I love food.
I fall asleep and dream of food - custard slices, chocolate mousse, millionaire shortbread. I’ve never done an exercise class without fantasising about what I’ll have for dinner afterwards. Friends have politely asked me to stop verbally spunking all over my dinner in restaurants, gushing about how delicious it is. Basically food is my best friend and together we have an awesome time. The only problem is my BFF is inseparable from its siblings - BMI and health. And let me tell you those guys are waaaaaay less fun and up for a party with clotted cream, Ben and Jerrys, cheese on toast and doughnuts (some of our favourite party buddies).
So you can imagine my dismay when I was diagnosed with leaky gut and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth - mmm sexy) which required me to cut out all gluten, dairy, sugar, chocolate, coffee, tea, potatoes, tomatoes, alcohol, onions, garlic and a zillion other daily staples. It was like my best friend had come home and announced she had joined a cult. I was devastated.
I had recently started dating someone and it was pretty early into our courtship when I went to his house for dinner and announced that I had leaky gut and bacterial overgrowth. Nothing turns a man on like those words. Who doesn’t want their intimate partner to be leaking inside? It’s profoundly erotic.
Having to give up alcohol and so many of the treats that fill my life with pleasure felt overwhelming. All I could focus on were the feelings of limitation and frustration. Women have so many pressures to contend with and I have always put two sponge fingers up to the skinny police and delighted in opting for indulgence over restriction.
But I love life and my generous hardworking body is my transportation through it, so if it needs diesel, I better not fill it with petrol.
To help get my rebellious self on board I did a visualisation about how I’d feel in my body after doing the healing eating plan. I imagined how much more comfortable my tummy would be if it was not swollen and irritated, I imagined how much more energy I’d have, how much lighter and brighter I would feel, how much less sluggish.
I pictured my unhealthy habit cycles releasing their grip. If you’re in the habit of getting poor sleep you’re more likely to overeat and not exercise because you’re feeling tired. I imagined how much sharper my brain would be, how the quality of my sleep would improve when my system wasn’t racing from sugar, caffeine and wine. And I started to feel excited and motivated. Instead of feeling restricted, I felt curious.
I reminded myself that it was only a few months out of my whole life and I could return to sweet indulgence soon. I started to think of it as an experiment rather than a stint in prison. And guess what? Food, my darling best friend, has been incredible. Together we have discovered a whole new world of delicious flavours and textures. It hasn’t felt like incarceration, it has felt like a holiday.
I gave myself permission to honour the requirements eighty to ninety percent of the time and to have a few weekends of exceptions when friends came to stay where I could enjoy wine, coffee and chocolate. But on those weekends I found myself waking up with a headache, feeling groggy and looking forward to taking lovely care of myself again on the Monday.
So, whilst I am on this eating plan I thought I’d share some recipe suggestions for anyone else doing something similar. And once I’m healed I will include a wider range of tasty ideas, both healthy and indulgent. Because, whilst eating healthily is good for your body, indulging is good for your soul. And my soul loves to feel goooood!
Photos by Ollie Warren-Fisher