I saw, though too late, the folly of beginning a work before we count the cost, and before we judge rightly of our own strength to go through with it.
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
Sooooo…you want to change the way you eat? Maybe you’re considering a specific diet regimen? Grain-free? Gluten-free/dairy-free? GAPS? Whole foods?
How do you go about doing it?
I’m going to detail a little about how we changed. Because, for real, if we did it, nearly anybody can! The only caveat I see to this statement is that although I ate TERRIBLE foods and could consume huge quantities of them, I also ate and liked the stuff that was good for me, too. I can see where if nobody in the family will touch a vegetable, it will be very hard. But donut for donut, cookie for cookie–I promise you I could have matched you.
1. Pick your nutritional torture criteria–oh, no–that’s not right at all–I mean, pick your nutritional rehabilitation program. Oh, okay. If you must. Pick your d-i-e-t. There are SO many to choose from. At first it seems overwhelming, but the common-ground of these diets is actually immense! Immense. And although you may choose the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet, heretofore abbreviated GAPS) or a Paleo diet, you will more than likely not be able to tolerate everything allowed on a full-GAPS diet or Paleo diet. You WILL identify reactions to food as you travel along your chosen dietary endeavor. That’s part of the process.
Dairy backed our family’s diet for years. GAPS allowed my husband, myself, and my second daughter to realize dairy does not allow our bodies to function as designed: severe constipation, chronic cough, chronic rhinitis (drippy, stuffy nose), abdominal pain, and headaches to name just some of our symptoms. So we forego it. It remains to be seen if a year or two on GAPS can reverse this intolerance or not. The point is, you must pick a place to start. We picked GAPS.
(But no matter what, if you aren’t getting the nutrients your body needs, you will fail and end up sicker. So use the help of a nutritionist or really make sure to dot your “i”s and cross your “t”s to make sure you’re getting enough of the things you’re supposed to as you remove the things that are a detriment to your body.)
Some diets you’ve probably come across in your reading:
- GAPS diet
- SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet)
- A whole foods diet
- Autoimmine hypothyroid diet
- Failsafe Diet
- Low salicylate/oxalates/histamine diets
- Atkin’s Diet
- Terry Wahls Diet
- Autoimmune Paleo
- Perfect Health Diet
Oh, my! No wonder you’re confused!!!! As you read, you really will begin to see overlap in lots of areas of these diets. As you embark on a dietary choice for you and your family, you will begin to see who in your family does well with what and who doesn’t do well with what.
You will only pull your hair out and hyperventilate about three times a day: breakfast, lunch, and supper. Eventually, you will learn where it behoves you and your family to deviate or stay very strict. But having rules in the beginning really helps a lot. So read up and pick a nutritional rehabilitation program! I will mostly talk about GAPS and SCD, as they’re the two diet plans I draw most on (GAPS is kind of an enhanced version of SCD). (I’m going through and updating posts. I’ve also learned to draw on and incorporate autoimmune paleo, Terry Wahls’ diet, and Perfect Health Diet ideas, in addition to GAPS/SCD.)
2. Get a meal repertoire. You’ve got to get food on the table. Somehow.
- Here are some of our full-GAPS favorites. They’re likable. Not addictive like macaroni and cheese or breakfast cereal but good:
Spaghetti squash with meat sauce
Bacon (have to pick and choose to find a “legal” one)
Chicken or tuna salad wrapped in large lettuce leaves
Whole roasted chicken
Roasted chicken legs
Myriad of soups: chicken soup, chili soup, broccoli soup, vegetable-beef soup
Almond crusted chicken strips dipped in homemade honey mustard sauce
Sunday roast with carrots and onions
GAPS legal hot dogs
Green beans sautéed in onion, olive oil, salt and pepper
Hamburgers with guacamole and other fixins
Grilled steaks with broccoli
- Consider buying meal plans to get you started. We ordered Cara Faus’s meal plans, and they saved me for sure. My oldest daughter, then 8, was really struggling with our completely 180 degree turn in eating-habits. And all blame went squarely on my shoulders. “What are we having for supper?” was NOT a fun question anymore. It was an accusation. And my brain wasn’t accustomed to cooking this way so initially it was in shell-shock and denial, too.How to get moving? Cara Faus’s meal plans layed it all out for me. When my sassy (said with love!) daughter wanted to know “what’s to eat”, I directed her to the menu for the day. It was no longer MY fault if supper was bad. It was Cara’s! Hee, hee, hee. But really, for some reason, when the menus dictated our foods, my daughter relaxed. If she didn’t like supper, she just looked ahead to the next day. It was actually fun and exciting. We no longer use the menus in a dictatorial way, but they were the crutch we needed to keep us going and give us fresh ideas. She has GAPS intro plans, too. Grain Free Meal Plans by Cara Faus: http://www.healthhomehappy.com/menu-subscriptions
- Invest in a few cook-books. I bought these (Amazon links below), and they all have great facets. I’d be more than happy to give more insight so you can narrow it down! Just leave a comment or if you know me, ask me.:
- Best of Grain Free Meal Plans, Volume 1 by Cara Faus
- Internal Bliss, Recipes designed for those following the Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet, by Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD
- Recipes for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, by Raman Prasad
- Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals, by Mark Sisson and Jennifer Meier
- The Gluten-Free Almond Flour cookbook by Elana Amsterdam
- Get a three-ring binder, a three-ring hole punch, and whenever you look up a recipe on-line, print it off and stick it in the binder to start making your own cookbook. As you’re browsing, print off recipes you’d like to try later and file those, too.
