If you've been on any sort of restricted diet, whether it's Paleo, Whole30, gluten-free, vegan, or even just a weight-loss diet you probably have come across restricted diet fatigue. You start off super gung ho and filled with motivation to change the way you feel and/or look. But then eventually the fatigue creeps in. Your friends go out to dinner at some new hotspot that you can't eat at. Your family has a big dinner where you have to make your own version of everything (you may have just experienced this over Thanksgiving). Your kids have been invited to 72 birthday parties where they can't eat the pizza and cupcakes. You are sick of bypassing the super cheap food in the grocery store to get a bill of “ack, I don't even want to look”. You just don't want to spend another hour in the kitchen. You just want to go through a drive thru, damnit!
Yeah, been there. A lot actually.
Restricted diet fatigue is a real thing and it can strike at any time. Sometimes for people it strikes within a week. Sometime it takes years. But I don't know too many people who have been completely immune to it. If you are, congratulations, I'm jealous (but you probably aren't reading this far into this post anyway).
When it hits (I'm going to call it RDS for the rest of this post), some people just quit. Especially if they haven't necessarily seen great results. Then there are those of us who can't really quit because we have food allergies that don't allow us to go back into mainstream eating or we have noticed incredibly amazing results in how we both look and feel by being on the restricted diet. What exactly are we supposed to do when RDS strikes?
Here are some tips I've found really help with RDS:
(1) Take a break. This is not for the faint of heart and I recommend this ONLY for those of you who know deep in your heart that the particular restricted diet you are on is right for you. And don't take a break from something that could make you sick, like eating peanuts if you have a peanut allergy or eating gluten if you are Celiac. But maybe relax a bit. Instead of always making sure you eat non-processed gluten-free food, buy some gluten-free pizza in the store and some gluten-free bread and make grilled cheese sandwiches. My biggest advice for this though is to set a time limit so you know you are going to come back. Think of it like a vacation. “From today until next Tuesday I'm going to eat whatever I want (as long as it's gluten-free)”.
(2) Try out a different diet for a while. I actually have a very large stack of vegan cookbooks in my house. Am I vegan? Heck no, I love meat (and eggs and honey and butter). But I draw a lot of inspiration from vegan cookbooks since they don't use meat and I often don't want a meat-heavy meal. Yes, I have to modify them to get rid of the grains to remain Paleo, but to me that's part of the fun (typically it just involves replacing the grain with cauliflower rice or some spiralized veggie). And because I do try to eat less meat it's also fun for me to challenge myself to have a meat-free day every so often just to change things up. Makes a game of it and sometimes that's enough to get me out of my fatigue with Paleo.
(3) Talk to someone who isn't feeling well. This one is actually one that really helps me out when I get RDS. I only do this with people that ask me questions first (as people who don't ask me about Paleo first aren't usually very receptive to getting dietary advice). When I explain how much it has helped me and what the basic ideas of Paleo are to a person who doesn't feel fantastic like I do, it helps me remember WHY I am doing this. It also helps me to remember how bad I felt before.
(4) Along with # 3 to remember how bad you felt before, write down a list of the things that are ailing you. No matter how small the issue seems, write it down. Then come back to it every month or so and see how far you've come. If you've been doing the diet a while it's not too late to do it. You can still write down things you want to fix but also see if you can recall what you set out to fix in the beginning and write it down. I'm always amazed at what I wrote down because I forgot half of it and it really reaffirms what I've done.
(5) Spend an hour looking at blogs or cookbooks for your particular diet (or even just Instagram) and bookmark/copy the recipes that look amazing for later use. We ALL get into ruts where we cook the same damned thing over and over and I really think that contributes to RDS. When we realize the world is our oyster suddenly things don't seem nearly as bad.
(6) Join my private Facebook group and community where there will be lots of people like you! Last year at the big Paleo f(x) Conference one thing I noticed was how AWESOME it was to be around all these people who ate like me, lived like me, thought like me. I came home so jazzed and motivated to keep eating healthy. If only I could be around people like that every day! But alas, other than my family I don't hang out with too many people who do. So I started a Facebook group that will not only have a community aspect where you can get inspiration and support from not only me, but others who are in the same place as you, and you'll also get weekly health and wellness-related challenges and tips. Join the Facebook group here!
Hopefully these tips will help get you through your next bought with Restricted Diet Fatigue (should I trademark that? haha). Do you have something that has worked for you that I haven't mentioned? Please mention it in the comments below!
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