Have you ever tried to change your diet?
Maybe you felt there was too much “processed foods in your diet and you wanted to start eating “clean.”
Maybe you heard others talk about cutting out sugar, gluten, dairy, etc., and thought maybe you should try that too.
Or maybe you looked at your food bill and thought “yikes! I need more budget friendly meals.” After all, Uber eats and meal delivery are great, but come at an ongoing price in the long run…
A lot of people I work with want to change their diet because they know nutrition can help them move forward in their brain injury recovery, feel more confident mentally and emotionally, and get back some freedom and independence around food.
The hard part sometimes can be knowing where to start.
My name is Krystal Merrells I’m a registered dietitian and a concussion warrior in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
I’ve had multiple concussions and I’ve seen how food can become this big stressful thing after your injury. I am here to help you move towards feeling good with food.
This is Food Love. A 14-day mini-series of exploring your relationship with food.
Today is day one: Where to start
Right now if you think of the word “diet,” what comes to mind?
Weight loss? Shrinking your body? Cutting out carbs? Eating a lot of salads?
And how many of these things do you associate with love? Compassion?
There’s a lot of ideas out there about where you “should” start with your “diet.”
There are a lot of diet plans and programs, downloadable menus, and recipe books with weekly guides.
And a lot of people in the wellness arena telling you that they’ve got it all figured out if you just follow the steps they’ve laid out for you (and everyone else).
If you were being completely honest with yourself, have those things worked for you in the past? Given you everything you need?
And if I can be completely honest with you, I can’t say I’ve got it all figured out either.
Because only you can truly figure out what’s best for you. And I’m simply here as a humble guide to offer you that place to start.
After all, why start with someone else’s menu plans when you can first start with yourself? With what you’ve already got?
Going through my own TBI recovery, I often felt very lost.
“I don’t know what to do” became a nasty mantra I repeated to myself as everything from lights to music to my emotions triggered my symptoms.
How then in those moments could I decide what to eat? Calculate my nutrition? Make the “healthy” choice?
I was like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, swept up and away and pitched into completely unfamiliar territory.
I needed something to ground me. Something always accessible to me.
If you’re having a hard time with food…
If you’re struggling to make decisions…
If you’re starting to feel guilty about what you eat or are even afraid of certain foods…
What would it be like for you to root your food decisions in your priorities and values in life?
How would the way you view food change if you put food into perspective of what’s really most important to you in life?
I’ll give you some examples.
One of my clients was once considering a very restrictive diet. They asked my opinion about it. I said, “why don’t we go back to those priorities and values? On this restrictive diet, would you still be able to eat your cultures traditional foods? Eat the foods provided by the monthly farmers boxes you have subscribed to? Would you be able to go apple picking and bake pies with your kids?”
All these things were super important to my client. And all of these things would have been restricted on that diet. This reflection made her decision about that diet much more clear.
Another client of mine wanted to get back to home cooking. There were other things that were getting in the way of just eating enough food each day. When my client stepped back and reflected on their priorities in that moment in time, they realized that working towards finding a job was more of a priority than cooking everything from scratch. This really helped my client feel free to make simpler food choices that would still satisfy their needs, while taking some time to prioritize their career.
If the food and nutrition changes you’re trying to make go against your priorities and/or values, it’s likely going to create unneeded struggle.
It would be like trying to force a relationship with a person that’s not right for you:
It wouldn’t give you what you need.
You would feel unfulfilled.
And just like a relationship with a person that’s not a good fit for you, it can impact other areas of your life.
Your priorities and values are likely to change over time. They may even change with the state of your recovery.
And that is completely OK.
To create a loving relationship with food, you can start with yourself.
Your reflection question today:
What do you think are your priorities and values right now?
And what food choices just might fit with that?
Take note, this is a very different approach from what you’re likely used to when it comes to diet changes.
And this might be hard at the beginning.
Know that you don’t have to have all the answers. You might not be able to come up with clear responses to these reflection questions.
The act of just thinking about your food choices in this way is the work.
And I am so glad you are here for it 🙂
Until tomorrow when I release day two,
Best in food, brain, and health,