Food Rules, Restrictions, And Side Effects
Exploring Internal Trust Issues
What do you think would happen if you gave up your rules around food? What if you ate what you wanted, when you wanted, as much as you wanted and exercised also only when you felt like it? Do you think you would turn into a fat immobile pumpkin? Would you be brave enough to ever see what would actually happen?
I decided it was time I tried. 18 days in Italy, no restrictions, no certainty about the outcome, just curiosity and reliance on internal guidance (plus a bit of trust that the universe will provide what I need, when I need it).
On Sep 20th, I posted this picture on my facebook. Some of you were certain that the result of no restrictions will be happiness, others promised 5-6 extra pounds. I wasn’t sure.
There were 2 rules: eat when hungry and savor each bite.
I didn’t want to be difficult during our vacation so I talked with my body and we settled on the no restrictions experiment. I would eat what I wanted, when I wanted and as much as I wanted.
The only things that I kept from my self care routine were daily yoga and meditation, pranayama, and some herbs to help my body go through travel with ease ( I Travel Well and Brahmi)
I also had my thermos with me which traveled to many countries during its life. I had coriander cumin fennel tea throughout the day, amalaki tea at night to keep my pitta in check and my digestion regular, and hot water with lime in the am.
Some of the comments on Facebook cautioned me about Italy being gluten free persons hell. I have to disagree with it. Maybe because gluten and me never had a chance to get into a bad conflict or maybe because I personally saw many gluten free options. Bread basket leaves me completely indifferent and if I have a choice I will always choose risotto over pasta. The only temptation I have around gluten is cookies. One the other hand my favorite cookies always end up being made from almond or hazelnut flour so gluten is not an issue. Because of my personal tastes even the no restrictions rule didn’t lead to bread and pasta.
Dairy and me, however, we have another story. I grew up with a passionate love affair with ice cream. When I was little the best treat was my moms homemade chocolate ice cream that she froze in a big pot on the balcony in the winter time. Ricotta topped with honey is as close to a heavenly delight as it gets for me. This one also comes from childhood memories of my grandma making farmers cheese with raisins and cream for us. So I was on a mission to sample as much ricotta cheese in Italy as I could. This was very different for my body than my regular eating at home where I satisfy a craving for something sweet and creamy with coconut pudding or carrot halwa with almond milk. Gelato also was on my must try list. However, I was not very lucky finding amazing ricotta and my body craved gelato just a couple of times during the hot days. So while dairy was present in my diet a lot more than at home, I haven’t had a chance to notice the bad dairy after effects such as stuffiness, lower energy, or bloating.
The key in my experiment was to be honest with myself about my actual hunger and respect it. I tried my best to never eat just because something was available. I find that this rule is easy to do if you feel safe and if you trust yourself that your favorite food will still be available tomorrow.
Also every morning I made sure to come back to a wonderful advice of an amazing woman who said: in the morning make sure to do 3 things: move your bowels, move your body, move your breath. Being aware and connected to your body first thing in the morning helps to stay connected to it throughout the day when you have to make decisions about food.
So today, October 8th and I just got back from the wonderful 18 days in Italy. Here are a few things this experiment made me realize ( I do think some of my realizations can be useful to you if you are still figuring out your relationship with food and improving digestion). I haven’t gained or lost weight. My energy is still great and my digestion, thankfully, was strong throughout all my endless food experiments.
- We all have weak spots and it serves us best if we are familiar with them. My digestion is still not perfect and quite sensitive even after several years of herbal protocol and diet. It is my weakest spot in the body. We all have one. I am happy I am learning from it and not suffering since I have the tools to keep it functioning well at most times. Chances are that you have a sensitive digestion also since you are reading this. In my case sensitive digestion, if not taken care of can lead to rashes, psoriasis, and other skin inflammation. This has been my weak spot since 4 month old and I have to continuously manage it. It runs in the family: my dad reacts to certain foods with skin inflammation and my younger sister has psoriasis. It is easy to forget about it when I have access to food that fits my body. However, unusual foods and food combinations can quickly remind us of the weak spots. It is good when we are ready to address it and have an understanding of what needs to be done.
- Our bodies are incredibly adaptable. Look around: there are people who eat all kinds of diet and thrive. There are people who eat croissants and stay lean, people who eat dinner at 9pm and wake up with a lot of energy, those who drink every night and are still productive. Judgement is easy. Understanding and compassion are not. In no way I am telling you that you should eat croissants with gelato and a bottle of wine, but don’t rush to judge. Listen to your body and do what feels best for you. There is no point comparing your body to anyone. If someone can get away with drinking and eating late, it doesn’t mean that you can. Only experience and curiosity will give you the answers. My body is incredibly strong and adaptable. It maintains good energy throughout the day, adapts to the time difference quickly, and has very mild side effects when I eat unhealthy food. I am grateful for it.
- If you feel safe, your body will crave healthy foods. If you restrict yourself, you will crave exactly the things that you are supposed to avoid. I was never a fan of restrictions and limitations. I believe that it is possible to collaborate, not to fight with my body and most of my clients find it to be true as well. It is amazing to observe what happens with your cravings if you decide that you are allowed to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. If you know that you can have ice cream or chocolate now or tomorrow or anytime after, your body is not likely to crave it like crazy because there is no fear of restriction. My body was craving warm soups, greens, teas, and occasional treats. I sampled amazing soups in different part of Italy! Tuscan soups are a must try!
- Beauty feeds and nourishes us. We are surrounded by plain offices, boring buildings, cluttered apartments, and unattended back yards. All this makes us looks for beauty and nourishment solely in food. While food can nourish us on a physical level, it cannot nourish is on all levels that we need. Without acknowledging this we can keep eating and still feel hungry for more. But you are not hungry for food, you are hungry for nourishment. Try to clear and adorn your eating place, spend time and enjoy nature, if you like art, make time for galleries and museums. Beauty fills up every cell with peaceful contentment. You need to be open to receive the gift of beauty, to actively look for it. Since we can’t go to an island every other day, we need to create and look for beauty around us. Choose a favorite park, bring beautiful flowers home, get a painting that makes you go ‘ahhhh’.
Now that I am back, I am looking forward to giving my body time and space to rest and reset with a mild detox. For the next 3 weeks I will let me digestion rest and help my body optimize detoxification.
In the comments below, let me now what is one thing that you do during your travel to stay healthy and balanced?