5 Things to Know Before Starting an Elimination Diet
by Kate Daugherty, MS, CNS, Functional Nutritionist
The Elimination Diet is a powerful therapeutic tool for better understanding a personal nutrition strategy. It can help you reduce inflammation, restore your microbiome, uncover food intolerances, and live a more balanced life.
In my opinion, the most valuable part of the “diet” is the reintroduction phase. So often, we want to rush through this phase. We get to Day 31 of a 30-Day-Challenge and BAM! Pizza! MacNCheese! Nachos! All at once, we add things back in and we don’t actually take the time to learn WHAT foods work and which ones don’t.
So, we created The Elimination Diet Guide to help you see the big picture: what happens after you’re done eliminating things? What are you looking for as you reintroduce? I want you to be successful and fulfilled in this diet and ultimately find an eating strategy that works FOR YOU.
Thinking you’re ready? - Here are FIVE things to know before starting an Elimination Diet.
#1: Plan Ahead
Don’t jump into the diet simply thinking, “OK, I’ll cut out X,Y,Z for 30 Days and then see how I feel”. Instead, look at the journey from start to finish. Lay out exactly how reintroductions will go, and set your mindset to include that in your “diet timeline”. I think two months is more realistic for the Elimination/Reintroduction. That means 14 days of strict elimination, and beginning to add things in on Day 15. When you’re constantly reintroducing foods, you get novelty and avoid diet fatigue.
>> It can be helpful to take a serious look at your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer ahead of time. Are there things that will tempt you to ‘cheat’? Do you have plenty of nutritious, approved, satisfying foods? Set yourself up for success by looking ahead and stocking up on foods that will support the diet. <<
#2: This is the Gold Standard.
Why not do a food sensitivity test? Because the Elimination Diet is the gold standard in determining food allergies/intolerances and sensitivities. A blood test (or other methods) is recognizably unreliable. If you have a Leaky Gut, you will flag for MANY foods that may or may not be problematic for you. If you have an Autoimmune Disease, you are likely to react to a great number of food proteins!
There isn’t a shortcut here. It’s best to put in the effort to do it right the first time, rather than go back and repeat the process when results are confusing.
It can be pretty challenging to sort through Elimination Diets, YES/NO Lists, and other resources available on the internet: They are all so different. How do you decide if the Whole30 or the AIP or the Low-FODMAP or the GAPS Diet is appropriate?!
The Elimination Diet Guide uses elements from all of the above and gives you a clearer picture of exactly what NOT to eat as well as what to EAT. We’ve done the work for you of compiling what we believe to be the broad-spectrum of trigger foods and systematically challenging them.
#3: This is Not a Weight Loss Diet
When you replace the Standard American Diet with real, whole, nutritious foods you may find that weight loss is a great side effect. However, it is NOT the focus of an Elimination Diet. Instead, this is a therapeutic eating plan meant to help you resolve inflammation, fix your gut, and minimize negative symptoms that may be attributed to your eating patterns (fatigue, brain fog, mood issues, acne, and more).
There is no restriction on calories, eating windows, or portions. It is a chance for you to get in tune with your body and honor what it is telling you. We provide Sample Meal Plans and Recipes as a starting point; but you’re free to add-in extra snacks and meals as needed. Forget your preconceived notions of the word “DIET” and think of this more as a NUTRITION STRATEGY for better health.
#4: It's Easier Than You Think (And It's Not Forever)
Often, taking on a new diet can be a major lifestyle overhaul. An Elimination Diet does not have to be that way. (Assuming you follow #1: Plan Ahead) When you focus on all the amazing things you CAN eat, it feels exciting!
Remind yourself of your “WHY” behind the diet. Is it worth devoting 60-days of change in order to minimize your main symptoms? Will you really regret it?
One of the best tips before taking on the Elimination Diet is talk about it! Ask your friends and family for their opinion; I bet you find you have a lot of people willing to support you. Social events, family dinners, and travel plans are not a reason to give up. Use those times as a chance to empower yourself and those around you about PUTTING YOUR HEALTH FIRST.
You will not be eating this way forever, and there will likely be a time in your life that you eat a slice of pizza again.
#5: You May Find Out More than You Want
I can guarantee you’re going to learn about yourself through The Elimination Diet. You’ll learn your habits, your priorities, and maybe a little more than you wanted to about your nutrition. Spend some time considering that. What happens if you do the Elimination Diet and uncover that something like ALMONDS are a culprit triggering your migraines? Are you willing to admit when certain foods you LOVE are also bringing you down?
Reframe it as awareness. If you do the diet and discover unpleasant food sensitivities, there’s no one that is checking up on you and giving you a lashing if you slip up. Instead, it’s about having the power.
“I KNOW that Almonds can trigger a migraine for me, but I’m willing to accept the consequences by eating them in this instance.”
Once you understand the foods that work for you (or don’t), it gives you a great foundation for developing your personal nutrition strategy moving forward. You can take the responsibility for how you feel depending on the food choices you make. THIS is what it is about.
The Elimination Diet is really a chance to get to know yourself better, to develop personal nutrition, and address lingering symptoms. I believe that nutrition is so individualized. MY diet is going to look very different than your diet, and very different from our friends' diets. They may all be 'healthy'! To get to that point, you've got to put in the 'hard work' of being intentional with food choices and ultimately finding more freedom.
Want to work with a functional nutritionist to personalize your diet? Struggling with hormone imbalance, IBS, weight gain, mood changes? Let's look at FOOD FIRST. Read more about Functional Nutrition at The Facility here.
CLICK HERE to schedule a FREE 15-Minute Nutrition Consult with Kate to determine your best course of action!