Alrighty then. Time to take our own medicine.
This phase is not forever (and, truthfully, is not for everyone). But a strict elimination diet is the gold-standard test for determining how different foods affect each individual and for truly learning how “clean eating” feels.
And, for many, it’s a key part of getting you where you want to be.
For some, this “desired destination” means escaping the grip of a sugar habit and sweet cravings. For others, it means losing those “stubborn 10-20 pounds” or achieving a leaner, stronger body composition.
For many, many others, it means alleviating serious health conditions, such as autoimmune disorders, leaky gut syndrome, metabolic syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, skin disorders and arthritis. Or it’s about “just” getting rid of annoying, long-standing signs and symptoms, such as bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, acne, brain fog, poor sleep and flagging energy.
Done “correctly”—meaning with precision, mindfulness, curiosity and a sense of gentle, playful self-exploration—Phase 2 is also important for other reasons.
By lifting us out of our comfortable, familiar patterns around food and eating—and doing so in a way that requires real commitment to “sitting with” our discomfort for 30 days—it heightens our awareness of those patterns…as well as other parts of our lives and ourselves.
As you’ll often hear us say: Food’s not just about food, and eating’s not just about eating.
What and how we eat is wrapped up in our social context, our history, our identity, our stories, our beliefs. Making a big splash or shift here isn’t easy. Lots of things come up that may not seem at all related to “diet.” Very, very often, changing eating patterns causes changes in other patterns and parts of our lives as well.
This is not an easy process. And this is not an easy phase of our program.
Yet, in the larger scope of things, It’s. Only. One. Month. And the potential payoff is huge.
Feeling resistance yet? Full-on anger perhaps? Good! Totally normal.
We feel it too. And are full of justifications as to why we don’t need to do (another) Phase 2. I mean, we eat primal 100 percent of the time at home and at least 95 percent of the time overall (I’ll leave space for a stray 5 percent, accounting for very rare occasions when we eat out).
And yet, there’s always room to play, to explore, to learn something new about our relationship with food…along with our larger habits, patterns and selves. After all, when it comes to this “awareness thing,” there’s always another level. Another (perhaps better) “okay point.”
Randy and I will be following the same “Phase 2 rules,” yet each have different areas of work to do.
For him, this is wrapped up in reducing sugar (in the form of fruit as well as primal-approved sweets and sweeteners, such as honey and dark chocolate).
(Randy reaching for the grain-free chocolate-chip cookies featured in our Primal Comfort post here.)
For me, giving up sweets isn’t so hard (which still sounds crazy, considering that during my years as a vegetarian, before going primal, I was a full-blown sugar addict). But I’ll be facing a month without my beloved Greek yoghurt and raw goat and sheep cheese, which, frankly, sucks. Oh, and the red wine with dinner will have to go. Dang it.
Plus, for both of us, we’ll be dealing with all the things that come up when someone takes away our usual comforts. Good times. Great times. Our two siamese cats best stay out of the way.
But, honestly, we’re looking forward to Phase 2. Feels overdue.
And, as Alchemist Clinic doctors, it seems only fair. I mean, we ask our clients to do it…so should join in once a year too.
We chose this Monday, March 30th, as our start date (the first Monday after my 40th birthday). This means the coming Sunday Cook-up post will focus on what we’re doing to ready our fridge and pantry for the phase ahead.
Now, when working with Alchemist Eating clients, the “rules” vary somewhat, depending on what’s going on with the individual. Coming up with your rules is a process (which is one reason why we urge patients against plunging straight into Phase 2 after their initial consult).
But our “rules” for the next 30 days are as follows:
1. Stay within primal parameters (no exceptions).
This is the baseline diet of Alchemist Eating and is how we eat already. In brief, it means: Eat real, whole food, including high-quality animal protein (meat, fish, eggs); loads of veggies; a moderate amount of fruit, nuts and seeds; and plenty of healthy fats and oils. Avoid processed food, grains, legumes, added sugar and artificial sweeteners, and chemically altered (or otherwise unhealthy) fats and oils.
2. Avoid dairy.
This includes “primal-approved” choices, such as grass-fed butter; high-quality, full-fat yoghurt without extra additives; and high-quality, hard, raw cheese. We eat these things normally—but not in the month ahead.
Ghee, or clarified butter, is allowed, since the heating process eliminates the milk proteins, and only pure fat remains.
