As a society, I feel that we've pigeonholed ourselves to certain stigmas and stereotypes based on our dietary preferences. We've allowed food to define us, and for many, consume us. As a result, we've witnessed a rise in emotional eating, body shaming, insecurities, health issues and the like.
It's stressful, to be honest. To know what or who to believe, and to know what is right versus what is wrong. We're flooded with logo-obsessed packaging and marketing gimmicks and articles talking about the next best thing and latest food trends. Information overload, absolutely.
But there is no right and there is no wrong. I'm finding much more value in eating based on my intuition and unique, individual needs. It sounds simple, to eat what feels good in that moment. But certainly, it takes dedication, experimentation, adaptation, and an understanding of your physical, mental, emotional and hormonal state. You must be willing to learn and fine-tune along the way.
If I had to be honest, the journey towards this realization has not been easy for me personally. With my current health situation, I have many moments of defeat, but equally, there have been moments of triumph and reward. It has woken me up to a greater purpose and more fulfilling work. It has allowed me to choose a more mindful and conscious way of living, giving myself the needed attention that I previously suppressed and abandoned. Much of the work now is learning how to heal and reverse the damage and imbalances that I created in my body. Self-inflicted, situational, environmental. All of which contributed to a messy hormonal wreck.
At a glance...
Creating a toxic environment in my liver due to excessive alcohol consumption and last call tequila shots in college. Over-indulging in sugar and caffeine. Job-related and self-induced stress that caused my cortisol levels to skyrocket. Emotional eating followed by guilt. Body shaming. Exercising too much. Exercising too little. The list goes on, as you can imagine.
I'm sure many of you can relate. It is a very vicious cycle.
It finally caught up with me and manifested in my body as what I self-diagnosed to be endometriosis. If you research it, it's not very pretty. It was hard for anyone to really understand or relate to what I was feeling inside. From the outside, all was seemingly well and things appeared to be smooth sailing. On the inside, my hormones were a wreck. I had no answers.
Up until now, I've labeled myself a vegan. It felt easier that way, describing my dietary preferences in a single word. But has it ever really been easy to share with most people that I was vegan? No. I always needed to explain myself. Telling people that I don't eat cheese, you'd think that the world just ended. I can vouch, it's truly not the end of the world.
But never did I feel sorry for myself. I chose that path based on my intuition and what I felt was right for me at the time, but now that story is constantly changing and evolving.
On the upswing, I'm finally getting to the root cause of my suffering and imbalances, and the picture is making sense. I have a weak liver metabolism (there are two phases, I am weak in both) and therefore my ability to effectively metabolize estrogen has been really tricky, causing an estrogen dominance in my body. It's pretty ugly, I'll say. You can imagine how the years of alcohol, stress, caffeine, toxins, chemicals, etc contributed to this. No wonder why PMS was always (and sometimes still is) a little bitch. There's really no other way to describe it.
In working closely with my acupuncturist, my saving grace as I refer to her, I'm learning what types of food either contribute to or assist in breaking down excess estrogen. It's very tricky not to let food consume me since I always have to be conscious of my choices and decisions. Fish and eggs and (non-meat based) protein, yes, beneficial. Dairy (already nixed it), caffeine, chocolate (woof), bananas, avocados (also woof), walnuts and soy anything, no, not beneficial. The latter of these are referred to as catechol heavy foods that block the pathways of the liver and may contribute to the buildup of excess estrogen in my body. As you can imagine, I have gotten many raised eyebrows when I attempt to explain this to people (mostly, because avocados).
One thing I'll say, is that I'm finding a liking to bone broths because of their hormone healing benefits. Gasp. Yes, bone broth.
My current situation seems complex, yeah? I agree with you. But this is life, and likely the emotions and experiences that many other women have been struggling with for quite some time. What I thought all along were "healthy" foods actually were working against me, not with me. I wanted to feel fooled by what I read and heard, but instead, I have come to realize that certain things just simply do not work for everyone. Labeling myself has become a burden and explaining myself has become a burden, because many have a hard time relating or comprehending. I previously allowed veganism to define me, but I am in fact no longer a vegan.
Some days, yes, I'll eat a big bowl full of greens and veggies and grains and such. Other days, I'll have eggs or fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Real nourishment takes many different forms.
So, I am no longer choosing to label my diet, in favor of my own health. By eating intuitively, I've given myself freedom and permission to pick and choose my food in a way that feels nourishing based on my current emotional, physical, mental or hormonal state. Hormonal being key. I am much more at ease, and a lot of pressure has been lifted by freeing myself from a label to define me. I am constantly listening to my body and getting a great deal of information from it to better understand where I need to add or subtract certain things in order to achieve balance.
I really do encourage everyone to start listening to your body and take strides towards a more conscious and intuitive way of eating and living, before extreme imbalances and complications begin to abruptly show themselves in the form of deeply rooted health issues. Our intuition is one of the best resources that we have available to us, if we allow it to serve us well.
Eat well for you, whatever that may look or feel like. No more labels, just do you.
And many thanks to a few women doing well and sharing the love: Renee Byrd, for sparking a movement by sharing her powerful and inspiring #realdietstory, Lacy Phillips for her personal hormone checklist that I refer to constantly, and Kristin Dahl for sharing her voice on the topic of intuitive eating as well.
For further intuitive recipe inspiration that was consciously designed with your health an nourishment in mind, I recommend grabbing a copy of You Nourish You: Thyroid Yoga Recipe Book by Fern Olivia, Thyroid Yoga founder, plant-based chef and integrative nutrition expert. A few of my creations are featured there as well as several other golden meals. If you choose to do so, use code ALLISON at checkout for a sweet little discount from yours truly.
xx be well,