I have recently become more entrenched in the world of personal nutrition, having always had an interest in food and healthy eating. While I never felt that I had a specific food allergy, getting to know a registered dietician piqued my curiosity to test myself for any food sensitivities. Surely there would be something that didn’t sit right with my body and explain any of the related symptoms one can experience.
So I took a specialized blood test and got the results. No allergies but instead I have strong sensitivities to: string beans, sweet potatoes, tea, whey, peaches, garbanzo beans, mustard, turkey, pork, and barley. Close runners-up are grapes, pears, and avocados. Gasp — no way am I giving up wine for the rest of my life!
After this almost-vegan bemoaned the loss of hummus, earl grey tea, peaches, and barley risotto, I started a 6-phase ingredient LEAP plan. This 28-day challenge entails eating the “safe” ingredients while gradually phasing in the others to see how your body reacts. After establishing a gluten-free baseline for almost 3 weeks, you can be more in tune with knowing exactly what ingredients do to you. Symptoms to watch out for: skin changes, joint inflammation, GI disruptions, fatigue, headaches, and insomnia are some of the more dominant reactions.
Phase 1 was the most stringent and lasted for 7 whole days. My preference for veganism made the process even more limiting by having only 2 allowed protein sources during this phase: pinto beans and soybean (which included tofu and some sources of soymilk). You better believe I was ready to chow on some lentils and cheddar cheese in later phases. Overall, it was important to me to be as true to the process as possible every step of the way. This required a lot of discipline and willpower to fight off cravings and urges to ingredient-cheat.
Challenges I Experienced
– Creative combination of limited ingredients without getting bored day after day. Click here to see what I ate throughout this whole process.
– If you can choose just 1 ingredient to incorporate every 12 hours, what would it be? This requires some strategy to choose what is more important and will maximize your food enjoyment as soon as possible.
– Lack of snacks to satisfy that desire for “crunch”
– In my job as a Kitchen Concierge, I serve mostly as a personal chef for my clients. This requires taste-testing food and adjusting flavors as needed. Most everything I cooked during this time I could not eat myself. I went so far as to take a bite of rice or pasta to check the al dente status, and then spit it out. At least my judgment on seasoning quantities is spot-on often enough that I don’t need to adjust much later in the cooking process.
– Once in a blue moon, I moonlight at a local winery in their tasting room. It was torturous one night to be surrounded by honestly good wine, glutinous crackers, and smelling the delicious appetizers that guests ordered from nearby restaurants.
– In planning a menu to cook and cater for a board meeting with my professional colleagues, I hit a major roadblock in trying to choose a recipe for a baked good that would meet my criteria during that specific phase. Sorry charlie, no can do. Guess I won’t be having a dessert that day either.
– Speaking of which, I also craved major flavor and a creamy component in my meals to enhance my sense of satiety. Eating became a far more functional activity and lost some sense of enjoyment as such through this process. I had to think about what I ate far too much, by way of what ingredients “I’m allowed” in a particular phase. It was a little too structured with little room for variation. I became ready for the day when I could eat freely within the range of ingredients I’m allowed without having to be mindful of the specific combination.
Thank goodness my dietician allowed me vodka from the beginning. My nightly wine ritual turned into a vodka-sipping ritual, albeit in very small quantities. On the plus side, a handle of vodka is much less expensive than multiple bottles of wine and lasts longer too.
Now that you’ve read through my personal experiment and food journey, you might wonder what the significance is for you. Bottom line: each of us has individual custom nutrition needs. You might not realize what your food is or is not doing for your body to promote health. Most people think that food allergies fall only into these categories, however there are hundreds of individual ingredients that could potentially mess you up. Even if you don’t go through the specific eating plan that I did, KNOWLEDGE IS POWER when it comes to taking care of yourself.