Over the next few days, I'm going to be giving you some new resources to help you get started on the FODMAP diet no matter where you are now. Maybe you've been trying for awhile, and it never quite came together for you. I want you to forget all that...we're going to get rid of all that confusion and overwhelm and you'll get it done so you're confident about what to eat to have a calm belly.
If you're new to me, I'm Julie O'Hara, a health coach who specializes in helping women manage IBS using the FODMAP diet. It's all about managing IBS with delicious food and NOT deprivation.
I'm also a nutrition writer whose work has been published in Prevention, Shape and Clean Eating magazine among others. Through my website, I offer one-on-one and group coaching programs to help you get through every phase of the FODMAP diet and apply it to your real life.
By the way, my group coaching program to help you do the first part, the hardest part, of the FODMAP diet - the Elimination Phase - is starting up in just a couple of weeks. It's called Flat Belly Kitchen. Keep your eyes open because it's coming soon!
A FODMAP Myth
Okay, back to today's topic. We're going to talk about the big picture of the FODMAP diet. First I need to start by busting a huge myth: that you have to deprive yourself of food for life, that the FODMAP diet is all about a life of taking food away. That's really not the case!
This diet starts with the Elimination Phase, and that's when you take away high-FODMAP food. So yes, you do have to take away food for a set period of time BUT IT’S NOT FOREVER.
The whole purpose of the Elimination Phase is to see if FODMAPs are actually causing your problems. So if you take them away and you start to feel a whole lot better, you know that you're sensitive to FODMAPs.
In doing this diet myself and working with clients, I’ve found two main areas where people really get tripped up when they're first starting out. Sometimes it's enough to make you just quit or spend months and months in a holding pattern - I call it “elimination phase limbo."
You're sort of cutting out food, but not all the time and it just goes on and on and on. And you never feel like you've actually done it right, and you feel like you can't move forward.
Two Things to Avoid When You're Starting FODMAP
The first thing that seems to trip people up is having a really hard time mourning the food that they have to give up. It feels really unfair. I’ve been in your shoes. It can be paralyzing, and I know exactly what you're going through.
This is really the main thing that kept me from fully diving into the FODMAP diet for months and months. Granted, to give myself a little credit it takes time to actually learn the foods that you're supposed to eat and not eat, and the portion sizes, and how to change recipes.
I studied all that, but then I would think of these excuses...like it was summertime, and I can't possibly give up fresh peaches and figs and plums and nectarines...I used to eat that stuff constantly and I loved it so that was my first excuse.
Then it was my birthday, and there's no way I was going to NOT go out to eat at my favorite Italian restaurant or make a cake. And then it was the holidays, and on and on and on...
Months went by before I fully did the Elimination Phase because I just didn't want to give up the food I love. I absolutely love to eat, so I finally used my knowledge about food to get over these excuses. I was a food writer and recipe developer after all!
I also used my taste buds, and I started changing the recipes that I loved, and changing all my favorite things to make them low-FODMAP. Soon, I realized that this food wasn't bad. Low-FODMAP food could actually be delicious and drool-worthy - yes, I said drool-worthy - I wanted my meals to be that good, and they absolutely can be.
You don't have to have super-professional cooking skills or chef's knowledge to adapt your recipes to make them low-FODMAP. But that's coming in the next the next training in this series.
Once I actually figured out that I could make low-FODMAP food that I loved and was happy to cook for myself and for my husband, I managed to do the Elimination Phase. In the end, I wondered what took me so long.
The Power of Portion Control
Now the other thing that really trips people up with the Elimination Phase is figuring out this whole portion control thing. The way to do that is to really dive into the Monash FODMAP app. If you don't have that app already, you have to download it! It's just so essential and so reliable. This is the university that's done all the research on the FODMAP diet and they test foods continuously and update their app.
Click into different foods and see what the low-FODMAP portion sizes are. If there's an upper limit serving amount - that’s where a low-FODMAP food becomes high-FODMAP if you eat enough of it. It may seem complicated at first, but once you start familiarizing yourself with it you'll see how it works.
I have a free training coming up soon where I'm going to help you actually apply this to your real life.
You'll get worksheets and menu templates so you can actually see what this looks like in a day of eating and how to balance out all these portions. So yes, it can seem a little bit crazy but it doesn't have to trip you up and stop you from actually starting the Elimination Phase.
Moving on to Phase 2: Reintroduction
Now that you're done with the Elimination Phase it's time to actually start bringing food back and that's what we call the Reintroduction Phase. You reintroduce high-FODMAP foods from each individual FODMAP group. You bring them back one by one to see how you react to them. What you're trying to find out is the foods that actually trigger your symptoms.
Now, here's the thing that’s so important to remember: it might not be all of them!
You might be able to eat modest amounts of garlic and onion, and it's not something you'll have to give up for life. But you never know this until you go through the testing process. That's why it's so crucial. Every client I've ever worked with has found something out during the testing process that has surprised them.
I guarantee, you might think you know what you're sensitive to, but you don't know for sure until you test it in a very organized, systematic way. That's the Reintroduction Phase.
The Real-Life Phase
After that...well what happens after that? You've collected all this information, you've learned about your body's unique tolerances and trigger foods and portion sizes and all your needs, but how does that actually let you go live a life where you can eat like a normal person? That’s really what we want right? To not have IBS symptoms.
This is what I call the real-life phase. It's part of the Calm Belly Method, and as far as I know, I am the only person who teaches this. I’m definitely the only health coach in the Northern Hemisphere who specializes in FODMAP!
Here's how it works: I show you how to actually take the data you've gathered and see not just what test foods (you only need to test 9 foods in the Reintroduction Phase) you can eat, but how to relate it to ALL the high-FODMAP foods.
I also show you how to figure out the portion sizes that are likely to work for you, and figure out how to put it together in your day-to-day life. That’s getting ahead of ourselves, but now you know the big picture:
At the end of this whole learning process you've figured out a unique eating style that works just for you where you can keep your symptoms under control and still eat food you love.
You have balance, you can still go to restaurants and travel and know what to expect. You know where you can indulge and where you should cut back. That is how the FODMAP Diet can really improve your life.
Okay guys, remember it doesn't matter what you've struggled with in the past. Even if you fell off the wagon, or you just didn't quite make it work, this is the time for a fresh start!
Your action step for today is to dig into that Monash app and start making a list of the foods you CAN eat. Make a list of everything that you actually like that you can imagine incorporating into your diet and dream up new ways to use it.
Your other action step - and this is gonna be fun - is to have in the back of your mind or written down somewhere two or three of your favorite recipes that you think you can't eat anymore.
In a few days, I'm going to show how you can make your favorite recipes low-FODMAP. I love a recipe makeover, and I think we're going to be able to bring at least one of your favorite recipes back into your life with some of these strategies!
Don't forget to grab the FREE Test Food Tracker and get on your way to loving food again!