I’ve been dairy, egg, soy and peanut and tree nut-free officially for over 5 months now due to my daughters allergies and me breastfeeding and I feel I finally am at a point when I can talk about my struggles with food over the past 5 months.
I ate a relatively healthy diet before the diagnoses, but a few months back I was becoming frustrated and felt like I wasn’t able to eat my favorite foods and my diet just became boring, which led to me not eating as much and losing a lot of weight quickly.
There were many days when I felt so weak I wasn’t sure how I would make it through our daily walks or have enough energy to keep up with my daughter and breastfeed her throughout the day. I would go to bed many nights starving because I felt limitless in my food choices. I missed my dairy, eggs, and nuts most of all.
About 2 months ago when we went to see a nutritionist for my daughter because she wasn’t gaining weight like she should, she turned to me and said you’re getting weighed today as well and will need to gain weight if you want to keep breastfeeding and have enough energy to get through the day.
I was sort of embarrassed and shocked at the same time, but I knew deep down she was right. My clothes were falling off of me and I looked weak and frail. I felt like all the life was being sucked out of me and would count the hours down until I could go to bed at night. It was time to get back to a healthy weight again, for myself and for my daughter.
When friends asked how things went at that appointment and I told them about my need to gain weight they mostly all had the same reaction – “that’s a good problem to have… I wished I had that problem…”
No, really, you don’t.
You don’t wish you had a son or daughter with life-threatening allergies, meaning if he/she is exposed to eating just a trace of peanut (or their allergenic food) he/she could go into shock, airways could close, and they could die. They could die.
You don’t want to wish you had these restrictions on your diet. You don’t want to wish you had almost zero options for eating out. You don’t wish you lived in the daily fear that I do every minute of the day.
No, really, you don’t.
I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, not a friend or foe.
I’m a huge cookie and sweets (and anything chocolate) fan (more like an addict is how my husband would describe it) and I felt at a loss and like a piece of me was missing because I couldn’t have many (actually any) of my favorites. I became depressed about the new elimination diet I had to follow, and just wanted to dig into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s to make me feel better.
The nutritionist was right as well as my husband who could see the weight coming off of me and really was pushing me to stop breastfeeding so I could gain both some weight and some energy back.
I didn’t want to stop breastfeeding my daughter.
Instead I made a concious decision and I took to the nutritionists warnings. I started making sure I was eating more complete meals and just eating more overall in general. I needed to gain weight for both myself, and, more importantly, my daughter who was struggling to maintain and gain weight like a healthy baby should.
I took to all of the message boards, and everyone said, it will get easier, and they were right.
After a month into my new diet I discovered some amazing allergy- friendly choices and started to take chances with using substitutions in recipes, and loved that I now had options. I learned how to stop focusing on what I couldn’t eat, but instead, what I could. My diet had always been heavy in fruits and veggies, I just need to make sure I was getting plenty of protein and healthy fats as well.
One of my favorite resources was My Plate, where I was able to see the different subgroups of vegetables which led me to starting preparing my veggies in other ways, like sweet potatoes (my top five recipes for making them here,) and kale.
After seeing the nutritionist I also became less hard on myself about working out and stopped working out as intensely everyday. Upon eliminating the daily (more intense) workouts and adding back more food into my diet I started feeling better, gaining weight, and noticed increased energy.
But most importantly my daughter started to gain weight, grow, and got back to “following her curve” on the growth chart like she should.
I am no longer angry, frustrated or feel like I am missing out on food. With some simple adjustments and a shift in focus I now have a better attitude and feel strongly that Food is no longer my enemy.
And remember we all have different struggles and road blocks in our lives. Next time you have a friend going through a difficult time don’t be so quick to “want” their problems, things may not always be what they seem.