I wrote up some tips for spoonies here. If you’re eliminating gluten, dairy, corn, and soy, and you have limited energy, check those out.

In the past, I’ve been too scared to try eliminating any particular food for more than a week. The reason was two-fold: one, I have such limited energy and I perceived dietary restrictions as being lots of extra work and two, I really like dietary indulgences. I savor good food. I think having something tasty is a great pleasure in life. And I tend to be a person who is fairly well-behaved (drinking rarely, staying away from drugs that aren’t prescribed to me, OTC, or caffeine, avoiding smoking, almost never going to parties). I think because I have so few indulgences, good food and laziness feel extra special to me. (Having limited energy does not equal being lazy. But sometimes, even when I do have a bit of energy, I give myself a lazy day.)

This time, I knew it would be different, because I’d have my health coach Monica to talk me through the plan, and to check in with me on how it’s going (an extra big deal since she’s going to have a little one any day now! so it’s very nice that she takes the time to email me). I’ve found those ways to deal with the diet that I mentioned in the tips post linked earlier. But I’ve learned some other things, too.

I’ve learned that I can be very happy with a salad, if I put the right things in it. I’ve learned that locally produced meats are amazing. I’ve learned that sometimes you really want butter, not olive oil or coconut oil, and that is a good time to use bacon grease if you happen to have it on hand.

My big takeaway, that I hope will stay with me even after I’m done adding foods back in and seeing what does or doesn’t make me feel bad, is that if I’m willing to do a little work and carefully budget, I can get high quality ingredients and make myself things that are not only just as indulgent as any foods I was eating before this, but tastier. Obviously, I shouldn’t subsist on a diet of Izze and Lara bars, or even home-made almond flour muffins (though anything made with almond flour is going to be much lower in sugar than any other baked good). But I hope that I’ve given myself a good foundation for expanding my diet to include a wider variety of healthier foods, without feeling deprived of the junk food I ate so often in the past. And I’ve learned that I don’t need to be afraid of changing my diet. I won’t starve, eat something that will make me feel bad because I decide it’s worth it, or live off of pistachios and fruit (though that has served as lunch a few times in the past 3 weeks).

Hello, friends! I’m on an elimination diet right now to see if I can identify specific foods as autoimmune triggers.  I’m using a protocol from the book The Immune System Recovery Plan. This is a very basic plan where I cut out gluten, dairy, corn, and soy for 3 weeks, then eat them again and see what my response is.

My hope was that I would be cooking more when I started this diet, but I have very limited energy and a fair number of obligations, so I have found myself choosing meeting those obligations over cooking for myself. (Are my priorities out of whack? Perhaps, but they are what they are.)

I’m trying to be very gentle with myself about this – I’m doing the best I can right now, and I have been pretty successful in avoiding these foods. I thought I would share some of the ways that I’m dealing with this. If you are on a stricter elimination diet (for example, no nuts, eggs, nightshades, caffeine, sugar of any type, etc), these tips probably aren’t for you. But if you’re just avoiding those big 4, this might help.

Tip #1: Mexican food is your friend.

Rice + beans + spices + guac + pico = DELICIOUS. You can order a taco salad and ask for it with no shell or dairy. Add meat if you want. Add guacamole if it doesn’t come with it.

Tip #2: Sandwich places that offer lettuce wraps are your friend.

Be sure to carefully investigate the sandwich fillings, though – a lot of them might have hidden wheat or soy.

Tip #3: Salad bars are your friend.

A lot of big grocery stores have them. I work on a university campus and it has one. This is great – I just get a container and load up on spinach, cucumbers, bell peppers, hard-boiled eggs, and chicken. Be careful about dressings, though. I bought a dressing from the grocery store that is free of all the ingredients I’m avoiding (balsamic vinaigrette is most likely to meet this requirement). I don’t get dressing from the actual salad bar.

Tip #4: LARABAR is your friend.

Check the ingredients on your particular bar to be sure, but these are all gluten free, and all the ones I’ve gotten are dairy free as well. They tend to be sweetened with dates (OM NOM NOM DATES SO GOOD) and brown rice syrup.

Tip #5: Scrambled eggs are your friends.

You can even make them in the microwave if you need to.

Tip #6: Smoothies are your friends.

This one’s easier if you have a high-powered blender, and I haven’t availed myself of it much yet because I’ve been slow in the mornings. But especially on a hot day, this is great. My recipe is 1c liquid (I usually go with water or coconut milk, but sometimes almond milk), 1 frozen banana, ½-1c other fruit, 6 ice cubes. I’m planning to add greens, coconut oil, chia seeds, and nut butter in the near future.

Tip #7: Be kind to yourself.

What you’re doing isn’t holy. It’s not that you are a morally better person if you’re eating whole foods, or that if, like me, you need to take the prepared foods route, you’re a bad person. You’re just trying to figure out what works for your body. If you mess up, it’s not too hard to start over. You’re doing the best you can, with the situation you have. Always.