I didn’t want to admit to having a ‘syndrome’ (whatever that means) that involves bowels, smells and toilets. It is much easier to live in denial or ‘get over it’ and ‘get on with it’. Not everyone can do that.
Over the years there has been a shift, an acceptance, a positive change. Like other significant losses that we have in our lives, there is always a gift, a silver lining, we just need to look for it. The sense of connection and fulfillment that I gain through writing for this blog is one of the gifts that this experience has given me. There are many more, for which I am grateful.