Today's post is not titled “How To Find Friends And Freedom In A Restricted Diet”.
I'm not qualified to teach anyone how to do that. I'm simply sharing from my heart about the journey I've taken and how I somehow found both in places I least expected.
I pray you will find encouragement and hope if you find yourself feeling alone, unsupported, and deprived in the midst of whatever eating style you've chosen.
I Love Food
I love sourcing it, shopping for it, cooking it, and eating it. I love making it for others. I love learning about various eating styles and healing foods. I love sharing what I know. I love befriending others who share my love for food. I love talking about food.
My children will most likely laugh as they one day tell my grandchildren how their mother rarely cooked or served a meal without taking a photo of it first.
I haven't always had this zeal for my food. It wasn't until I discovered Real Food that a passion awakened in me. I never took a photo of my boxed mac-and-cheese and posted it with pride for all the world to see.
I've endeavored to use the healing powers of food to manage and heal my family's health issues ever since my son was diagnosed with non-Celiac gluten sensitivity 5 years ago. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in 2012, and metabolic problems (which presented as adrenal exhaustion, anxiety, and heavy metal toxicity) in the beginning of 2014.
As we've learned how to listen to the signals our bodies give us, it seems like we're cutting more and more out of our diets.
Feeling Alone And Deprived
Food is so central to our culture. You can't go to church, watch a sporting event, go on a trip, have a holiday, celebrate a birthday, or spend time with family without gathering round a table full of deliciousness. So when you start cutting things out of what you'd normally eat, it's almost like cutting yourself out of the fun.
Pretty soon, people start noticing and asking questions. Who wants to explain every bite you put in your mouth?
You try so hard to attend functions without drawing attention to what you are (or aren't) eating. In any culture, not eating something that someone has lovingly prepared for you is rude, selfish, and unacceptable. Asking people to prepare things that you actually CAN eat is a taboo subject.
It felt like every time we wanted to go out to eat with people, I got stuck with picking the restaurant because “we don't know what you can have”. I know they were trying to be considerate and respectful, but I still felt singled out.
I tried to find the balance between what was best for my body — and what was best for my relationships. I wanted both. To heal and feel better AND to have fun and make memories. And yet, I felt like neither was possible at the same time.
Sometimes, when I couldn't choose, I isolated myself and my family. I turned down invitations and skipped out on fun events.
Am I The Only One?
Not only did I feel deprived of supportive people — but then I felt deprived of foods I really, really wanted to eat. If I'm being totally transparent here, some days I wanted Oreos so bad I could hardly stand it. Some days I wanted to throw my mug of bone broth out the window and run to Taco Bell.
Actually, I've done both, even as recently as 2013. I think I craved the freedom to eat whatever the heck I wanted without paying for it later in the form of a rash or a bloated belly.
I longed to connect with others who understood. Who would accept me in all my grain-free, broth-drinking glory. I longed for friends with whom I could talk about kombucha and farmers' markets and orange egg yolks without having to explain anything first — a whole foods kindred spirit. I read blogs and participated in forums, but I needed a face to look into and know that they got me.
My only Real Food friends lived hours away from me, and we rarely saw each other even though we texted almost daily. In them, I had that acceptance and understanding I yearned for. We talked about gluten-free baking and easy breakfast ideas and raw milk until the wee hours of the morning whenever we were together. They “got me”, and we still stay in touch. Our connections were and continue to be a blessing to me.
For a while, that was enough, but I longed for a community: for Real Food potlucks, Real Food date nights, Real Food play dates, and Real Food birthday parties. I wanted to connect with others across a table, not just through my phone.
I'm ecstatic to tell you that I found them: whole food kindred spirits.
In 2014, The Hubs and I decided it was time for a change for our little family. We sold our home and moved 8 hours away to a town where we knew exactly 5 people. None of them were Real Foodies.
I met Angie on the Tuesday of our first week in this new place, and the following events answered my prayers exactly.
Angie took me under her wing. She invited me to everything her little group of friends did. When you move to a new town, there's always the concern that people have established their cliques, and there isn't room for newcomers. Not so with this group!
If they went to the park, she invited me. When they met at another friend's pool, I got a text.
Through Angie, I met Meghan, Katie, and Tami. Our kids got along great from the start, and so did we — despite the fact that we all eat very differently.
Two of us are Primal-ish (basically Paleo with raw dairy). One of us is strictly gluten- and casein-free. One of us is vegan. One of us eats mainly whole foods without labeling it as anything.
