How To: Elimination Diet

Three months now since the start of the most dramatic experience of my own nutrition journey, I can honestly say I would do it again!

So you’re wondering if participating in an Elimination Diet is the right decision for you? Three months now since the start of the most dramatic experience of my own nutrition journey, I can honestly say I would happily do it again! A few quick and dirty details from what I’ve learned: I no longer drink as much caffeine, I no longer eat as much sugar, I find my meals are wayyy more balanced (without even trying), I rarely feel the need to snack between meals (because of this balance), and my alcohol consumption has decreased majorly! Additionally, I am much more in touch with how different things I consume affect my mood, energy, and overall health, and I am more sincerely interested in understanding how to listen to and communicate effectively with my body. But more on each of these topics to follow…

I had a lot of people ask me about the diet as I was going through it, questions regarding what I was eating, how I was feeling, and what exactly was the objective of the experience. I always enjoyed these conversations because talking about the experience as it was happening had a way of reinforcing my motivation to stay focused, and always brought me back to the original intent I had in starting the diet in the first place.

Since it’s obvious now to most people with whom I interact on any kind of regular basis that I no longer follow any kind of strict or specific dietary restrictions, the questions have taken a little bit of a shift. I’ve had a lot of friends and family ask me recently about that original intent, as well as what exactly I took away from the experience that allows me to speak so highly of it. Most impactful, I’ve found, has been the fact that while my dieting habits truly have changed since completing the experience, I have not felt the need to completely restrict myself from enjoying any of life’s greatest offerings in terms of food and drink. Some friends have even asked me to help them to begin the design process for starting their own elimination diet. This makes me the most excited, as I mentioned, I’d love to do it again myself and so I strongly encourage everyone participate in an elimination experience at least once in their lives – regardless if you consider yourself extremely healthy and aware of your body’s reaction to what you consume, or are just looking for a starting point in figuring this all out.

In order to create this “sort-of” guide through my experience, I thought I’d start by breaking down the “why.” Why did I decide to do this, and why do I think it was a good and important decision?

Why the heck did you do this?
I’ve never been a big fan of taking medicine, because I have always truly believed there should be, and probably is a natural remedy for most things that ail us as humans. (Truthfully, this was sparked after a bad experience with an antibiotic I was allergic to as a kid, but I digress…). After all, we are just animals, so why shouldn’t we fuel our bodies similarly? While I am thankful for the cures to diseases and illnesses that exist, I have always felt strongly that I could be doing more to prevent my body from feeling the need to take chemically engineered drugs in the first place.

When I first graduated college, I was under an extreme amount of stress (as most recent college grads are), and I found myself visiting doctors who would test me for a slew of crazy-scary things including crohn’s disease, and celiacs. Thankfully my tests always came back negative, however these experiences led me to really start to question why I was visiting these doctors in the first place. If I was so “healthy,” why was I having issues with my digestive system which were causing doctors to even consider I might have some kind of more serious issue?

Fast forward a couple of years and my body likely adjusted to the stress of being in the real world, so I felt as if the digestive issues began to subside, when really it was more likely that my system was beginning to learn how to cope with them. And even still, what remained were a random assortment of other “discomforts” that were difficult to link to one another, let alone one specific cause. When I really think about it, the answer to the question of why I ultimately took the plunge of the elimination experience can be summarized with one word: headaches. As of November of 2016, I felt as if for as long as I could remember I’d had at least a headache a day. It might sound as if this has to be some kind of a hyperbole, but the truth is, despite considering myself pretty healthy, including drinking a ton of water throughout each day, I somehow was still chasing off these mysterious painful murmurs in my head whether it be with essential oils, meditation, or often with Motrin and ibuprofen.

If I really was drinking enough water and eating the way my body needed and wanted me to on a regular basis, why did I seem to always have a headache?

As mentioned in my original post on beginning the diet, I was sparked onto the idea by a blogger I followed along with via Instagram. She was influential to me because of how passionate she was about the results she was seeing, but also because I was able to relate to her in other areas of health and wellness, including a rare hormonal syndrome I have had since birth. So I just decided to. I decided this could be something really great for my overall well-being, and I was immediately really excited for the possibility of kind of discovering myself and my body for the first time. I thought, “I’ve never even asked my body what it wants and needs. Who am I to assume I just know?” For someone who has spent the last several years getting in touch with my body physically and spiritually through exercise, yoga, and meditation, it felt it only made sense to connect with myself nutritionally, as well.

How did you know where to start?
The simple answer to this question, and the truth: I didn’t. I had no idea, and it was incredibly overwhelming to try to figure out because the internet is never-ending! I committed to the idea around November of 2016. At this point I was a little over 3 years removed from college, yet still carried a lot of the same habits as my 21-year old self: I drank nearly every night, even if only one glass of wine, and I was no stranger to several desserts in any given day – I don’t mean to suggest that these things are completely wrong, but I knew they weren’t necessarily ideal habits, and I hadn’t even given my body a chance to really communicate with me clearly as to whether or not they were good for me.

So I started to research. I am used to always having something to read for pleasure, so I set aside my typical novel-on-the-train routine, and instead would dedicate any free moment of time I had to reading as much as I could about different elimination experiences. I would even print off articles at my office so that I was guaranteed to have materials for my commute in case the internet from my phone was unavailable. I was 100% dedicated to the idea of completing the diet, but I was admittedly terrified of doing it incorrectly, or worse, putting myself through some kind of hell to not get out of it what I really wanted: clarity and understanding of what I should be consuming for my body’s health and wellness optimization.

