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How do I manage food sensitivity issues without triggering restrictive eating?

By Michelle May, M.D.

People often worry that they mindful eating “won’t work” for them if they have issues with food sensitivity. In fact, mindful eating is great for this situation because it can help prevent the Restrictive Eating Cycle, and all of the problems that go along with that. In this #AskAmIHungry video, I answer this question from Madison about how to deal with food sensitivity issues without triggering restrictive eating.

Mindful eating question from Madison about managing food sensitivity

I am in the middle of an 8-week Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Workshop and I am realizing that I can finally be free of dieting – but something has thrown me for a loop.

Long story short, I’ve had a chronic illness for a long time. With mindful eating, I’ve become more tuned in to my body and realized that the symptoms seem to be related to eating gluten. This pointed me in the direction of food allergies, food intolerances, sensitivities, or even Celiac disease. I’m undergoing some tests to find out, but in the meantime, I managed to avoid gluten completely for 4 days in a row – and doggone if I didn’t have even ONE of my episodes! Then I ate one bowl of cereal and my symptoms returned.

This is throwing a curve ball at me. On one hand, my absolute favorite foods are breads, pastas, etc.! I don’t know how on earth I could give those up forever… but on the other hand, I feel almost excited that by “just giving up these foods” I might literally get the rest of my LIFE back!

But how do I do this without triggering diet mode, restrictive eating, rebellion, and all that? Has anyone else dealt with food allergy or food sensitivity issues and successfully managed to continue with the Am I Hungry? method without freaking out?!
Thanks so much for any help!

#AskAmIHungry Video Transcript of “How do I manage food sensitivity issues without triggering restrictive eating?”

As you are learning in your Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Workshops and from reading the book Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat, freedom from chronic yo-yo dieting is about learning to eat what you love fearlessly, and learning to love what you eat mindfully.
In fact, your discovery is one of the many benefits of mindful eating! We often have people in our workshops who suddenly make the connection between what (or how much) they were eating and how they feel.

I’m not going to try to explore the complexities of food sensitivities, but as you know, we also work with people who have diabetes and other issues that may impact the food they eat. Just as it may be the case for you, these individuals do much better when they limit or eliminate certain foods. However, the key to making long term sustainable changes is to apply the strategies you are learning through Am I Hungry? without turning those choices into a restrictive diet.

Hint: It’s all in the way you think! Here are some specific suggestions for making changes to your diet (for any reason) without falling back into a restrictive eating cycle:

  1. Mindful eating is eating with intention and attention. Assuming that your intention is to feel great, think of your dietary changes as choices that you are making in order to feel your best (rather than some externally applied diet). Reread Healthy vs. Restrictive Eating in Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat to help you embrace this mindset.
  2. When asking “What do I eat?” you’ve learned to ask three questions: What do I want? What do I need? and What do I have? The question “What do I need?” is all about considering your personal health needs. This will help you balance eating for enjoyment with meeting your personal well-being.
  3. Make changes to your eating that don’t leave you feeling deprived. You’ll probably need to experiment to figure out what works for you.

So rather than thinking of your new discovery as a diet you’ll have to be on for the rest of your life, you have a wonderful opportunity to use your new mindful eating skills to help you figure this out. That way, you can use your energy to live your life vibrantly!

Your question could be answered in a future #AskAmIHungry video. To submit your own mindful eating questions, click here: https://amihungry.com/askamihungry/

Want more like this? Free download: 101 Things to Do Besides Eat when you subscribe to our Mindful Eating E-Newsletter!


About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

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