While Vulvodynia ruins your life on intimate, personal, social and professional levels, stuff can get even trickier once you decide that changing your diet might be one of the most crucial steps in your recovery. You might become surprised to discover unfamiliar things about yourself like new thoughts, emotions and behaviours, that you didn’t even know existed before. They might get you confused and stressed out.
And that’s why I want to share with you the 7 mental food traps that I had the honor to fall into. Hopefully, reading this will help you to more easily spot and avoid them.
1. DON’T DITCH YOUR SOCIAL LIFE
I cut myself off from my social life. At my lowest point, even entirely.
I felt miserable around people who could partake in everything they pleased, while I could only watch them stuffing their mouths.
After a while, I realized that I didn’t have friends anymore. I felt even more depressed.
So, if you have had enough of feeling like a bench in the middle of the desert, here are few pieces of food advice, if you decide you’re ready to socialize again. (Note: I based the following info on my vegan diet without considering allergens).
- You can always plan something that does not include food like hiking, bike riding, trips to the museum or zoo. And if you want some food, you can always bring along some snacks like fruits, veggies or sandwiches.
- You can arrange meetings in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon. This will make it easier to meet for tea or even sparkling water without looking like a weirdo.
There are a few ways to break the fear of having to go out and eat.
- You can drag your friends to vegan or at least vegetarian places
- You can check out menus online, or give a restaurant a call to ask questions or even order something special beforehand
- At the restaurant you can:
- Ask for a version of the regular meal with no meat or cheese
- Order roasted, cooked or steamed veggies (plain ones are the best options, with dressing on the side)
- Order salads with dressing on the side (so you have control over ingredients)
- Order boiled plain grains (side dishes like rice)
Don’t be embarrassed or shy about asking additional questions, or about exact ingredients, oils used, allergens included. Most restaurants will try their best to accommodate their clients, especially when you are nice about it.
- You can invite your friends to your place and cook with them (then you can have full control of everything).
- You can organise a potluck and:
- Ask guests to prepare something that you will be able to eat
- Cook and eat your own food (my fave option :))
- You can try to find the “most acceptable” options in the ocean of foods you don’t really want to eat. Like salty chips (plain ones; not those full-on flavoured ones with 40 ingredients) and maintain the mindset that one time won’t kill you
- Eat beforehand (e.g., in a car) to not salivate or faint from hunger, and drink water with a slice of lemon (looks fancier :))
2. DON’T MAKE YOUR FAMILY EAT YOUR FOOD
Yes, I did this. And believe me, I paid for it so many times during arguments with my husband. It might feel natural to just change the way you cook and expect others will follow. Especially if you are the one cooking at home and at the same time you’re dealing with hundreds of other problems including your condition. Some stuff might simply slip your mind. Well, at least it slipped mine.
My husband, who really isn’t the argumentative type, followed my diet rollercoaster silently. Until he exploded.
We had a problem of scarcity in so many things in our marriage including intimacy and happiness. And on the top of that, food was also taken away from him. I didn’t understand it then but I do now.
So if you are changing your diet, please keep in mind that others might not want to follow it. And that’s okay. Talk with them about it and make sure that you are on the same page. So that you can avoid all the stress, resentment, unhappiness and pain that might come after.
3. DON’T IGNORE YOUR BODY CUES
When I cut out processed meat, dairy and sugar, I quickly felt so much better. But I would still suffer from random allergies and digestive problems. And my V pain was skyrocketing. Doctors pricked me so many times in the name of food allergy testing that I lost count.
I always thought that gluten was just not a concern. I wasn’t celiac and I remember eating pasta, and other glutenous goodies as a child. Then one week I felt particularly bad and my body was really screaming for mercy. I decided to give it a shot and stop eating gluten. And miraculously, after several weeks, my allergies stopped, and digestive problems and V pain decreased.
I know that it can feel like Vulvodynia takes everything away from you including your happiness, intimacy and even foods. But if you look at it from a different perspective, you can see that by doing this, you can help your body and yourself in healing.
You body can’t simply tell you “Hi girl, this ham you just ate was shit and irritated my gut. Can you feel it?”
Instead it will use visual or sensual cues. You ate your fave dish and after 45 min you were napping from exhaustion? Or popping painkillers because your head is pounding? Or your V burning has skyrocketed?
Your body’s cues might be very faint at the beginning, but if you ignore them your body will start shouting so you won’t be able to ignore them anymore. Start a diary and keep track of how you feel after meals.
4. DON’T BLAME YOURSELF FOR “FALLING BACK”
It’s challenging enough to change your diet for health purposes. So if you also blame yourself for breaking the diet, falling back, being bad, disappointing yourself when you eat “forbidden” foods, you’re not doing yourself (or your body) any favours.
I would beat myself up every time when “falling back.” Because of those negative self-talks, I often felt sad, angry and stressed.
When you’re overwhelmed with all those negative emotions, your body, on a biochemical level, is actually getting stressed!
