Food Therapy Survival Tips from Whole Approach Veterans

by Tarilee Cornish, Certified Nutritional Practitioner, together with WholeApproach Support Forum Members

Many people report that one of the most significant contributors to their health success on the Whole Approach Program is the inspiration and support of the amazing online community that is the Whole Approach (WA) Support Forum. Sharing and comparing experiences with each other along the way while providing mutual support and guidance is vitalizing to sustainable forward momentum. When one person's strength or commitment is strained, a forum friend can console or motivate. This comradely commitment can help to prevent the common pitfalls that cause people to stray when trying to follow a therapeutic diet in isolation.

The wonderful forum members who are the heart of the Whole Approach Support Forum have contributed brilliant ideas and compassionate, wise counsel to the online discussions over the years. As a means of celebrating these contributions below, I will present a collection of extraordinary wisdom that has been lovingly offered by our forum members. Some of you reading this will be quoted in the piece. This is only a snapshot of support offered and many other wise, beautiful posts are waiting for you on the WA Support Forum. The cross section of threads that I've pulled from was by no means evenly spread across the years or member contributions. In fact, most of the discussions were from older threads and somewhat random results from my forum searches on specific topics. In some cases, I've condensed the text or made slight grammatical changes to help with the flow of these ideas presented together.

The eight important areas of advice and guidance included below: Adjusting to Food Changes; Organizing your Food Program; Managing Progress; Explaining to Others; Socializing and Food; Travelling and Food & Eating on the Go; Surmounting Setbacks on your Food Program; and finally, Moving Beyond Discouragement.

This is where I sign off and let your beautiful voices take it from here (with the exception of a few quotes from me). Enjoy!

Diet Adjustment

JoeJoe recommends "speaking" kindly to ourselves:
Give yourself compassion. You can say to yourself, "I know this is hard for you, but there's a reason I need to eat healthy. The body is not well, and choosing good foods will help it recover. In time, you can have more foods, but not right now."

And allowing ourselves permission to be a beginner:
Please, please try not to expect too much of yourself. I liken the learning experience that we go through when we are trying to change a deep rooted emotional issue/habit, to a child learning to walk.
At first the child will fall down a lot, and probably get plenty of bruises, but eventually, they fall less, and the interval between the falls gets longer. While they are just starting out, children need the love and support of someone to hold their hand until they are ready to try on their own - you can think of your fellow members here at WA as holding your hand. It will take patience, courage and determination, and those things you have inside your heart...sometimes it takes a little time and practice to find them, but they are there, I promise you!

Lucienne offers practical advice for minimizing the effort needed to make the healthy food choice:
If you are craving a particular food that you think you should avoid, you should not keep it in your house. Maybe you live with someone? Then you could maybe redistribute cupboards so that you have your own, or a shelf that is your own, so as to keep the food that you crave out of your sight or you could ask them (if they are supportive), to help you stay on track by eating foods that are terribly tempting to you when they are out of the house rather than storing them in the cupboards.

But on the other hand you don't want to get stuck only with food that is healthy but that you do not fancy that much sometimes because it is boring or difficult to prepare. I try to fill my cupboards and fridge with tasty food that I really want to eat and that I tolerate well.

Tia salutes the benefits of staying on the healthy path:
I feel so much better when I eat according to the diet guidelines: I bloat less, I don't always feel ill immediately after eating, I feel better in the long run, and I feel better about myself and my ability to have such willpower. It really gives me a boost when I can be proud of my own strength, as shown by sticking to this challenging diet & treatment.

WifeLady's enthusiastic testimonial from the "other side" of lifestyle change.
I am really seeing the great effects of this diet on my body and honestly that keeps me going on it. Although trying at times, I know it is teaching me a new way of eating for a healthier me, and I have dropped 8 pounds alone and kept it off just from dropping all the garbage I was eating! It's almost become second nature to me now, I can go into the grocery store and tell you immediately what I can and cant eat, what I like that I can eat and what tastes like cardboard lol! Wife Lady

Buttercup offers her observations and tips:
I am having success with this diet finally and I know it is for two reasons.

One: I have started to keep a diary - I don't always manage to list the supplements I take or write down all the food I eat, but I do write down what I feel. If I know why I feel it, I write that down too. After just 10 days of keeping this diary, my resolve has already strengthened and I am feeling a whole lot closer to getting answers about myself and the way I work.

Two: I have made a decision to not eat things which make me feel poorly, and I have accepted that it will take a while to climb back up to health, but I believe that it is possible with patience.

