The Link Between Food Allergies, Nutrient Deprivation & Binging

November 8, 2012
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One of the consequences of food allergies is nutrient deprivation. And one of the side affects of nutrient deprivation is binging.

For years I had food allergies without realizing it. During that time I became increasingly nutrient deprived. Because I was nutrient starved, I began to binge eat. At that point, I was 13 going on 14, which is a pretty common age to begin a disordered relationship with food, so I assumed that this was an emotional problem, not a physical problem, and I blamed myself.

I thought my tendency to binge eat meant a lot of things about me. I thought it meant that I was weak. That I had no self control. Because I was doing this to myself. I thought that I had no one to blame but myself. I thought I deserved everything I got. That I deserved to feel the way that I felt: completely out of control, filled with shame, regret, uncomfortably full, and yet still ravenous. And all the well meant guidance and advice from other people about portion control and weight management just served to cement my erroneous and damaging idea that my desires and instincts were fundamentally wrong and therefore, untrustworthy.

So imagine my surprise once I finally stopped eating all the foods that I’m allergic to, I also lost the need to binge.  I remember it vividly. All of sudden, there was an absence where there had been constant struggle. And in that space I began to learn how to listen to myself and I began to learn to trust my hungers.

It was intensely freeing. I relaxed in places I didn’t know I was tight.

From the outside it could have seemed like I had magically gained some self control and discipline. But that wasn’t it at all. It was just that the reason I was binging was gone.

So what was that reason? The short story it this: Because of my food allergies, the villi in my small intestine were dulled and damaged and so they could not absorb the nutrients that I was eating. So I while I ate and ate until I felt like I could burst, my body got very little. So, I was never satisfied and I was always hungry.

Never mind the physical consequences of finding a way to stop binging (weight loss was the most notable) the real transformation for me, was emotional and mental.

I stopped seeing myself, or more accurately, I began to stop seeing myself as a weak person who couldn’t manage herself. I stopped seeing myself as a woman who’s desires were so overwhelming that I couldn’t help but give in every time. And I started seeing myself as a strong woman who’s appetite and desires are both things to trust and to listen to. That shift was phenomenally important for me.

 

Binging Was My Bodys Way of Getting Nutrients The Link Between Food Allergies, Nutrient Deprivation & Binging

 

This is an important point that I didn’t get to make more of in the video: sometimes, most times, the urge to binge is your body trying to tell you something. Instead of wasting years, like me, feeling like you are wrong, and that your body is betraying you. Instead of spending time, like I did, wrapped up in shame about your lack of self control. Try to see it as your body trying to communicate with you the only way that it can. This is hard to do. You probably learned, like me, not to trust yourself a long time ago. But my best advice to you and to myself is this: Trust yourself and try to listen anyway. It’s worth it.

A book that I used to read and reread regularly to help me with the emotional roller coaster that is trying to suppress the insuppressible is ‘Appetites: Why Women Want’ by Caroline Knapp. I highly recommend it.

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About the Author ()

I embark on on-camera, healthy food adventures while I make other people's recipes (Sometimes vegan. Sometimes raw. Mostly paleo. Always gluten, grain, dairy, refined sugar, soy, and corn free) for the very first time on camera. I also do a daily gratiTUDE series in which I write about something I am grateful for everyday because the secret to happiness is realizing that the good stuff is already all around us. Let's have a good time, shall we?

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Sites That Link to this Post

  1. What’s Your GratiTUDE? Day 27 : Lillian's Test Kitchen | November 9, 2012
  2. Breaking Open | Eat, Recycle, Repeat | November 18, 2012
  1. christine says:

    Conversely to your stuation, I gained weight even when I didn’t feel starved, fatigued, sick. All the advice and scowls were even more damaging when framed as being fat. I’ve spent my entire life either in trying to get the adults in my life to pay attention to why I wasn’t feeling well or chasing down food allergies and gluten with so-called “experts” that “diagnosed” me as everyhing else but allergic or intolerant! The absolute worst about all this is my was an allergy-immunology MD and my mother a nurse practitioner.

    We must understand that weight deviations in either direction from a “normal” range are conditions of malnutrition and malabsorption.

    • lillian says:

      I’m so sorry, Christine! I hope you have sorted it out for yourself and are feeling better and feeding yourself well.

  2. christine says:

    My father was the MD… typo sorry

  3. Moriah says:

    thanks for sharing! so honest. so real. so true!! women really need to hear this – and our physicians.

  4. i think this post is so wonderful and helpful. hold your head up HIGH, lil–you are educating people and using your own story as evidence that good comes from seeking knowledge instead of sticking your head in the sand–or into a bag of chips and binging.

    the WORK you’ve had to do to figure out your food allergies is being redeemed. those years were not LOST because you learned from them and now others are too. {applause}

    btw, thought of you today: was skimming a magazine and saw a picture of a woman playing ultimate frisbee. it said you burn 200 calories for every 25 minutes you play! made me smile to myself.

    btw, any recipe vids coming soon? i follow you through my RSS feed now, and perhaps i’m not getting all your posts.

    • lillian says:

      Thank you so much, Jenn! I didn’t know that ultimate burns so many calories, but it’s a lot of sprinting so that makes sense. It’s also, and more importantly, an enormous amount of fun!
      A new recipe episode is coming soon. And it’s delicious. You can sign up for my mailing list if you want. That way you wont miss a post. It’s on the side bar of the site.

  5. Britt says:

    This happened to me, too!!! It was so exciting to feel full with out feeling like I was going to pop.

    Actually, the first time it happened, I thought I was sick because I couldn’t finish all the food on my plate. I then realized I had eaten the same amount as my mother (who eats normal sized portions) and this is what she meant by “I’m so full, I can’t eat another bite” when she hadn’t cleaned her plate. It was such a revelation.

    Changing my diet for my food allergies was no harder than any other crazy diet I had been prescribed, but because of my dramatic change in appearance and size, people thought that it meant I “finally” followed a diet, and that’s why the weight was melting off. They thought I had suddenly gotten my act together and learned self control. Really, I had been restricting food intake in so many ways for so many years that this wasn’t different at all, except for the fact that it worked. I have learned to tune everyone else out because no one truly understands. I have to do what is best for me and ignore the ‘helpful’ advice of my loved ones and continue on the path that works for me.

    Thanks for doing this, Lillian. So many of us need to hear that we aren’t alone in this or crazy for things like compulsive binge eating that ‘magically’ disappear!

    • lillian says:

      Thank you, Britt, for sharing your story! It’s an uphill battle, but it’s also completely affirming when you realize that YOU really do know best. It’s not magic, but after so many years of struggle, it certainly feels like it.

  6. eden says:

    How did I never make this connection?

    In my early 20s I ended up in therapy for an eating disorder… bulimia. I’m sure the emotional stuff that we worked on needed to be addressed, but in retrospect it would have been interesting to see if the allergies that were later discovered had an impact on my behavior.

    Thanks you for your honesty and openness about the things you’ve discovered. I’m certain you are helping others. Maybe they will avoid the pitfalls that we experience along the way.

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