Happy Living During and After an Elimination Diet

The time between Halloween and New Year’s Day is marked with occasions to eat, drink, and be merry. There are so many special dishes and treats to enjoy, and while I try to make smart choices this time of year, I often find myself feeling a little sluggish by January 2nd. There’s a reason why resolutions begin at the start of a new year – it’s a natural swinging of the pendulum from big celebrations to looking inward, reflecting on choices, and embracing new beginnings.

In last week’s guest post, Dr. Sult introduced the concept of an elimination diet and explained why starting one might be a good idea. Today, we are sharing a post from Stephanie Dunne that shares five helpful suggestions for happy living during and after an elimination diet! A six-week elimination diet may seem like a daunting task, but Stephanie’s tips show how the benefits outweigh any potential challenges.

Stephanie is a Registered Dietitian (RD) who “sees” clients virtually and in person through her private practice in New York City. She has a Master’s degree in nutrition and is continuing her learning in the area of integrative and functional medicine. Stephanie believes food should be good and good for you, and she hopes to change the world by helping people connect with food in a healing, enriching, and satisfying way. To learn more about Stephanie, her services and nutrition in general, visit her website, Nutrition QED.

An elimination diet. What a terrible sounding process. The words alone evoke images of deprivation and starvation, without even knowing what it entails. So, why would anyone voluntarily choose to do one?

As Dr. Sult described in his post, an elimination diet is a tool to help someone find the perfect way of eating for her- or himself. After all, we are complex individuals with unique bodies, histories and lifestyles, all of which are factors in the way we receive and metabolize food. As such, even a so-called healthy food can be “bad” for a person if it causes symptoms or contributes to chronic health issues.

Given the power of an elimination diet to identify potentially problem-causing foods, and the fact that it is based on eating a set of whole foods that are believed to be universally beneficial, it seems to me that everyone should consider doing one. That being said, a six week “diet” can feel daunting and a person may have anxiety about the possibility of giving up a favorite food forever.

To help overcome those negative feelings, here are my top five suggestions for happy living during and after an elimination diet.

1. View it as an opportunity to expand your power through increased self-knowledge.

We would like to believe that doctors, chiropractors, nurses and nutritionists (like me) have all the information necessary to keep every person healthy and vibrant. And we do, to an extent. The problem arises when taking information “proven” by science and trying to apply it to the wonderfully intricate being that is you.

After all, there is only one of you that has or ever will exist. That means the right way of eating for you is not the right way for anyone else. So, you have to take control and use the tools available to figure out which foods truly feed your body and which foods might be causing you pain or discomfort. Having this information gives you the power to use food to your advantage.

2. Take the process one day at a time.

Six weeks can seem like a long time, and it is when you haven’t started the process yet. But those six weeks are going to pass no matter what you do, so you might as well use that time to discover how certain foods may be robbing you of optimal health.

The easiest way to do that is to take the process one day at a time. Each morning of the elimination diet, resolve to make choices that day that will help you stay on track. One day you will wake up and realize that the process is complete, you didn’t die and you have personalized your nutrition a bit more.

3. Use the time to develop your palette and cooking repertoire.

An elimination diet removes a number of common, but potentially offending foods for a few weeks before reintroducing them one at a time. During the first phase, it is critical not to eat anything that contains the removed foods so the body has a chance to reset, and you may find it difficult to eat out or buy prepared food. Rather than seeing this as an obstacle to enjoying life, view it as an opportunity to expand your food universe.

Perhaps there is a crazy looking vegetable at the grocery store you’ve been curious about. Or maybe there is a recipe you’ve been tempted to try, but haven’t worked up the courage. The elimination diet is a great framework in which to expand your palette and cooking skills.

4. Recognize that you get to choose what to do with the information obtained.

When you react to a reintroduced food during the elimination diet, there’s a good chance that you will feel sadness or anger and be frustrated that you can never eat the offending food again. After all, it was hard enough to feed yourself for six weeks, never mind the rest of your life, without foods as common as wheat, corn and cheese.

Here’s the thing, if you don’t have an IgE-mediated food allergy (the ones that cause anaphylaxis and other emergency-type reactions), you get to choose what you do with the information obtained. After all, one of the best things about being an adult is the ability to choose what we do, say… and eat! The elimination diet doesn’t change this fact; it simply gives you more information as you decide what to put in your mouth.

5. Know that the outcome may not be permanent.

Food sensitivities and intolerances can be caused by a whole host of factors including “leaky gut,” immune system dysfunction, and excessive toxins. As such, you may be able to identify and resolve the root cause of the food sensitivity, which will allow you to happily eat the “offending” food at some point in the future.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that you won’t continue to have some form of reaction when you choose to or accidentally eat it. On the other hand, the mind and body are amazing healers and, by resolving the true cause of the problem, you might find that your body eventually tolerates the food just fine.

If you desire to use the power of food to your advantage and be the best version of yourself, I encourage you to do an elimination diet so that you can expand your self-knowledge, develop your palette, and give your body the chance to heal itself.

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