11 tips for staying on an elimination type diet
Making it through the first 30 days of an elimination type diet is hard enough, what about after? You’re feeling better, how do you stay motivated? After a recent ‘fall from grace,’ I decided to put this post together. To help me remember and maybe help someone else find their way too.
The actual internet definition of an elimination diet is “a short-term eating plan that eliminates certain foods.” I personally think of all specialized diets as elimination diets because you’re eliminating something that’s bothering you, with the opportunity to add things back in if they don’t bother you.
When I refer to ‘staying on your elimination type diet,’ I mean plans like Gluten-free, Diabetic, Wahl’s Protocol, Keto, Paleo, Autoimmune Paleo and other similar types where you’re eliminating something for better health.
I’ve had success with Autoimmune Paleo diet for 2 years now but, I fell off the wagon… right into a pile of brownies. It all started harmlessly enough with some fresh baked Armenian bread. Then, add in having to move, and needing the convenience (and cost) of fast food over home-cooked food, because, well, moving sucks, especially with chronic conditions. It was thirty days of slipping back into Painville, while moving. Sigh. Don’t want to let that happen again if I can help it so I’m outlining, in writing, what’s best for me to stay motivated.
bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.
“I get very hangry if I miss a meal.”
The most important thing in my food plan, is that I actually eat. For many years I didn’t get hunger pains, I got nausea. Which, I recently learned, is quite common. I never “wanted” to eat. Too nauseous, tired, and pained to cook anything, I essentially lived on coffee and cookies during the day until about 5 years ago.
These tips assume you’re already on your chosen type diet, if you haven’t found one yet there’s a treasure trove of condition-specific advice available on the internet.
Remember why you’re doing an elimination type diet in the first place.
Despite having so many things wrong with me, I never would have agreed that food would make a difference. If someone said, “You should try eating better.” I would have thrown a shoe at them. I have an imbalance in my brain, it’s not a food problem! Or, is it?
My new relationship with food started out of necessity. After a bad go with narcolepsy meds, I found myself unable to take big pharm meds anymore. Everything gave me terrible side effects, even over the counter meds. I wasn’t quite sure what to do and I stumbled on a TedX talk by Dr. Terry Wahls. She had pushed her MS (multiple sclerosis) into remission with just food. She did a lot of research on her own on pub med, in hopes of getting out of the zero gravity wheelchair she’d ended up in, despite the best doctors and treatments. She found certain foods reinforce the mitochondria in the brain (which is where MS and Parkinson’s come from – I think nocturnal myoclonus (now called PLMD) is similar to that as I was given an anti-seizure med (Klonopin) for it in the 90s.) Now here’s this lady, who went from a zero gravity wheelchair to a bicycle in six months. I was hooked. I thought, what’s the worst that can happen? I eat? Done. If you would like to watch this inspiring vid, it was life changing for me:
So, I started my food journey with the Wahl’s protocol. It was too much food. I’ve never been much of a big eater, but I did feel better. I went to paleo and found it a little easier to manage but, the results were not “fantastic.” Then, I decided to do autoimmune paleo diet and voila! I discovered two of my major triggers are nightshade and food additives. If I ate anything with either of those, I would have horrible stomach problems and a lot more pain. I added chicken bone broth with garlic, mint water, turmeric root juice (link to recipe) and kvass (link coming soon) and I experienced the following:
- My pain levels reduced from an 8/10 upon waking to a 2/3.
- My acne rosacea cleared up.
- My burning scalp syndrome disappeared.
- My “voodoo doll” pain was virtually eliminated (I get a feeling like I’ve been stabbed by a needle at random points on my body – when it happens, I cry out “Somebody’s got my voodoo doll!” It helps to laugh.)
- I became less clumsy and had less numbness in my hands.
- Less brain fog.
- Less sleep episodes at work. Although I still nap 2x/day.
- Less episodes of RLS. Now it really only happens when I’m very overtired or fighting a nap.
- Constant nausea eliminated.
- Gas reduced and the ‘up into the shoulders’ pain that comes with it.
- My biofilm was reduced. When I went to the dentist, he said my mouth shows no signs of dryness damage (woo hoo!).
- The ‘legs giving out’ feeling I get from POTS when brushing my teeth was reduced.
- My skin is not as dry.
- I’ve only had 4 migraines since I started. I used to get them monthly.
