Monday, June 9, 2014

The Elimination Diet - What it is and why I am giving it a shot

When I started talking about trying an elimination diet the biggest questions I got were " eat so healthy already?" and "But I thought you were feeling great from eating clean, what gives?"

Welcome to my frustration.....I am eating clean. I was feeling great. Last year at this time I was full of energy and really reaping the benefits of eating a diet that consisted of real, whole foods. And I continued to feel this way until about a two months or so ago. I wasn't able to get up in the mornings. (Which I blamed on getting used to sleeping in the apartment again, noises, neighbors, a different bed, etc.) And I was suffering from brain fog especially when I woke up (which I blamed on being tired.) Eventually that brain fog was lasting most of the day. I couldn't focus. I couldn't write. I didn't want to play with my kiddo. No more trips to the park....I didn't even want to drive because of my inability to focus. The house was always a mess. I didn't have the energy to fight with my kiddo (or come up with a game) to get her to clean up her toys. I was making myself workout everyday but I felt like a zombie when I was doing it.

My business was suffering. My family was suffering. I had to do something.

So I do what I always do and I researched and researched and researched. I read about hyperthyroidism. I read about adrenal fatigue. I read about all other sorts of scary things that could be wrong with me (gotta love google!) And I decided that since I am out of state and don't want to find a new doctor for a month and because my thyroid has been tested in the past, that for now, trying an elimination diet is the best thing I can do. (Although I will probably follow up with my regular doc when I get home.)

The only real difference in my diet that I have been letting myself enjoy some diary. (Seriously....gelato has been my downfall. That and good cheese.) I have long suspected that I have some food issues. I grew up allergic to everything. My friends used to joke with me that they would visit me in my bubble. Allergies and asthma triggered by animals, pollen, dust, you name it and I would probably react to it. So if I have issues with all of those things....why wouldn't I have any issues with food?

The biggest question I have is why all of a sudden was I starting to feel terrible again? I wasn't eating processed foods. I was eating clean, working out and drinking my Shakeology every day. Nothing changed except for the fact that I was letting more dairy back into my diet. The only explanation I can come up with is that I am just more in tune with my body and how it reacts to things. The cleaner I eat the more I notice how I feel after eating something I shouldn't. I know that I shouldn't feel tired all the time or bloated after I eat. I know how good eating right feels.  I may be more sensitive to certain things now that I am not eating garbage all the time. (And this could be completely out in left field. This is just my own opinion based on what I have observed about myself over the last year.)

What is an elimination diet? 

An elimination diet is something done to determine if some of the foods you are eating are irritating your body. Basically, you eliminate anything that could be a trigger food for a period of time. Typically for a few weeks. In theory, this allows your body to come back to balance so that you can recognize the symptoms when you start reintroducing foods.

After the first few weeks, foods are introduced one by one and any reactions are noted. Foods are typically by a few exposures on one day then taking two days to note any reactions. Then repeat until all the foods eliminated have been tested.

What am I doing exactly? 

I am going to commit to eliminating all the trigger foods for 28 days. I am doing this based on the Whole Foods Nutrition elimination diet. I ordered their cookbook, The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, to help me plan my meals. I decided to do this instead of sign up for their elimination diet program.  Why? They have a ton of info on their blog which I can access fairly easily and I wanted all the recipe options over the food lists. This is going to be overwhelming enough without looking at a giant list of individual foods. I can handle the list of 10 no no foods, not a list of hundreds. In hindsight, I may regret trying to go it alone but I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

I am really happy with the cookbook though. (Each chapter starts with a great quote so they kind of had a piece of my heart right there.) It has tons of recipes, lots of options for gluten free, dairy free, and soy free meals (among others.) I do wish it had more pictures (I love a cookbook with tons of pics.) But it does have a ton of info on different styles of eating (think paleo vs vegan vs mediterranean and others) and explains what they are and who they might work for. There is also a huge section on health, nutrients, stocking your pantry and how to go from eating completely processed foods to eating whole real foods. It has a ton of info that makes me very happy with it (even though there really are not enough pictures.)

So here is what I am doing:

Days 1 and 2: 2 day green smoothie cleanse

Days 3-8 - Phase 1 (which is pretty  much a vegan diet without citrus and nightshade veggies)

Days 9-28 - Phase 2 (eliminates only the 10 main trigger foods)

Days 28 on: Add trigger foods back in one by one and note any reactions

This may change as I am going through the process. I am not married to the schedule above and need to make it work for me. I am not going to stop working out during this process so I may need to tweak what I am eating to make sure I can power through those. Ideally, this is what I want to stick to.

So what are the 10 trigger foods I am eliminating?

1. Dairy
2. Corn
3. Gluten
4. Citrus
5. Eggs
6. Nightshades (tomato, potato, eggplant, peppers)
7. Nuts
8. Soy
9. Meats & shellfish (except turkey, wild game, and fish)
10. Sweeteners (except limited pure stevia and maple syrup)

There is  A LOT of info out there on elimination diets and different ways to do it....which is why I am going to try and follow the schedule above but am not going to beat myself up if it doesn't work for me. I have a feeling this is going to be quite a challenge so I am not going to make it harder than it has to be. 

If you would like to join me or follow my journey for the next month find me on Facebook or sign up for a free account with me as your coach. I would be thrilled to help inspire and motivate you through this process. 

For more information check out the sources below:

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