When our reactions are life-threatening, it's very motivating to stay on the diet. But what about reactions that aren't life threatening? The ones where you feel like crap, but only for a day or two. Or those reactions that build up over a week or two, where your RA gets worse, your FM gets worse, you get more tired and feel terrible until you finally go back to eating like your should.
In the beginning, those can be much harder to stick to, especially when we're tossed in the deep end of allergen-free cooking and it's drowning us. We have to rely on our support and our own will, and sometimes that's just barely enough.
Or it isn't enough. I still drown periodically, eating something I shouldn't, getting sick, and smacking myself in the head that I let myself be such an idiot. But, when I'm completely on track, here's some of the things that have helped me stay on track.
1. Remember, there are no meal rules. Terms like 'breakfast food' or 'dinner' have no meaning anymore. We're eating meals, and that means food, and that's the only rule we have. Whatever makes you more likely to stay on diet, do that. If that means dessert before dinner, do it. If that means left-overs for breakfast so you don't have to work hard before you eat, do that.
2. Have something you like to eat in every meal.
Yeah, this sounds a bit odd, but seriously, it makes a difference.
We've only been able to do this recently, as we didn't even have enough
dishes before to make this possible. But when you have to eat a limited
diet, where you either make your own food or buy extremely expensive
allergy-friendly foods, anything you do to make it easier to eat at home
will save you money. If you have the energy, making a food that you
like more will make a big difference.
It can be anything. If having some watermelon sorbet with every meal makes you feel better, and you could do it, why not? Remember: no meal rules!
3. Have something appealing about every meal. We want it to taste good, but if you're still working on that, make it look good, or smell good. Set the table nicely, put nice candles or a tablecloth on the table, play good music. Have fun with it and do a 'theme' dinner like you would for the kids: a meal where everything is orange, a meal where everything is cut up to look like flowers, or has little toy lego soldiers with veggie weapons. Yes, it's more work, and sometimes a little funky, but the best way to help us stick to the diet and make sure we eat is to make it a good experience. The food used to be the good experience for us, and hopefully, that will continue once we figure it all out and have new recipes figured out. But in the beginning, the food is going to be the most difficult challenge, so these other details can help get you over the hump.
4. Figure out snacks early on. Eating food on the go is one of the harder things about a limited diet, so make finding a few easy-to-carry snacks a priority when you are looking for food. Something that is not affected by heat or cold, usually something dry. Roasted or dehydrated snacks are usually good choices.
5. Make a double batch of every meal. If you can, when you cook a meal, make more food than you need and save some in the freezer for later. Especially in the beginning, you may often get stick, get hit with an allergen in a place you weren't expecting, or just be darn tired and not want to cook. Having a small store of 'frozen dinners,' essentially, is SO useful! It helps you stay fed, and stay on the diet.
6. If you have a major craving that won't go away, do some sleuthing. Sometimes, it seems to be related to craving your allergen. I've never heard of an explanation why people with an allergy sometimes crave it, but I have met many people who have reported this phenomenon, so it's worth being aware of.
For myself, I periodically get a massive craving for a certain candy bar. This is not related to 'sweet tastes,' as I've tried to have other sweet tastes to eliminate this craving and it does nothing. I can feel nauseated and still crave this enough to freaking dream about it. I definitely give in sometimes, and get sick and feel like crud, but the craving dissipates after a couple days of screwing up. I eventually figured out that when I'm low in certain vitamins, I start craving this particular candy bar as it doesn't make me TOO sick, and it does have small amounts of this vitamin.
If you haven't had your allergen in a while, so you're not going through withdrawal, but you start feeling a craving, you might want to take a look to ensure you're getting enough nutrients in your diet.
Good luck staying healthy and safe on your new diet.