January is pretty infamous for the phenomena of synchronised health kicks, new athleisurewear leggings, instagram super-juicing selfies, new tribes of gym hitters and faddy promise-the-world diets. But this January I am hitching a ride on the wagon of other people’s resolutions. Not so I can lose a few pounds of post yule flubber like them – but it’s a generally more accepting time to become an awkward eater. It’s an ideal moment to turn food focused and annoyingly particular, because well, everybody else is.
This month I am beginning an elimination diet.
People’s immediate reaction to the words ‘elimination’ and ‘diet’ after assuming it’s some weight loss regime to starve myself is to ask with a raised eyebrow; “well what exactly CAN you eat then?”
An exclusionary diet isn’t supposed to be about suffering or starving yourself, but it is about cutting out all the potential allergens, irritants and foods which may cause your gut and it’s garden of flora to be messy and overgrown, in need of a hoe and some new topsoil. As someone with Crohns it’s an excellent starting point to wipe the nutritional slate clean, feed up on the good stuff, before introducing the potentially problematic, trickier foods later into the equation. Much like ensuring a fair test in a lab, using my body’s shiny test tubes of digestion, my food consumption becomes the controlled variable, so that a month later, I can note any observations when I add those independent variables back in, like say a Yorkie or a lump of Cornish brie.
It has to be super strict, because one little slip-up renders the whole experiment void. I am lucky to be working with nutritionist Molly Sanders, who lives in Toronto. We are talking regularly over Skype and email, to learn more about my Crohns and it’s dietary triggers, as well as developing an ongoing eating plan to promote sustained wellness and remission. This particular plan is excellent for anyone with immune issues or conditions. So good news for me, as my partner Aimee and her eczema will be joining me throughout the intrepid exclusion.
The first month or ‘protocol 1’ as Molly has outlined; has 3 main aims:
- Reduce Inflammation
- Increase nutrient status
- Eliminate potential allergens
By now you’re probably wondering what foods I am eliminating for the month, so here’s a list :
Grains (bread, rice, quinoa, spelt, pasta, noodles, flour)
Legumes (beans, peas, peanuts)
Dairy (cheese, milk, cream, butter)
Shellfish (prawns, crab, mussels)
Nightshades (white potatoes, aubergines, tomatoes)
Now that you understand why I am doing this mad thing and are maybe even feeling a little impressed with me and hungry for some Nutella on toast, let me now confess and assure you that I am utterly terrified. I am one of those live-to-eat people, always gawping at food, for whom the promise of a filling lunch gets me through a tough morning at my desk, who reaches for a cheeky 3pm biscuit to pull me out of the afternoon slump, who inhales nuts and seeds when ‘grazing’ and procrastinating, and who on the commute home, dreams of melted cheese greeting me out of the oven. Yes, I feel pretty nervous about this protocol. And the things that makes me most nervous are;
Dairy: I don’t eat milk anymore (switched to almond years back) but by jove, cheese is always on my mind – and I just love a creamy sauce or a yoghurty dip.
Chocolate: Because it soothes me like a babe being swaddled.
Nuts: Because I am used to snacking on those when I want chocolate but know better.
Eggs: Because they bind things together into patties and pancakes of quick fix comfort.
The other eliminatees don’t worry me too much, as I have good experience of eating Paleo in the past and my diet is practically grain free already. I already don’t drink alcohol or coffee, so will only be giving up my morning brew for some herbal teas – no problemo.
The good news is, I have this blog for when it gets tough, Aimee to laugh with and keep me sane plus Molly down the line for sensible support. I have made a meal plan and know that the key to eating this way is preparation. Knowing that it’s not forever, should allow me to feel creative and positive, so that we can have fun with it.
We’re officially starting on Monday January 4th, and I have so far made a lamb bone broth, and will whizz together some fig blitzed coconut balls for sweet treats. Aimee is going to rustle up some salty winter vegetable crisps, and I am going to make a big batch of soup. So far we have argued only once, about old jars (?!)- probably because we have started our post Xmas sugar wean and are feeling the needy pangs.
But it’s okay, because food isn’t everything, right?