Elimination diets are kind of like a science experiment with an n of 1. Luckily, that n is you, so you get to sacrifice your body for the good of science…. Well, no. kinda.
This is the gold standard way to determine what foods may be triggering uncomfortable to debilitating symptoms that are getting in the way of your best self- whether they are true allergies or simply food sensitivities. An important note- this is a real time experiment, meaning that a food you were sensitive to last year may no longer bother you and/or a "safe" food right now has the potential to be problematic in the future.
While it does require some sacrifice on your part, it certainly can be beneficial to know which foods, if any, are contributing to symptoms such as: weight loss resistance, fatigue, water retention, brain fog, joint pain, acne or other skin concerns, asthma, pelvic pain, sinus congestion, etc.
The key to making a success of this brings me back to my scouting days... you gotta be prepared!
Here are 6 steps to make your elimination diet a solid success, so you’ll be on your way to feeling lighter, more energetic, and healthier in no time.
1) Nail down the specifics. Maybe you’re working with a practitioner who has already outlined the details of your plan for you. Awesome! Check step one off your list. If not- read on, my friend.
Which elimination diet are you following? There’s many variations out there depending on your symptoms along with any diagnoses you have or suspect. The most common is eliminating the top 7 or 8 most common allergens. However, some people are more interested in anti-inflammatory or auto-immune approaches, eliminating FODMAPS, or avoiding known triggers associated with interstitial cystitis, endometriosis, or general pelvic pain.
Not sure where to start? There’s tons of free resources out there to help you get started, or if you want a bit more personalized help, reach out to a functional medicine physician, dietitian, health coach, or naturopath who will inform you of the proper protocol for each phase of your diet.
2) Know and focus on what you CAN eat
It’s so easy to zone in on what we CAN’T eat, that we easily form a negative mindset around eating in general. Every bite of the delicious meal in front of us reminds us of all the OTHER delicious meals we’ve EVER eaten that we would rather be eating right now.
It doesn’t matter which elimination diet you’re about to start, chances are there’s still a plentiful amount of delicious food you still CAN eat and enjoy.
Make a list! Write down everything you can think of that fits your plan.
Maybe you’re not used to eating a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit, and you’re not looking forward to this. I get it- no one likes to be forced into eating something outside of their comfort zone. But remember- this is not forever! Remember, this is a science experiment to see what your body likes, not a lifestyle change. Maybe you’re lucky, and gluten really doesn’t bother you, and it’s been corn or egg all along. You won’t know until you try!
And, if you’re even at this point of considering doing an elimination diet, my guess is you’re not feeling too great. Won’t it be worth it to not only FEEL BETTER, but *also* know you have CONTROL over feeling better???
3) Brainstorm + research meal ideas ahead of time that sound tasty and are something you’d really eat So now we take that list of foods that you CAN eat, and we start to figure out how we can make meals out of them.
I like to take a piece of paper and make headings for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, and Drinks. Then under each heading, list meals that fit the bill. Pinterest is a flippin’ awesome resource for this. Search the phrase “elimination diet breakfast” or maybe you need something more specific like “gluten free dairy free corn free dinner.” Trust me,
you’ll find some great ideas to start filling in this list.
If you’ve got kids old enough, get them involved in the brainstorming. Believe me, if you have your family on board, it makes it go so much easier.
Next, go ahead and plan out the meals for a week or two of your diet. This will help with grocery shopping and meal prep to make this time an even bigger success. Some people may plan out the entire duration of their elimination phase, and others do just a few days at a time as they test out new recipes. It doesn’t matter HOW you do it, as long as you find a way that works for you and stick with it.
4) Don’t forget snacks!
This is so important it deserves its own step. Snacks are a big stumbling block for a lot of women. Have a couple easy, safe snacks on hand, so you’re not tempted to cheat.
Remember, this is a science experiment, so we don't want contaminated results. Even one little, tiny crumb of something you’re supposed to be avoiding will throw off your results.
Plantain chips or coconut energy bites might be something to consider having on hand depending on the plan you are following. Again, Pinterest for the win here, too!
5) Have a journal of some sort ready to go.
You’ll want to track your symptoms, moods, sleeping, pooping and peeing habits over the course of your diet. This is particularly important when you start challenging the foods you’re eliminating.
Writing it down lets you observe trends over time that you might not see without the data in front of you.
You can do this in your planner, on your phone, or a notebook you stash in your purse. Jot your observations down in your Notes app on your phone, or create a document on your laptop. Whatever works for you! It doesn’t have to be super in-depth, either- just enough info so you remember how you’re feeling.
You don’t want to get to the end of this process and not be sure what foods did what!
6) Tell your family, friends, or co-workers.
I mean, you don’t have to tell them much if you don’t want to, but there’s a two-fold reason for this.
- If your coworkers know you’re paying attention to what you’re eating for the next several weeks, they probably won’t decide to have a big tailgate potluck with loads of off-limits foods to celebrate your big promotion.
- Doing this is HARD work. Let your family and friends support you, keep you accountable, and root you on. Then, let celebrate with everyone afterwards!
Instead of your kids being disappointed by no more of their favorite weekly Sunday pancakes, your kids might be super excited to help you or your partner whip up a new recipe for grain-free, dairy-free, egg-free, no added sugar pumpkin muffins.
Ok, so now you’ve got a plan, and you’re ready to rock and roll! Need a little more accountability or personalized help? Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation to see if my services may be just what you’re looking for.