While I was learning a lot, the research was still very overwhelming. The biggest takeaway I found overall: there is no right or wrong way to complete an elimination diet. But some of the more useful tips I carried with me throughout my experience included the following:

  1. Plan, Plan, Plan – I was nervous about a few different things specifically. Firstly, I was afraid I would have no idea what to eat. Secondly, I was afraid by not knowing what to eat, I’d end up not consuming enough food, and my body would miss out on important nutrients. Thirdly, I was afraid I didn’t understand enough about the different varieties of foods out there that I would not really know if what I was eating was appropriately aligned to my restrictions, or not. All of these fears were resolved through planning ahead. I planned everything. EV-RE-THANG! I planned my shopping trips by the day of the week I would make them happen, what meals would be prepared through that trip, and what all ingredients (down to the spices) would be acquired through that trip. I planned what I would eat every single day, of course, but I also planned what snacks would be on deck, just in case I was hungry between meals. I also saved myself from begin stressed over the responsibility of planning, by scheduling out time to plan/research. For example, I started the diet on a Wednesday, but really only had the first three days accounted for at the time that I started, because I knew I’d have free time Friday night to get my weekend in order, and then free time on Sunday to plan for the following week. My advice when it comes to planning: Do what works best for you and your schedule; be realistic, and don’t feel the need to plan lightyears in advance as long as you know you have a few hours in your schedule, and especially if there’s a nearby grocery store. 🙂
  2. Chill Out – As I mentioned, there is no right or wrong way to do an elimination diet, and so while I was strict to the parameters I set for myself, I was also pretty lenient on the way in which I monitored and altered my progress. I allowed for change throughout my experience, and I wasn’t too hard on myself if I realized I needed to make such a change. I knew it would be a stressful journey if I took it too seriously, so I approached everything as a learning experience. I also knew it would be more expensive than what I was probably used to spending on food, so if I bought something new but ended up not liking it – I didn’t get too torn up about it. I ended up donating quite a few things at the end of the experience, and while I could’ve looked at this as a waste of money, I decided instead to view it as part of the process. I was way happier knowing the food I didn’t want would go to someone else who would eat it, rather than I would have been forcing myself to stomach something I didn’t enjoy, or just throwing it in the trash. Plus, I found out a lot about my tastes, and new ways to prepare foods so that I actually do like them. On a separate note: my taste buds changed A LOT (but more on that later).
  3. Focus On The Positive – I won’t sugar coat it, it was tough. But much like running a marathon, getting started is always the hardest part. I found the first two or three days were incredibly rough for me because I somewhat threw my body and mind into a total phase of shock, and both had to learn on the go how to adjust to my new lifestyle (one of the hardest things I gave up was caffeine). Thinking back on it now, I know it would have been soooooo easy to give in within that first week (and trust me, I really wanted to), but I realized very quickly not only was I developing a special connection with my body and different internal systems, but I was also developing a special connection with my mind. I was uncovering a will power I didn’t really know I had within me. When I learned to take this as a positive focal point, I felt empowered more than I did anxious, or stressed. By the end of the first week, I was sailing. It was easy. And truthfully, the only other time I struggled was the last couple days before beginning the re-introduction, but I think this was mostly because I was so excited and anxious to see my hard work become fruitful. (As another side note, I wholeheartedly believe it was in part the will power that was developed through this experience that allowed me to finish a kick-ass half marathon, my first ever, only a month later).
  4. Hold Yourself Accountable – I have always been somewhat of a writer so this was second nature for me, but I found to journal about my experience was something I ended up looking forward to a lot. I knew I would need to write about what I ate each day, and how it made me feel, so I was cognizant about these things enough to reflect on them and be mindful of the experience. I also had the blessing of Brenen participating with me throughout the experience, so it was really motivating to know if I was hitting a wall, I could talk to him about it, or we could brainstorm recipe ideas together or discuss how we were feeling on a regular basis. However you need to do it – holding yourself accountable through any experience is probably one of the most important tasks you can do. The process of reflection was especially special to me because it really added value to the results I took away from the diet – I was able to clearly compare before, during, and after.

So with these ideas in mind, it was around late December that I decided I was pretty much ready…but that I also needed more time. I could have totally started after only a few short weeks of research and planning, but that would have run me into the holidays, and like I said, I was not exactly confident that I would even be able to do the damn thing, so I wanted to set myself up for as much success as possible by avoiding as many temptations as I could. I dedicated myself to another few weeks of learning (went to Shake Shack on Fat Tuesday), and my diet officially started on Wednesday, March 1. I sat up in bed and beamed as bright as I did on Christmas morning declaring, “Today’s the day! Today my diet starts, and my life will forever be changed, I just know it!” And it was precisely this attitude that carried me through the next five to six weeks.

So how did it actually work?
The “not one size fits all” theme is mostly referring to the way in which individuals eliminate foods throughout the experience. The science behind the diet is that it takes about 20-23 days of detox before your body should be considered completely clear of a substance. This of course varies from human to human depending on consumption, body fat, exercise routine, water ingestion, etc. So the strategy is: remove different potential trigger foods from your diet for 20-23 days, and then reintroduce this trigger food slowly, in a controlled amount, monitoring the affects it has on your body, including your mental and emotional state.

A trigger food should/could be anything that could be considered less than natural for a human to digest. Think the Paleo diet, which largely consists of one only eating what would have been consumed during the age in which humans had to literally hunt for their food. If a caveman couldn’t eat it, neither can someone following the Paleo diet…and essentially neither could I during my Elimination Diet. Since there is a large spectrum of what could be considered a trigger food, I found that many online blogs and forums identified the “easy” way to go about the diet would be to break it up into 3-4 rounds of processing. This would be “easier” to some because they wouldn’t have to worry about eliminating so much at once. For example, they might eliminate dairy, eggs, and soy for 3 weeks, re-introduce each for the following 2-3 weeks, then begin again with another round. I never really even considered doing it this way because patience (believe it or not) is not my strongest suit. I decided if I was going to do it, I might as well just go all-in.

So all-in I went, and MY elimination diet removed 11 items from my diet all at once, beginning on Day 1. The list of potential triggers I removed included:

  • Gluten
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Corn
  • Tree Nuts (except coconut)
  • Peanuts
  • Caffeine
  • Artificial Sugar
  • Artificial Color
  • Alcohol

*As a note, I also did everything I could to avoid preservatives, but I didn’t think it fair to assume I completely avoided it since I did eat at restaurants quite a bit. S/o to the NYC health-food scene!

As I alluded to with my Paleo comparison, essentially my diet wound up consisting of about 70% fruits and vegetables, and 30% lean meat.A typical day for me began with overnight gluten-free oatmeal for breakfast, a hearty salad for lunch, and some kind of meat with vegetables for dinner. To see more day by day breakdowns of what I ate, check out some of my posts that carried me through the process back in March.