Our Friendship Is Beautiful
We all have different reasons for eating the way we do. You know what the most beautiful part is? None of us have ever made another feel insecure, guilty, or wrong for the way we have chosen to eat.
On the contrary, when we play at Angie's house, she ALWAYS has gluten-free baked goodies for those of us who don't eat gluten — even though Angie and her family eat wheat all the time.
Tami keeps a stock pile of gluten-free cupcakes in her freezer and brings extras for our gluten-free kiddos whenever we all get together for a birthday party. (There are 13 kids between the 5 of us, so we celebrate birthdays all the time.)
Meghan and Katie bring snacks to feed an army everywhere they go.
Each of us tries to accommodate the needs of everyone in the group, without making anyone feel like an inconvenience. Each of us wants to learn more about how the others eat so that we can bless each other at the drop of a hat. There is no eye-rolling. It's amazing!
So, what's a normal conversation between the 5 of us? It'll jump from food sensitivities to homeschooling to pregnancy to essential oils. We get out of our comfort zones for each other.
When our vegan friend had a birthday, the rest of us surprised her with a vegan lunch at the pool. It didn't matter that we don't follow a vegan lifestyle. It was her day. We wanted to bless her and love her by providing dishes that she felt comfortable eating. And I know that when it's my birthday, they'll provide me with lots of butter and bacon! (Right, girls? 😉 )
Not only have I found these wonderful friends, but now my children have special friends, too. Now they don't feel deprived or left out because of what they can and can't eat. Our family has found so much acceptance. I truly didn't know these types of relationships were possible — especially when all of us have our own definition of “healthy”.
A couple months ago, Friday rolled around — in the midst of The Hubs' and my Whole30 challenge.
Friday is our weekly Family Movie and Pizza Night. It is our family's favorite night of the week, and I especially look forward to it because we (gasp!) buy grain-free frozen pizzas and I get the night off from cooking. Since pizza isn't a Whole30-friendly meal, I made some veggie-filled meatballs with cauli-tatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts, and the kids still got their pizza.
It hit me en route to the living room, with my plate of meatballs and veggies and a bottle of kombucha: I'm eating something I wouldn't touch just a few years ago. I'm missing out on pizza for this meal. I'm actually excited about my food.
I was so grateful in that moment, so of course, I posted it on Instagram (@lindseydietz):
If you had told 21-year-old me that the 31-year-old version of myself would one day eat AND love Brussels sprouts and mashed cauliflower, 21-year-old me would've thought you were off your rocker. Yet, here I am. Learning to eat real food is a marathon, not a sprint. But everyday you get a little better and learn a little more. When I stopped eating processed foods, there was a void on my plate that needed to be filled with something else. Desperate for variety, I had to try new things. And now I love sprouts and cauliflower (and all the other stuff I blow up your feeds with). #realfood #itsaboutthejourney #paleo #wapf
What Freedom Means
Did I feel deprived anymore? Nope! I could've had pizza. I could've “cheated” that one time and gotten back on track the next day. Balance is key for me. When I become too legalistic I know it's time for a cookie to keep myself in check. 😉
My feelings of deprivation were gone long ago, but that evening I had this epiphany: cutting junk out of my life actually freed me up to try new foods. I found freedom.
I can eat Oreos, Taco Bell, Girl Scout Samoas, or anything I want. After all, our meal plan, grocery budget, and grocery shopping are all in my hands. I really can eat anything I want.
Being a picky eater is restricting. Eating the same foods over and over because they're in the comfort zone is depriving. Moving past the familiar and stepping out into the unknown is so freeing!
If I was still eating boxed cereal, Hamburger Helper, and canned corn, I might never have tried roasted broccoli with lemon or Brussels sprouts roasted in bacon fat. Parsnips may not have become my new favorite vegetable. My children might not request kale chips for their birthdays.
My son regularly asks if I will make him nothing but pan-sauteed green beans for dinner, and my daughter swipes her finger through the butter dish when I'm not looking. The Hubs went out of town on a man weekend a few weeks ago and ordered a salad for dinner one night. And I happily ate my grain-free meatballs, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower on Family Movie Night.
This is FREEDOM!
What has your real food journey looked like? If you've ever felt alone, I hope my story brings peace and encouragement. I pray that you will find both friends and freedom in whatever eating style you find yourself.
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