Eating Disorders and Food Allergies, Part 2
After it’s been confirmed by your doctor or health practitioner through testing that you have a food allergy or intolerance, it’s time to think about managing it vis a vis your eating problems. If you’re a restrictive eater, you may feel justified in eating little or even less than you have been, or upset that you can’t eat foods you rely on (eg, low-cal yogurt or soy products). Conversely, if you tend toward overeating carbohydrates that contain wheat (baked goods) or dairy (ice cream), you may feel deprived and resent that you have a food allergy or intolerance in addition to dysfunctional eating habits.
As a restrictive eater, you must careful not to use a food allergy diagnosis to eat less and will have to work hard to push yourself to find foods that are nutritious and appealing. Because maintaining a healthy weight is essential, you may need to consult a registered dietician to find out how to eat a balanced diet. Alternatively, food allergies might just narrow down your choices so far that you end up branching out and eating new foods. Keep reminding yourself that the two reasons to eat are fuel and pleasure, and make sure to honor your body by including foods that do both.
As an overeater who gravitates toward carbohydrates, you’ll likely have a tough time cutting back on baked goods and sweets without feeling deprived. You’ll need to be very careful not to fall into victim mode in which you feel denied the foods you love. You have choices to make as does everyone, in and out of the food arena. Just because you have a food allergy doesn’t give you license to overeat non-allergy foods. What is all too common is that people with eating problems respond to food allergies with anger, deprivation, disappointment, and resentment. They feel twice denied and take their feelings about the unfairness of life out on themselves through overeating non-offending foods or acting out with offending ones.
People who are diagnosed with food allergies who do not have eating problems may feel disappointed that they have to cut beloved foods from their diet, but they recognize that life is all about choices, so they don’t feel angry or deprived. At most, they feel inconvenienced. Moreover, they don’t “forget” that they will feel ill after eating an offending food, or eat it out of spite. Instead, they problem-solve successfully because they aren’t conflicted about eating. They know that a food is off limits and that’s where it stays (most of the time) as they manage to work around their allergy and still enjoy eating. Having food allergies can exacerbate eating problems—but only if you let them.