By Meredith Nordhem HuffPo
Honestly, I’m totally averse to “diets.”
I’ve never put myself on one because I think they often set people up to “fail” because they are not sustainable in the long-term. It’s this really sad, vicious cycle of trying to find the next easy way to “get skinny” that ends up making people feel really bad about themselves.
But this one was different.
I recently started with a naturopath because I wanted to make sure I was feeling my absolute best, and to see if there was anything she could do about my eczema. I’ve had it my entire life, and it’s more or less a daily aggravation. I’ve tried so many remedies, none of which have worked that well.
She suggested an elimination diet to see if food was playing a role. So I gave it a go.
What is an elimination diet?
An elimination diet is when you temporarily remove a number of possibly aggravating foods from your diet to check for intolerance. Then once you’ve totally cleared them of your system, you reintroduce them one at a time to see if any trigger a negative reaction.
For my particular prescription, I had to eliminate gluten, dairy, sugar, corn, soy, and alcohol for 21 days. Then test each one separately (other than alcohol and sugar). All in all, it was about a 35-day experience.
Sounds pretty rough, huh?
At times, yes. But it was on this journey that I learned a few unexpected lessons: the power of will power, the underestimated importance of planning, and the beauty of good ‘ol real food.
Here are the seven things I learned through this experience that continue to help me stay healthy every day:
1. Surviving a wedding (or Halloween) without alcohol or sweets is possible.
The first weekend on my elimination diet, I attended a wedding. And here’s what I learned: If you’re on an elimination diet, or have any dietary restrictions for that matter, plan ahead for travel and events. You might not really be sure when you’re going to be able to eat next or what will be served to you, so pack diet-friendly snacks and eat a little something before you go.
Had I let myself get ravenously and deliriously hungry, I might have messed up my diet or been a very cranky guest.
One of the last weekends of my diet was Halloween (I have great planning, right?). At this point I was a total pro at going out without drinking, and was the more excited and energized to stay out partying than everyone else combined. Plus, didn’t wake up with a hangover.
2. Drink soda water at a bar and no one has any idea you’re not drinking.
And once they start getting tipsy, they realllyyy won’t know you’re not drinking.
You’ll start to watch their hangover develop and be totally stoked you’re not drinking, too.
3. It literally takes seconds for cravings to go away if you don’t give into them.
The first Friday night of my elimination diet I went to dinner with some girlfriends.
As my friends ordered their glasses of wine, I got a little bit antsy. I wanted to partake in the act of ordering. I wanted to have it in front of my plate. I wanted to take a sip.
But I refrained. And it was not more than 10 seconds later that the feeling was gone all together. I didn’t think about it again for the rest of the night.
4. Naturally sweet things actually taste better than fake sweet things.
I’ve never been so excited for fruit as a desert, or making coconut whipped cream, or blending up frozen bananas with raw cacao than when on the elimination diet (and I totally love healthy desserts!).
The tastes of real food are literally so rich, I couldn’t imagine eating nasty, fake sugary desserts instead.
5. Eat often, and eat a lot.
When you’re eating healthy food, you can consume as much as you like!
Who’s ever gotten sick from eating too many veggies? No one!
Get creative and have fun with what you can have, rather than focusing on what you can’t. Imagine all the tasty options and I guarantee you will start craving whatever you’re dreaming up.
6. You can do handstands after dinner without feeling like you’re going to barf.
When you’re eating super clean foods you don’t succumb that sluggish, crappy feeling that often comes along with eating the processed stuff.
It’s no surprise that when you keep your energy at the same consistent level (without slipping into a food coma zone that totally drains you) you stay energized. And feel great doing things like handstands.
7. Set yourself up to win.
Plan your meals ahead of time and keep plenty of healthy snacks (and none of the bad stuff) on hand.
Making enough for leftovers to bring to lunch is crucial, too. The hungry lunchtime, “Where am I going to eat? Nothing is on my diet! I want that cookie now,” mentality just doesn’t have time to creep up when you don’t let your hunger get to that point.
Oh, and don’t grocery shop or cook hungry. That’s a sure-fire recipe for a poor impulse decision.
With any diet or restriction (be it medical or self-imposed): Set yourself up to win and you will win. If you go in cold, you might pull something (or in this case, go to town on the office doughnut box). Have a positive mindset. Get creative. And do it for yourself, not anyone else.