By Elyse Wagner, MS, CN, LMHCA
The Kitchen Shrink
What if I were to tell you that going gluten-free is never about the food. It’s about the mindset and overcoming your emotions. Food is emotional.
Just over four years ago, on February 8th 2011, I learned that I would be living with celiac disease. I vividly remember that day. I sat on the examining table surrounded by a couple of doctors in training, my boyfriend and the doctor. After years of waking up with horrible stomach pains and feeling uncomfortable in my body (to the point where I couldn’t even fit in my jeans, because I was bloated and looked like I was nine months pregnant), feeling ill whenever I ate, feeling totally confused with brain fogginess – I felt a sense of relief. I had a diagnosis!
This sense of relief was quickly replaced with an overwhelming wave of frustration, confusion and a huge learning curve. You see, I was given the choice to create health and happiness or to continue destroying my gut, mind and the rest of my body by ingesting foods that were actually destroying me.
This choice was actually a no-brainer. As soon as I was aware of my situation, I knew I had the power to make choices and decisions that would serve me. My doctor was a huge source of encouragement but I had to do the “work” myself.
Rewind about 12 years, when I was 13 years old and made a significant eating lifestyle change because I was overweight and taunted as ‘Obese Elyse’ and I physically never felt good. I overhauled my ‘diet’ and switched processed foods to whole real foods. At that point in time, I lost 50 pounds and gained a clearer perspective that food is medicine and can be healing if you listen to your body. So I knew how to do that already – that was the easy part. The hard part – dealing with the emotions and emotional barriers that would come up in changing my eating lifestyle once again.
This change affected many different facets of my life. How would this affect my relationship with my boyfriend, my friends, my family (all of the holiday foods that were near and dear to my heart). What about the foods that I chose to eat when I needed love, like grilled cheese or mac and cheese – those carbs combined with cheese that were heaven to me. I needed to define what I really needed and how I could serve myself emotionally. I tried not to focus on the barriers and obstacles, but rather focused on the positive and allowed myself to make mistakes so I could grow. Another focus was on being kind, compassionate and loving towards my body – knowing that it was going through changes and healing and that I had to be patient.
Having an autoimmune disorder means your body is inflamed – big time. The inflammation affects your mind, body and spirit. Many times, it seems like an entire overhaul is needed. However, I encourage individuals who have been recently diagnosed to take small steps and set goals on a daily and weekly basis so they can start building a relationship with themselves and their food.
It is important to have a plan and be prepared so you can have a strategy when you eat out or you can be prepared with other food options when you need a snack or you crave something sweet or salty, etc.
Let’s face it: food is emotional. When we get fired up, sad, frustrated or stressed, it’s not uncommon to gravitate toward foods that comfort us and provide some emotional relief. Many traditional “comfort foods” have gluten in them.
Having options for foods that are gluten-free is one piece of the pie; but the other piece is dealing with the emotions and stressors. Making changes to your eating lifestyle is a delicate dance between food and attitude. Food choices and habits are formed by our likes, dislikes, culture and experiences.
Food is also connected to us through emotions, friends, family and events. Making changes in one area can affect other areas of your life, making it tough to adjust and stick with your new eating lifestyle. Trust me—I know!
I want to share with you some key tools and tips on how to deal with your stressors and choose actions and foods that will serve you. The following steps offer a sure-fire recipe to break through tough emotional blocks during your transition from rough-and-rocky to smooth sailing.
The first thing you need to do is shift your mindset and attitude and trust that you have all the right ingredients to create your own health and happiness. You can control your emotions and emotional eating by balancing your food, elevating your attitude and loving your body!
Here are some tips that I used to heal myself and now I want to pass them on to you – starting from the inside out – your head, heart and stomach!
First things first. Think positive, be hopeful and take on the mind set that all is well – a key ingredient when making any type of change. As you begin to change your food choices, you may start to see that it really affects many different areas of your life. For example, you may feel out of place or a burden if you find yourself in a situation where there is nothing you can eat, or you may find yourself bothered that you aren’t prepared with food that will help you feel better. In order to push through emotional blocks, it is important to know that a lifestyle change always involves an intentional positive mind set.
