So how do you manage to keep your willpower strong for 4-6 weeks on a very restrictive elimination diet? Well, if you have been continuously sick like me, that alone might provide enough motivation to get you through. Otherwise, here are some ideas:
Remember, it’s just six weeks out of your life. Think about things that have or might happen to you that would require a pretty substantial change to your daily routine. An unexpected illness or surgery for example. I knew a woman who fainted and hit her jaw on a counter while going down. Her jaw was wired shut for two months. Everything she ate was through a straw. This is less hard and less painful than that. Thoughts like that help me when I’m feeing weak and just want a milkshake.
Also remember you’re doing this for a good reason. From what I can tell, people with GI trouble, from IBS to more serious diseases, have great variability in the frequency and severity of their symptoms. If you are seriously considering an elimination diet, you must feel your health problem affects your life enough that you want to find a way to change. Commit to yourself before beginning that you will follow it through. After all, it’s only six weeks.
Plan ahead to avoid unexpected detours from the diet. If you have to go off the diet because you don’t have food when you need it, it can be discouraging and set back progress you’ve made. There isn’t much food that you can just throw in your purse on this diet. Nearly all of it must be refrigerated. So any type of grab-and-go requirements you may have will need to be reconsidered for the period you’re on the diet. For me, this means no restaurants, no travel, and no eating at holiday parties this Winter. Most people in my life understand that I’m sick and won’t give me a hard time about it.
Use your support system. Who in your life understands the challenges you’ve been facing with your health? People who are not able to sympathize or empathize are probably not your best bet. You’re going to want to complain about not being able to eat ice cream, or potato chips, or whatever it is you used to eat and can’t now. (I have actually been having stress dreams about ruining my diet by eating ice cream and bagels.) Your support system needs to know that the right response is “I’m sorry this is hard, but your health is worth it.”
If they live in the same house, they can help even more. This is an area where the Boyfriend has been very helpful to me. He is great about making sure I have food I can eat, and helping me with lunches I can take to work. Aside from our unexpected visit to the ER yesterday, I haven’t had to deviate from the diet once because he and I have put a lot of effort into being prepared.
Know that the first week is the hardest. It gets easier after that. Simple carbs are addictive and promote cravings for some people. But they aren’t the best food for you in terms of the nutrition they deliver and their impact on gut health. It is hard to stop eating simple carbs (for me it was rice and potatoes) but once you get past that first week, it’s a lot easier to look forward to the food you can eat.
You will learn to enjoy the few foods you are eating. You will appreciate the simple flavors of the food enhanced with herbs and healthy fats like coconut and ghee. You will learn to prepare the foods better and more to your liking as the days go on. It will become a journey in and of itself. And if you try to let go of your attachment to the food you can’t eat, you may even enjoy it.
Your symptoms should start to improve. This is the best motivation of all. For me, what I noticed right away was no bloating, no racing heart after I ate, and my skin began to improve. And of course, after four weeks on the diet, I have noticed even more significant changes.