From February 20th to April 1st of this year, I did the best thing that I’ve ever done for my body and my health. I completely gave up grains, sugar, legumes, dairy, eggs, alcohol, seeds, nuts, seed-based spices, fruits and nightshade vegetables (i.e. potatoes, all kinds of peppers, eggplants and tomatoes).
So what the hell did I eat?
When sharing this list with people, many thought I’d gone completely mad and were wondering what I could eat. The truth is, there are a huge variety of vegetables and this adventure actually pushed me to discover and try out new things which, in my books, is one of the joys of living!
Meals consisted of protein (some kind of meat or fish) and vegetables. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some people at work would look at me strangely as I plated fish and spinach for my breakfast but, actually, people around the world eat what many of us consider lunch and dinner foods for their morning meal.
Why would I put myself through this?
I’ve talked about going paleo/primal and the many benefits I’ve experienced. I don’t eat that way 100% of the time as I usually allow myself a ‘cheat day’ once a week. The last time I went 21 days straight without grains and sugar, I broke out in an unusual bout of eczema once I resumed eating as ‘normal’. This had me wondering what it was exactly that my body didn’t want.
As I continued to delve into the paleo and primal blogosphere, I learned about this thing called the Autoimmune Protocol. I read countless success stories from people with serious autoimmune diseases that had gone into remission as a result of a change in their diet. I discovered that autoimmune diseases include everything from eczema (which I suffer from) to more serious diseases like Multiple Sclerosis (see this list of around 80 diseases).
While my eczema is quite mild and tends to only flare up when I’m experiencing high levels of stress, I thought that, if this diet can change the lives of people with debilitating conditions [video], it’s sure to help me learn something about what my body doesn’t like.
With the help of The Paleo Mom‘s posts on the subject, I embarked on my journey.
While there are different recommendations regarding how long to restrict food and how to reintroduce them, my goal was to restrict for 30 days and then slowly reintroduce them following The Paleo Mom’s suggestions. I realised that what I was doing was essentially a more restrictive version of the Whole30 – a challenge to eat paleo for 30 days straight. I worked out that it would take me until June to reintroduce everything, assuming no major adverse reactions to anything (which would mean an even longer reintroduction period).
I successfully reintroduced egg yolk, seed-based spices, fruit and then … I admit it, I gave up. It was the long Easter weekend and I so wanted to go out and enjoy a carefree nice meal (and not have to give the waiter/waitress a hard time which, had happened before – I had sent back a meal in a restaurant because of misinformation from the waiter regarding its ingredients)!
And now onto those Amazing Results
Despite the fact that I didn’t see the reintroduction period through, I experienced results that far surpassed all my expectations.
It was the most successful weight loss intervention I’ve ever made, even though that wasn’t even a direct objective (and hence, I didn’t take any baseline measurements). The observations of people around me, and my own, as well as the fact that I’ve dropped a dress size, possibly even two, is what I’m going by.
I feel lighter than I’ve ever felt and so much more energetic. During this same period I started waking up ridiculously early (for me) and while it has taken some adjusting to, I’m not nearly as exhausted as I’d imagined I would be. In fact my days are more productive and satisfying.
I’ve suffered knee pain for over 15 years now, to the point where I don’t really even notice it much because it’s become so ‘normal’ to me. Now, I’m proud to say it’s pretty much gone! And despite some truly hectic days, not a sign of eczema in sight.
Something has happened mentally too. Having cravings and not being able to satisfy them made me more mindful of the difference between hunger and mindless eating (e.g. Just because something is in front of me, just because somebody is offering it or just because my hands are idle). If I’m going to have something that’s not ideal for my health, it better be the best of that thing that I can find. Which means that it’s unlikely that I’ll come across it on a daily basis!
As far as my primary objective – learning what my body doesn’t like – this too has been achieved but not in the way I expected. Since I stopped my autoimmune experiment, I’ve gone back to eating paleo, except for on one cheat day a week (with some rogue cheat items here and there which, I’m tying to cull).
Unlike before though, I’m still trying to limit the foods I didn’t get to properly reintroduce (dairy, alcohol, nightshades). When I do eat these, as well as grains, sugar and legumes, I feel it: discomfort, bloating, heaviness, lethargy. I find it quite shocking how I was so desensitized to these consequences before. The correlation is quite clear and so, it’s for me to decide how to act in my best interests. In fact, if I could sum up how this adventure has affected me – it has empowered me.
I will continue to eat this way and I plan to eliminate cheat days altogether (I feel too terrible by the end of them). Instead, I will allow myself 3-5 small cheat items, spread throughout the week. I plan to do another Whole30 + Autoimmune Protocol soon so that I can pick up where I left off with proper reintroduction.
I’m just about to dig in to the book It Starts With Food, written by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, the pair behind the Whole 30, and I’m excited to imbibe some more knowledge and inspiration.
Ever done a Whole30 or an elimination diet? How was the experience for you? Thinking about it and have some questions? I look forward to hearing from you.
- Going Paleo/Primal: Blogs to Support your Diet and Lifestyle Transformation
- My 21 Days Without Grains and Sugar and 21 Reasons to Try it – In many ways, the precursor to my Whole30 + autoimmune protocol
- How to Resist Temptation at Events When Going Primal (or Following Any Other Unconventional Diet) – Fantastic tips from my formerly vegan and vegetarian friend, Crystal
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