Fear and freedom go hand-in-hand… in that with fear, there is no real freedom. There are many scenarios I could apply this to, ranging from career pursuits and social justice. But of course, my focus within this blog is health-related issues, namely nutrition. Being on a GI elimination diet and knowing the symptoms you could develop as a result of eating the wrong thing can generate a lot of fear. Not having a firm idea of what could cause symptoms adds onto that original fear. You may have a handful of “clean” foods you can eat, but the rest of the foods out there kind of seem like a vast, dangerous wilderness that one may hesitate to explore.
While diets like AIP and FODMAP attempt to provide a protective structure within their diets, the truth is, anything on those lists could be disturbing to you in particular. For example, tomatoes are considered safe under the FODMAP diet, but I have a high intolerance to tomatoes, as confirmed by blood tests. Another example unconfirmed by official tests, but experienced intuitively, is the stomach pain and cramps I feel after eating brown rice. Based on what others have claimed, I “know” that perhaps something besides the brown rice is causing the pain; first-hand, experiential trends over time, however, discount that possibility in my own mind. Either way, experiencing unexpected symptoms due to consuming a reportedly safe food is really awful. It’s like horrid deception, really. Fear of the unknown, especially if the unknown is perceived as good but could possibly be a facade hiding all things bad, can really make a person want to throw in the towel and just give up.
My previous posts have talked about how avoiding offending foods is a way of loving yourself enough to make sacrifices now for the benefit of the future. However, I did not really mention instances in which the result is unknown. Of course if we know for a fact that certain foods cause us pain, we should avoid those foods at all costs. But if there are foods that are unconfirmed, it can be easy to shy away from giving them a try. That is the fear lurking, and that fear will zap your freedom if you allow it to do that.
Allow me to make a cheesy romantic love analogy. Most people you meet on a first date will be shiny and perfect. We all know from experience and/or observation, though, that a good number of those “shiny, perfect” people will end up showing their true, dark colors soon enough. But because there are fake people out there, should you just quit dating altogether? Are all people fake? Although some [jaded] people may be inclined to say yes to both questions, the answer really is no. Because amidst all the bad ones are good ones that will affect your life positively. Discovering “keepers” are worth the temporary discomfort of trial and error.
The best way to get rid of fear is to gain power and reduce risk. Have you heard the saying that knowledge is power? Of course you have. Well, in this case, it certainly is. Knowing more about a particular food (or date, if you want to refer back to the dating analogy!) could potentially reduce the risks associated with trial and error. The more you know before-hand, the less room there could be for error. If there is a dish you have in mind that you want, read about it, ask other GI foodies about it, research each and every ingredient that is in the food in question. If it turns out to be safe, great! If not, ask yourself, “Is there a way I could change this to turn an unsafe food into a safe one?” You could possibly drop ingredients or substitute them. Sure it’s all pretty time-consuming initially and requires a little leg-work, but that’s a small price to pay in exchange for long-term peace of mind with the potential for more stable food options. So take a deep breath and give it a try. Elimination diets are meant to eliminate, but they’re also meant to confirm inclusiveness.