An elimination diet is a procedure used to identify and exclude foods that may be causing an adverse effect in a person, after which those foods are reintroduced one at a time. In her new book Food Freedom Forever, Melissa Hartwig calls this a ‘reset’. As the first step to food freedom, it’s a way to wipe the slate clean, and create a new foundation on which to build the perfect balanced, sustainable, healthy diet for you.
Often-problematic foods that tend to be excluded as part of an elimination diet include gluten-containing grains (wheat, barley, rye); gluten free grains (like corn or oats), dairy, added sugar, artificial sweeteners, food colouring, sulphites, eggs, peanuts, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), citrus fruits, beef, caffeine, alcohol, nuts and seeds, nightshade vegetables (like tomatoes, aubergines, white potatoes, peppers), and foods high in FODMAPS (fermentable carbohydrates that can promote digestive distress in sensitive individuals).
Whatever your approach, there are common ways to ensure a successful reset. Here are Melissa Hartwig’s top tips:
- Maintain awareness through the entire reset process and take good notes to identify and document changes in your sleep, energy levels, mood, digestion, athletic performance or medical symptoms.
- Take before and after photos. Taking pictures of skin conditions (acne, eczema, or psoriasis), joint swelling, or full body photos to compare body composition or stomach bloating are encouraged before, during and after your reset.
- Choose your start date. Ideally, you will start ASAP. Birthday parties, business dinners, and family gatherings aren’t an excuse to put it off. Find the right time as soon as you can, before your momentum stalls.
- Remove any and all elimination foods from your home. You’ll think you won’t need to do this because you are feeling strong and motivated. Do it anyway. Future You will thank you for it.
- Plan your meals as far ahead as is comfortable and make sure you always have compliant emergency food on hand.
- Go shopping! Stock up on reset staples you may not have on hand and buy what you’ll need to get you started on your meal plan.
- Anticipate potentially changing situations. Then make a plan for how you’ll handle them, so you feel comfortable sticking to your reset at birthday parties, business dinners and family gatherings.
- Seek social support and accountability. Habit research shows that support from others can help you maintain your own motivation, impact your actions and intentions by modelling the desired behaviour and reduce stress by providing an environment for healthy interpersonal connection, which helps you better manage negative emotions and stay on track.
- Don’t let your reset turn you into a hermit. There’s no reason you can’t dine out, attend parties and events, and travel during your reset. It just requires a bit more planning and preparation.
- Find the motivation you need to commit, take it on, and SEE IT THROUGH. The self-confidence this experience brings will spill over into every other area of your life.