21 Things I Learned on the Elimination diet

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*Disclaimer, I am not a doctor. This is an accounting of my experience. Please always talk to your medical care provider about what is best for you. *

I have mentioned in a few prior posts that I have changed my diet. Specifically, I started following the JJ Virgin “Virgin Diet”. I cut out: Sugar, Gluten, Eggs, Dairy, Corn, Soy, and Peanuts. I highly recommend anyone who is interested read the book. However, the Ashley cliff notes are as follows. The diet is based on removing the food(s) known to cause inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation can present itself in the body in many ways; to name a few, skin conditions, arthritis, constipation, anxiety, depression, headaches, congestion, and fatigue are among the more common issues. The theory is to remove all the inflammatory toxins from your diet for 21 days and give your body a chance to detox and heal. Later you can try to add in some of the food items you cut out and monitor how your body handles those.

During the 21 day elimination period, it is strongly recommended that you food journal and keep track of your physical and mental well-being and not just your weight loss. It was interesting to me to look back over the 21 days and see how often I used to wake up with headaches. I am currently no longer waking up feeling like I already have a headache, which is awesome.

I choose this diet for a myriad of personal reasons, a few of which I will share. I have been blessed to be a mainly healthy-looking person on the outside, while on the inside it was a different story. I have PCOS or Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. An infertility issue that has many long-lasting health concerns and issues. My doctors have told me for years that though, there are no known cures, diet can hugely affect how healthy/unhealthy PCOS suffers are. Additionally, I have a family history of multiple types of cancers, diabetes, and addiction/mental illness. As I am getting older, my health and my future health feels much more important to me.

I challenged myself to these 21 days. Truthfully, I decided on a whim, at lunchtime on a Tuesday and didn’t think it would last. I was very surprised that it not only lasted, how much I enjoyed it. And, let me tell you! Life was not kind or easy for me. I faced serious stress during this challenge, including the loss of my grandmother. If ever there was an occasion to give yourself some slack! I stuck to my guns. I only cheated once, and it was on day 19! I had already made it through all the cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Some positives I have experienced: I have lost 5 pounds, and 2 inches total, I look much less puffy/bloated, my skin and fingernails look amazing, and I’m not having as many headaches.

Some downsides I have experienced: I am still not sleeping well and am still occasionally just waking up exhausted. My hands still swell occasionally in my sleep and are swollen the next morning.

I have incorporated into this challenge Vitamin D3 and a probiotic and am adding Magnesium and Zinc. I am still experimenting to find the best supplement cocktail for my body and needs. I have also DRASTICALLY increased my water intake and DRASTICALLY decreased my wine intake. I have also added collagen, cacao, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, and coconut oil into my coffee and water.

Alright! Down to the good stuff, here are my 21 lessons learned! Hopefully, they will be helpful to you!

  1. You can do this. Its’ really not that hard.
  2. Meal planning will save your life when the 3:00 p.m. snack cravings hit.
  3. Try intermittent fasting, I am doing 11:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. It has helped me tremendously.
  4. Add more healthy fats like coconut oil and avocado. I missed heavy cream, those helped.
  5. Don’t overdrink while you eat your food. This can cause you to “drown” your stomach acids and cause you to overeat. Too much liquid affects your body’s ability to feel satiated.
  6. Do drink LOTS of water. Flavor it with ACV, and collagen. Add lemon or cucumber or mint. But do it.
  7. Try to incorporate some kind of physical activity, it helps keep you motivated. I am still trying to add more exercise to my day.
  8. Be kind to yourself. If you are too strict or too hard on yourself, this will not be sustainable.
  9. Do not become obsessed with your weight. In 21 days I only lost 5 pounds. Remind yourself that a healthy body and mind are the end goal. Weight loss is great but not the main reason.
  10. Do food journal, it’s fascinating to read back over your prior entries and see the symptoms that have disappeared.
  11. Once you are out of the withdrawal period, it gets SO. MUCH. EASIER.
  12. You start to not even want to cheat or crave sugar.
  13. You will look less puffy.
  14. Giving up breakfast foods is hard. I miss croissants, muffins, and eggs (just to name a few). Oh! And CHEESE! Cheese was the hardest for me to give up.
  15. After you have detoxed the alternative foods taste better than you think they will. For instance, I tried plant-based sour cream and I liked it. I tried Cashew Queso- I LOVED it. Corn-free grain-free tortilla chips? Oh, they are yummy!
  16. Your friends will try to peer pressure you -you know who yall are 😉 Stick to your guns, your journey is not theirs and that’s ok.
  17. Eating out at restaurants is possible, though maybe not always as fun.
  18. Investigate! Do read ingredient labels like a wife with a cheating husband. Do your research, lots of sneaky names for corn, sugar, milk, and soy.
  19. It’s ok to mourn the loss of convenient condiments. I miss when ketchup was just ketchup and mayo was just mayo. Though more creativity is required, there are alternatives available. Guacamole is my secret weapon.
  20. Add more veggies than you want. Eat more veggies than you like. No one to my knowledge has ever become unhealthy by eating broccoli.
  21. Be PROUD of your newly earned self-control. Take pride in taking control of your body!

Some helpful easy snacks to make it through those first few days that helped me were: Apples with cashew butter, bell peppers with hummus, and lots of nuts (just no peanuts). I searched Pinterest for vegan recipes and got lots of ideas of ways I could add chicken, or lamb to make the meals Virgin diet approved. There are tons of excellent ways to use quinoa that I had not imagined, for example cooked in coconut milk and served with berries as a breakfast dish. Or, added to oats to make home-made granola that is grain-free.