Managing Food Sensitivities with Underlying Emotional Eating Patterns

Food Sensitivities

Leanne Oaten, Holistic Counselor and Coach

There are major differences among the reasons we have for avoiding certain foods. Is it because they are not good for our bodies? Is it an act of self-love and having respect for our bodies? Is it being controlled by unfounded food fear and unhealthy food restrictions to lose weight? Or is it a combination of many reasons?

I recently asked my social communities if they struggle to stay away from foods they know they are sensitive to, and many women raised their hand admitting that they do.

From chocolate to dairy, gluten, and sugar, many women have a hard time staying away from certain foods, even if the food makes them feel sick or causes them to have adverse reactions.

That used to be me, until I discovered a way to manage avoiding foods that are not good for me without feeling deprived or like I was restricting myself.

It’s mostly about psychology and mindset: shifting how we see food and our bodies and how much we truly respect our bodies on a deep level.

I used to be emotionally attached to certain foods, like cookies and treats other people were eating or my kids were having. I really had a hard time staying away – even when I knew the food or drink made me feel awful. I would experience bloating, stomach pain, and other unpleasant stomach symptoms after consuming certain foods and drinks.

When the kids wanted to order pizza from the pizza place I love, I would indulge, telling myself that I was just allowing myself to have something I wanted, even though I am dairy sensitive and even though I knew I would feel uncomfortable for the rest of the night.

Now, I consciously choose to abstain from pizza completely because of how it makes me feel. When I was “sneaking” that forbidden food in, I was only fooling myself. I knew what I was doing, and it wasn’t a habit because I was aware of it.

As soon as we are aware of something and we keep doing it, it is no longer a habit; it is a conscious choice.

Sugar is one of the most difficult things to stay away from because it is in many foods we eat, and it has an addictive component. There’s a reason we don’t reach for celery sticks when we are stressed or feeling depressed. We want what gives us the rush of happy chemicals, make us feel good, like refined carbohydrates, fat, and sugar.

Anything can become an addiction if we become dependent on it to make us feel a certain way. We become addicted to how a certain food makes us feel while eating it. It’s kind of like alcoholics who know they can’t have just one drink and wake up with a bad hangover the next day. We do the same thing to ourselves with food. It is a form of self-abuse if we know that what we are putting in our bodies isn’t good for us, and makes us feel terrible; yet, we chose to consume it anyway.

A common mindset is “I’ve been good all week, I deserve a treat,” an idea similar to “cheat days” for people who are chronically dieting. But is a treat that makes you feel awful really what you deserve? Do you deserve stomach pains, bloating, headaches, feeling sluggish, not fitting into your favorite jeans by the end of the day? Do you deserve constipation and inflammation?

Reframing this outdated thinking serves us all very well if we begin by asking different questions. Starting with every bite of food ask, “Is this the most self-loving thing I can put in my body right now”?

Having a certain food or foods you know you are sensitive to and eating them anyway is not a self-loving thing to do. But oftentimes, it is a way we emotionally cope with painful feelings. We use food to deal with our mood and “eat our feelings.”

I am not about deprivation diets, unnecessarily removing food groups just because some expert says to, or a one-size-fits-all diet unless, of course, you have a diagnosed food sensitivity, intolerance, or allergy.

One thing I do teach my clients is body love and intuitive eating. Knowing which foods digest well, enhance our productivity, mood, and energy levels, and which ones deplete and reduce our vitality is important in recovering or managing health issues.

Just to be on the safe side, you might want to consult a physician if you have any of these signs that may indicate that you may have food sensitivity, food intolerance, or food allergy issues:

  • Digestive bloating after you eat (or a little while later)
  • By the end of the day you look six months pregnant and feel uncomfortably bloated
  • Skin rashes and acne
  • Chronic sinus issues or infections
  • Chronic cough, asthma symptoms
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches, migraines
  • Energy crashes
  • Stomach pains and cramps
  • Weakened immunity (or autoimmune)

If you struggle to stay away from foods that make you sick or experience binge eating and uncontrollable sugar cravings, schedule an appointment with your physician or a gastroenterologist (doctors who specifically handle gut health issues) to rule out any food intolerances, sensitivities, or allergies.

Leanne Oaten is a holistic counselor and coach, with a background and education in Applied Counseling Psychology. Her primary focus is working with women to uncover the root cause of their exhaustion, stress, and emotional eating patterns.

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