I normally try to avoid talking about diets because, for starters, I’m not a dietitian. That, and trying to tackle a diet discussion – no matter how brief – when there is so much science surrounding it feels challenging. But I know with 2020 having just started, most people have started some form of diet, and I figured now was the best time to talk about my favorite of them all – the elimination diet. Now, please keep in mind that as I talk about this, I am not a licensed professional and I am including research from sources I feel like I can genuinely trust to do my best to provide you with the most accurate information – but when it comes down to it, this post is simply my opinion, albeit a strong one lol.
I first tried an elimination diet about 2 years ago in the form of Arbonne’s healthy living program and I will always sing its praises about how it truly changed my life and my relationship with food for the better. Here are some of my personal results from cutting out toxic + processed ingredients and getting my nutrients more balanced:
This was just a 30 day transformation, however you might be surprised to know that I only lost 5 lbs during that period – but I lost 5 inches around my waist and 3 around my hips. So much of my “before” was water weight and bloating.
The elimination diet is designed to identify food intolerances + sensitivities by eliminating food groups believed to cause adverse reactions within our bodies. By cutting out these food groups and then slowly reintroducing them, the goal is for us to be able to identify exactly what may be causing certain issues – examples are joint pain, acne, headaches, bloating, trouble sleeping, decreased mood, etc.
I’m going to insert a bit of personal philosophy here. I think it’s so easy to look at our health concerns and say “this is just how I am” or “it is what it is,” but I personally believe that it’s become painfully easy to normalize health problems simply because we’ve had them for as long as we can remember, when the truth is that we’ve been products of our environment since before we can remember, probably as early as being in our mother’s womb. Regardless of if it’s the grocery store or the fast food restaurant on the corner, we’re constantly surrounded by sugars, artificial colors/sweeteners/flavors, preservatives, and so much more that takes a lot of effort to try and escape. Processed and altered foods have simply become the norm, and most times we seem to be okay with that.
Alright, soapbox over. The truth is, too, is that it’s not even just processed foods. There are plenty of naturally occuring ingredients that can be just as triggering (ie, gluten). The absolute beauty of the elimination diet, though, is that it acknowledges each of our bodies’ differences; so what might be triggering for me might not be triggering for you, and vice versa. That’s what I love about it – while the process might start out the same for everyone, it’s not like most fad diets that try to be “one size fits all” yet most likely fails to eliminate the actual problem for you.
So, what all does an elimination diet entail? I borrowed the following image from Well + Good because it explains what foods to exclude so nicely!
According to the University of Wisconsin (I’ll link the whole article at the end!) you would follow these eliminations for 2-4 weeks, depending on how long it takes for symptoms to alleviate. You’ll have to be sure that you’re studying food/ingredient labels because a lot of these foods are “hidden.” Then, you’ll start to slowly add back food groups, making sure to pay attention to your body and how it feels as you do so. Remember, the point of this diet is to notice what your body might feel sensitive to. Read more details about a proper elimination diet here via UW.
Through my own experience, I know that my body reacts most to gluten, sugar, and dairy. These are what I focus on avoiding on a more regular basis, but for the sake of trying to keep inflammation low, I still try to follow the exclusions list as best I can because whether I need to or not, I noticed that I still feel better following these guidelines.
So, as someone who isn’t normally a big fan of fad diets, I’m commonly asked what my opinion is on certain plans. I figured instead of bashing what I don’t like, I’d promote what I do like – which also happens to be something that I’ve tried and had good luck with. My breakouts are fewer, my energy level is better, I sleep better, bloating is decreased, digestion feels better… all because I had the opportunity to learn what my body needs to avoid instead of letting a “one size fits all” diet try and tell me. I think realizing how unique each of our bodies + genetics are is key when improving our health and trying to lose a couple pounds in the process.
I hope that a reader out there found this useful, because it is something I am truly passionate about and felt it worth mentioning especially given the time of year! Let me know in the comments if you have any input!