In retrospect, it was a stroke of genius to do this Elimination Diet with other people. There are four of us doing this together, and the group effect has been immeasurably helpful. We stay in touch via e-mail and text messaging, a mixture of hilarity and despair that has kept me on track despite the fat drumsticks of No Caffeine pounding out a deep, gritty rhythm against my temples.
Never underestimate the power of friendly competition to keep you honest. Here’s a random sample of comments from some of the E-Lim-to the-Nation Posse; names have been omitted to protect the innocent. Yo.
I’m really tired and I have the toots and a bad headache. I hope day 3 is better.
I thought about going out tonight. Then I remembered that I can’t drink or eat anything. Boo hoo!
Surviving today. Not sure how. Still on plan.
Holding firm. Potential collapse imminent.
I may have slipped last night… 5 glasses Silverado cab, 2 gorgonzola butter ravioli, 1 slice prime rib, plate of 6 different desserts…
(response) IF YOU GO OUT, GO BIG!
HELL NO I haven’t slipped! I’m an oak.
Two more days! Cakewalk.
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As you can see, this has been non-stop fun.
My headaches didn’t end until Day 9. Oooh, yeaaaah.
I feel a little sheepish to admit that – wow, caffeine really had one over on me! – but it did. I started feeling more energetic on Day 10, and everything was so much easier and more enjoyable sans the searing pain.
Was it worth it? Absolutely.
The best thing about the Elimination Diet is that it is essentially composed of everything good for you - vegetables, fruits, lean protein, whole grains - with none of the bad stuff. It's been called the "caveman diet" because of the fact that it doesn't contain any processed foods - it's simple stuff. Wholesome and unpretentious.
Going forward, I'm going to re-incorporate a couple of elements back into my diet - tea and chocolate, mainly - but leave out wheat, corn, soy and dairy for a few more weeks. The fact is that I just plain feel better, and I'm still figuring out a few food sensitivities. It makes sense for me, for now.
This is putting a serious ding in my foodie cred, but I think I'll eventually recover.
Dietary choices are so personal, so I would never suggest that anyone do it unless they wanted to, but if you're ever trying to track down food sensitivities or just want to simplify your diet for a little while, it's a good option to investigate.
Tips for Staying on the Elimination Diet
1. Plan ahead. I got off to a rough start because I didn’t plan well enough, but I learned my lesson fast. Planning – including printing out recipes and having a strategic plan for busy days – is key to staying on track. This goes for any kind of dietary challenge, from eating local to counting Weight Watchers points. Proper planning prevents poor performance: but you know that already.
2. Hide the contraband. I buried the chocolate deep in the pantry, and put all of the snacky stuff in hiding. If I couldn’t see it, I didn’t miss it. Okay, I just lied. That's not true. I still missed the popcorn and the thick-cut Kettle chips and the edamame beans. But not seeing them did make it easier.
3. Take off your party shoes. The first 10 days or so are the most difficult, and I found that going to parties or dinners where there were all kinds of temptations was simply not fun. It's too easy to give up early on. Instead, I stayed in and caught up on a bunch of phone calls I had been putting off, and watched lots of House. I got started on my taxes. Mmppff, I sound like such a boring grown-up.
4. Splurge. Giving up so much – from red wine to cheese – can feel kind of traumatic at first. Rather than succumb to feelings of deprivation, I bought the best produce I could find – yummy avocados, deep green chard, crisp green pears, almonds and cashews – and didn’t pay attention to the prices. Rather than feeling deprived, I felt like I was indulging. Ultimately, I spent far less than I do when I'm eating "normally" but I felt like I was treating myself along the way.
5. Join a gang. Remember back in 1988 when you wanted a pair of Guess jeans, and your mama said: "If everybody jumped off of a bridge, would you jump off too?" The answer is yes, of course. You're a pack animal. Use your inner sheep to your advantage and find people who want to do the diet with you. It is SO MUCH EASIER to stay motivated when you can call a friend and complain that you have a craving for a cheeseburger and they say: “yeah, me too!” and then you discuss what you’re going to put into your stir fry for dinner. I daresay it makes all the difference.
And that's what I've got. Gems of wisdom, I know.
Now I'm off to roast a head of cauliflower... mmm...
P.S.: Along a similar vein, a big shout out to Barbara, who is giving up alcohol for the month of February in support of young people who are struggling with substance abuse. YOU GO! That's a fantastic thing to do.