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How to Cope with the Social and Emotional Burden of Diet Restrictions

Diet restrictions can be very challenging. Especially as a young person, whether you're in college, grad school, or beginning a professional career. Not only do you have to see the food and be reminded you can't eat it on a daily basis, but it can also negatively impact your social life. When I originally changed my diet about 5 years ago, I eliminated gluten, dairy, eggs, peanuts, and processed sugar from my diet. I did this not because I wanted to, but because it was necessary to improve some digestive and other health conditions I was facing. Fortunately, I have been able to add a lot of these foods back into my diet, but I still am completely gluten and mostly dairy free. Although in recent years, dietary restrictions have become more recognized in restaurants and grocery stores, those with restrictions are still effected by them emotionally and socially every day. Below are some of the challenges I've faced and ways I have coped with them during my journey with food restrictions.



1. Always feeling bummed about the foods you can't eat

Seeing that delicious looking donut in the window or smelling that banana bread/brownies being made can sometimes be the worst feeling, downright depressing at times. Then you get stuck on a never-ending cycle of imaging the foods you wish you could eat and feeling sad that you can't.


Try to stop focusing on the foods you can't eat, and start focusing on the foods you CAN eat! Get in touch with your cooking side, and experiment! You'll find that there are tons of alternatives out there like 1 to 1 gluten free flours, nut milks, sugar alternatives and many more.


Struggling with how your food tastes and being satisfied after meals? I mean who doesn't miss the great taste of fluffy gluten filled bread or cheese? SPICES, SPICES, SPICES! Experimenting with spices and alternative options like nutritional yeast can help you stay satisfied and make your journey a lot easier. Not only will your digestive system love you, but you might find that the food you cook and treats you make taste even better than what you used to have!


2. The person who assumes everything you eat tastes bad because it doesn't include the traditional ingredients

"What are you eating? It doesn't look great, but I bet it'd taste good if you slabbed a bunch of butter on it!" or the classic "this bakery item is going to have a bad texture because it's gluten free!" Ugh the worst things to hear!


Try making this person (or people) one of your favorite dishes or treats that you love to eat (even though the ingredients are restricted). When they love how it tastes, they'll give you less crap, and you'll be super satisfied with yourself for proving them wrong!


3. The person who tries to act like they understand

"I eliminated gluten and sugar from my diet this week because I want to lose 5 pounds. Ugh it sucks." In your head you say, "What! I would do anything to eat a huge cinnamon roll right now without feeling like my insides are on fire." But you don't say this, and instead nod and smile out of frustration.


Understand that you can't be mad at others for having a functioning digestive system. Everyone has their own problems they are dealing with on a daily basis. Although one of their problems might seem insignificant to you, it could be something that is very hard/important for them.


Try to understand the intentions of the person. In a way they are just trying to relate to you and show their support, they just don't know the best way to go about it. If it is someone you are close to and feel comfortable talking seriously with, let them know how you would like to be supported.


4. Having no idea what food/drink to order when you go out to eat with family or friends

Recently been told you shouldn't eat a certain food, but have no idea how to accommodate this when you're eating out? Trying to avoid gluten, sugar, or yeast and have no idea what drink to order?


If you make plans to go out to dinner, look at the menu ahead of time! Find something that looks good and fits with your restrictions and stick to ordering that. Then you aren't panicking trying to find something to order while everyone else has already placed theirs. Also, make sure to tell your waiter of all your dietary needs. A lot of cross-contamination can happen in the kitchen, so don't feel bad telling your waiter everything you need! They're there to serve YOU!

Learn to love vodka sodas with lemon or lime! Woohoo! Although these aren't always the tastiest drinks, they are safe for all food restrictions and you'll be thanking yourself when you don't have that bloated/sugary hangover the next morning. Drinking isn't the best thing for your stomach, but its all about enjoying a BALANCED life style and vodka sodas can help you do that.


5. Struggling to find snacks to eat when you're out and about, busy and in a rush

Running late to work or class? Well you're not going to be able to stop for that quick bagel and cream cheese or yogurt parfait that you used to grab when you were in a rush.


Meal prep is your best friend! Take a few hours on Saturday or Sunday to put together some snacks that you can grab quick during the week when you're in a rush. My favorite is toasted granola with gluten free oats and nuts with almond milk. I also love making some almond butter and date balls or bars to eat quick when I'm running late. You can also grab pre-made bars from the store like Lara Bars because they are allergy sensitive.


Try to find the restaurants/bakeries in your area that specialize in your dietary restrictions. There are more/less depending on what area you live in, but if you don't necessarily enjoy cooking, you can always pick up some food from there to have throughout the week.


Keep some emergency snacks in your backpack/briefcase/purse like fruits and nuts so you are not tempted to eat something you shouldn't when you get really hungry.


Takeaways

1. Try to focus on what you CAN eat!

2. Cook a yummy dish or treat for those who don't understand your diet restrictions.

3. Remember that everyone has their own problems, and try to understand their intentions.

4. Look at the menu ahead of time, and vodka sodas!

5. Try meal prep and emergency snacks.


Ultimately, remember to be kind to yourself! Adjusting to diet restrictions can be extremely draining and hard to do. Don't get frustrated with yourself if you are feeling down or jealous of those who can eat whatever they want. You are strong, and you will find ways to cope that work best for you.

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