You may have just stepped out of your doctor’s office with the recommendation that you should begin an Elimination Diet. Or, if you are like me, you are sick of lingering unwelcome symptoms, and have decided to try going through the diet yourself, to see what insights it can reveal about your health.
Regardless of how you got here - even though it is a temporary diet plan with a multitude of benefits - its strictness can be intimidating. I’m here to share what I learned through my experience on an Elimination Diet, with the hope that it will leave you feeling more prepared and confident as you embark on this journey. You are not going at this alone!
The Elimination Diet is used to uncover food intolerances that can be at the root of a variety of health conditions such as allergies, gut imbalances, skin issues, and inflammation; the food we eat can even effect our mood and mental health. Spending three weeks removing all foods that have a track record of causing these issues: gluten, dairy, soy, and caffeine to name a few, gives the body time to reset and begin the healing process. From there, these foods are slowly reintroduced, one by one, and the culprit(s) can be identified.
As we all know, knowledge is power. With this information at your disposal you can not only relieve the symptoms of your primary health concern - the one that brought you down this path in the first place - but you can also look forward to increased energy, relieved brain fog, reduced inflammation, a boost to your immune system, and a solid step towards jump-starting clean eating and removing any undesirable processed foods from your diet.
But, perhaps even more important to stress, is that you will have made a huge stride in proactively improving your own health and wellbeing. You will have made new discoveries about yourself; what it means to focus on how the foods you eat make you feel, what foods make you feel good and not so good, and about being more mindful of what you are putting in your body.
Once you identify the foods that work best for your body, you can create a custom meal plan tailored just for you. So consider this challenging endeavor an act of self-care and self-responsibility; you are honoring your body by discovering the most beneficial way of eating that nourishes you, fills you up, and gives you energy to pursue what you want out of life.
So first, give yourself a big hug for taking the initiative to make a change in your life for the better by focusing on healing and improving your health. Next, I’d like to give you five tips to make the next few weeks as illuminating, encouraging, and as painless as possible:
- Plan Ahead. By far the most challenging aspect of this diet is knowing what you can eat. The more prepared you can be, the less you will have to stress about it. Plan out a few meals for the week and consider cooking in larger quantities (such as rice, quinoa, massaged kale, and lentils). Know your snack options, and have them ready, so you don’t have to go hungry. My go-to’s were seeds, veggies and hummus, a small piece of fruit, and taro root chips. Eating out is admittedly hard, but not impossible. Plan ahead by doing some online research to see who has a menu you can work with.
- Keep it simple. This may not be the time to try that elaborate, expert-level recipe you’ve had your eye on that takes three hours to prep. Go easy on yourself, have simple foods ready that can be mixed and matched in a variety of ways, so that you are not more overwhelmed than you have to be. Think rice with organic, lean protein or fish, and roasted veggies. Get creative with combining the variety of foods available to you (don’t forget spices and condiments); your meals should still be enjoyable! You don’t have to be a professional chef or master complicated recipes to be successful on this diet. You also don’t have to be stuck with bland, tasteless food. How about a Delicious Green Smoothie for breakfast, salad for lunch, and a healing pot of Dahl for dinner?!
- Find Support. Success loves company! Feeling supported is essential when you set out on an adventure like an elimination diet. Let your family know what you will be experiencing these next few weeks, and how they can help you. Seek out friends who are also experimenting with their diet or making big lifestyle changes, and find blogs or Facebook groups to follow, get inspired, and learn from. The more you can feel the love and support around you, the more likely you will not just stick through the diet, but thrive through it.
- Keep a Journal. It may feel tedious, but keeping a detailed food journal throughout the process will be extremely helpful as you become your own food detective. This was one of the things that I let fizzle and die early into my elimination diet, that I wish I wouldn’t have. There is so much you can learn by paying close attention to how you react to specific foods. Keeping a food journal will help you clearly identify both the foods that are giving you problems, and also the foods that make you feel great. You will be amazed at just how good you can feel when you remove what has been causing your body harm!
- Be Gentle on Yourself. This may be the first time you have ever tried anything like this. Acknowledge and honor all that you are doing for yourself. Spend extra time prioritizing relaxation, quality sleep and self-care, whatever that looks like for you. For me, it was gentle yoga, walks around the neighborhood, and detoxifying evening baths. Remind yourself that, however challenging this is, it is temporary. If you do have a slip up and indulge in a food not in the diet, don’t give up and throw in the towel! Instead, use it as an opportunity for learning and self-reflection. Look at why you ate that food, how it made you feel, and what can you do to prevent it from happening during the rest of the diet.
I hope you are able to see that the Elimination Diet is not so much just about eliminating a laundry list of foods, as it is about finally finding what works best for your body. With a little bit of planning, patience, and a positive attitude, you can not only get through these next three weeks, but you can grow through these next three weeks.