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Intuitive Eating with Food Allergies or Sensitivities

How do you approach intuitive eating if you know that you have food sensitivities or food allergies?

It seems contradictory: you want to avoid foods that make you feel crappy, but also not feel restricted/deprived.

But what if you know there are foods that don’t agree with your body, but you still want to improve your relationship with food (to feel empowered and in control around it instead of stressing and relying on willpower to ‘stay strong’ to manage cravings/bingeing)?

Research has found that when you restrict and deprive yourself of certain types or amounts of foods/nutrients, or even just think about potentially restricting and depriving yourself of them, it’s likely a binge or overeating episode is coming soon after.

So if we know restriction = overeating, how should we approach foods we know make us feel bad when we eat them, especially if we really like them?

I love this topic because I am a huge fan of the concept of eating intuitively AND I have a bunch of foods I am sensitive to that make me feel like crap when I eat them.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of intuitive eating, essentially when it comes to what, when, and how much to eat, you are making educated choices by listening to and trusting your unique body vs. going by external rules or “should’s” like traditional dieting, calorie/macros counting, clean eating, etc.

The number of people with food allergies and sensitivities has been on a steady rise, and continues to grow. All of our bodies are completely unique from one another, we all have foods that work well for us – maybe they help us feel energized, sleep great at night, be in an awesome mood, but if someone else ate those foods, they wouldn’t feel as great.

Whole wheat bread, yogurt, sweet potatoes, lentils, black beans, hummus, eggs, brussels sprouts, and soy sauce. All healthy foods, right? Well, not for me! I know through listening to my body (and getting food sensitivity testing done) that each of those foods make me feel like crap when I eat them. They are not “healthy” for me.

Yet I do not restrict them. I do not say I can’t or shouldn’t have those foods. They are not off-limits for me. I CAN eat any of them whenever I want. This is KEY.

If I were to eat ice cream or pizza right now, I wouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed…I’d just be super bloated. There’s nothing morally wrong with me eating ice cream or pizza, it’s just that the consequence of me eating gluten and dairy is I’m going to get bloated and look 6 months pregnant.

I do not experience the aftermath of hating myself or beating myself up for caving or failing (which usually triggers bingeing or overeating) because I know I’m totally allowed to have ice cream and pizza. There’s no “rule” I’m breaking which is where those feelings come from.

I actively CHOOSE not to have foods like ice cream and pizza the vast majority of the time, because it’s going to make me feel like crap not only in the short term, but possibly in the long term even worse too, and I don’t find that it’s worth it.

Intuitive Eating with Food Allergies or Sensitivities

My before/after eating a food I am sensitive to!

It all comes down to MINDSET.

Intentions and motivations behind your choices with food are SUPER important. Isabel Foxen Duke put it perfectly: Feeling sane around food isn’t about the choices you’re making around food, it’s about how you feel about the choices you’re making around food.

If you’re viewing foods as good/bad, should/shouldn’t, and your body feels deprived , it’s likely setting you up to have a stressful relationship with food and have a hard time feeling in control of your eating habits. It becomes a moral issue, and you’re setting yourself up to break rules and deal with the consequences.

When you eat intuitively, all foods are on the table and ‘legal,’ so the stress around food vanishes. Your body doesn’t feel restricted and deprived, so the urges around certain foods vanish too. You’re able to make empowered choices easily, and feel great about them.

You’re not giving up control, you’re taking control back.

You’re being mindful, present, and taking ownership of your choices. You’re thinking before you eat, asking yourself questions like: What am I in the mood to eat? What would feel good in my body?  How would I feel after eating that? Am I OK with that? Or is there maybe something else I can have and would enjoy just as much but would be more in line with how I want to feel? 

Though I choose not to eat foods that make me feel sick the VAST majority of the time, I make it a point to always look for ways to eat my cravings. I do this in a way that is supportive of how I want to feel – which is usually good, energized, and happy! So if I’m craving ice cream, I look for ways to still eat ice cream but using ingredients that do not contain gluten and dairy that I would find equally delicious. 

If you didn’t catch my recent appearance on Coffee & Kettlebells where I talk everything gluten, I think you’ll enjoy it too (click here)!

If you’d like some additional guidance and support in navigating your food sensitivities/allergies, or even identifying if there are foods your body doesn’t tolerate, I’d be happy to help! Click here to get the ball rolling.

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