Have you ever gone on a super-restrictive diet only to find that, down the road, your symptoms remained the same AND you developed intense food fear, cravings and maybe even binging?
I want to tell you a story about a client of mine who experienced this. Caitlin came to the gutTogether program after being gluten, dairy and soy-free for more than 6 months. Initially, her naturopath put her on this diet in an attempt to treat her severe constipation. When she cut these foods out, initially she did feel better.
“Well, maybe it was the food after all,” she thought.
Over the next several months, though, her symptoms started coming back. The most devastating part about her story is that as her symptoms started coming back, she started experiencing a lot of shame about her diet and felt she was doing something “wrong.” When she had a followup appointment with her naturopath and explained that she was feeling worse, the recommendation was just to remain with the dietary restrictions and she was sent home with another list of foods that she couldn’t eat.
Over the next several months, Caitlin found herself craving all the foods she “couldn’t” have. In secret, she found herself eating gluten, dairy and soy because she felt so out of control. She stopped going out for wine and cheese with her friends, because she was scared she would lose control with food and feel even more ashamed if she “messed up” in front of friends. She couldn’t stand watching her friends eat the food she wanted to eat, so she just isolated herself at home.
That’s when Caitlin reached out to us and started the gutTogether program. She knew after struggling with this restrictive diet that there had to be something else contributing to her symptoms – she just wanted to feel free around food, and stop binging at night. She wanted to go out for wine and cheese, and say “yes” to outings without hesitation!
Over the next few months, she worked really hard on getting to a place where she trusted her body again. Initially, all she wanted to eat was everything she had been restricting herself from up until we started working together.
This is called diet backlash. It’s a common, normal response that individuals experience when they stop a restrictive diet and give themselves permission to eat all foods again.
For Caitlin, the hardest part was being able to listen to her hunger and fullness cues because she was so excited to eat all the foods she had been restricted from previously.
After a few months, her hunger cues normalized, her cravings for gluten, dairy, and soy decreased, and as we were addressing the underlying issues in her gut, her symptoms finally started to improve.
For many individuals, the first step in “healing” their gut is actually healing their relationship with food. If you have been on a restricted diet for a long time, it can take a while to allow yourself to eat in a way that feels good to your body, doesn’t feel restrictive, and gives you the freedom to go have wine and cheese without overthinking it. If you are struggling with diet backlash as a result of a long-term restrictive diet, please know that you are not alone. We are here to help you find relief from your symptoms, and feel free with food.