I practiced this (for the most-part consistent) diet for 21 days, and on day 22, re-introduced the first contender. The order in which we re-introduced each food group was largely impacted by our desires, and less so by much of what research had recommended. But again, no right or wrong. 🙂 First up for me was caffeine (Brenen didn’t give this up), then gluten, then dairy, soy, eggs, and alcohol, and then the artificials, tree nuts, corn, and finally peanuts. Actually, most of what I read recommended doing an order somewhat completely opposite of this. The reason being: you are more likely to have a reaction to some of the more obvious triggers such as gluten and dairy, so it makes more sense to leave them for last, getting the less likely trigger foods out of the way first. All the same, believe me, we got our results. You can also learn more about our takeaways by checking out my after the diet post, which I added back in April.

Life after Eliminating
As I mentioned at the start of this post – my diet really has changed. A lot. I never feel as if I can’t eat certain things, but I know exactly how I could potentially feel if I choose to. I know how my body will respond to almost anything that I give it, solely based on whatever it is that item might be composed of.

So why all the fuss, and why are we still talking about it now? Like I said, for me the goal was to learn. I talk a lot about this stuff – health, wellness, best practices, mindfulness…but I wanted to actually walk the walk. The goal for me was never to change much about my lifestyle, but rather to discover more about what made the most sense for me as a human, to learn more about my body, which is my temple, and to learn more about health in general through the research that went along with my process. To say I achieved these goals would be an understatement. The takeaways from this experience far outweighed the difficulty that came with completing it. If you’re interested, I’ll name a few:

  1. The headaches? GONE. While it doesn’t feel as if my diet has changed drastically since finishing the elimination experience, it kind of has. No, I didn’t immediately start to completely avoid any one thing, but I am much more mindful about what I consume, when, and how much. Before March, drinking 3-4 cups of coffee a day was normal. Did I need it? Probably not. Do I still need to drink coffee now? No. And because I gave it up for so long, it’s easy to still enjoy a cup every once in a while, however getting away with 4-5 a week was one of most dramatic changes I took away from the diet. Similarly, I eat way less sugar than I ever thought possible. I am just not attracted to it the same way I used to be. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my donuts 🙂 but to be completely honest, their appearance in my diet has diminished a lot. It’s somewhat sad to think about, but at the same time, I know it’s because I truly don’t like eating them anymore as much as I used to. I developed a whole new sense of intuition when it comes to my body, my diet, and my overall feelings, and I know that while a few bites of a donut would be magical, I’d likely end up wasting the second half because nine times out of ten, I simply wouldn’t be interested in finishing it. (Okay, I actually did have 3 donuts this weekend, but they were the first donuts I had in probably the past several weeks. That’s saying a lot from a gal who used to eat at least 2-4 every week!). The same goes with other treats I used to love like peanut MnMs and sour patch kids. I used to always have a bag of one of these treats in my desk drawer or purse, but they’ve now been replaced with fresh fruit, or dark chocolate that would’ve been nearly acceptable during the diet. As I mentioned before, my taste buds underwent a major development. What might have seemed less appetizing than the aforementioned, or even “gross” because of it’s health-factor, has now actually become the types of snacks and foods I am most attracted to for those exact reasons.
  2. I’ve never slept better! Many people who I’ve spoken with directly about the experience know that the most prominent takeaway for both me and Brenen was the power it had on our sleep. Remember, he didn’t give up caffeine, either. Yet, within just 2-3 days of the detox, we both agreed we’d never experienced such a wonderful, completely full and re-energizing night of sleep. It was truly incredible, and I feel I’ll never really be able to describe it fully with just words. I wouldn’t have even necessarily considered myself a troubled-sleeper before, but even now, I am envious of the sleeps I got during those few weeks of being completely clean.
  3. The mood of a champion, and the energy of a thousand suns seems realistic enough of a metaphor to summarize my overall aura throughout the process, and even most days now.  I think most would agree I am a positive person by nature, but I was on a whole new level during the experience. I already spoke to my confidence increasing, and how the diet contributed to me continuing to work hard toward achieving additional goals, but truly the source was in the process itself. I was cleaning my system of all the crap it didn’t need/want, and as a result, I was functioning all around better! Perhaps, living my best life?

So…all this is great, but how do you know if it’ll be as great for you?

YOUR Elimination Experience?
From one of the many sources I took a page toward preparing for my diet, I think FeedMePhoebe said it best:

“The immune system is a funny beast. When we are consistently eating foods that cause an inflammatory response, it leaves our immune system in a constant state of hyperactivity. The fog of ongoing war makes it harder to pinpoint an acute response to something you’re allergic to; the symptoms aren’t as severe because your baseline “normal” may already include said symptoms.

When you remove these irritants, however, your immune system has a chance to calm and recede. And like any overworked army, once your antibodies have had that rest period, they are that much more capable of attacking invaders with all their might.”

As I have already mentioned (probably too many times), I strongly feel that this experience can be and should be for everyone. If you’ve spoken to me in person about it, you’ve likely experienced my passion for the process firsthand. This is because to me, it’s simple: this is your body we are talking about. At the end of everything, what else can you count on? All of the systems inside a machine depend on the fuel which it uses to operate. That’s why we don’t put milk in the gas tanks of our cars – they weren’t designed to run on milk, so while they might be able to, it probably wouldn’t be the most efficient source of energy for them. The same can be said for me and you. There is a world of deliciousness out there, and it’s often fun to indulge in new and fun foods. I don’t plan to ever stop trying new things. I love eating and drinking and donuts and coffee. But I also love having a deep awareness about how everything I consume contributes to how I sleep at night, how effective of a workout I’m likely the have the next day, where my newest pimple probably came from, and why my hair might not be growing at the rate I want it to. To me, I enjoy being in control of my diet and what comes from the way I eat, rather than feeling as if what I eat is in control of how I feel. Not to mention, I decided if my body truly doesn’t like something enough to make me feel super icky and run-down, I really probably shouldn’t overdo it on that particular thing. And I’m okay with that. Some people I’ve spoken to about the experience will say, “well, I’ll never stop eating whatever I want, whenever I want.” I think that’s great! You shouldn’t, and you don’t have to. The Elimination Diet isn’t necessarily a gateway to alter your intake of certain foods, for me at least, it was simply an opportunity to learn more about the most important thing in my life – the thing that gives me that life in the first place.

