Five Elimination Diet Success Tips
Fad diets abound in our culture these days. I don’t pay much attention because I know that the word diet means instant failure for me. But, I had ongoing joint issues and was intrigued by an article about doing a simple elimination diet. Eliminate trigger foods for 23 days, take note of how you feel, and then slowly bring each food back, again taking note of changes. I thought this simple approach would be doable for me. And, I decided to eliminate refined sugar.
My primary motivation was the hope that I might discover a food trigger for the joint issue I had been dealing with for many years. I was also curious to know if the trigger foods were responsible for annoying weight gain despite eating what I considered to be a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
Completely overhauling the way you eat and learning to read food labels is a daunting task. Dealing with influences from family and friends and riding the chaotic wave of cravings and digestion issues is challenging. But, in hindsight there are five things that helped get me through the three weeks.
- Pick your timing.
- Find an accountability partner.
- Focus on what you CAN eat.
- Remember why you started.
- Reflect on positive changes.
My husband was scheduled to attend Airborne School and would be gone for exactly three weeks. He is always extremely supportive of my goals, but I knew it would be much easier to push through if I didn’t need to plan his meals.
I knew that I would not be terribly successful on my own so I found an accountability partner. She went through each challenging day with me, talking with each other through cravings and exchanging ideas for meals and treats. I can’t stress enough how beneficial a good accountability partner can be for successfully making change.
In the beginning, all I could think of was that there was nothing I could eat. I was hungry all the time. I sent messages to my accountability partner throughout the day hoping she could provide answers for what I was doing wrong. What we realized was that there are actually many acceptable foods to eat, it’s just a matter of educating yourself on what those foods are and reprogramming old habits. For example, brown rice became my best friend. I needed to find a new way to feel full that didn’t involve gluten-laden products. And, there are innumerable ways to combine fruit, gluten-free oats, and nut butter for a delicious treat.
I wanted to throw in the towel more than once. In the beginning I was physically uncomfortable with bloating and constipation. Then I had some tough nights with a sick toddler which brought on sweet cravings and I may or may not have had an occasional glass of wine. Finally, about two weeks in, I decided that I wasn’t intolerant to anything and maybe I should just start adding things back in. But, my accountability partner reminded me that you don’t notice the full effect of eliminating foods for three weeks. And, I really wanted to see if my joints would feel better.
There are definitely some ups and downs during an elimination diet, and it’s easy to focus on the downs. But, if you can find some things that that are going well, you might just inspire yourself to see the experiment through. Unfortunately, I did not have a noticeable change in my joint pain, but other parts of my life were changed rather significantly. My moods stabilized and the seemingly never-ending fatigue and exhaustion disappeared. I started feeling more rested after sleeping at night despite how late I went to bed or how often the baby woke me up. My clothes fit better and I got rid of some of that annoying flab I had been carrying around.
Making it through the three weeks is just part of the equation. In the end, you have to decide what to do going forward.
Gluten itself wasn’t weighing me down, but snacking on crackers and gluten-based foods throughout the day were showing up as extra pounds on the scale. Replacing my old snacks with fruits and veggies helps me look and feel better.
To be honest though, my biggest and most disturbing challenge during this experiment was getting rid of sugar. I focused on eliminating refined sugar and allowed natural sources such as fruit, honey, and maple syrup in very small amounts. One frightening realization was that sugar is in EVERYTHING. I expected it in the obvious places like baked goods and cereal. What I didn’t expect was to find it in tomato sauce, soup, crackers, and bread. Literally, everything. I also wasn’t prepared for the intense cravings I experienced. I realize now that I’m a sugarholic. No joke. I could literally eat an entire package of Oreos in one afternoon. Chocolate was a daily habit. In hindsight, I had a big problem even though I thought I was eating healthfully.
I’ve brought back gluten and dairy in small amounts. The sugar though is something I hope to banish from my life for good. Sounds drastic, right? Well, the changes I feel in my body are exactly that – drastic. The change is convincing enough that it is worth it to turn away from those sugar-laden products.
We talk about marathons or even Airborne School being huge accomplishments. But try making it through Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas without an ounce of sugar! Social pressures are almost as difficult as the physical cravings. But I can do this.
Have you ever tried an elimination diet? How did it go?