We’re all looking to find our path in this wild and crazy life, and food is no exception. With all the swirling (and often conflicting!) opinions about diet and health, it can be hard to figure out the right eating style for each of us. My food philosophy focuses on the idea of an inclusive diet – filling your plate up with delicious whole foods, which inevitably crowds out some of the junk. I love learning about the nutritional content of food and really understanding all the good things it is doing in my body – for me, this is one of the keys to true nourishment.
Even with this inclusive philosophy, I decided to spend 6 weeks this spring doing an elimination diet. And it was fascinating.
There were a few factors pushing me to give this a try. First, it was strongly recommended in my nutrition program that we take ourselves through the diet so we’re better equipped to guide our clients. Second, I haven’t done an elimination diet in over 10 years and I was interested to see if I had any sensitivities to specific foods. And third, I liked the idea of doing a little spring cleaning for my body – taking a break from eating inflammatory foods and letting my body reboot.
Here are the specifics of the diet I followed-
Weeks one and two – completely vegan, gluten-free, no sugar, no caffeine, no alcohol
Week three – tried eggs for the first time and loosened up on sugar
Week four – tried dairy (still gluten-free)
Week five – continued with gluten-free and ate limited dairy
Week six – tried gluten
The great news is I didn’t identify any serious food sensitives, which means my gut is working well. This is big for me because I have a history of digestive troubles. Three cheers for healing yourself with whole foods, mindful living, and lacto- fermented goodies!
Beyond that lovely realization there was so much I enjoyed about this experiment. Probably my favorite thing was the feeling of connection I had with my body. I kept a food journal to document everything I was eating or drinking and how my body reacted. I felt like I was doing my part in a really intentional way to support my health and be there for my body. Every time I passed on some delicious looking food that went against my diet I felt proud. Proud and filled with willpower. And that’s a great feeling! I don’t suggest people live their lives from a place of deprivation, but for six weeks it felt pretty amazing to know I could do it without any cheating.
I also learned some new things in the kitchen. I’m generally a very clean, plant-inspired eater so this wasn’t too far outside my wheelhouse, but it inspired me to stretch with some new dishes and think more carefully about how to eat when I was out and about.
Here were my go-tos:
Gluten-free oatmeal every morning filled with delicious nuts and fruits. Here are my tricks of the trade for making the best oatmeal.
Lots of rice cakes with hummus and avocado or almond butter and banana slices. These made great snacks or lunches and satisfied my carb cravings.
White corn tortillas (which turn out to be far superior to the yellow corn variety). I like them toasted with beans, sweet potatoes, almond butter, jam, hummus, or nutritional yeast.
Fish at ‘fancy’ meals out on the town.
I kept bags of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit in my purse at all times. I’m usually a big snacker, but I was even more diligent about it while on the elimination diet. These snacks satisfied cravings for salty, sweet, or crunchy, and worked wonders at staving off any “hangry” episodes!
And of course, lots of the foods I eat all the time – whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruit.
There were definitely times when I felt hungry and it was hard to completely fill myself up, and times when it was annoying to find something to eat when we were out, but I got used to carrying cooked sweet potatoes in my bag and politely asking for things to be cooked in olive oil at restaurants.
The lasting impact of this elimination diet is that I’ve decided to stay off gluten a bit longer. I certainly don’t have a severe allergy, but I did notice some changes in my digestion when I tried gluten for the first time. I don’t think this will be forever, but I’m sticking with it for now and feeling great!
I highly recommend this experiment for anyone looking to do a little spring cleaning in their body, test themselves for food sensitives, and/or kickstart healthy eating habits. It’s pretty powerful to take control of your health in such an active way. Please be in touch if you’d like some guidance and coaching to make your elimination diet most effective. I’m here for you.