3. Start chuckin’ food. Once you have some meals you know you can make and the ingredients to make them, it’s time. Load ’em up. Move ’em out. Get some boxes or bags and start cleaning out the cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer. Throw half-eaten products in the garbage. It will break your heart. You will think about all the wasted money. Alternatively, you could eat it all down over time. But I liked saying “good-bye” to my friends in a more formal fashion.
“Good-bye, apple pie. See you NEVER.” Thunk.
When your bags or boxes are filled, place them in the back of the mini-van so you’re more likely to do what you’re setting out to do. Sob. Life was SO easy.
- Deliver the preservative/colorant-filled food to a friend–who has no intention of changing her eating habits, you crazy girl! Don’t forget to take her the poisonous ice cream, frozen chicken strips, and cookie dough in the freezer. She will love you for it.
- Be really nice. Take some to the food bank.
4. Be prepared for some strange feelings. I know. I know. It’s just food. But it’s also memories. Movie night with microwave popcorn. The beloved macaroni and cheese. Goldfish to preschool as Marcie’s most favorite snack. Laughter over my morning cup of coffee with cream.
But there’s also a certain amount of liberation. Where will this change really take us? Who knows. Is it going to change anything? Probably. Will we really feel better? Most likely. Will the strange chicken-like tic one of my daughters has really go away? You betcha’. How much can I save by not having to buy Miralax, Xyzal, Singulair, Flonase, Aleve, Flovent, and albuterol every month? Hundreds. Will I really never get another wrinkle or gray hair again in my life? Let me know!
5. Hang on to a few staples for entertaining emergencies and your duties as a swim team member. I did save some flour, sugar, brown sugar, and corn starch. They are not easily accessible in the kitchen, but I was glad I had them when I had to make some cookies for the swim meet. And when I had a homeschool coffee at our home, it was nice to offer sugar in addition to the honey.
6. Set time parameters for how long you are going to do the nutritional rehabilitation program (aka diet) and any times you may allow exclusions from it.:
- I am going to do GAPS for one year and my family is along by default, seeing great improvements along the way! I originally told my kids we were going to try our new diet for 6 weeks, but we saw so many benefits, I changed my mind. You’re allowed to do that you know! There is NO SHAME.
- Allowances for non-GAPS food for our family include the kids’ birthdays, major holidays, and vacations. You will find that is actually A LOT of allowances. I do not allow that many allowances for myself. I deviated at Christmas; it wreaked havoc on my GI tract, and my husband said I was a terrible grouch. It has taken weeks to get back on track. That keeps temptations at bay.
7. When resistance is met from your kids, do your best to explain things as factually as possible. My toughest critic (my almost 9-year-old) now wants to open a clinic to teach people how to eat “healthy.”
- No. We can’t eat that red popsicle. The red food dye is an added synthetic chemical. It stimulates some little kids’ brains and makes them not able to sleep or do their math.
- No. We can’t drink that apple cider. It has potassium sorbate in it, and that is a preservative that can kill the good bacteria and yeasts that live in your tummy that are very important to help your body absorb food and fight infections!
- No. The wheat in that spaghetti noodle has gluten in it, and that can open up “teeny-tiny” holes in your “tummy” and make your body allergic to many things.
8. Consider joining an on-line support group.
- Reading about other people’s trials, tribulations, and successes really keeps you motivated.
- HOWEVER, some support groups can be VERY OVERWHELMING and SCARE YOUR SOCKS OFF! Like one of those Loony Toon cartoons where the characters’ heads spin around and around and around. So be prepared to sort through it all.
9. Keep your diet’s reference texts at hand and use the internet as a grand resource. My favorites have been:
- Breaking the Vicious Cycle (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) by Elaine Gottschall
- Gaps Guide by Baden Lashkov
- Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD, MMedSci in Neurology and Nutrition
10. Try to get your spouse in on the plan. Mine is, and I couldn’t do it without his encouraging and unwavering support. I’m a doctor. Now I’m a stay-at-home mom peeling onions all day. I’ve wanted to give up this way of eating because of all the work it entails and the endurance it takes to eat this way living in the food-society we live in. It would be simpler to cave. But we all feel better, and we are healthier. What more can I ask for than to help heal my own family?
Posts to follow will continue centering on how we are doing GAPS (and I am NO expert at all, repeat this 10 times), some meal ideas that are as quick as possible, what we do with setbacks, how we address external societal pressures (ie, candy at Sunday School), and shopping. Oh, yeah–if you see any typographical errors that don’t seem to be stylistic, please let me know with a comment! Good-bye for now!
What a well thought-out post!
Thank you! I have some friends reading along who are contemplating GAPS or a similar equivalent. I know you also do GAPS, so if you have any sage advice for them–oh, please do share!!!
I feel like I’m only just finding a rhythm to it all after a few months on GAPS. I’ve written a handful of posts on our journey so far, so free feel to stop by. I hope you read something that will benefit your GAPS journey. 🙂
The main challenge for me would have to be trying to keep up with homeschooling, house and young children, as well as doing all the food prep that GAPS requires. And coming up with creative recipes that don’t use grains or potatoes! I have no idea just how much I depended on these in our daily diet!