Elimination Diets | A Challenge
I sort of accidentally cut out gluten this week.
Well, sort of. Maybe.
I have been toying with the idea of doing a Whole30 thing for years. I’ve long been curious about food sensitivities I may have, and I have heard many success stories from friends who have done one or multiple rounds of something like the Whole30.
If you aren’t familiar, the Whole30 diet is a 30-day detox-type elimination diet where you cut out known toxins and other common allergens: alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy, soy, lentils, etc. While I understand and respect the notion of wiping the slate clean like this, every time I think about cutting out ALL of this at the same time, I crawl into a hole of overwhelm and grab a whiskey and a burger.
I want to do something like this for a number of reasons:
- I never really have. It sounds incredibly beneficial to completely wipe my body slate clean and slowly reintroduce things one at a time and see how I react. Because I’ve never done any major detox or elimination diet, I *think* my body runs just fine, but what if it could better? While I can say with pretty solid certainty that I don’t have any serious food allergies (I mean, I’m alive and I don’t get sick or break out or stop breathing with anything I’ve ever eaten), I wonder how my own bio-individuality might function even better.
- My clients will ask about it. While I’m fully prepared to discuss a wide number of dietary theories, my own personal experience with a lot of them is pretty limited, with one exception — pescatarian. I went pescatarian for Lent in 2008 (as a personal experiment in discipline more than anything) and ended up feeling so great on that kind of diet that I kept it up for years, only reintroducing other meats — starting with pork — when I moved from Colorado to Portland.
- My own ethical code and commitment to social responsibility dictates that I do make some conscious changes. Whether or not I cut anything out for health reasons, I have to recognize that not all food is created and treated equally or sustainably, and that my choices matter. It’s for this reason that I’ve stopped buying beef at home. I’m not avoiding it altogether, but I now know too much about our country’s agriculture practices and its impact on the environment, our water supply, and on our sustainable, arable land, and I’m choosing to reduce my impact on that by spending my money on other proteins in my own home.
On the other hand, I haven’t done this for also a number of reasons:
- I work in a British Isles-inspired restaurant. The British Isles are known for a lot of things, but when it comes to their cooking? Butter, dairy, wheat, meat, eggs. Rich, savory foods. Gravy. It is incredibly difficult for me to even consider a dietary change while still nibbling on our own dishes and our staff meals. Not to mention the coffee every morning and the exposure to tastings, events, and other social gatherings that center on alcohol.
- I haven’t ever really *needed* to. Like I mentioned above, I’ve never had an actual allergic reaction to anything I’ve eaten, so I’ve never felt particularly compelled to avoid or cut any one thing out of my diet.
To be honest, when I look at these reasons, both for and against, it really comes down to me being a little lazy and not willing to put the work in to make some changes. For that reason, I thought I might start a little smaller and cut out 1-2 things at a time, for short periods of time, to allow myself the ability to learn what it might mean or take to actually do this on a grander scale. To cut all of this, all of these things I eat and drink on a near-daily basis, all at once, felt overwhelming. And while I definitely subscribe to the “crowd it out” approach where we add in so much goodness that we start to run out of room for the “bad,” I also recognize that when we approach elimination diets, we *have* to focus more on what we’re cutting out than what we’re bringing in. I think that “crowd it out” works in a broad sense, especially if we want to make longer-term, lasting changes to our habits and our thought processes, but if you’re testing for food sensitivities? Yeah, you gotta just cut that shit.
All of this to say, that I decided I would cut out wheat/gluten for a few weeks and see where that landed me. I’ve made it for four days at this point, with one exception that I just totally missed by mistake — soy sauce. I made an epic peanut sauce/dressing this week [based on this recipe from this book] and there’s a tablespoon of soy sauce in there. I made rice and veggies for lunch today and seasoned it with soy sauce.
So, I adapt, and I continue on my no beer/bread/roux/gravy train until the last couple of days of the month, where I’ll reintroduce it and see what happens.
So, why am I doing this?
- An experiment in discipline and trying new recipes
- An experiment in my own food sensitivities (or not)
- To better relate to my own clients as they want to make changes (food-related or not) in their own lives
Meanwhile, I’m enjoying my own home kitchen experiments with different dishes. I’ve had a lot of rice and veggies, and my next move is a quiche with a sweet potato crust.
Raise your hand if you have any experience with an elimination diet and have tips to share. Should I go big or go home? Or do you think it’s more realistic to start small and take my time?