Hey everybody, I hope you all had a great 4th of July. As I enjoyed my time off this weekend, I was thinking a lot about the traditions of food in different cultures and for different celebrations. Here in the U.S., grilled dogs and hamburgers served alongside potato salad, chips and iconic soft drinks are staples during summer holidays. We also have certain food traditions for Thanksgiving and the December holidays. In a society that throws new information at you continuously, it is hard to determine the best diet for autoimmunity.

Cultural Food Traditions and Autoimmunity

As a bicultural American, I grew up having various traditions involving foods for different holidays. Today, we tend to celebrate both cultural holidays with equal reverence to the traditions.  

Before, I was a food police on a diet for autoimmunity who committed to the strict adherence to “healthy” foods.  I used to go above and beyond to provide healthy meals to those around me.  This took away the convenience, joy and ease of any holiday as I had to go against the convention and introduce new ways of eating. Over time, it got too stressful and hard to be “different.”  Bending the rules and learning the art of flexibility allowed me to relax and find joy over the holidays.  I adapted the “when in Rome, do what Romans do” mentality to not extend my ways to others unless they were welcomed.  

As a practitioner of health, it is easy to impart my recommendations on my patients. But because I believed I had to practice what I preached, I tried very hard to keep up with what I needed to do. So yes, it is hard to live this way without ostracizing myself.  I learned that through my personal struggles that the foods that were “healthy” didn’t sit well with me at times, while the foods that were considered “not healthy” sometimes did.  

Listening to “Experts” vs Listening to Your Body

For example, as a Korean, kimchi and rice were the staples at every meal.  Today, kimchi has become a health craze all over the world.  But the truth is, I can no longer tolerate kimchi.

As an American, I also grew up with lots of bread and pasta.  However, experts do not recommend autoimmune patients to eat these gluten-rich foods. According to the Autoimmune Protocol diet (AIP), grains such as rice and beans are discouraged while kimchi is approved. And according to Ayurveda, certain meats are considered unhealthy, while in Traditional Chinese medicine, they are absolutely recommended.

Contradictions on foods are everywhere.  As a modern-day woman and an autoimmune patient, it’s hard to know what’s right and wrong for me.  This is where I’d like to start our conversation.

There is no right or wrong diet for autoimmunity, just what works and doesn’t work here and now for YOU. Listen to your body, and it’ll tell you that despite something being “healthy,” it does not sit well with you.  

This is where I adapted the Eastern Philosophy of treating the patient vs the disease.  You are what is important and who we need to work on rather than trying to pigeonhole you into something that is considered scientifically proven to be effective.

External vs Internal Focus

Use food as an experiment to learn your body here and now.  What is one man’s poison can be the cure for another man.

In this world today, we are bombarded with so much input coming our way.  I sit at times scrolling through the Instagram of different chefs, and the contradictions that abound every day cause so much confusion, even for me.

Many Korean chefs cook the most amazing foods, foods that I grew up on and are relevant today in functional medicine. But they are not something that are recommended by the “experts.”

So, slowly I’m saying no to the rules.  I may set rules and boundaries for a short time, but the goal should always be to find the yin to the yang. Practice abstinence for a short time to enable enjoyment again. I want your experience to be pleasant and logical.  Understand that ultimately, we want to be able to have the cake and eat it too.

No more food-shaming, fat-shaming or symptom-shaming and telling ourselves what we should and ought to do.  Let’s learn to let go and cultivate the art of acceptance so we can dance with what is and be joyfully free.

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