All that from food. I was sold. And, I’ve been able to add some things back in without suffering. To be honest, I probably could even do ‘more’ but, the things I haven’t given up, I’m not parting with, like coffee with sugar ;). I’m happy with where I am right now. Change is hard and it may come some day. I’m already doing waaaaay more than I ever thought I would. It often shocks people how committed to it I am. I try hard to encourage others and to help myself remember tip #1, I’m doing this because… I feel better when I do.
Know what foods you can and can’t have
A lot of people stress out about books and recipes for their chosen elimination diet, I didn’t have the headspace for that. I got a list of what was “allowed” on Autoimmune Paleo diet and I just started cooking with only those ingredients. I know which meats, veggies and spices I can have and I throw them together in one way or another. After I got to a point where I felt better, I would try and add things in. Bell peppers didn’t make the cut but hummus did, I use it as a salad dressing :). If you need help getting creative in the kitchen, I highly recommend watching episodes of Chopped, a cooking competition where the chefs are forced to cook with weird ingredients (and a normal pantry.)
Have a static grocery list, make 5 copies, magnet them to the fridge.
Many years ago I was the facilities manager for a domestic violence center and I became an expert grocery shopper. It all came down to the list and the way it was structured.
I shop at 3 different grocery stores – Costco (big box), Sprouts (local produce) and Vons (mostly for my kid’s food). They take center stage in 3 columns. I have some things I get on Amazon, at the Indian Market and the Dispensary, but not every week, that are off to the side. They’re organized on the list in the order that I walk through the store. Sometimes I miss something and have to go back but, having the list laid out in the order you walk the store, cuts down on the brain fog that can leave you walking back and forth across the store several times.
5 copies will get you through 5 weeks, that way you can edit the list if you need to before printing it again. When I run low on something that’s not on my static list, I grab a pen out of the drawer and simply add it to the list stuck to the fridge. Things I don’t need to buy that week get crossed out and I base the rest of the list on Tip #4…
Plan your menu for the week
Ahead of my Saturday grocery shopping I decide what I’m going to have for meals for the entire week. I try to design a lunch meal that’s interesting enough that I won’t get sick of having it 5 days in a row. I want it to have a lot of nutrients because dinner is with the whole family. I pretty much let my boys decide what I’m making on the days they’re with me and sometimes there are no vegetables on the table :-0 and there’s even, gasp, pasta. Good thing is when I’m making salad for lunches, I can make extra salad mix for an easy dinner salad if I want to. And, I know if I’ve got a nutrient filled lunch, one dinner of only buffalo style chicken wings isn’t going to derail me (and yes, butter and hot sauce are both tolerated – at least for wings – woo hoo!).
I write the menu plan for the week on the bottom of the list before I leave for shopping. That way, if I can’t find good grass-fed steak at the grocery, I can look at the menu and pick something else right there.
Another great reason to plan your menu for the week is that you’re only buying the ingredients that you’re putting on your grocery list to make those meals, which will save you money. You’re no longer standing at the open fridge in the evening, exhausted, trying to make sense out of all the food in your fridge to pull a meal out of it, which will save you stress.
Also, you can do weekly dinner prep when you’re doing lunch prep. Wash and cut veggies for Wednesday stir fry, do up a container of sliced onion or garlic for whatever meal is coming.
Lastly, it enables you to freeze your meat. Here in LA temperatures can often reach 100 degrees. Even with my fridge on 40 degrees, I’ve had meat go bad before the day on the package. If you’re doing a menu and you know you’re making burgers on Thursday, a quick glance at the list can have you thawing it in the fridge on Wednesday, rather than floating it in water or microwaving it last minute.
Meal prep – don’t get caught without food
Meal prep is exhausting. There’s really no mincing words about it. You’re giving up ALL your weekend time where you could be doing something for you and instead you’re menu planning, grocery shopping, washing, chopping, cooking, storing and cleaning. Seriously, what kind of a masochist is into that? 😉 Well, going back to Tip #1, I am. Honestly, if plate spinning made me feel better, I’d be spinning plates until my arms fell off, wait, that would defeat the purp… nevermind. Do your darn meal prep. Force yourself to do it! Being able to just throw your lunch in your work bag FIVE days a week, and have a great meal at least once a day, will pay dividends that you must remind yourself of, on Sunday when you’re finishing up, instead of sitting down.
I highly recommend headphones, great up-beat music, incense and any kind of motivator you can muster. This probably should’ve been Tip #1 but I’m trying to go in order of doing, rather than importance.