Maybe you have some issues in mind already that you’re considering might mean this experience is perfect for you. Maybe you’re not sure of what ails you, but you feel something may be off.  Maybe you just want to be brave, and try something new with guaranteed positive results 🙂 Whatever it may be, below is a list of common symptoms which could mean the Elimination Diet is a good challenge to consider. And after all, the best part is there is not a negative outcome. To me, those are the best kind of risks to take.

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain/inflammation
  • Skin breakouts/rashes
  • Headaches
  • Bowel changes/pain
  • Bloating
  • Confusion/lack of focus
  • Sinus/respiratory issues
  • Digestive issues
  • Mood swings
  • Weak Immune System

One final note: have fun! If you’re not having fun, why are you doing it (whatever it is)? And if you are having fun, you’ve already won (A mantra no stranger to my middle school days)! Brenen and I were able to enjoy the diet because we tried so many new things! Granted, we had the privilege of exploring some restaurants because NYC luckily has a variety of places that fit the bill, but more often than not, we prepared our own meals.

To be honest, I’ve felt I’ve been on this journey of self-discovery for some time now, but this experience lit a whole new fire I never knew existed. I am already excited for the next adventure of my body and mind…and I SO look forward to those who decide to take a leap of faith and step up to the challenge. Please!!! Ask me questions, pick my brain, and tell me how it goes!!! I love sharing in other’s discoveries and excitement. It’s incredible what you can learn when you listen to your body.

The Final Week – How Do You Spell Positivity?: My Elimination Experience

It’s been a while, and this post will be short.

This weekend was not easy. We’re so close yet feel so far away.

There was a lot of irritability floating around between myself and Brenen, and try as I might to maintain a healthy enough level of positivity for the both of us, I have been struggling. The funniest part is, it’s not even that I miss certain foods or drinks, or that I have even really been craving anything specific. Okay, I actually could really go for a beer…but it’s more that the restrictions have left us missing out on experiences. That realization has been increasingly frustrating. Prior to her visit with my mom to the city, my sister and her boyfriend were in Boston, and had asked us to join. It was the first weekend of our diet, so to avoid feeling tempted or out of place, we declined. Unforeseen, we felt the need to pass up a second opportunity to go with friends from the city this weekend. Of course we still could have made the trip (or even both), but what’s Boston without a Lobster Roll and a drink by the Bay? Still Boston, I get it…just complaining over here…

I’ve never been to MA, and now the opportunity has been propositioned twice within our elimination period. It’s hard to think taking a trip or trying something new would be logically worthwhile right now when our main focus is just on achieving the goals in front of us. Not to mention, both of us realizing this has caused us both to become irritable and frustrated. It’s not been difficult maintaining within our restrictions – it’s been difficult realizing how easy it would be to just not.

Ah but enough of that pessimistic crap! On the up side, we made a couple great -no probably the best we’ve had- meals recently! A long-anticipated roast went up this weekend, and holy crap I’ve never had something homemade so well. It was a crockpot recipe and took less than an hour to throw together, including my trip to Whole Foods on a Sunday morning!

I’ll save you all the details but it’s clear this past week/weekend was no walk in the park, especially when compared to the initial days of the journey. I think getting through Monday and Tuesday (days 20-21) will feel like crossing a new threshold. Even though the diet will continue for the most part, knowing we’re on the other side of the little mountain (I feel) will have significant impact on both our attitudes. Onward to reintroduction!

Day 13: 03/13
No Exercise

Morning:
Lemon Ginger Tea
Overnight oats + vanilla extract w/no berries

Afternoon:
Chopt Chicken Tinga (didn’t finish)

Evening:
Leftover homemade chili for dinner
Rice cake topped w/almond butter, cinnamon, honey, and cocoa powder before bed

Day 14: 03/14
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon

Exercise:
Yoga power flow

Morning:
Rice cake topped w/almond butter
Overnight oats w/blueberries

Afternoon:
Smoothie -apples, kiwi, ginger, spinach, almond milk, ice
Grapes as a snack

Evening:
Grilled chicken salad w/apples, dried cranberries, avocado, and homemade balsamic vinegar dressing

Day 15: 03/15
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
Rice cake topped with almond butter + honey

Exercise:
4 miles, 500 calories
Weight Lifting for Arms

Morning:
Quick “overnight” oats
-honey, cinnamon, almond milk, blueberries

Afternoon:
Hu Kitchen rotisserie chicken w/roasted sweet potatoes + cinnamon pineapple & cashew milk
Yogi Women’s Energy Herbal Tea
Blueberry Power w/Chi Tea

Day 16: 03/16
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
Rice cake topped with almond butter + honey

Exercise:
Half-Marathon Training
Weight Training for Arms

Morning:
Overnight oats w/berries
Cherry Lara bar

Afternoon:
Carrots w/hummus
Double Chicken Tinga w/beans, apples, beets
Herbal tea

Day 17: 03/17
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
Rice cake topped with almond butter + honey

Exercise:
Half-Marathon Training
Yoga hip stretches
Handstand practice

Afternoon:
Hu kitchen 1/4 rotisserie chicken + cinnamon & cashew milk pineapple, sweet potatoes
Apple Lara Bar
Grapes
Dried beet chips
Cashew lara bar
Herbal tea

Day 18: 03/18
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
Rice cake topped with almond butter + honey

No Exercise

Morning:
Baked steelcut oats w/apples

Afternoon:
Green juice – kale, apples, ginger, celery, cucumber, lemon
BBQ roasted chickpeas
Hummus w/celery

Evening:
Crock Pot roast – boneless chuck shoulder roast w/carrots, celery and chipotle seasoning
Blueberry crumble made w/almond flour

Day 19: 03/19
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon

Exercise:
Vinyasa power yoga

Morning:
Leftover baked steel cut oats + leftover blueberry crumble served cold w/milk
Fresh fruit

Afternoon:
Leftover roast w/carrots
Yogi Women’s Energy Herbal Tea
Apple Larabar

Evening:
Snacks 180 blueberry almond crisps
Honey/cinnamon chicken w/cinnamon roasted beets and homemade almond butter dressing over mixed field greens
Lemon ginger tea
 