Give yourself the time to do it. It's best not to set a time limit on it, rather give yourself progress goals, the accomplishment of which will indicate that it's time to move on to the next step -there is no getting back (to before we were ill), there is only going through and forward! Keep your mind on the goal of health and visualize it happening. Don't forget: "Where intention flows, energy goes"

Holli presents a novel idea introduced by her doctor.
My doctor gave me permission to cheat. I signed an agreement that said once a week while eating with my new found knowledge I can have ONE of the forbidden items! And on my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, anniversary and 2 floating holidays I can eat WHATEVER I want. Well this took so much pressure off me. It was kinda like the desire to cheat just left me because it wasn't really cheating if I had permission. I guess my doctor just played some kind of head game with me, but if it works...

Diet Organization

Ashley's kitchen wisdom:
"The first thing I did was get a copy of Sondra Lewis's "Allergy and Candida Cooking Made Easy" and just followed her excellent instructions--without that book I never would have managed. It also gives you an enormous amount of different foods to choose from, so if you get sick from one thing there's always something else to try...

I really MADE myself get adventurous food wise and learned to cook things I never thought of before...I was so afraid of becoming allergic to more foods that I knew I had to rotate--I even rotated food families too...

The important thing is to find the time to sit down and organize it-once you have it all organized and written down it becomes so much easier...Then use your food diary to determine your reactions...

There are so many different foods out there that you should be able to put something together for yourself on a four day time period...Keep at it and it will happen.

Cindy O on sorting out the ratios:
Last February, I was tested and told that I had hypoglycemia. For me, I found that eating 45% vegetables (try to eat half cooked and half raw), 15% high quality fats, 30% protein, and 10% starchy carbs has helped me so much. The recipes offered here on the forum are really incredible and are often my 10% starchy carb "treat".

Cindy O's food organization survival tips:
Keep soaked (or soaked/sprouted and dried) nuts and seeds on hand. These have gotten me through on countless occasions until I had the time to get some other healthy foods into me. Also, I have found that tea can curb cravings. My personal favorite is some kind of Chai flavored tea. I usually add some stevia and a tiny amount of soy creamer or rice milk. I'm using it to get myself through sweet cravings and as a little afternoon "pick-me-up". Any time that you're feeling that "emotional eating" starting - go for some kind of herbal tea instead. Just make sure to drink extra water to make up for it, because some teas are diuretic.

You can wash your vegetables ahead of time and partially cut them up for snacking or steaming for the week. This makes it easier especially since am usually only cooking for one, as my husband is gone for work a lot or wants to eat something different. My two-year old eats what I eat about half the time, but the rest of the time I make something separate for him, too. It makes for lots of time and dirty dishes but I feel so much better and have lost so much weight that it's worth it!

Managing Progress

Peggy shares her ideas about developing a healthy, healing attitude:.
Rather than resisting the changes and counting the hours till we access the "cure" this process can profoundly improve the quality of our lives if we focus instead on the healing that we are doing along the way. As Ashley mentioned, learning to listen to the needs of our bodies (and even of our hearts and souls) while we are pursuing a therapeutic lifestyle can be a much greater and longer lasting gift than any quick fix even if there was such a thing for CRC."

CindyO recommends patience:
I take an assessment of where I'm at every month since I began (though Tarilee recommends every month), I tweak my diet. I've tweaked it a lot to adjust to my progress. I think that this is very important. I think it's important to keep trying different strategies and to refine your plans.

I emphasize "Progress, not perfection."

My biggest lesson?...slow down or stop when you're hungry, angry, lonely, or tired as this is when you need to watch your step so you don't falter. For me, it is when I'm tired.

Ashleys sage advice about progress and perception:
When you start to feel a little better you want it and expect it to last forever, and when it doesn't and you feel poorly again you feel like you're starting from zero--but you're not. Every bit of what you're doing now is helping your body to become stronger, and every time you feed your body good, nourishing food, and allow yourself the time to heal~ you're getting closer to being well.

It's not a linear thing thoughits up and down-but that's what this forum is here for-we all go through it and know how desperate it can feel at times and how you may want to just throw in the towel and forget the whole thing. This forum has made all the difference to me in my recovery--so my suggestions are just this--listen to your body, be patient and loving with it during your healing, commit 100%, and stay with the forum--this is what has worked for me--and I hope so much you start feeling better soon.

Jan Durand's practical and to the point revelation regarding impatience:
Our bodies didn't get this way overnight, and are not going to be fully well over night either. That's logical isn't it?!