Make each moment count by starting your morning off with an empowering affirmation or inspiring mantra. It may seem hokey or “woo woo” when you first start, but the key is turning this into a practiced habit just like brushing or flossing your pearly whites every morning and night.
Practice compassion, unconditional self-love and in-the-moment acceptance through this lifestyle transition. It will lighten your expectations and create the needed room for learning and personal growth. Your heart must be in the process – this enables celebration when goals are reached and creates the impetus to get through tough times. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you have not met specific health goals – just pick up where you left off and try again, inching your way to success.
Remember to stay in the present moment. Use your senses (smell, touch, taste, sight and hearing) to help you become more mindful of your food, attitude and body. It is in the present moment that you can create conscious change.
Remember your WHY. Why are you on this journey to better health? You’ll be pleasantly surprised when you focus on what you gain instead of what you lose.
Three keys you can implement today!
Key 1: Balance Your Food
It’s hard to transition into a brand-new eating lifestyle. It can be even more challenging if you have a family to feed. Start off slowly and change one meal; for example, breakfast. Make a smoothie to sip on when you leave the house. You can create a smoothie that is full of antioxidants to help keep inflammation at bay and keep you full so you aren’t tempted to snack on foods that don’t nourish you. Check out my delicious Apple, Berry, Kale Revitalizer smoothie recipe full of rich anti-inflammatory benefits, high in antioxidants and bursting with flavor. (See below.)
Key 2: Elevate Your Attitude
Feed your mind with positive mantras and sayings. This often coincides with my morning smoothie. Show gratitude to your food or be thankful for all the amazing ways your body will use the nutrients in the food. If you are feeling down, focus on how you want to feel and allow that to expand. Now, I’ve got a mini challenge for you! The next time you sit down to eat or sip your favorite juice or smoothie, notice the connection between feeding your body with real foods and how it makes you feel before, during and afterward.
Key 3: Love Your Body
Talk to yourself with love! I mean it. Stand in front of a mirror and complement yourself and tell yourself how much you love YOU. Due to inflammation, my body was so inflamed at one point, that I looked as if I were pregnant. I noticed all the hateful things I would think about myself and decided to change that. I realized that I couldn’t hate myself into a new body. I had to love myself into a new body. You can too. Here are a few mini mantras to get you started, straight from my recent book Smoothie Secrets Revealed: A Guide To Enhance Your Health.
Mini Mantras: Blending up health and happiness from your head and heart is done by using whole foods and a positive attitude. Each smoothie recipe is accompanied by an affirmation or mantra to kickstart your day in a positive way.
“I greet my morning with verve, confidence and bravery”!
– Freshly Green & Clean Smoothie
“Each day I begin with vital energy and a sense of calm to guide me through my day.”
– Energizing & Calming Lemon Lavender Smoothie
“I enjoy eating healthy and nutritious foods that feed my mind, body and soul.”
– Energizing & Immunity Boosting Ginger Echinacea Smoothie
Stay nourished, happy & healthy!
P.S. Now that you’ve got your three keys, c’mon over to the video blog, Facebook or Instagram and share what key insight you’re taking with you today. www.mykitchenshrink.com.
Elyse’s passion is to educate, empower and inspire women and men to live the F.A.B. (food, attitude and body) life! She’s here to teach you how to create health and happiness from the inside out using nutrition, positive psychology and functional medicine principles through her individual and group coaching (online and live), programs and books. Elyse is internationally known and recognized as an up and coming leader in the world of wellness. She holds an undergraduate degree in nutritional sciences and dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a dual master’s in Nutritional and Clinical Health Psychology from Bastyr University. She is a certified nutritionist and licensed mental health counselor associate.
Recipe from Smoothie Secrets Revealed: A Guide To Enhance Your Health
Berry Apple Kale Revitalizer
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup kale
1/2 cup berries
1/2 apple, cored
Loads of love
Antiviral, antibacterial, antioxidant, fiber,
medium chain fatty-acids that metabolize to energy
Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, detoxifier, fiber
Anticancer, antioxidant, blood sugar regulation, cognitive benefits, eye and heart health
Anti-asthma, anticancer, antioxidant, blood sugar regulation, fiber, heart health