Contrary to the title, this article isn’t about the stress of relationships with others though certainly, relationship stress, as an empath, has also drastically flared my histamine levels! No, this is about changing simple acts of relationship to self that can have drastic impacts on histamine levels.
Not long ago my histamine levels got too high and I spent another lovely day with a migraine and vomiting. Ugh. In December I was experiencing new stress from being in a new job supervising mental health coaches, was up in the middle of the night on-call (circadian disruptions flare histamine levels), and topped that all off with eating too many of my wonderful keto chocolate chip cookies.
Nothing like a slap in the face to remind me to recommit to self-care and pay attention to how my body responds to stressors. The challenge comes when the stressors are things we aren’t ready to give up. I love my chocolate chip cookies. They don’t contain any sugars and are healthy but they are high histamine. I also friggin love that after being a mental health coach for so long that now I get to support other mental health coaches in triaging clients and calming their own nervous systems after what can be such intense and emotional work. I’m not giving up that work stress or my cookies, so now what?
I read it as a call to find the other areas of my life where I am wreaking of histamines and overloading my system unconsciously in unnecessary ways….
I’ve been a functional medicine nutritionist for over a decade and am so embarrassed to call myself out on this, but… for the greater good…
For most of my life, I have been in a horrible habit of eating while I am on a screen (Netflix or work) or while reading a physical book, particularly when eating alone.
Of course, some things are inherently stressful which is even worse like eating while being under a work/school deadline, watching a scary movie, or while driving. Even when I do eat with people, my focus tends to be on the other person and not the food or my body’s response to the food. On top of that, empaths eating with others adds a layer of stress as we pick up their thoughts and emotions.
I’ve spent so much of my life choosing to multitask when eating alone. Embarrassingly, I much prefer eating alone because it provides me the excuse to work even more (while eating) and can avoid “eating the emotions of others”. How rude I have been to myself that I choose screens or a book over being with myself while treating myself to nourishment. What is more important than nourishing ourselves and yet I have always put that relationship to my body aside. You need only look at the crumbs littering my workstation and keyboard to know this is a significant ongoing struggle.
It makes me curious… I wonder of the prevalence of digestive disorders, autoimmune conditions, and mast cell disorders among people who take the time to relate to themselves while eating versus those that don’t. We are in a pandemic of ignoring our bodies and choosing screens and likewise, those health conditions are also widespread. Is there a connection?
Let me preface this next part by saying that I don’t have that answer to share with you, but there are interesting correlations to be drawn beyond my own experience. An intriguing study of 7000 people from France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, England, and the US found significant differences in how food and eating are viewed. Respondents from the US and England generally indicated food as being more of a means/tool of health; whereas respondents from France, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany saw health as secondary and food and eating as being more about social pleasure and joy in life. (1)
Curiously, in the US and England, we see food as a means for health, and yet the way that we consume it ends up threatening our health. We can eat the “healthiest” food and turn it unhealthy by ignoring it and our digestion and focusing instead on work. Internationally, rates of auto-immune conditions are increasing, yet the prevalence of rheumatic, endocrinological, and gastrointestinal autoimmune diseases in Israel, the Netherlands, the US, and Sweden have increased the most (2).
What else is affected as we “slow our roll” and mindfully butter it with our attention?
In the US there is so much focus on demonizing carbohydrates and yet France and Italy are bread, pizza, and pasta-focused lovers and have a significantly lower prevalence of obesity (over 35% in the US compared to 15% in France and 11% in Italy) (3). It seems that slowing down and enjoying our food instead of “snarfing” it down while working may allow our bodies to better digest the phytates and enzyme inhibitors in grains and allow us to burn the carbohydrates more efficiently for energy versus simply storing it.
Given that we are in the month of love and Valentine’s Day is upon us, I want to share with you my commitment to myself. So here it is…
I have pledged to stop eating while working, being on a screen, or reading. I have pledged to date myself. Will you join me?
I am still in the early stages of this new commitment to myself but what I have found so far is that my histamine levels are lower, much lower. I haven’t had a histamine reaction since starting this practice and I’ve been enjoying my cookies still (though naturally moderate how many I eat as I allow myself to savor the flavor).
