While the women who come to me don’t initially know what an elimination diet entails, they do come with a strong sense of dedication to a plan. This is usually leftover, regimented thinking from years of traditional dieting as well as a level of pain that has become intolerable and can be used to their advantage. However, because an elimination diet takes a minimum of two months to complete, diligence is often not enough to stick to the process.
An elimination diet is broken into the phases of detox, elimination, and reintroduction and removes the most common allergens (eggs, yeast, citrus, soy, gluten, dairy, nuts, etc.) for two weeks or until symptoms clear before bringing them back in, one at a time, to discover which foods are not tolerated well by your own body.
The elimination diet, while not a traditional diet, is quite restrictive but incredibly restorative. This process almost always begins out of a place of pain and hopelessness and it must begin with a commitment to yourself.
An elimination diet may seem long but it is worth it in exchange for ridding yourself of a lifetime of symptoms that will only worsen if nothing is done. In a time where most things happen with lightning speed, it is natural to want to speed up the process. But there is no rushing; the body operates on its own speed.
After coaching women through an elimination diet and going through the process myself, it has become crystal clear that the only way to stick to a potentially lengthy process is to shift your mindset in the following three ways.
From limited to aware
Because of the restrictions, it’s easy for the mind to fall into the trap of thinking about all the things that cannot be eaten. It only seems like you are missing out on a lot of food because grocery stores and restaurants are full of food-like substances – products that seem like food but are essentially devoid of nutrients. If vegetables are even available as an option they are served up in sauces full of dairy, sugar and refined oils.
These limited options are incredibly frustrating when you are used to grabbing what you want (even if it’s healthy) at the grocery store or going out to dinner with girlfriends. When the mindset is flipped to consider it is in fact backwards thinking that the person who wants to eat only fresh, real foods is the weirdo. And if it is these fresh, real foods that are healing to the body, why are they so hard to find? It begins to make sense that so many of us are in pain. When the mindset shifts from limited to awareness, it’s incredibly enlightening.
From constraint to creativity
When we think of restrictive diets our minds instantly envision plain chicken breasts and steamed broccoli. Can you say bland? This does not sound tasty or sustainable and if you can’t stick to an elimination diet, you won’t find the answers you are seeking.
Instead of feeling constrained by the limited options, flip your mindset to creativity mode. This doesn’t mean you need to become a five-star chef with an extensive knowledge of recipe creation, but it does mean you need to play!
Think of that plain chicken breast and broccoli – what if you roasted them to bring out more flavour instead? And what if you prefer a drumstick, thigh or wing… with the skin on? How many different spice combinations can you come up with to create new flavours? What other vegetables can you bring into the dish to create even more flavour and texture?
When you allow the limits of the restrictions to create limitless combinations you inject joy, creativity and childlike curiosity into the process. This makes it so much more fun!
From punishment to power
If all of your friends, family and every restaurant patio is enjoying all the foods not included in an elimination diet, it can feel very much like your healing journey is a punishment. And you can only feel punished for so long before wanting to throw in the towel.
Remind yourself that you are investing in your health because you have reached a level of pain and frustration that you no longer want to experience. When you are feeling irritated and want to give up (and give in to bread) try using the motivating mantra “power not punishment.” This is a reminder of your why.
Even though cutting out these foods can sometimes feel like a punishment, it is only temporary. You are doing it for yourself (not to yourself) to find answers so that you know which foods trigger your symptoms once and for all. And then you never have to go on a restrictive diet again, if you don’t want to. And that is power.