Updated: January 2020
Through my years of counselling, I’ve asked several clients about how their diets became restricted. Typically, clients restrict and then notice additional food sensitivities. Jennifer is an example. She eliminated gluten and dairy-based on recommendations from her doctor. After a few months, Jennifer excluded citrus and tomato, because they started bothering her. She felt okay for several weeks, but then noticing problems with meat and chicken. This trend continued, and eventually, she was down to five foods.
Prevent the downward spiral:
- Be careful with elimination diets. They can help pinpoint food triggers, but if not done correctly, they create additional problems. If you decide to follow an elimination diet, be systematic and get guidance from a registered dietitian. Follow the diet for a defined period (e.g. four weeks). If your symptoms don’t improve, go back to your previous intake. If you are feeling better and you think the elimination diet helped, reintroduce the restricted foods to pinpoint specific triggers. Continue eating any foods that are not problematic. If you choose to continue restricting some foods, try to reintroduce them in about six months.
- Replace restricted foods with comparable nutrient-dense foods. For example, if you eliminate wheat (gluten), replace it with other gluten-free whole grains.
- Be skeptical of alarmist nutrition information or miraculous cures on the internet. Most internet nutrition information is misleading, and too much research can create distrust and anxiety about food. Over time, you may get stuck in the Food Avoidance & Sensitivity Trap.
If your diet is already restricted:
- Creatively prepare your limited menu. For example – slice, spiralize or shred raw carrots. Mash cooked carrots with different seasonings.
- Plan your meals. Meal planning can eliminate the constant worry about “what am I going to eat?” Your food sensitivities may improve if you spend less time thinking about food.
- Reduce your food fears and frustrations with self-care strategies, such as intentional breathing. This can help you recognize and change your habits that may be creating and perpetuating your food sensitivities.
- Expand your food-tolerance zone by slowly reintroducing restricted foods. A slow approach takes patience but will be most successful in the long-run.
If you would like professional guidance and caring support to expand your diet, please complete the FAST Freedom Program Needs Assessment.