I don't know about you, but for me, it is extremely easy to get caught up in different diets and become obsessive over them. I am a major perfectionist, and if I can't do it 100% without any compromise, I'd rather not even try. This made for stress filled days where the only thought I had was how to prepare for my next meal. All of this, although maybe extremely healthy food, only made for a "diet" that ended up hurting my body more than helping it. I was not listening to what my body needed at the time, but only what I knew whatever diet I was following said it needed.
Diets exist for a reason. They exist because they have worked for numerous people and are effective in so many cases. It's really easy to get caught up on other people's success stories and forget that all of our bodies work, function, and heal so differently. When I started realizing how miserable, tired, and hungry these diets were making me, I decided to start making these a lifestyle instead of a "diet", and working towards molding them to meet my own needs.
This is where "listening to your body" comes into play. I eat what I like to call a plant-based AIP diet. Why plant-based instead of just AIP? There are months at a time I go when I feel like my body is not responding well to meat and doesn't need it where I am completely vegetarian. There are days when I eat green peppers. I eat nut flours and nut butters daily. This is not AIP, but I am grain-free, legume-free, dairy-free and so on. AIP is primarily a highly meat-based diet. This is extremely healing for most people with stomach issues, and helps to provide the protein and nourishment needed for their bodies. For me, many times, eating meat gives me awful stomach pain and makes me feel blahhh. Sometimes, NOT eating meat gives me horrible indigestion and no energy. Tapioca and cassava are completely AIP, but they hurt my stomach for some reason, so I don't eat them (hoping to try again in a few weeks). This is one way I have learned to listen to my body and understand what it is telling me and when.
Another huge reason I use to follow one particular diet so strictly no matter how it made me feel was because of those around me. When people would ask what diet I was on, or why I could eat this but not that, or ESPECIALLY this one day but not the same thing the next, I wanted a particular source to put blame. "Oh, my dr. wants me to follow an AIP diet and this food is not on there." Or "This diet only permits this a couple of days a week". This constant defense was not only uncomfortable, but exhausting having to come up with excuses.
This is another reason that molding a diet to fit my needs has been so successful and freeing. I no longer feel the need to place blame on a diet. I simply eat what I feel like my body needs that day, and if anyone asks, I just lay out the honest truth. If they don't get it, who cares? You have no obligation to please others with your health choices.
Learning to listen to your body takes time. It gives you cue's and signs that you aren't born knowing how to read. If you've spent years living with symptoms where you've never learned to make connections, this is going to be hard. The most effective way I learned to track my symptoms and make connections was through a food diary in my journal, as well as logging symptoms, sleep, and mood everyday. This will help you learn to interpret the language of your body much quicker since you can actually go back and physically look at what is connected to what.
With all of that being said, I hope that you were able to relate to this article, and can take my experience as a way to truly start enjoying a life in a way where you aren't living by the rules made for someone else. Make your own health plan, and whenever food starts feeling like a stressful task that is restrictive and heavy, take a step back and evaluate if you are following a "diet", or if you are listening to what your body is asking of you. Now go make yummy goodies and share them with me!! P.S. Desperately searching for a delicious AIP cream cheese ;)