Baby Steps Or A Giant Leap?
During my training to become a certified health coach, I was shown that most people can do really well with “baby steps” toward better health. You know, some people try to change everything in their diets & lifestyles overnight, jumping into a radical new eating plan, diving into intense gym workouts and all sorts of exciting promises for transformation. This often happens in January. Well, now that January is past us once again, many of these folks have felt the sting of failure in their new efforts.
If that describes your experience, all is not lost! But while I wish I could say that “baby steps” always add up to a life-change for the better, the reality is a bit more complex. It is true that making small changes which become good habits can really add up to dramatic shifts in outcome over the years. We all see that when we are honest with ourselves, right?
Sometimes, however, a small change doesn’t do much of anything. Deep down, we know it’s true. If today I’m eating a pound of sugar, and for the rest of my life, I eat 3/4 of a pound of sugar each day…you get the idea. In the case of a food sensitivity, you may reduce the amount of an offending food in your diet only to find you do not notice a change. Many clients tell me, “I’ve been reducing the amount of gluten in my diet because my doctor says I’m sensitive to it.” I’m sorry to be a bearer of bad news, but they are really not helping the situation at all. I’ve heard it illustrated this way: “If you’re sitting on 5 tacks, and you take 4 away, it still hurts.”
In order to see a real change, a person who has a food sensitivity must eliminate an offending food entirely, just to stop the destructive activity to their digestive and immune systems. Every single time they ingest the food to which they are sensitive, a reaction takes place, whether they feel it or not. When the food is eliminated – that is, when all the troublesome foods have been discovered and discontinued – the body can rest a bit & stop fighting the onslaught of constant irritation. Only then can the gut begin to heal, if it is furnished with the nutrients and helpful micro-organisms it needs.
This is a glimpse of what an elimination diet can begin to accomplish. On one hand, I hate to have to tell someone that their favorite foods just have to go, at least for a time. But, this is much quicker and less painful than taking decades to learn what’s going on in your gut and how to fix it (which is what I myself did.) An elimination diet is what I recommend to many of my clients. The great thing is that when you are working with a health coach, you have support – a real predictor of success.
So, I’m not trashing baby steps at all. Adding broccoli or more water or gentle exercise to your routine, then adding other beneficial steps to your health habits do indeed yield marvelous results over time! If, however, you are dealing with certain chronic health concerns, you may not see the result you want until you dive in and stay in for a good period of time. I’m not trying to discourage you; I’m just being honest.
A wonderful thing to keep in mind is that sometimes, after a period of healing, foods can be added back to the diet. In my case, I was unable to eat bell peppers & garlic – two of my favorites! – for about 12 years. Of course, a lot of that time I was not healing, because I was still eating gluten, which was a big problem for me. But, a couple of years ago, I realized that I could eat garlic & peppers once again. Now I have a new favorite – lacto-fermented sauerkraut with green & red bell peppers & garlic!