The Second Weekend: My Elimination Experience

This weekend was so easy! Even with mom and Taylor visiting, I was able to make it work and never felt pressured to lose control or sway off course. Okay, so the trip to Dō was a little unsettling – the new cookie dough dessert store between West Village and SoHo is what I imagine all dreams are made of, but ALWAYS has over an hour wait lined down the block. Of course, when we strolled by around opening on Thursday, there were only a few others ahead of us, and mom and Taylor got to walk straight in! I couldn’t believe it, and it was truly very tempting to just have a little taste (of everything!) but after thorough investigation of all of their allergens, I excused myself to wait outside with the mantra and self-promise that I will get to go back one day…and have a short and sweet wait like they did 🤦🏽‍♀️

My sister is a newfound fan of Korean BBQ, so we had to hit up K-Town during their stay, plus my mom has never been. I got us a table at my favorite little restaurant, and our sever could not have been more accommodating. I was prepared, of course, having packed enough snacks to get me through dinner without having to eat much (if anything) from the restaurant. But I explained my restrictions when we first sat down (yes, all of them!) and she made me feel as if I was actually enjoying Korean BBQ on any other trip. We communicated through broken but guided understandings of one another and she blockaded the items I wasn’t able to enjoy, serving them on the complete opposite side of the table, and waving me off as she sat them down. At first, I expected this to leave me with little options, but she ensured what could be compromised by the rest of the group was done so, and she continually brought refills of the goodies I could have so that I didn’t go hungry. And by the end of the experience I was far from it. I chowed down on rice, pear root, plain cabbage and lettuce, an unseasoned Asian salad, and of course all of the non-marinated meat I could get to before the others. It was good, as always, but being able to enjoy it now made it better than ever.

To be honest, “inclusion” has been somewhat of a hot topic throughout this experience. I think I entered into the diet under the assumption I would be shunned from friends, or that my restrictions would be ignored by others around me – especially those that I didn’t even know, like our server that night. I’ve been exceptionally pleasantly surprised to learn things have been much of the opposite. Not only do I feel as if my friends and family have been supportive of my endeavor, but so have complete strangers. “It is what it is,” has been the popular attitude, and at best, I sometimes even get questions from people who want to learn more about the diet. I guess making diet changes, or even participating in a healthy lifestyle nowadays can sometimes be looked at kind of sideways, almost as if others are afraid one who does take such actions in their life indicates they believe themselves to be better. I certainly don’t consider myself better than any other human! At the same time, I personally believe making any kind of diet/exercise/health related change should benefit YOU and your lifestyle/health and fitness goals. It’s been reassuring, encouraging, and overall an extremely positive experience feeling as if I am surrounded by such support, or at least indifference.

And of course the most supportive of all — after company left, Brenen and I had a little diet-date, and were lucky to find a cute little Vegan spot in our neighborhood: Rockin’ Raw. Without having to ask, the entire menu automatically met all our requirements: no gluten, no soy, and everything vegan friendly! We each enjoyed our own absurd combinations of brunch and finished with a homemade dessert. I got a chocolate cheesecake and he a sweet iced carrot cake.

The weekends were a top concern a few weeks ago, but this entire weekend just felt peaceful. It was easy, and we are so happy. Not to mention, waking up on Sunday with full bodied energy heading into the week has been the best perk of all! I can feel myself getting stronger every day, and I can’t wait to move forward and see where (else) this journey takes me/us! 🙂

Day 10: 03/10
No Exercise
Morning:

Peach tea w/steamed lemonade
1 dried prune

Afternoon:
Rice cake w/almond butter
Green grapes for snack  

Evening:
Korean BBQ
-Non-marinated meat
-Raw vegetables
-Unseasoned cabbage/seaweed salad
-Plain white rice w/no soy
Day 11: 03/11
No Exercise
Morning:

Peach tea w/steamed lemonade
Rice cake topped w/almond butter

Afternoon:
Smoothie from IndieKitchen
-Fresh berries, spinach, almond milk, flax seed mix
SweetGreen Harvest Salad

Evening:
1/2 Rotisserie Chicken from Chelsea Market
Antioxidant NutBox nut mix
Fresh grapes
Herbal (decaffeinated) Green Tea

Day 12: 03/12
Pre-Workout:
Lemon Ginger Tea

Exercise:
Athletic Yoga w/Brenen & Jay 😊

Morning/Afternoon:
Rockin’ Raw Ranchero
-two mini sun-dried tomato tortillas, topped with seed meat, sunflower queso fresco, fried ‘egg,’ spicy carob tomato sauce, and salsa
Rockin’ Raw “Fried Egg” Sandwich
-open faced, served with a ‘fried egg’ over sesame bread dressed with sliced avocado, sunflower cream cheese, tomato, and greens

Evening:
Yogi Womens Energy Herbal Tea
Homemade Chili
-ground turkey, beans, tomatoes, seasoning, vegetables
Vanilla Home Free cookies

Day 9 – Bye, Bye, Bananas: My Elimination Experience

The theme of the diet has been making it my own, and listening to MY body.  Unfortunately, even on Day 9 the headaches are still persisting. What I originally thought was solely due to cutting out caffeine cold turkey, I’ve now considered may be (also in part) to too much chocolate/sugar or not enough water. Perhaps it’s both. As I’ve mentioned, many “typical” elimination experiences eliminate much more than what I decided to do, but Brenen and I have been making adjustments throughout our own journey, some of which are unique to us individually, too. As an example, I am going to go ahead and kick the cocoa. 😦 It’s a sad, sad realization, but I think I have to do it – at least so that I can be sure it’s something I want to continue eating in the long-run. Similarly, we both decided we should cut back on the bananas. Like chocolate, they weren’t technically meant to be included anyway because they are such an oddity in the realm of fruits and vegetables because they have a higher level of natural fructose. They’re also high in fiber, specifically resistant starch, which our bodies cannot absorb. Since fiber is actually one of the more interesting points of observation for both of us, it makes sense we eliminate bananas moving forward.

To be honest, I do wish I could have a coffee. Or a drink. Yep, it’s that kind of day today. I’ve been thinking a lot though about my humanity throughout all of this, and to be honest, I don’t know why or when humans (specifically this human) became so mentally dependent (almost handicapped, it sometimes feels) by particular food groups. It’s a weird, and unpleasant feeling now that I am sitting outside the space of it. I don’t want to feel like I need to eat something that I know will in turn, not make me feel great. Shouldn’t we only ever be eating things that make us feel our best selves? It’s interesting…yet simple, right?

