My journey to good health started with an elimination diet that was designed to figure out the root cause of some of my health issues. It did so much more than just that, which is why I’m such a great advocate for undertaking an elimination to get to the bottom of your health concerns.
Not sure if you could stick to an elimination diet? Read on as I explain how to fit it into your life.
Basically, an elimination diet removes foods that are most likely to cause inflammation and irritate your body. You do this for just a few weeks to give your body a chance to calm down and focus on healing. Then, you reintroduce them one by one to measure your body's response. I generally start with a 30 day process and reintroduce each food over 3 or 4 days focusing on the consequences of any reintroduction.
For me I can now fit this into my busy life with ease but I often get asked ‘how will I cope’. Can I still eat out? How about meals with work colleagues or friends in the evening? Will I turn into a food snob/recluse and end up with a social life that revolves around being home alone with Netflix rather than Nandos? What about social situations, parties, weddings etc?
Here’s my top tips to surviving and actually thriving during an elimination diet.
1. Choose the menu before you go out.
Eating out at a restaurant doesn't have to sabotage your elimination diet, and can actually introduce you to new flavours and ingredients you might otherwise have missed. Personal Trainers as well as nutritionists often suggest clients review menus before they go out. It enables you to take control of what you’re eating and be prepared for what’s to come ensuring you stay on track and reinforcing your new found healthy habits. Instead of being caught off-guard with allergen-riddled food, looking weird due to the odd combination of dishes you pick at or going hungry, knowing what you can and can’t choose in advance helps you strategize what you will eat. If there are slim pickings, you can prepare a light snack at home beforehand, or have a protein bar to boost you. This is also a classic cocktail party hack I teach clients to enable them to avoid eating too much beige food at the buffet. Or you can make sure you have food in the fridge for once you get home if you feel under nourished.
2. Step into the role of organiser
If Sunday brunch with the girls is sacred, ditching a much-needed catch-up can feel like a real sacrifice and is likely to knock you off your goal of staying heathy. So step in and step up as organiser, after all everyone loves it when someone else makes the plans.
Instead of watching while everyone feasts on bagels and hot chocolate take the lead and plan a healthier destination for brunch (or dinner). I did this in the summer when some friends visiting from the USA wanted to experience a classic English High Tea in one of the posh London Hotels. I choose Browns as they not only catered for a traditional clientele but had a special Tea-tox Healthier Menu which was delicious.
Inevitably there will be restaurants where you have to make meals out of side dishes or vegetables or ask the kitchen to adapt menu items but most chefs are more than happy to do this and can even make suggestions which enhance a dish and still meet your elimination requirements.
3. Give mocktails a chance.
If giving up alcohol feels like a big deal then get creative with mocktails. It's much easier to celebrate, commiserate, and dance when you have a drink in a fancy glass in your hand! I recently had lunch with a colleague and before I knew it was ordering a glass of white wine only to have to cancel it and feel that shudder of panic when I thought about what I would drink. Looking through the Mocktail menu at Vanilla Black, a Vegetarian restaurant in London, where we were eating I discovered a nettle mojito which was totally delicious and a first for me.
Ordering a drink that feels as special as a cocktail is one sure way to stay on track and you may even entice a few friends to join you especially when they realise they won’t have any of the ill effects of the alcohol hanging over them the next day.
4. Get creative with delivery or bring and share suppers.
Instead of going out to eat get creative and organise a gathering at a friend’s house where you all order for own delivery or arrange a bring and share supper. You can coordinate the menu ensuring there is enough elimination friendly food for you or just over cater for yourself so you don’t need to share if everything else your friends bring is off plan. And if your food is as tasty as the elimination meals I create for my 30 day plans and share with clients, your friends will be asking for seconds of your heathy options without even realising they are being healthy.
5. Take a rain check on supper and do something different instead.
For many of us our socializing revolves around food and drink but it doesn’t have to. Why not opt for an activity, fitness class or visit an art exhibition instead of going out to eat. You still get to chat and socialise and you get a dose of culture too. Each friend can pick an activity they are comfortable with so you might find your best friend, who is into yoga, takes you to a great class and you switch a Friday night on the town for a meditative session which sets you up for a relaxing and stress free weekend.
An elimination diet can sound really overwhelming at the beginning; it threatens to separate you from your favourite foods and drinks (probably the very things that aren’t serving you), and from the activities that you rely on for comfort and a sense of community. But with the right support and planning it really can be a life changing experience. If you’d like to talk to me about how I plan and support clients on their eliminations plans please get in touch.