Stress is your body’s automatic survival mechanism (called the fight-or-flight response) that gets flipped on in case of emergency, to save your sweet ass. Stress can be triggered by real life-threatening events (like a car accident), however, it can also get turned on by your thoughts. Your body doesn’t know and care about any differences. Fear is fear.
So, when you are stressed, your body suppresses some of its functions like digestion (why would it care about digesting your dinner if you’re about to die within the next 2 minutes?). You can end up having digestive problems from foods that are actually okay for you.
So, instead of blindly pushing yourself to achieve something that is not happening, try instead to understand what is going on. What if there is a deeper meaning to why you are “falling back?” Maybe you are an emotional eater? Or you are stressed? Or you’re too distracted while eating? Or you’re allowing yourself to be too hungry (and then your logic goes out the window)? Maybe you’re following some old habits? Maybe your body is missing some macronutrients or vitamins?
Remember that you are aiming for health and progress not stress and perfection.
5. DON’T FALL FOR YOUR HEAD POLICE
Ever heard this nasty voice in your head telling you what to eat or what to stay away from? If yes, then welcome to your personal head police.
Your personal head police loves all those rules and labels of foods and behaviours. What you can or can’t, what you should or shouldn’t, what is good or bad. This gives it power. It loves artificial food limits. Your willpower and you being obedient to external rules. Why? Because it’s so easy to rebel against those things.
In the end it will lock you down in, as I call it, a food prison (some also call this orthorexia). How to sniff its trail? Well, one tool that it uses to control you is fear.
I remember introducing the anti-candida diet. At the beginning, I felt like a new goddess. Pain, yeast infections and digestive problems decreased. But then after several months, instead of normalizing my diet, I kept going.
Something in my head was telling me what and how much I could eat, and what would happen if I stopped.
Sugar seemed to be my biggest problem. Somehow, I set my daily limit. And whenever I went over it, my health problems increased. It went on like that for years. I couldn’t understand the logic there. My body should be a bit better after all that time, right?
And then it hit me. My head police was in charge all this time, introducing fear and stress whenever I was about to increase my sugar intake. Stress was adding up to all my side effects. So, I decided to do it anyway but now while controlling my fear and stress. And it worked.
Your healing power isn’t coming from your head police. It’s coming from your body. Stop labeling stuff or your behaviours. Nothing is inherently good or bad. This one piece of cake you share with your bff during her wedding might the best thing you’ve done in ages. Everything depends on your point of view. Nothing is set in stone. Even science is evolving constantly.
6. DON’T BE AFRAID TO INTRODUCE NEW FOODS
When the glorious moment came that I decided I was ready to start reintroducing old foods back into my diet, I realized that I couldn’t do it! I found myself petrified because I was reliving in my head the possible side-effects! Again. (And to be clear, I’m not talking about processed foods, but unprocessed and real ones).
I know how good it feels when you can finally see some long-awaited improvements. After months or even years. But the fact that something made you feel bad before doesn’t mean that it will do it again. That is why you went through the entire “eating good and healing yourself” process in the first place.
By fearing the bad side effects of certain foods (and of your decisions), you can be trapped in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Your thoughts are going nuts, your body is getting stressed, your digestion is getting suppressed. You can experience (among other symptoms) nausea, headaches, digestive problems like bloating, diarrhea, rashes and yes, burning vulva, too. And not because the food doesn’t serve you, but because of the stress (of course, this doesn’t apply to those with specific intolerances to foods like gluten and dairy!).
So before introducing new foods to your diet, observe and calm yourself. Make sure that your thoughts and emotions are not hijacking the situation. To counteract those states, you can use positive affirmations and meditation.
7. DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE DECISIONS ABOUT YOUR DIET YOURSELF
Don’t be afraid to make decisions about your diet yourself. If you want to stick to it. Or if you want to change it because doing it doesn’t serve you.
I know that it can be hard and challenging to make your own choices when you hear all those food and health authorities out there — including your head police — telling you what is good and what is bad for you.
I got trapped into this mindset myself. I had quieted down my body wisdom. I had ignored my knowledge based on years of trial and error, and tried to introduce foods to my diet based on pressure from “authorities” I started to overthink and fear that whatever I did so far could be hurting my body. I felt so low, stressed and fearful for a few weeks that my digestive tract went out of control. It took me a good few weeks to put my body back together once I realized what was happening.
The truth is that no one can tell you what serves you and your body but you.
You are the only one who truly knows. There might be certain food principles that might benefit you on nutritional, energetic and spiritual levels. However, authentic healing comes from external health values mixed with your inner attunement.
Search and learn. Experiment with diets and foods. Fine-tune it if needed. Drop some ingredients, introduce other ones. Observe yourself, take notes, be honest with yourself and listen to your body.
Don’t listen to family, friends or authority figures because you feel that you should. You don’t have to do anything that doesn’t feel right to you.
Have you fallen into any of these 7 mental food traps? Have you fallen into any other mental food traps that I haven’t mentioned? In both cases, what did you do to get out?
Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions in the comments below! You can also ask my anything directly on FB.
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Because life’s too short. And you deserve to be healthy + happy.