3. Avoid sugar, except that occurring naturally in fruit. Also avoid all paleo-primal baked goods. And…avoid increasing our fruit intake.
This means giving up our paleo-primal treats and sweets (including 85% dark chocolate and avocado-banana-chocolate cookies).
A few berries with (sugar-free, full-fat, organic) coconut milk or coconut butter is allowed as an after-dinner dessert.
For Randy, a key piece over the 30 days will be decreasing rather than increasing his fruit intake (right now, it’s, um, kind of excessive). This goal is one of the main reasons he’s wanting to do Phase 2 (right, Randy?), offering an excellent example of how individualized this process is, even when it comes to something that’s technically “allowed.”
4. Avoid alcohol.
Randy already does this, so this rule is for me and basically means no wine with dinner.
The trace amount of alcohol in GT’s Kombucha (as a result of the natural tea fermentation process) is allowed (and, by the way, is likely less than that in an over-ripe banana).
5. Avoid increasing our coffee intake.
Since writing our “What about Coffee?” posts, here and here, we’ve taken a hard look at how coffee affects us and cut back to 1-2 cups a day. When I’ve done 30-day elimination diets in the past, my coffee intake increased—not happening this time.
Whoa. That’s hardcore.
Aww. It’s not that bad. I mean, at least the “rules” don’t involve eating like this:
(Randy wants it known this is not him in the photo.)
But, for sure, some aspects won’t be easy (although, admittedly, it’ll be easier for us than for many, since we’re already eating within primal parameters).
So, what are our strategies for success?
Here are a few big ones for those doing a Phase 2 (or even “just” transitioning to the basic primal parameters, which is where we start in Phase 1):
1. Get guided support.
We offer this as part of our phased Alchemist Eating program.
2. Find companionship and connection.
Don’t go it alone—this undertaking is way easier (and way more fun) with friends. Find companions to join you in your Phase 2 (or transition to primal eating)—ideally people in your household and social circles, but, at the very least, online.
One of our favorite things is when clients come to us for structured support…and then implement “their” program with a spouse or entire family. So cool.
3. Spend time on preparation and organization.
Sometimes planning things out and having good food in the fridge makes all the difference.
We help clients with this as part of our program, and you can also follow our Sunday Cook-up series for ideas and inspiration. See last week’s post, featuring our Recipe for an Easy Week, as well as our earlier post sharing 5 Tips for Success.
For those needing extra support, we can also arrange personal chef services. A professional chef, supplied with your customized eating guidance and working with Alchemist Clinic doctors, will prepare healthy meals in your home or for delivery.
4. Cultivate an abundance mindset, and focus on the freedom this sort of eating offers.
We’re talking freedom from sugar and carb cravings, eating addictions, digestive complaints, water retention and bloating, weight gain and excess body fat, acne and other skin disorders, lagging or uneven energy levels, chronic fatigue, chronic nasal congestion, recurrent cold and flu, achy joints, and so on and so forth.
And, anyway, success in sticking to primal eating shouldn’t be miserable. There’s a ton of amazing food you can eat. Yes, even in Phase 2! (Don’t believe us? Keep watch on Instagram, where we’ll be posting our Phase 2 meals.)
(It’s all about abundance!)
5. Remember that Phase 2 isn’t forever.
Ultimately, we’re not about maintaining a diet of restriction. We’re about realistic, long-term solutions that work for you, as an individual.
In Phase 3 of Alchemist Eating, after your hardcore 30 days, we move from diet to lifestyle. At this point, we have a special focus on realistic strategies for sustained success.
Then, in Phase 4, we have periodic check-ins to help you stay on track. This follow-up is here for you—and we’re here to offer whatever you need at that point. (We also assess, together, any need to revisit Phase 1 or Phase 2…or to stay in Phase 3 a little longer.)
And, know what? Even Phase 1 is a super-cool place to hang. That’s where we figure out where you are and where you want to go—then plot a clear path to get you there.
It’s also the beginning stage of making supported changes to eating and lifestyle patterns while engaging in guided self-experimentation and focused exploration. This is a really, really important piece—so no pressure!
Cook-ups in the weeks ahead will be full of what’s working (and what still needs work) as we make our way through our own Phase 2 program.
Want to join us over the next 30 days? Please let us know in the comments!