The number one struggle that my clients are challenged by is cooking for her partner or family when they aren’t on board with the changes she has made to her diet, especially when she is in the middle of an elimination diet.
This is challenging for many reasons including making multiple recipes for one meal, dealing with negative comments and fighting cravings when temptation is right in front of your face instead of solely in your mind.
It is a beautiful thing to see the lengths to which a woman will go to support and nurture her family. But it is too often at the expense of her own health. This needs to change for no one can give from an empty cup. Choosing yourself is not selfish, but in fact selfless as it contributes to the greater good of the relationship or family.
I like to make meals that happen to be elimination diet-friendly (aka full of flavour!) rather than glaringly obvious elimination diet food. There are still many meals that I enjoy after having completed my elimination diet. That being said, your partner and family don’t have to follow an elimination diet as strictly as you do in order to support you. You are allowed and entitled to define how you best need support so that you can stick to your elimination diet.
The woman is most often the meal maker of the household because the man and children don’t know how or don’t want to learn how to cook. This puts a lot on your plate. When they don’t understand the reasoning behind your elimination diet and everyone else outside of the house is eating the way you used to, a lot of conflict and resistance is created – forcing even more on your plate.
I don’t want this to derail your efforts in following an elimination diet to take back your health so that you can live a pain-free life. I’ve gathered some useful ways to help you stick to the process. There are a lot of similarities between picky kids and husbands, which is why these strategies are suitable for both.
Don’t use the terms gluten or dairy free, I suggest you even avoid using the word healthy as this can turn people (especially kids) off before they even try what you’ve made. Either call the meal exactly what it is or use words you know will resonate with your family to put them in a positive state of mind. Try words like favourite, yummy, new, or exciting. Tell your kids that it’s their favourite character’s favourite meal and tell your husband that you read about some sports figure liking this meal. Think outside the box and stay open to whatever you need to do!
Include kids and family members in chopping and mixing to attach a fun, positive association to the meal. This has the benefit of teaching your kids about food and the effect it has on their bodies. For many men, they like to show love by actions of affection. Take advantage of this by making him pick up the groceries and do the dishes! This is a fair trade-off if you make all of the meals. Ask them if they are open to new dishes or updated versions of their favourites. This makes them part of the process rather than feeling forced to eat what is served.
[For immediate family] Talk about your WHY and educate on the power of food
Taking time to explain how you feel as well as what is going on in the body helps them understand why you are following an elimination diet, especially if you aren’t experiencing serious symptoms or visible pain. In addition to what is happening in the body, tell them why this matters to you and how it will affect them.
If you’ve read an article or a book that was transformational for you, ask them to read it (or a passage from it) to better understand where you are coming from. This has the benefit of giving them a detailed explanation as well as hearing it from someone else. Give them time to understand.
[For extended family and friends] Don’t change your ways to make others happy
You don’t need to go to the lengths I’ve just shared with everyone and their mother. You have nothing to prove and you don’t have to explain yourself every time. That is draining! That being said, you are likely to receive many misinformed but well-intentioned comments about your diet.
Thank them for offering food but eat what you planned or ask to take some for “leftovers” that you can throw out when you get home. If they express concerns around the length of the elimination diet, assure them that you feel the best you’ve ever felt and that while you won’t follow the elimination phase forever, it is completely safe and nutritionally balanced to do so. Then ask them how they enjoyed their last fast food meal… jk.
Create buildable meals
This is my favourite way to make multiple meals under the guise of one meal to save your time and energy. There are a few ways you can do this. The base of the meal is ultimately your elimination diet-friendly meal OR the meal for the pickiest eater. From here add the appropriate ingredients such as preferred protein and vegetables.
For example, a soup or stir fry can start with one or two veggies and nightshade-free spices. Depending on preference each person can use legumes or animal protein, add spices, more veggies, cheese or pasta. This saves an incredible amount of time compared to making two distinct meals.
Establish clear avoidance rules
This is the suggestion where you have to put your foot down, whether you feel comfortable with doing so or not. I know you want to please your partner or your kids and you still can, but certain rules will make your life so much easier. Determining what is allowed to come in the house is based on two things: your symptoms and your cravings.
If you know or discover that white potatoes trigger severe reactions in you, tell your partner or family that they must be eating outside of the house only. Tell them how they make you feel or refer to an experience where they were aware of how they affected you. If you know that having bread in the house makes you incredibly bitter about having to follow an elimination diet or triggers intense cravings, tell your family that it cannot come into the house – at least for now. If this is not possible, ask them to eat it out of sight.
I promise you that when you truly follow these strategies, you will have a more successful elimination diet process. However, when you don’t, you will spin circles around the process without reaching the level of relief you seek. I know you strive to be the best wife and mom possible so it can feel like you aren’t fulfilling that when you prioritize an elimination diet for yourself. Without being the healthiest woman you can be, you won’t be able to be the wife or mom you aim to be. Hopefully this mindset tweak and the above strategies help you to see this because you are amazing and strong and I truly want the best for you.