Get a good knife, storage and other tools
My cutting board is just a plastic one from Costco. I’m not one of those separate color cutting board kind of people. I’m a one cutting board kind of person. I worked in restaurants for 11 years and never saw “separate” cutting boards for things. Maybe I was too sleepy to notice 😉 but yeah.
My knife, peeler, strainer and storage containers are another story. Fortunately someone gifted me with a set of Cutco knives a few decades ago and those suckers are still amazing. Sent them in a year ago for sharpening and for $7 I got back sharp knives and even a replacement pair of scissors. Can’t say enough good things about them. They’re selling them now at Costco I noticed but, they’re lifetime knives, so I won’t be needing replacements. I like my fat Kitchen Aid peeler, it’s easier on my weak hands. My Nuwave Ovens give me grilled outside food right in my kitchen, without overheating the room. The Debbie Meyer green boxes are amazing, having fresh fruit and salad on Thursday that you made on Saturday is just priceless.
Figure out the best way to explain what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what food you will be able to eat, and get key people on board with you.
I’m not saying become a proselytizer and try to convert everyone over to your diet of choice, I’m saying inform the people you eat with/around regularly (family, friends, co-workers) what you are doing and why. It’s easy, you just say, “So, I heard that some people who have the same issues I do are having success feeling better on ___________ diet. I’m going to try it. I can have ______, _____ and _____. You don’t have to do anything special but I wanted you to know so you don’t get offended if you offer me something that is on my no-eat list.” That’s it. Unless you’re trying to get the whole family on board… that’s a whole other post, sorry.
Finds treats you can have to indulge in.
Crunchy. Chip crunchy. My kingdom for chip crunchy! That’s what I lamented when I first started AIP. Then I found Dang chips, which are just coconut. Plantain chips. Munch munch. I found other snacks, sweet potato chips made with coconut oil and no added garbage. The internet is also a treasure trove of treats that aren’t cheats. Yes, these diets are hard, so it’s good to treat yourself.
Figure out what you can eat outside of your house that won’t derail your progress.
Seriously, it’s hard to be the picky person at the restaurant, everyone looks at you funny and, as I’ve mentioned, what you think about affects your emotions and your emotions affect how you feel. So, be as discreet as possible.
Look up the menu online ahead of time. Have a few choices. Ask for the ingredients, including spices. Ask if they can leave anything out or put things on the side. I have a local ‘farm to table’ called Tender Greens. They do a marinated steak salad with roasted veggies. They hold the croutons and even chop the meat for me if I ask (weak hands.) It’s great to have a few items around town so when friends want to meet, assuming you’re able to have something of a social life, you’ll at least be able to suggest a place where you know you can have a “safe” meal.
Find a support group or other resource where you can share/learn from people on the same plan as you.
Facebook and Instagram are great resources for food plan support, recipes and ideas to make things more efficient.
Fortunately for me, my hubby is down with eating AIP, so I don’t make different meals for us but, he’s certainly not down for conversations about food, or what it does for you.
Me: Honey, did you know garlic is a natural antibiotic?
Hubby: That’s nice dear.
Probably close to 60 percent of the things I incorporated into my diet, including AIP, mint water, turmeric/garlic juice and kvass, came from conversations with people in my Sjogren’s alternative therapies support group on Facebook. What a blessing! Since I wrote this article, I shared a post in that group about my toothpowder and they banned me completely and without a word. After four years. Sigh. Onward and upward.
Don’t tell people you’re on an elimination type diet unless they need to know.
Please, do yourself that favor, or you’ll be seeing eye roll on a regular basis. Everyone’s on something and nobody gives a hootie potato what diet you’re on. Nobody comes up to you and says, I’m on the ‘eat whatever I want diet.’ They don’t care. Yes, I’m passionate about it but I try not to bring it up unless someone mentions a symptom, illness or offers up their advice on what I “should” be doing for my health, then I’ll discuss it until the cows come home.
Once you’ve stabilized on your chosen elimination diet, try adding in one favorite thing you’ve been missing every now and again, just to see if your body has changed. When I’m doing everything right, I can eat certain foods and not have as much trouble with them. Especially if I have a kvass before, or with, the food.
That’s it, eleven things, plus a side dish, that have kept me motivated for two years now. Feel free to comment and add any other tips you think will help others stay on their elimination type diet.
You can find the products I use to make things easier in the kitchen, in my Amazon Store you do not pay any more shopping from my links but your doing so will support my site :).