So Day 9 hasn’t been my favorite, but it’s still day by day, and I know it’s for the best. Yes, somewhat completely terrible at times (ok, I am over-dramatic), but for the best. Plus (!!!) on a higher note, my mom and sister are visiting this week/weekend! They get here today. They’re already way in the loop on the diet situation, and so supportive, but I am sure we will still be hitting up some fun spots that will be more than tempting – thus, now is as good as time as any to really toughen up! I am excited to spend time with family, and look forward to challenging myself…and continuing to win! 😉

Day 9: 03/09
Pre-Workout:
Lemon ginger tea
1 dried prune

Workout:
Cardio + arm strength

Morning:
Apple, plum, raspberry, and blueberry smoothie
Overnight Oats + raspberries and blueberries

Afternoon:
Pineapple w/cinnamon
Sea salt dark chocolate
Hu kitchen rotisserie chicken w/roasted sweet potatoes + puffed quinoa
Hu chocolate w/mint
Herbal tea
Dried cranberries

Evening:
Korean BBQ
-beef brisket, pork belly, cow tongue
-lettuce, onion, cabbage
-pear root, salt/pepper + garlic oil
-white rice
Green grapes

Week 2 – Listen To Your Body: My Elimination Experience

I haven’t been sleeping poorly, but the sleep hasn’t been as good as it was the first few nights. Perhaps I’m eating too much sugar too late in the day. I know sugar is typically eliminated from the common elimination diet, but this is MY elimination diet, and so while I’ve never really been much of a sweet-tooth, I didn’t feel the need to completely forbid myself from a sweet now and again. To be clear here, the sugars, or sweeteners rather, that I am consuming are for the most part just in the form of natural raw honey and organic blue agave. There has been the occasional allowance of pure cane sugar or light brown sugar, but I determined early on in my planning that I didn’t really cross paths with sugar enough to worry about going out of my way to avoid it.

Anyway, I’m going to experiment with avoiding sugar at least in the evening moving forward. Further, Brenen and I both decided to eliminate bananas, and I am going to leave the chocolate at the door :(. These are both also noted as common “triggers,” cut out of most elimination experiences, but we didn’t bother at first. To be clear, Brenen claimed that he hopped on this crazy train of mine as a “might as well” opportunity for him to experiment with his reactions to gluten and dairy. He personally hasn’t given up caffeine, (and isn’t that worried about cocoa), but otherwise he is on the same exact restrictions as I am. To be even more clear, I think he mostly just is just in this whole mess as a means to support me ;).

Which of course has to be contributing at least in slight measure to my mood, which has never been better! I know i’ve already mentioned this, but it remains steadily true, and is very profoundly obvious. I am still feeling extremely positive about the whole experience…despite it only being a quarter of the way through and my yearning for coffee and donuts growing everyday 😅 ..”I can do it!”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept: listening to your body. I’ve spoken about it before, and so it’s clear I’m a true believer in it – I think it’s fair to say I wouldn’t even be on this current venture if I wasn’t. Part of what makes most people I speak to skeptical of the whole process is “how do you know” when your body feels differently. Perhaps this is something that I’ve spent a lot of time working toward…but perhaps it’s also something that comes natural for each of us, if we let it. I believe our bodies are the only thing we have. Seriously. What else is there guiding you through life? Your brain? Your heart? All a part of your body, my friends! It might seem funny to cut-things-out along the way, but again, that’s why I am so determined to make this process my own! Listening to my headaches and pains and positive vibes and following the right nudges is what is going to make it worthwhile. 

I am back to attending regular physical therapy sessions for my skiing injury, and it’s actually be a great because I feel like I’m getting two workouts in in the mornings. As long as I wake up about 25-30 min earlier than normal, I can still hit the gym and then make it to PT before work. Because of this altered scheduling, I’ve been trying to focus on cardio and legs at the gym so I can save my arm and upper body strength for my therapy. I’ve also noticed the two-a-days (so-to-speak) are leaving me a bit more tired than usual. I usually can stay consistently active with my workout routine but, as you can notice, I’ve skipped a couple days already this week. I can’t say I’m thrilled about it because I am anxious about a potentially over-booked weekend with family visiting (yay!) which usually means my independent time is cut short. I suppose it’s a fair trade-off though. Mom and Taylor get here today and I am soooo excited! The weather has been nice and they are pumped for exploring, despite the trip coinciding with my diet. I’m looking forward to getting some q-time in with them both, and guess it’ll be a nice forced-break from the routine if my body apparently needs it. I’ve always listened to my body, but I feel like for the first time, I can hear her so loud and clear! Cheers to hump-day! 😀

Day 6: 03/06
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
1 dried prune

No exercise

Morning:
Overnight oats – no fruit

Afternoon:
Chopt Chicken Tinga – no cheese or tortilla
Hu Almond Fig
Celery + hummus

Evening:
Pasta w/marinara, salmon, mushrooms & zucchini
Fresh mango for dessert

Day 7: 03/07
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
1 dried prune (good for the brain)

Workout:
Full Body Strength Training
Rotator Cuff Physical Therapy

Morning:
Kale, blood orange, banana, and almond milk smoothie topped w/chia + flax seed mix
Overnight Oats

Afternoon:
Chop’t Chicken Tinga w/double chicken
Lemon Ginger Herbal Tea

Dinner:
Pasta w/marinara
Herbal tea

 

Day 8: 03/08
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
1 dried prune

No Exercise

Morning:
Overnight Oats

Afternoon:
Hu Kitchen 1/4 rotisserie chicken w/roasted market vegetables and pineapple w/cashew butter + cinnamon
Hu chocolate bar w/mint
Lemon Ginger Herbal Tea

Evening:
Pureed sweet potato bowl, w/banana + dark chocolate

The First Weekend: My Elimination Experience

It’s crazy to me that it’s almost 7:30PM (dinner time now), and I’ve only eaten…well…breakfast and lunch. But I’m not starving. The headaches are still sneaking in – never for long anymore though, and barely noticeable. This weekend was great! I expected it to be hard, hell to be honest, I expected it to be impossible. The week I never feared. As I mentioned, I’m used to my morning and afternoon routines at the office and the obstacles surrounding both have been easy enough to overcome. Another major challenge I feared would be the weekend which typically included joining friends for drinks, eating out, and drinking wine, and always included sleeping in past breakfast, drinking coffee, and eating donuts. Sigh…I sure do miss donuts.