Jenelle encourages an emphasis on the positive:
And one more thing: if you're getting down about your progress (or seeming lack thereof), make a list of all the ways in which you have ALREADY improved. While you might still feel sick & have a lot of CRC symptoms, you're bound to have some that have already disappeared or lessened. Physical symptoms, mental symptoms, attitude, what you have learned from this experience...Focus on those aspects & it will keep you going. (You can use the questionnaire for this purpose.)

"It's very important that you don't compare your progress to others. We need to remember in all of this is that there are different factors in each of us that allows candida to grow--Our process of healing is almost impossible to compare from one person to the other...It took me a very long time to get that, and I still fall into that trap from time to time...

I think the whole idea behind this program is to not look at it as a sentence. Rather we can look at it as a spring board to discovering how our diet and listening to our body can help us to heal more completely...

Socializing and Food

Tia on taking snacks everywhere:
I like to keep a snack on hand at all times, and it's especially handy when socializing. This is mostly because my stomach seems to control my life & I am ALWAYS hungry and need to eat (hypoglycemic), but it also makes those awkward social times a little easier when you at least have something to eat. Then you won't feel so out of place & others won't notice the difference as much because you aren't sitting there empty-handed while they stuff their faces. Its good all around, you see.

Travel - Easy foods to keep in your purse, car, or bag: nuts (almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc) & rice cakes are the easiest. You can also bring a container of veggies - carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery.

CindyO regarding timing her visits away from mealtimes:
I explained to all of my relatives who I visited when travelling that I would rather just visit and not worry about meals since I brought along some scrapbooks to share. I think many were relieved that they didn't have to feed us. LOL! Cindy O

Tips from "Yours Truly", about enjoying dinner parties:
Why not make some foods from our recipe section and take them along? Others can enjoy them with you and you don't need to make a fuss about eating differently. In the case of an invitation to a more formal dinner party it may be helpful to broach the subject of your intolerances briefly with the host about a week before the party.

You can tell them that you want to discuss some food allergies that you have in advance of the party so they would know not to take offense if you focused on certain foods and not others at the party. You can make it clear to them that you don't expect them to change anything in their menu for you but that you'd like to bring along a dish to contribute to the meal that you know you can eat. Tell them you'd like to bring a dish that complementary to their menu plan so that all could enjoy it along with the rest of the meal. Most hosts will gratefully acquiesce to such conscientious suggestions.

Also, if you think it will be necessary, I recommend taking items like salad dressing that you can ad to the salad provided. And another good idea is to take healthier alternatives for foods that may be served that are likely to tempt you unduly (e.g. deserts or breads). If you know any other guests have sensitivities you can keep their needs in mind when you decide on your contribution. It can be a fun opportunity to introduce all of the other guests to a healthy, delicious food (without having to throw a whole party yourself!)

Tia has some great tips for the health crusader/social butterfly:
You can always bring a nut butter or homemade dip (guac or veggie dip). I also keep a few tea bags or small seltzer waters on hand so that I can also have something fun to drink. I'll even bring a baggie of homemade cookies or muffins when I know other people will be eating sweets - then there is almost no temptation to eat "real" sweets.

Explaining to Others

Tia about not making a big deal of the food thing with others;
Going out to eat is one of the hardest things to face in the beginning (or anytime really). One of the biggest things that helps me get through social events where you have to eat, is simply the way you present it. To avoid getting into too personal information or having to talk about anything that you don't want to,

You can nonchalantly mention that you have food allergies that impact your health, so you need to avoid certain foods for a little while. Since digestive problems & food allergies seem to be linked our candida problem, it's an easy way to minimally explain, yet still get around the uncomfortable specifics. People can relate to the food allergies idea, whereas they think we're creepy aliens if we mention the horrible word...dun dun dun: (yeast!) If they ask specifics, I wave it off by saying there are too many to list. Hopefully that will be enough of a hint to prevent any other questions.

GayAnne's approach :
I don't always discuss this eating plan with people that don't know me well, and what I've been through physically, because everyone thinks it's so restrictive and I end up defending my choices. Nor do I preach to them about their choices. I just try to have fun and not put much emphasis on food.

JoeJoe's witty astuteness:
I was at a Christmas supper recently and a kind woman was offering me some cookies. I said 'I don't eat sugar. It makes me sick'. She said "Oh come on it's Christmas." I said "Well, I don't want to feel sick at Christmas time either." That seemed to do it, and it got a chuckle out of someone nearby who knows me.

Ashley's empathy:
There is no easy answer to this. You're taking control of your life and your health in a way that will seem very strict, overdone, and strange to most people. The best thing you can do after minimally explaining the situation is to keep your patience with people's impatience with your recovery or your unusual explanation.

