Three months ago, I had my initial appointment at the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. I didn’t really know what to expect, and I left my appointment feeling a little overwhelmed and unsure if I would follow all of these recommendations. It seemed like a lot to take on, and this is coming from someone who has experimented with elimination-style diets before. I own tons of healthy cookbooks, and have a decent grasp on nutrition. But this wasn’t just going gluten-free: I was to eliminate a lot of favorites for a long time, and perhaps permanently. With the encouragement of my husband, family, and friends, I made the leap. This seems a little trivial, so be so concerned about my diet, but food is pretty emotional for me. It’s associated with happiness, holidays, fun family gatherings, traditions, and is my go-to way of connecting with others. You are new in town? Come over for dinner and drinks! You just had a baby? Here’s a quiche, casserole, and dessert! You had a bad day? I made you cookies. And so on.
So, for 6 weeks and 2 days (but who’s counting?) I didn’t have any gluten, dairy, soy, corn, peanuts, refined sugar, eggs, beef, pork, or alcohol. The first few days were tough. I had a lot of cravings, and the habit of having a glass of wine (or two, or three) in the evening was still strong. I missed having dessert after dinner (and lunch, and the more-than-occasional breakfast cookies). I struggled with what to eat for breakfast without eggs or cereal, which is what I usually had. I wanted to stop by Starbucks on the way home from Crossfit for a latte, like I did a few times a week. This sucked. So I made a countdown on my bathroom mirror like a prisoner counting down his sentence. This was helpful.
Then, around the 2 week mark, I noticed that my pants fit better. I stepped on the scale and realized I’d lost a couple pounds, but more importantly- I wasn’t as puffy and bloated anymore. I didn’t think I was bloated at all, but apparently I had been that way for so long, I assumed it was extra weight. So, maybe this diet is worth it, I thought. Seeing some results definitely provided some motivation to keep going.
Around week 3, I noticed that my mood and energy had improved. I was consistently happier, joking around, not as impatient with the kids. I felt really happy at the end of the day when Kirk got home from work- not because I was exhausted and ready to hand the kids over to him, but because I missed him and wanted to talk. It was a feeling I hadn’t had in about 4 years, since Reid was born. And, I was continuing to deflate like a balloon. Some friends commented on how I was looking, which was super validating for my efforts. These feelings continued through the completion of the diet, which ended on April 4th when I met with my doctor and dietician again.
There’s so much I could say about my experience, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll try to summarize it.
- Weight loss: This wasn’t my primary goal (easing my anxiety and boosting energy were) but I figured I’d lose a few pounds. I did not anticipate losing THIRTEEN. I haven’t seen that number on the scale since I got married. I know that the scale isn’t reflective of overall health, but damn. This feels good. I did this without counting calories or macros which was so freeing.
- Confidence: This is probably related to the weight loss, but I’m so much more confident in my own skin. I even bought a two-piece bathing suit that I might actually keep! And wear! IN PUBLIC!
- Mood: This was the big one for me. Previously, I was sort of happy. Pretty pessimistic, sarcastic, kind of just making it through the day. I was happy if there was something to actually be happy about, like a fun party coming up, Sydney sleeping well, etc. Now, I feel generally happy most of the time. Of course there are still times I am irritated (I do have 2 small children after all) or upset, but I’m able to get over it/snap out of it fairly quickly. It doesn’t drag me down like it did before.
- Palate: This was unexpected. My palate has changed a bit. I now happily drink my coffee black, no cream or sugar. A great treat for me is a cashew-raisin-toasted coconut mix, or maybe a rice cake with some almond butter. Sure, I still love the smell of a cake or cookies baking (I’m only human) but I don’t crave these things like I did before. This is huge- I was the kind of person who literally couldn’t walk by a dessert without sampling some. Cookies and brownies didn’t stand a chance in our house. We’ve had m&m’s in our house for several weeks (Reid’s treat for potty related stuff) and I haven’t even thought about them.
- Energy: My energy levels definitely improved, as did my motivation to do things. I still think there’s room for improvement here, but things are better. I started lifting heavier at crossfit, completing workouts more quickly and with less rest in between rounds, and no longer wanted to just sit on the couch in the afternoon.
- Habits: Still a work in progress, but a lot of habits have changed. I don’t have a drink every night anymore, nor do I feel the urge to pour a big glass of wine to destress at the end of the day. I don’t search for a snack before sitting down to watch TV, and I don’t always have a snack in between meals. I have a better sense of when I’m legitimately hungry versus when I’m just associating an activity with eating. Frequently, dinner is the last time I eat for the day- no snack before bed. I was unable to do this before.
At my appointment this week, the doctor and nutritionist discussed with me the plan from here on out. Over the next 10 weeks or so, I’ll reintroduce 4 foods: eggs, beef, pork, and soy. I can have some clear liquors and if those are tolerated well, a little red wine is ok. I have ordered a few more supplements to help balance things out, plus a thyroid medication to really help my body feel 100%. I’m so pleased with the results, and think most people could benefit from a diet like this to see how you truly tolerate certain foods. Especially if you feel tired, or bloated, or anxious- it’s worth it. Food is so, so integral to how we think and feel every day!
I would love to hear about others’ stories with elimination diets or how you’ve changed your life. What have you done to feel better?