Monday, July 23, 2012

Two diets, one life

Ever since introducing grains a couple months ago – and really for a long time before that – I’ve been struggling to balance my needs and Ellie’s needs. This just comes with the territory when you become a new mom. A small baby has only needs and a mama’s job is to address them as accurately and promptly as possible. But at a certain point there becomes a mix of needs and wants and this begins the long and nebulous process of drawing boundaries. Like I said, every mama and baby goes through this.

Our process has a more complex layer added on, and it’s about food and wellness. This has sprung up recently as a very big issue. You see, I added grains back into our diet on the hunch that it might help Ellie’s IBS symptoms and they did help – tremendously. But what I noticed over time was that grains didn’t serve me as well. And it’s not exactly that grains don’t serve me well – it’s not quite that black and white. It’s that I have to watch the glycemic load of my food very closely, as it has a huge impact on my health and energy.

Over the course of several months these truths seem to be revealing themselves: Ellie’s biggest issue (aside from her allergies, which are blessedly under control with medication) is IBS symptoms and that is best addressed with a diet high in soluble fiber (grains fall into that category, along with many fruits and vegetables) and relatively low in some fats. My biggest issue, on the other hand, is blood sugar control and that is best addressed with a diet with ample fats and limited carbs (grains fall into that category).

So what’s a mom to do? I suppose the easiest choice to make, in a sense, would be to decide to put us on two completely separate diets: me on Paleo and Ellie eating grains. But life is sooooo much more complicated than that. First of all, the amount of work involve in managing two very different diets is unacceptable to me.

Secondly, I simply cannot bake a batch of (gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, egg-free) cookies and not eat one myself. Well, I know I can abstain because I did so for so long. But I choose not to restrict myself in that way anymore because it makes me unhappy. I believe we have to be happy about the foods we’re eating. Not addicted to them, or made happy by them for an unhealthy reason, but really happy to celebrate the food and enjoy it. On the other hand, I am also learning that I also simply cannot make a batch of more mama-friendly treats and expect Ellie to eat them, because they cause her digestive distress.

This is a confusing area for me and every day I’m tweaking our diet to see how we can both be best taken care of. Can I make cookies for Ellie and a batch of bars for myself? Can I serve rice with dinner and not eat it myself? Can I serve Ellie oatmeal for breakfast and serve myself an extra large smoothie that day? It’s a process, and it’s made more complex by the fact that we’re not adhering to a diet prescribed in a book, but really tuning in to our bodies and listening to what feels right.

Each day I’m exploring where our boundaries are and how we can be held up by our food, not held back.

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