It's very hard NOT to judge people who don't understand this, and it can be hard to forgive the people who may disappoint you-But I have found that for every person who disappointed me in their ability to understand this, there was someone else who amazed me with their loyalty, compassion, and friendship...

That said, it IS important to have those closest to you in with you on this-It's not impossible to do it alone, but support is so key to healing...

Molly on "keeping it light":
I just say I have sensitivities to certain foods, and if they question deeper, I say I'm using a process of elimination to figure it all out. I try to keep it all light hearted and positive; otherwise people DO think youre a wacko or following some kind of cultish fad diet. Honestly, there's such pressure to be unhealthy in this world, it's outrageous!

Your's Truly again:
Emphasizing what you enjoy eating and why rather than what you are not eating can help to normalize your choices while encouraging others to try out your choices. If you're comfortable with your lifestyle changes then others will be less likely to express surprise or concern. A matter of fact way of dealing with it that is not a request for approval from others is the strongest, easiest way to cope I've found.

Jenelle on assertiveness:
You will encounter family and friends who think you are crazy, who think you are starving yourself, who think that things like fruit and peanuts are essential to your health. Now you can be comfortable and confident enough to either A) ignore them and change the subject, or B) tell them that you've come to understand a lot about your body and what's healthy for you right now. Then you can come here and vent and be with people every day who are going through the exact same struggles you are, and worse!

Joe Joe regarding the "health nut" label:
It seems like whenever a person becomes engrossed in something that the rest of the population doesn't understand they are called 'nuts' or 'freaks.' I think what we want to do here is 'dispel the myth' behind the term 'health nut.' The fact is, we are 'health nuts' so to speak, but it's the definition of this word that folks need to gain understanding into. If they all knew what we've learned, I'm sure they'd board the health nut train themselves! :0)

Eating while Travelling or on the Go

CindyO, the "Master Healthy Traveler":
Try to find motels with a kitchen. This worked really well for me on my vacation. Lots of pre-planning was key as well. I planned all the meals ahead of time and gathered all the recipes I needed. I also prepared a list of perishables I needed to purchase after arriving.
I took all the non-perishable items with me. I pre-made pancake mixes (minus the oil and water), baked goodies such as spelt and rye crackers and "cookies". I even packed the oils "to go" and when we ate out I always had a bottle of oil and vinegar or Braggs in my purse to "doctor" up my meal.
Ali's advise for eating out:
I find Indian restaurants better than Thai or Chinese because they do not use soya sauce and if you ask they usually have sugar free vinegar free dishes. I usually have lentils: Dhal Tarka or chick peas: Chana Masala with a very small amount of rice. One pappad or a poppadum should be ok because it is mostly (or entirely) lentil or gram flour. Apart from Indian restaurants I go to whole food/vegetarian ones. Many of these places label sugarfree/glutenfree dishes which is helpful. Everywhere else I just get an omelet with green veg. and a salad dressed in plain olive oil. Some times I ask for sliced avocado with lemon or a boiled egg.
Ginny's innovation on making eating out work by taking "take out" from home;:
One thing that has helped me with restaurant eating is to make my own dressing and bring it and order a salad with no dressing and use my own. Usually you can get a salad with chicken in even an Italian restaurant. Just let them know that you have food sensitivities and you brought your own dressing.
More about eating in restaurants from Tarilee:
Explain to the server that you have multiple food allergies and that you will appreciate some help from them in ensuring that you get a meal that will not make you ill. If you are pleasant and appreciative and can keep a sense of humor about it all, good servers will treat the experience of helping you like an interesting challenge.

I caution you that to go into any detail, no matter how interested they may seem in your health, could result in them walking off to the kitchen twirling their index finger around their ear and crinkling their face up as they rush into the kitchen to tell their coworkers about the 'Looney' at 'their' table. Be matter of fact about needing and expecting their cooperation as your liaison with the kitchen staff. In the case where you have landed yourself at a restaurant that has very few "safe"choices on the menu, you may be best to just hand your server a list of the foods that you CAN eat and ask them to ask the chef to recommend something.
To prevent accidental exposure, the safest approach is to arm yourself with as much knowledge about where ingredients to which you are allergic, may be hiding. This way you can provide specific instructions and ask very direct questions to be directed to the chef.
Different types of restaurants will pose different challenges for you. For example, in both Chinese and Thai food, sugar, MSG and wheat or corn can be found in sauces and dips. Even in a place where they say, "No MSG added", if you are sensitive to it it's important to ask specifically if MSG is in any of the sauces on the food or on the table. Whether they like to admit it or not, some restaurants use premade sauces to their dishes. You may have to politely ask them to check the labels of any pre-made ingredients used.

