Why food elimination plans do and do not work

How many times have you heard you should only eat a certain way for a certain amount of days to become healthy again? Some of the buzz words associated with this approach are eating clean, only eat plant-based whole foods and liver cleansing or detoxing. In the clinical nutrition setting these can be called food elimination plans. This is when you take out inflammatory foods usually for 3 weeks or more along with a supplement protocol to give your body a chance to reboot.

I remember my first food elimination program in my late 20’s. I just moved from Nebraska to California and my body was not doing well from stress, new environment and major life changes. My dear friend Mistie referred her nutrition guru to me. She put me on a comprehensive shake and gave me a long list of foods I could not eat. For 2 days I mourned. I mourned sandwiches, pizza, cereal, ice cream, corn on the cob and yogurt. After my mourning period, I was ALL in. I was so tired of feeling sick and tired that my spirit and body were ready to take this leap. After 3 days, I couldn’t believe how great I felt. My skin cleared, my bowel movements normalized and my constant bloating went away. Since this was my passion and profession and my nutrition guru became my mentor, I could sustain this elimination program for many months.

But then this one day happened. My rebellious side wanted to reintroduce some of the forbidden foods. Do you know that feeling, you want to jump out of your skin and just do something feisty and against the grain? Whether it was physical withdraws from the old foods or the feeling of resistance of don’t you tell me what to do, I caved.

I couldn’t stop this bingy feeling. I wanted more and more. My willpower went down the toilet along with the craving of feeling good. Was this from lack of desire, my physical body having its own set point or what other forces came over me?

After a few more days of feeling crappy, I shifted back into the swing of things and became even more observant. This was not just a strict plan to follow but my new lifestyle. And if I was going to embrace this lifestyle, as I gathered more information about my own body, I needed to be more curious, compassionate and less judgmental and overbearing about the process. We tend to do things with this all or none attitude which can cause a pendulum swing that makes you rebel against your self.

Now almost 20 years later and experimenting and researching many nutrition modalities, I have realized it is an ongoing and dynamic process. You have to learn how to RESET your own body every day, week, season and year. When we accumulate inflammation we will notice our bodies becoming sluggish, our mental clarity goes to shit and we have a constant feeling of overwhelm.

Now when this feisty feeling roars, I have a better dialogue with it. Sometimes the rebel wins but that feeling of not being connected to my body has stayed.

3 tips to GENTLY introduce a food elimination program:

  1. DO NOT begin on a Monday (or a day when your mind isn’t ready to make a change): If you tell me to do my taxes on a Friday night at 5 pm, I will have to fight really hard to make my mindset ready for that. My mind is ready to take on that type of task on a day when I have less interruptions or responsibilities. Try to clear your calendar to set yourself up for success when you are introducing new challenges and habits.
  2. Write down the list of foods you want to reintroduce FIRST: When we put the forbidden foods up on a pedestal, they will fall off and into our mouths. Instead of giving these foods all of the power, face the forbidden foods with a plan of allowing them to come back and visit. For example, you are taking out dairy for 3 weeks, but feta cheese is your favorite food on earth. You have realized your body does better without dairy, but your friends have invited you over for dinner and there is gorgeous feta on your salad. How are you going to respond? Are you going to jump into fear mode and try to resist because you are scared you are going to eat feta for every meal for the rest of your life or are you going to stay curious and make a decision to enjoy the moment and respond? I highly recommend to choose the later. Making MOST decisions from a place of fear keeps you in resistance mode versus acceptance. Try it, take note of your mind and body and move on.
  3. Do not try to do it perfectly or controlling: I recall someone dear to me experiencing cancer. She did a stellar job adding in super foods and taking out some of her favorite foods. Then one day she wanted a burger. Should she have the burger? We observed what was going on in her psyche if she chose to have the burger. Was it failure, not being a good girl, judging herself or allowing others to tell her what to do? THIS is the real work. She could have controlled herself to not have the burger and all of these feelings would still be running her life. Instead, this amazing burger craving gave her a gift to witness the underlying issues. Did she eat the burger? Yep, but not until she felt all of those feelings and conditions.

If you are ready to take a look at some underlying causes of why our willpower can dilute in a hot minute, come and join me as I lead you during the Conscious Nutrition 3-week RESET process. Fall is a wonderful time of year to give your body a chance to recalibrate.


Besides the steps above and before you RESET, make sure to download the 3-Steps to Make ANY Nutrition Plan work for you. 

Cheers to more aloha & self-acceptance,

Heather Fleming, C.C.N.



Related Articles