Why are food sensitivities so emotional?

My food sensitivity pyramid looks something like this

I read an article – gosh, it’s probably been almost 2 years ago – where the author explained that it is normal for people who have food sensitivities to go through some pretty negative emotions about it.  (If I could find it again, I would link it and totally give her credit for this blog topic.)  She compared it to the stages of grieving and loss.  By NO MEANS am I suggesting that having to eat gluten-free or dairy-free foods is like losing someone.  Not at all.  Not even close.  But on a MUCH smaller scale, isn’t it the same steps and dealing with the same kind of emotions?

When I took my first sensitivity test, I was so relieved.  I knew something was wrong with me.  And I really wanted to believe that it wasn’t my fault… because I didn’t think it was.  I worked hard, since 4th grade, to try and get my weight under control.  But nothing seemed to work.  My body just seemed to be malfunctioning for as long as I could remember.  I was a very busy kid in high school and became a very high energy person in college (SQUIRREL – I once had a professor, who later became my boss, describe me to people like this…  “Mindy makes coffee nervous.”).  So it made no sense to me that no matter how little I ate or how much I worked out, nothing seemed to change.  And when I got the results of that test, I thought I had the magic decoder ring to my weight problem.  Oh happy day!!!

However, after a short while things got difficult.  You see, my first sensitivity test required me to eliminate:  gluten, yeast (both bakers and brewers), eggs (both whites and yolks), green beans, grapes, garlic, pineapple, salmon (and any other non-white fish), yellow cheeses (but not white), and sour cream (which I later found out is a category that includes cream cheese and yogurt).  And at first, I was all in.  “No problem.  I’ll get rid of ALL that crap.”  And I love to cook so it didn’t bother me to spend the better part of a whole day preparing my food for the week. But what I didn’t realize at first is that this also meant eliminating:  all breads, all pastas, anything that has the word “spices” in the ingredients, beer, wine, and many other alcohols. Hmmm…  now this new diet thing is starting to cramp my style a little.

What this actually equated to is more like this:  no more eating at restaurants, no more eating OR DRINKING at gatherings with family or friends, no work potlucks, and nothing convenient (like cafeteria food or prepared food from the grocery store).  That also meant that I now had to become a short order cook so that DH and the kids could have something to eat too.  OK.  Now this diet is not just inconvenient, it is a hassle and is taking TONS of my time, not to mention that it completely changes my social and family life.

So let’s add all of this up.  I didn’t just lose some foods from my diet, I have now also lost some of my comfort (Have I mentioned yet that I am an emotional eater?  I mean, come on.  Who isn’t?), my time, many conveniences, and my means of being social.  Yes, NOW I’d define this as a loss worthy of the stages…

  1. Denial and Isolation – I’d actually put those in the reverse order… like cause and effect.  Isolation – because you’re the only one who has to do this.  Not your friends or the rest of your family, just YOU.  And in my case, I was like “I’m happy about all of this!”  Yeah, right.  Welcome to Denial.
  2. Anger – Oh, this is a fun one.  I’m particularly good at denying that anything is wrong and suppressing that realization until it just jumps out by surprise one day and explodes all over whoever is around.  You know, like on a Sunday night when I realize that I only have enough food for the next 3 meals and that means I get to stay up late and cook or else I don’t get to eat on Tuesday.  And then someone pulls someone else’s hair and everyone starts whining and crying and I go completely bat sh!t crazy on everyone.  Yep, you can almost set your watch to that Anger routine.
  3. Bargaining – This is where I am painfully aware of my lack of self-disciple.  I just want to go out to eat once in a while.  Maybe have some sushi.  Well guess what…  sticky rice has gluten and so does soy sauce.  And good luck finding a sushi that doesn’t have cream cheese, or tempura, or pineapple, or garlic, or red fish.  But I really really really want some.  So I justify it somehow and eat it (Bargaining) and then I pay for it… dearly.
  4. Depression – And here is where we answer the question “Why are food sensitivities so emotional?”  Ummm…  Because they suck.  And we had no control over it.  This isn’t something we decided to do, it was forced upon us.  And because it means we have to experience ALL of these losses.  Epic sad.

But wait… there’s one more…

5.  Acceptance – The light at the end of the tunnel.  This is where we find ways to cope and build a support system to help us through.  This is the part where we make it all work for us.  Or maybe find some crazy chick who writes a blog who will say “Oh my gosh!  I totally went through that too.  It’s hard.  But it gets better.  I promise.  I got your back.  Come here so I can give you a hug.”

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