The 14-day elimination diet: what is it and why am I doing it?
In an almost eerie coincidence, this month marks my one-year anniversary with my personal trainer Niamh at Lift – and once again I find myself embarking on a 14-day kick start in the form of an elimination diet. When I mentioned this on Snapchat during the week (follow me @rosemarymaccabe), the reaction was swift: what's an elimination diet? What does it entail? Why do it? And because there's nothing handier than being told exactly what to blog about, here it is – the lowdown on why I'm embarking on this diet, and how you can do it too.
The aim of the elimination diet
Despite the inclusion of the word "diet" – which, after all, just means food plan – this is not about weight loss. That being said, like any healthy eating plan, if you're going from (ahem) Eddie Rocket's three times a week, there's a strong chance that you will lose weight.
Ultimately, according to Niamh, it's about pressing the reset button on your digestive system: you eliminate allergens and known inflammation-causing foods and allow your digestive system to get back to doing what it does best without being stalled or blocked.
What does it involve?
In short, it's about spending 14 days eating fresh meat, fish and vegetables – and that's it.
The longer version? No wheat, dairy, gluten, eggs or soy (and I try to remove all complex carbohydrates too, because we know from trial and error that my body just doesn't react that well to them, holding on to bloating and inflammation a whole lot more if I've been eating rice, for example); no root vegetables; no fruit (sugars, however natural, are out); no processed foods whatsoever.
You eat three square meals a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner – with no snacks, loads of water and (ideally) loads of green tea. I've never given up coffee during this diet; I'm not interested in removing caffeine from my life and it has a load of health benefits (as long as you're not necking 12 cups a day!).
In this 14-day plan, there are no "cheat meals" (ordinarily, I'll have one cheat meal per week) – your body needs the full 14 days to clear out and de-bloat, so it's best to try really hard not to have any slips.
It's also recommended not to eat two hours before bedtime, and not to drink any liquids 15 minutes before or 15 minutes after meals (that means no water during meals, either) – it dilutes your digestive enzymes and makes your body have to work harder to get through what you've munched.
An average day on the elimination diet
It really varies (which is what's good about it!), but in essence each meal will contain meat and green vegetables. Today for breakfast, I had some minced lamb with chopped up mint leaves and onion fried in coconut oil, with steamed broccoli on the side.
For lunch, it'll be chicken breasts sprinkled with turmeric and cumin (spices are fine), grilled and served with half an avocado and a bed of baby spinach leaves. Dinner might be two sea bass fillets pan-fried in coconut oil with onion and dill, served with tenderstem broccoli and fine green beans.
A few helpful tips...
Cook everything in coconut oil – I prefer to sautee veg in coconut oil rather than steam them, for example, because it's tastier and somehow I feel like I'm eating more! Plus, coconut oil is high in good saturated fats, and great for skin, hair, brain function etc!
Start your day with lemon juice in hot water, mixed with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and a little sprinkle of cayenne pepper. It's hard to stomach at first but great for clearing the gut lining, regulating your stomach's pH and the cayenne is metabolism-boosting!
Drink 2-3 litres of water a day. I'm especially good for guzzling the water if I feel hungry. It doesn't necessarily fill me up, but it'll at least give me something to do until my next meal!
Eat loads of green veg, and vary it! I love kale fried in coconut oil with garlic, or courgette fried in coconut oil with a little tamari (gluten-free soy sauce). So, so tasty. You can have unlimited green veg, so the idea really is that you won't ever be hungry.
And that's it!
It's super-simple; it's not about deprivation, but about getting your body back to subsisting on a diet of fresh meat and vegetables, to see how it reacts when you reintroduce the rest.
It definitely debloated me majorly, and reduced gut inflammation – and I found out, when I began reintroducing things, that red and green peppers (for example) give me indigestion. Eggs can be a little tough on my digestive system and I find it really hard to lose weight if I'm regularly eating complex carbs (sob).
I'll be charting my progress on Snapchat – so follow along if you're interested. Ask me any questions you might have and, if you do try it, don't be freaked out! It's not difficult and you won't feel starving. Trust me – if I felt starving I'd never be doing it a second time!