The Elimination Diet: My Journey
For those of you who have 'done' the elimination diet, you might know how much of a journey the process is. It's not just a 21-day-diet-and-you're-done kind of method like I originally thought it was. It's the elimination of all things that could potentially be causing your digestive issues, acne, skin irritations, brain fog, etc., and it's something that you continue until you are feeling 100% (which could range from 21 days to 6 months). There are a lot of elements that are removed from your diet and lifestyle, but there are also elements that are still 'allowed' in your diet that could still potentially be triggering your negative symptoms (I'll talk about this) and that I would suggest you additionally eliminate.
The elimination diet is a practice that teaches you how to truly listen to your body, see food in a new light, appreciate each meal and cook with ingredients that you never have before. It's very hard, but it's the best decision that I've made for my health, and I believe everyone should do it. Yes, everyone.
On paper, here is what the elimination diet looks like:
- 3-4 week program
- The elimination of all potential allergy and symptom-causing elements from your diet. This means no
- Nuts & Seeds (except for a select few)
- Caffeine (except green tea)
- Artificial sweeteners
- Nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, goji berries, peppers, white potatoes)
- Red meat
- The reintroduction of one of the listed-above items for 3-4 days at a time and the discovery of intolerances, allergies, symptom-triggers and problem foods.
- The deletion of these foods from your diet for a while (or forever if you choose).
I completed the 21 day stretch of this typical elimination diet. The biggest changes that I saw were: I wasn't as bloated anymore, my digestion was functioning a bit more normally, and I had lost 5 or so pounds. My skin did look a bit clearer as well. However, I still didn't feel 100%.
I was pretty frustrated because I truly thought that I would find a complete solution to my personal health issues, but I hadn't fully yet. I decided to start researching beyond the typical elimination diet and see what else could be potentially triggering my symptoms.
Here are two key things that I discovered.
- Meat should be eliminated from your diet during the elimination diet. Or, you should only be consuming meat 3-4 days during the week, and it should solely be pasture-raised meat (grass fed and grass finished).
- You are eating whatever the animal that you are eating ate. See my blog post about meat.
- Although the elimination diet eliminates certain grains and gluten-contaminated products, I think that it's beneficial to eliminate all grains during the elimination diet. Ultimately, I believe that grains should be eliminated from a human's diet completely. Grains contain elements like lectins that cause inflammation, which lead to a lot of different issues, and I truly don't believe that humans were ever meant to eat them.
I also cannot stress enough how much I have learned from The Plant Paradox. I have advertised this book all over my Instagram because it has been the biggest aid in my discovery of solutions to my personal health issues. Read it for so much more information!
I am currently still in the process of healing my gut, finding a solution to my breakouts and discovering the foods that give me the best energy. I have made incredible headway, but this is a JOURNEY!
If you are thinking about doing the elimination diet, here's what I would advise:
- Tell your boyfriend, family members and closest friends that you are serious about completing the program and are going to be behaving/eating a bit differently, but that you need their support.
- The people that love you the most in life will fully support you along your journey!
- Don't get discouraged.
- This is a process. I am still technically doing the elimination diet to an extent because there are still things that I'm trying to figure out. This is okay! It doesn't matter how long it takes. EveryBODY is different. Pay attention to what is and isn't working for YOU.
- Don't cheat.
- For real. The biggest regret that I have from the initial 21 days is caving in at two different restaurants two weekends in a row and ordering items on the menu that I knew didn't align with what was good for my body and the process that I was going through. Don't get me wrong; I'm all for enjoying life and eating things that aren't good for me sometimes, but not when I'm challenging myself and trying to discover what's harming my body and serving as an obstacle in my journey to wellness! Stick to the plan. Certain elements that your body really doesn't like can set your internal system way off. Find alternative ways to create flavors or satiate your cravings instead of going for the things that you would if you weren't on the elimination diet. For example, if you REALLY need a dessert, grill some peaches and top them with coconut butter and cinnamon, or puree some strawberries with coconut cream and mint and freeze it to make 'ice cream'. Sweet potatoes are also amazing with cinnamon and coconut butter (my favorite).
- If going out to eat makes it difficult for you to make good food choices that align with your diet (which is what I've found sometimes), or if there are no restaurants in your area that serve local, organic salads and menu items, then cook dinner at home instead. It saves money and improves your kitchen badassery.
- Journal your meals, snacks and beverages.
- THIS is huge. I am still food journaling every day. Everything that I eat or drink, any symptoms that I experience, and even the exercise that I do. This allows me to associate the way I'm feeling with the foods that I've been eating. It's helped me in my personal discovery of what suits my body and what doesn't.
- Here is the food journal resource that I currently use! I just print off 15 or so at a time and staple them together. Yes, I carry them to work and wherever else with me.
If you don't know where to start, or you don't know if you should do the elimination diet, then ask yourself the following: am I suffering from acne, eczema, food intolerances, allergies, aches, bloating, soreness, fatigue, brain fog, constipation, IBS symptoms, moodiness, irritability, ______? Fill in the blank. The answer is yes, you should. You will learn SO MUCH about yourself and your body! And you have the potential to heal yourself through food. THAT'S the coolest part.
You should do your own research and find a plan that works for you or that you believe in! However, I would personally suggest that you purchase The Plant Paradox and begin the Plant Paradox Program, starting with the 3-day detox. Dr. Steven Gundry is a genius, and I have seen more results already by following his protocol than I did in my initial 21 days of the elimination diet via WholeLifeNutrition's program. Everyone is different though. Do your research.
In the beginning and the end, love yourself. Everyone is imperfect, and no BODY is perfect. Nor will you ever achieve perfection. But that is the most beautiful thing. Embrace yourself and your body. Learn about everything that you can. Discover, challenge, pursue and grow. Your mind and body will love you for it.