Thursday, November 13, 2008

How To Be Successful On a Restrictive Diet

November marks four years since I first visited my naturopath and she started me on a restrictive diet that I believe put me on the path towards healing my body from rheumatoid arthritis. Since that time, I have been able to add back foods from the nightshade family, citrus, peanuts, chocolate, wine and some sugar although I do try to limit each of these foods as rotational rather than daily foods. The two groups of food that have remained eliminated from my diet are gluten and dairy. Those two I expect to never be a part of my every day life again.

Living in our society is difficult when you are on a restrictive diet. So, how can you be successful?
1. Make a commitment to yourself. My body was deteriorating while on three heavy duty medications. For me, diet was not something I "hoped" would work but something I put 100% faith into. I really believe this faith helped me through the challenging times.

2. Cook and bring good foods into your home. When you are on a restrictive diet you have to learn to cook so you know what is going into your food. Also, bring the best ingredients you can into your home. The more nutritious foods you can put into your body, the better.

3. Be prepared. Keep acceptable foods that you enjoy on hand at all times. (I originally had chicken and rice soup in the refrigerator or freezer at all times). Always bring food with you, even if going out for a short time. I try to keep a Larabar with me at all times.

4. Restaurants. Find restaurants that provide foods that meet your diet restrictions. More and more restaurants are providing gluten free options. In January Pizza Fusion is opening in my town and will be offering a gluten free pizza crust with organic ingredients. I can't wait!

5. Support. Find family, friends, bloggers, etc that support your diet and use them as a resource when you feel weak moments or when you need a good recipe. I know early on in my diet, one of my best friends would send recipes whenever they popped up in other research she was doing. This was so helpful because it made me realize how much she cared and provided some great food for the whole family! When she went gluten free it was even better! Also, although my sister Stacey has always been supportive of my diet, I felt a tremendous connection to her when she went gluten free. I am so happy she has found benefits from it.

6. Family and friends. I can't even begin to express my gratitude towards my family and friends that have not only encouraged me in my diet but gone out of their way to learn about my diet restrictions and provide special foods when I visit their home or dine out with them. When I visit my dad, he always lays out all the ingredients before he begins cooking to make sure they are safe. Thanks Dad!

7. Realize Your Diet Changes Affect Others. The diet changes I have made for myself have not only been good for me, but my entire family. I feel good knowing that I am providing good quality meals for my children that are free of harmful things that could later put them in the same position I found myself.

8. Reward Yourself. Find something on your list that you enjoy and make sure you treat yourself to it often. Funny thing is, the food you start to crave may totally surprise you. When I started on my diet four years ago, I would look forward to my snack of celery and almond butter. Who would have thought that would be my treat! I think it is just reconditioning our mind with something new. Once I started eating it everyday, it became what chocolate used to be to me.

I know many of my readers are also on restrictive diets. Do you have other suggestions?


  1. Good ideas.
    My challenge has been that it is only me eating this way, so I am constantly fixing two separate meals or snacks. I wish I could switch my whole family over to the type of diet I should be eating, it is just too expensive, and it wouldn't go over very well. It is unfortunate that the healthy stuff is more costly! We don't have a Trader Joe's here in Idaho, yet, and that is pretty much where I bought all my food back in CA. I am having a hard time figuring out where to buy good food for a decent price here. Although, the Costco here has some great stuff, more organic choices than we had in CA, and the prices are good. I bought a 10 lb bag of organic apples on my last trip that cost aprox. .70 cents a pound!
    Now, when you were on the drugs, were you eating healthy like you are now? I am hoping that if I keep up the healthy eating and supplements during my drug treatments, that I will have less side effects.

  2. When I was diagnosed with RA, we were already on the road to eating healthier as a family. However, the first year of being gluten free I also made two meals. Once I really realized this was a life change, I decided not to provide two separate meals or even bring gluten into the house anymore. At home, everyone is gluten free and eats a minumum of processed foods.

    It is true that many of the healthier foods are more expensive. We have decided we would rather pay now than later. By that I mean, with RA being a heritary disease, I would rather pay more for good healthy foods now than have my kids pay later or for something worse than RA to affect us. We have had to reduce other things in our life, but for us it is a priority.

    To help offset some of the costs, we
    ~ make just about everything from scratch
    ~ participate in Here we can buy most of our gluten free flours and other organic products in bulk.
    ~ Trader Joe's is great. Honestly, I don't know what we would do without TJ's.
    ~ Have you hooked up with other homeschoolers yet? They usually know the best places to buy good produce at good prices.

    I was eating healthy and gluten/dairy free when on meds and do believe it helps with side effects. Good luck Jen!

  3. Great tips Cathy!! Thanks for sharing them!


  4. My husband is my biggest supporter of my gluten free diet. Since there are only the two of us here, I only cook gluten free. The only concession I make is letting him have his cookies and a loaf of bread. Everything I cook is gluten free.

    Yes, it is more expensive, but I think people will find a way to do what is important to them. If you are buying food that are unhealthy for you, but also having to pay for medications because of what you eat, then what is the difference?

    I only wish my extended family would support my choice to eat gluten free. I know at least 3 of my siblings would benefit from a GF diet, but they are not willing to give up wheat. And they are suffering for it. And when I am around them, they say "one meal is not going to kill you" but they are not the one who then has to live in my body after I put wheat into it.