“I’ve been on a diet for two weeks and all I’ve lost is fourteen days.” ~Totie Fields
I wish I could say that I’ve never been on a diet, but it’s simply not true. I can, however, say that I’ve never followed a diet well, and I’m pretty sure I’m in good company with many other women who have also dieted, but have never dieted well.
That’s because diets don’t work. In our society, the mentality behind following a diet is to restrict certain foods, exhibit incredible amounts of sheer willpower, and be either “on” or “off,” generally for the sake of losing weight. This sets us up for failure in multiple ways: not only do we lose self-esteem and beat ourselves up when we simply cannot put forth any more willpower to deprive ourselves of the foods we love (or just food in general), but we also do great damage to our metabolisms when we yo-yo diet.
Overall, dieting is bad.
There is, however, one diet that I would like to try, and I would whole-heartedly recommend to others. Wait, what?! Why?? Micki has gone crazy!!
Before you lose all faith in me, hear me out. Yes, diets don’t work. But this one is different. In fact, some might not even call it a diet, but rather a cleanse (although cleanses, in general, are no better). Anyway, if we had to give it a name, we could call it an elimination diet. Why? Because the goal is to eliminate only certain foods.
Sounds like a typical diet, right? Okay, stay with me.
There are 2 major differences between an elimination diet and most other diets.
- The goal is not to lose weight. Mind blown. Why else would you go on a diet?!
- The calorie and macro or micronutrient make-up of foods have nothing to do with whether they are”off limits” or not.
So, if the goal is not to lose weight, and food is not restricted solely based on how nutritious or calorically dense it is, then what the heck is the point?
In principle and practice, the elimination diet:
- is hypoallergenic: the goal is to remove all common food allergens and irritants in order to assess for subtle food allergies and sensitivities
- will help to detoxify the body and allow the body to function more efficiently
- may initially cause withdrawal symptoms like increased hunger, changes in sleep, digestive issues, and lightheadedness that usually subside within a few days
- lasts for about 2-4 weeks
- re-introduces eliminated foods, one at a time, to assess for symptoms produced after eating each specific food
Because the elimination diet is hypoallergenic, it eliminates all foods that commonly produce allergic responses in many people. These foods include corn, dairy, soy, caffeine, processed sugars and meats, shellfish, wheat, and peanuts, as well as, on an individual basis, foods you know you are allergic to or suspect you might be allergic to. Many people can fit most or all of the aforementioned foods into a healthy and balanced diet, but for some of us, an otherwise healthy food may cause adverse symptoms.
Though eliminating various foods can be challenging and feels restrictive, much like many other diets, the end result of an elimination diet is hard-earned insight as to how your unique body functions and how to best nourish yourself, as an individual, for the rest of your life.
At this point, you may be saying, “but I eat these foods all the time and I never get hives or go into anaphylactic shock. I clearly don’t have food allergies, so why would I do this?”
The key is, food allergies don’t just manifest themselves as the acute allergic reactions we are all familiar with (breaking out in rash, swelling, not being able to breathe, etc). Subtle food allergies, or sensitivities, can show up as
- joint pain or some types of arthritis
- irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive issues
- and more!
More often than not I think many of us put up with annoying, previously unexplainable, or seemingly insignificant health issues and assume that it is normal to not feel our best. That’s crazy! Toughing out a few weeks of restrictive dieting may not be for everyone, but if making temporary dietary changes can reveal the irritating food(s) we can avoid to alleviate these symptoms for good, then why not?
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