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What an Elimination Diet Taught an Urban Foodie

May 16, 2016 By One Medical
susan ahi tuna

In part one, One Medical member Susan A. — a San Francisco foodie married to a chef — shared her reasons for trying a strict 30-day elimination diet that forbids sugar, dairy, coffee, alcohol and wheat. In part two, she shares how the experience changed her life. 

Spending a month without red wine and Nutella was one of the hardest things I’ve done as an adult, next to childbirth and a half Ironman. But they say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

When my naturopath first suggested an elimination diet, I was consumed with thoughts of all the delicious foods and drinks I had to give up. But by week three, I felt energetic and happy and my skin looked great. My perioral dermatitis went away and hasn’t come back.

Member Susan A.

Member Susan A.

My PCP Erica Matluck says that gluten, dairy, corn, sugar and alcohol are the most common food intolerances she sees in her practice. She suspects the fact that we eat so much of these foods, and the way they’re processed in the U.S., leads some people to react to them. Now that the diet is over, I’m feeling like I want to continue parts of this cleaner way of eating longer term.

My husband, the chef, has started making creative dinners like seared ahi tuna with sticky rice, cucumbers and mushrooms in ponzu sauce that the whole family can eat. Life after the elimination diet really hasn’t changed much. My family and I already ate pretty paleo — we’re lucky to have access to lots of fresh fruits, veggies, fish, etc. The only difference is that my family regularly eats nightshades, dairy and wheat, but I don’t any more.

Here’s what I learned on my elimination diet:

1. Fruits and greens are my energy foods.

During the diet, I had much more energy than I’ve ever had. Now that I’m occasionally eating dairy, wheat and sugar again, I don’t feel the same energy I had when most of my diet was fruit and veggies. I need to make a conscious effort to eat greens and savory, not sugary, dressing on salads.

2. I can cook!

I took an extended vacation from cooking when I married a chef. In fact, the kitchen is off limits when he’s cooking. But after a month of making my own elimination diet dinners, I’m a pro at cooking chicken and veggies in the pan. I’ve now earned the right to cook once a week for the family. Tonight I’m making chicken cacciatore for the chef and the kids.

3. Fruit is delicious.

My husband used to make fun of me because before this diet because I hated fruit. Since I’m always cold living by the ocean, the thought of eating cold, wet fruit deterred me from enjoying it. Now I love fruit; especially blackberries, even at $7 a container. The other day, I packed a mango with my lunch, which is very out of character for the old me.

4. I don’t enjoy lots of cheese any more.

Just the thought of eating big meals like cheesy chicken quesadilla, or a saucy calzone from our favorite pizza joint now makes me feel lazy like I need a nap.

5. Gluten-free pasta isn’t so bad.

Pasta Sunday is a long-honored Italian tradition in my husband’s family. I’m fortunate that he discovered gluten-free pasta by Tolerant, which he paired with a delicious zucchini sauce with sliced Kalamata olives. As we ate our pasta, the vocal stylings of Luciano Pavarotti added extra flavor.

6. I can influence what my kids want to eat.

On weekends, we used to pack lunches for the kids while the adults enjoyed leftover pizza. During the diet, I packed lunches like a pro: almond butter with blueberry jam sandwiches, carrot sticks, broccoli, hummus, strawberries, blueberries, rice cakes and water for us to share. I felt great that the kids saw me eating veggies. They were fighting over who would eat more carrots and strawberries!

7. Tea is pretty amazing.

I didn’t think I could live without coffee, but now I’m really into tea. I love rooibos and Mighty Leaf White Orchard — it’s so delicious and it has just the right amount of flavor. There’s a ritual involved in tea, so it’s kind of a cool thing to think about. I was always sensitive to caffeine and now that I’m eating healthier, I don’t need caffeine…almost. The best thing about tea is that you can have it any time of day.

8. Sugar is still a problem for me.

I love Nutella so much and absence has only made my heart grow fonder. I know I shouldn’t want refined sugar, but this is a tough one because it does make me happy. But I know now it’s a slippery slope, so I don’t eat it often.

9. Easy does it with alcohol.

For a while I didn’t drink alcohol and I slept better, and felt better overall. I’ve slowly started having wine again, but I have no tolerance, so I limit my intake to a glass of bubbly or two. As for red wine, I switched from drinking heavy cabernet sauvignons to lighter pinot noirs.

10. Moderation is the key.

Going forward, I believe in moderation. I don’t want to completely give up delicious, crisp champagne or pasta Sundays with pinot noir. I just let myself know that these indulgences do sometimes come at a price. But YOLO!!


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