Soy sauce, Teriyaki sauce and oyster sauce may all contain wheat (and/or MSG). It's not easy to avoid these in Chinese restaurants. However you may be able to take your own wheat free tamari (if you tolerate it) and ask for a sauce free meal.
Your chances of getting a custom-prepared meal will be much better if you choose a quality restaurant that you know prepares food fresh for each customer. In these types of establishments, you can usually get them to prepare yours differently. If you are set on eating Chinese food but are allergic to wheat or soy, you might even want to bring your own wheat free soy sauce to let them use or to add to your food at the table.

Buttercup's strategy for restaurants: If I go out somewhere, I drink plain soda water and if I have to eat out, I avoid Italian and Mexican like the plague (cheese, wheat, corn)! I find a healthy Thai or even Japanese usually have an option I can tolerate. Alternately I find somewhere that does 'meat' and a vegetable/salad option i.e. steak or chicken.

Tarilee regarding dating and healthy eating:
I suggest certain outings that you know you can bring picnics or thermos's of special tea, or snacks to. One of my favourite things to do is pack a picnic, put on my hiking boots and head out for a day trip.

If you go to the coffee shop, you can always just order peppermint or chamomile tea. As for restaurants, maybe you could suggest a great place you've heard of (or know). If you're not sure about which place would be best for you, just say you're going to check on the name of the place. Then you can call ahead to some possibly establishments at non peak hours and ask to speak with the owner or the chef. Even on a date you can place an order in matter of fact way about what ingredients you would and wouldn't like in your food while being considerate of the wait staff and won't have to worry about being seen as too "eccentric."

Handling Diet Setbacks

Buttercup on getting back on track:
This is the most effective way I have found of getting back on the wagon. Give up one thing at a time. I know it's really hard to decide which thing, or to accept the fact that you will have to spend a while doing this, but it's the only way it works for me - you may be different. I find that a solid foundation ie one built with time and care and love and patience is more likely to last! So say you decide to give up sugar first off, (because that's the real villain in this game)

When you can be around sugar, even surrounded by sugar, and not care, you are ready to give up the next thing. You just have to believe in yourself and that you are strong enough to give up just one thing. If you look at it this way, you only have to deal with one change at a time, unless you want to give up more than one thing. Also, make sure you replace each thing with a different, healthy habit so you do not leave a void.

JoeJoe's reflections about self love, self awareness and learning:
Falling off the wagon is a part of the journey too. Our weaknesses need to come out so we can be able to identify them, get to know ourselves better, and each time gain new strength, resolve and so on.
I am now trying to see doing the diet as a way to love myself, and not as a means to an end, i.e. better health, (although of course that's there too). Food is something to nourish my body, and at times it will be comforting, but when I start to get out of control, it is because I am viewing food as something it isn't i.e. something to meet an emotional need in an extreme way.


Buttercup again, on "staying the course":
I know that this healing mission can seem like a mammoth task to take on, but you'll get there little by little and in no time at all you'll be feeling the benefits!! Like all of life you can expect there to be ups and downs, but the ups are soooo worth the not-so-good days, and to be honest, they are seldom as bad as the thing you are fighting, so go for it!! Take you time getting comfy with the routine and you will be up and away in no time I have been doing this off and on for 16 months (!!) and although I struggle sometimes, I would never go back to the unhealthy lifestyle I had before.

You will learn so much about yourself on this healing journey, and way before you get to the end you will be thankful that SOMETHING opened your eyes - even if it really doesn't seem that way now. It is so inspiring to learn that you can have a fierce control over you own health and well-being. One of the most important things I have learnt here is how a person can HEAR what their body is communicating to them, and that is an awesome tool to have, to create better health and greater self-trust and peace of mind!

JoeJoe on finding peace in the moment:
One thing that helps me is to just catch myself and breathe deep and then focus on the good things in my day or appreciate something in the moment. It can be as simple as noticing the colors on a blanket, or the kind smile of the grocery clerk. This illness can take up so much space, I think it's really helpful to just stop and re-connect with 'life.'

Paul on the other side of discouragement:
I found my solutions right here through my interaction with others in this excellent forum.
I do remember all those sinister thoughts and seeing no possible end to the suffering. I have been there in the dark corner of my soul and spirit. I had completely lost faith. But some people here had not and they offered brilliant support. I got better - much better. You will too. Thank you, Paul

Tarilee Cornish is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner with a special interest in immune and digestive recovery including general detoxification and recovery from food allergies and candida overgrowth. She is especially passionate about pure healing food choices that have a democratic, ecological and compassionate production and distribution chain. Tarilee is a moderator on the WholeApproach Support Forum.