For why this has worked, check out my last article which is all about how stress spikes histamine and how supporting digestion and calming our nervous system when eating is critical to reducing histamine levels by reducing stress levels and optimizing nutrition.
I should share though that this was a hard sale
even especially for me. As a nutritionist, I’ve always been held to the expectation of mindful eating, but would convince myself that meditating at least twice a day meant I didn’t have to eat mindfully too. PLUS, the idea of losing blocks of time I could work would reroute me. Pretty much all sorts of mind chatter about this being a bad idea came up whenever I tried. Though over the years, I’ve discovered that if my subconscious is reeling against a change, there is something there to uncover. Something there to heal and a reason to give it a go.
No, I didn’t jump right into this practice. I started with simply dating myself for one meal a day (breakfast) and paying attention to how my body felt as a result of all that extra focused decadent attention on me for me. I could convince myself to try it once a day for breakfast, a few times a week at least. The thing is though, I found it rather intoxicating actually and started to crave even more of that self-attention.
I discovered that dating myself is not about mindful eating at all, but all about choosing me for me. Saying I’m worthy of attention – my attention.
If this is a hard sale for you because you avoid time with yourself for fear of what comes up when you are just “being” with yourself, this is a gem to come to an awareness of. What a blessed indicator that it is time to get into therapy to clear that clutter so you can be with yourself.
I feel like a side-effect of this is creating new neural pathways of an expectation to receive love and attention. I wonder, would I have accepted so many narcissists into my life if I was in the habit of slathering myself with attention and connection?
Ready to Give it a Whirl? Ready to Date Yourself?
Your goal may be to get to the point of dating yourself for most meals; being consciously connected to yourself and your body while eating instead of connected to your phone, computer or tv; and spending meals with yourself instead of multitasking that distracts you from you. Dating ourselves is a big shift for most of us. Here are some ideas for changing the neural pathways and creating a new habit of choosing yourself to make this change easier and doable:
- Commit to 1 date a week with yourself to start and as the relationship builds, consider hanging out with yourself even more. Keep track on a whiteboard or other habit tracker.
- Try it for just one meal a day or on the weekends. I found breakfast the easiest to get started with, before fears of not finishing your to-do list gang up on you.
- Try it for even part of a meal. Give yourself the first 10 minutes of a meal to be on a date with yourself.
- Struggling with the silence? Transition into spending meals alone with yourself by starting with listening to a podcast or book while eating.
- Take it one day at a time. So you didn’t go on any dates with yourself today, give yourself a call tomorrow.
- Put up reminders around how you want others to treat you. Are you treating yourself that way too?
- Step away from your computer and actually take a lunch break on workdays. Let your colleagues know you aren’t reachable during lunch. Whatever you are doing during lunch, at least step away from work.
- Get away from the distractions. Take yourself on a picnic and sit and people/animal watch at the park.
- Get an accountability buddy. Ask for a friend to help you follow through with dating yourself.
- Go on double dates. Ask your partner or a friend to go on a date with themselves as you date yourself, together for a meal.
- Don’t be so serious. You don’t have to be monogamous. Date yourself today and go on a date with someone else tomorrow. Though you are likely to find that you enjoy your own company more and if you don’t, that’s a whole other area to explore…
- Challenged with a silent date? Ask yourself some date-time banter. Prepare ahead of time some questions you might ask. For example, “If you could be any animal what would you be?” (A hawk in case you were wondering). Or “If you could have only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?” (Chocolate? Avocadoes? Bone broth?)
- Bonus points? Light a candle, turn on some mood music, break out the china, plate your food all purdy-like, cut or buy some fresh flowers, and don’t forget the chocolate!
- Feeling extra frisky? No reason for the date to just end with dinner!
How about you? Do you suffer from histamine intolerance? Have you noticed a difference in your histamine load when eating and just focusing on eating versus multitasking? Have you dated yourself? What ever did you talk about? Please share in the comments.
I’m off to meditate, then light a candle, turn on some soft relaxing piano music, and treat myself to delicious decadence with myself:
“Happy valentine’s day to me!”
“Oh, why thank you!”
“Will you be my valentine?”
“Why yes! I accept me!”
“MMM… Pass me more chocolate, me”