Anyway, I feel good! I do, actually, I feel great! (And so does Brenen). The headaches, I’ve decided most definitely are related to  the caffeine. Other than the withdrawal side-effects, so far the biggest change I’ve noticed is my sleep – my uninterrupted, deep, completely rejuvenating sleep. It’s as if my entire being – body, mind, and soul are resting for the first time in my entire life. That’s how I feel when I wake up in the morning. It’s actually incredible and I am positive any explanation I give here will never do the experience justice. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and if anything grows stronger throughout the next couple weeks, I hope it’s my ability to maintain this feeling – to maintain this kind of sleep where I wake up in the morning ready to hop out of bed and literally feel as if I could accomplish anything!

 

Hand in hand, I’m also happier; just all around in a better mood. Brenen and I are getting along wonderfully. Not that we ever don’t, but there’s an energy here like never before. It’s healthy and it’s strong and it’s good. Our darling friends accommodated us on Sunday for an over-due family dinner. We hadn’t gotten together in a while as a whole group, so a couple who live together initiated a Taco Night. Of course, Brenen and I prepared to attend and not be able to eat (so packed a bag of snacks for ourselves), but we were beyond tickled to arrive to a full Make-Your-Own-Taco spread, including a sub station meeting all of our restrictions. What amazingly sweet humans! 🙂 So far, the pain and struggle and temptation have been worth every second of this journey, and discovering the positive impacts on my health has only been a portion of the reward. 😉 

Day 3: 03/03
Pre-Workout:
No exercise

Morning:
Hot water w/lemon
Quick oats w/blueberries, banana, honey, brown sugar, almond milk

Afternoon:
1/2 serving of Muscle Maker grilled chicken + steamed broccoli
Yogi Lemon Ginger Tea
1 C Carrots + Hummus
Hu Kitchen pear, spinach, blueberry smoothie
1/5 Hu Kitchen Crunchy Banana Chocolate Bar

Evening:
Fresh fruit mix + chocolate bars at movies (pictured)

Day 4: 03/04
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
GFree Rice cake topped with almond butter + banana

Workout:
Vinyasa yoga + short ab circuit

Morning:
Overnight oats w/almond butter, almond milk, cinnamon, honey, blueberries, and banana

Afternoon:
Grapes, and blueberries
SweetGreen Harvest Bowl w/mesclun, brown rice, sweet potato, apples, chicken, balsamic vinaigrette
1/4 C Home Free Chocolate Cookies
Chamomile Tea

Evening:
Steak grilled w/chimichurri sauce
Mashed cauliflower
Homemade Chimichurri Sauce: olive oil, salt/pepper, cilantro, parsley, garlic, red wine vinegar, crushed red pepper
Sweets by Chloe (shared with Brenen) Matcha Chia Pudding + blueberries, and a chocolate cupcake
Javea chocolate coconut ice cream
Decaf Lotus Blossom Tea

Day 5: 03/05
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
GFree Rice cake topped with almond butter + banana
A few apple + kiwi slices

Workout:
Full body work out + arm circuit

Afternoon:
Juice Generation Kale Supa Dupa Greens: spinach, kale, parsley, romaine, cucumber, celery, lemon & apple
Baked Oatmeal: almond milk, apple sauce, mashed banana, baking soda, lemon, salt, topped with blueberries, blackberries, and banana
1 dried prune

Evening:
Taco Salad: plain ground turkey, tomatoes, onions, GFree taco seasoning, lettuce, pick de gallo, salsa, guacamole, terra chips
Blueberries + Raspberries
Hu Chocolate Mint Bar (Shared with Brenen)
Chamomile Tea w/lemon

Day 2: My Elimination Experience

Dinner last night was great! I’m already having fun making my new creations, but I can also already see all the work getting old quickly. I have to make sure I am staying a few steps ahead of myself, purchasing ingredients that can be useful in any recipe, and making sure I am constantly aware of my work/social calendar regarding the days I won’t have as much time to spend hours in the kitchen.

It’s day 2 of the elimination experience, but I haven’t forgotten it’s day 5 without coffee. How could I forget when My. Head. Hurts. The withdrawal is still in full swing, and my headaches are still coming in hot. As I already commented on, it’s extremely evident that I should not have cut off the caffeine intake cold turkey. It seems everything around me triggers a headache. My alarm in the morning, the air being cooler than yesterday, having a close conversation with a colleague, the Indian music playing over the speakers in my cab at this moment…everything 😩 I just want a coffee. Honestly, it’s that intense of a feeling – as if I truly need the source of the issue to make the issue go away. And I’m hungry!! I’m still eating A LOT throughout the day, which I expect to decrease over the next couple weeks, but I snack constantly and still find myself starving by dinner. 

I was considering today that I may not be eating enough calories, but as I reflect on my food journal, that can’t be the case. It’s interesting to observe – I will continued to be most intrigued by the volume of foods and how it changes throughout this process. And despite all this intake, I still feel weak by the end of the day. I think maybe my next factor to research just presented itself…but before looking further into that, I think I will lie down.

Brenen prepared dinner tonight. Well, by prepared I mean reheated my prep from last night. Not my pasta, but I actually prepared a Meatball & Kale Sauté specifically for tonight, knowing I wouldn’t have time to fully make the meal today. It was delicious, and filling, and the reheating process didn’t affect the way it tasted at all! Very smart of me, if I do say so myself. I’m a smart eliminating-dieter. It seemed all my aforementioned exhaustion and sluggishness disappeared once we ate, and I didn’t really find myself overwhelmingly tired after dinner. Still, as soon as I got comfy in bed and told my mind to go to sleep, it did.

Here’s the recap from Day 2, and you can check out my meatball and pasta recipes I’ve mentioned so far if you’re interested! 🙂 Working on getting a running meal-plan journal up by the end of this week! Thanks for following along…

Day 2: 03/02
Pre-workout:
Hot water w/lemon
Rice cake topped with almond butter + banana

Workout:
Short stretch session

Morning:
Quick oats made w/hot water, and added honey, cinnamon, almond milk, berries, and banana

Afternoon:
Muscle Maker Smoothie made with pear, pineapple, and mango
Plain grilled chicken with steamed broccoli
Yogi Lemon Ginger Tea
1 Free2Be Dark Chocolate Sun Cup
1 Trade Joe’s Organic Applesauce Cup with Cinnamon
1 C Carrots + Trader Joe’s Organic Hummus

Evening:
Turkey Meatball & Kale Sauté
1 Kiwi + 1 Blood Orange

Turkey Meatball & Kale Sauté

In all the researching I have done in preparation for the elimination diet, much has warned against the difficulty one would be bound to face throughout the process. I truly imagined the most difficult part to be related to self-control, but I surprisingly haven’t struggled too much in that area. It’s still early in my journey (Day 1, to be specific), so I won’t congratulate myself, yet.

All the same, even early on I’ve determined meal-planning and prepping is, and could continue to be difficult, if not at least interesting. My first few creations have been no NYC style pizza, but the dish was a success as determined by myself and my boyfriend. This recipe specifically was actually prepared with the intention of eating the following day. I figured the concept would be one which would hold up well in the fridge, and still taste just as great when consumed 24 hours later! (Hint: I was right!)

Start with your favorite ground seed mixture, such as flax seed or almond meal, add a little bit of water and set this mixture aside. I used a seed mixture from Trader Joe’s which included buckwheat, as well! Next, mix and form balls out of the ground turkey, chopped green onions, maple syrup, gluten free oats, and flaxseed egg. Heat on a skillet your favorite cooking oil, such as coconut or grapeseed, and once the balls are ready, coat them in the seed mixture and add them in the skillet. The balls should take anywhere from 4-10 minutes to fully cook. As they begin to fry, add in raw kale that has been dipped or drizzled with the cooking oil. The kale will start to fry as well, and once all the turkey balls have been cooked, as well as the oil soaked up, you’re all done!

Serve with an added drizzle of maple syrup and ta-da! Breakfast for dinner!

The dinner was actually a combination of a breakfast idea – I added in some savory side notes to make it seem more appropriate, and less sugary. You can swap my turkey for beef, or another meat of your choice. You might even substitute a more salty or spicy sauce, such as chimichurri instead of the syrup. If you use a triple filtered coconut oil, this could eliminate any sweet taste entirely. If you like the recipe as is, you can simply omit the kale and add these little meatballs to any morning marco bowl, or serve with fresh fruit or eggs, if they’re in your diet! 😉

Turkey Meatball & Kale Sauté

3 tbsp Flaxseed Meal
1.5 tbsp Water
1 lb Ground Turkey
3 Green Onions (Chopped)
2.5 tbsp Maple Syrup (1.5 in mixture, 1 for drizzle)
1 C Gluten Free Oats & Flaxseed Egg
Bunch of Kale

Simple Pasta + Veggies

I was so pleasantly surprised by this meal. It would technically be my first dinner of my elimination diet, even though I’ve been whipping up a storm in the kitchen lately – throwing together bits and pieces as much as I can to stay prepped and on top of my meals.

Right from the jump I feared giving up gluten would be troublesome for me. I don’t typically consume a lot of carbs, but I was worried cutting the grain out entirely would be something I’d notice so greatly (Hint: I was wrong). So in preparation for this, I decided one of my first meals should be pasta. Pasta? Why? I have no idea why I wanted to go this route, to be honest, because I am not a huge pasta-eater anyway. I love a good donut, and will admit that pretty much any kind of bread is the shiz, but I couldn’t tell you the last time I ate pasta. Oy vey…

So anyway, I decided to find a quinoa based noodle, and stir it up quick with some veggies. On one major positive note, it was a super quick and easy recipe, and it seemed to keep for much longer as a leftover option than your average pasta would.

I simply brought the pasta itself to a boil with a little bit of garlic sea-salt, meanwhile grilling some vegetables court-side in a mix of olive oil and the same seasoning. Once the past was done, I drained it and added it to the skillet with the veggies. Finally, I topped the whole mixture with a puree made from red peppers, cauliflower, and mushrooms covered in a splash of olive oil and water. It turned into a deliciously thick sauce, thanks to my roomie’s bullet, and even though I was eating 90% vegetables and 10% quinoa, I felt unexpectedly full and satisfied.

When re-heating the pasta a day later, I decided to add a little meat to it by just tossing in some plain grilled chicken. It was good, just as an added source of protein, but totally not necessary. I actually really appreciated how this quick meal could be a rainy day solution for a vegetarian or paleo option!

Quinoa Pasta & Veggies W/Red Pepper Sauce
Pasta: 1 lb Quinoa Pasta (Try this brand available at Whole Foods!)
1/4 C Mushrooms
1/4 C Zucchini
1/4 C Summer Squash
1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Garlic Sea Salt for flavoring

Sauce: 1/4 C Mushrooms
1/2 Red Bell Pepper
1/2 C Cauliflower
1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 C Water

No Coffee, Day 3

Of all the research I’ve done in preparing for my Elimination Diet, I have to admit I feel a little foolish for not considering the negative outcomes of giving up coffee cold turkey. Realistically, I’ve likely consumed (on average) 2-3 cups of coffee a day for the past several years.

Even though my diet hasn’t taken full swing yet (check back tomorrow!), I stopped drinking coffee on Sunday (three days ago). I did this because I wanted to force myself into the idea that I would be giving up something I was used to. I would be changing my daily habits and routines. And I figured starting a few days early with something intense would allow me to hit the ground running come the actual start date. Unfortunately, I later discovered this is not recommended for someone who is used to consuming a lot of caffeine, on which our bodies and minds become dependent. A better approach would be cutting down to 1 cup a day, to then a 1/2 cup, and maybe a decaf consumption before eventually removing it from your diet entirely. I just woke up one day and said, “bye bye!”

Now, I’ve had a perpetual headache for days, and feel at this point it’d be just as bad to pick it back up again because my body is obviously already going through the withdrawal.

I guess all there is to do is tough it out, but first I had to call myself out – I felt “so prepared,” but of course there is still always room for error or misjudgment, (or plain stupidity haha). I am staying positive though 🙂 🙂 🙂 and am at least glad I am forcing myself to continue to research and read throughout the process – for this exact reason!! As long as I’m living and learning…