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The Biggest mistakes people make when starting a healing diet (and how to avoid them)

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The dark side of healing diets. I realize that this sounds pretty dramatic, but in this realm of using food to improve your well-being, a lot of things can come up. 

Healing diets such as the Autoimmune Protocol, SCD, Whole 30, Wahls Protocol etc. are wonderful tools to help your body realign. As I’ve coached hundreds of people on how to find the diet that works best for them and how to incorporate healthy whole foods into their lives, I’ve seen some common mistakes that people often make when embarking on any healing diet, and I want to share these with you so that you have all the tools you need to succeed!

So you’ve done a healing diet for 30 days, you feel amazing, have reduced inflammation and bloating, feel more clear and energized, are sleeping better and feeling happier. Wonderful! You’ve done it! This was the goal!

Then, once you begin to feel better and get away from this restricted way of eating and life starts to happen, your symptoms begin to creep back in, you feel confused about what to eat and what to avoid, and you get into a cycle of being 'on the wagon' or 'off the wagon'. You may have made great strides with your healing diet and learned a lot about yourself in the process, but ultimately this restricted way of eating isn't sustainable and you find it hard to know how to navigate happy hours, social events, wedding season and a busy schedule in this “grey area.”

That grey area though? That’s life. And it's so important to be able to find healthy, sustainable ways to navigate that. If you feel like you’re either restricting your diet and feeling great, or enjoying a social life but feeling sub-par, I want you to help you find tangible ways to navigate the grey and achieve more food freedom.

Read on or watch the video below for three important points to consider when embarking on any healing diet.

1. Don’t skip the reintroduction process.

You may have done an elimination diet and felt a lot better while doing it, but once your timeline was up, you went back to your way of eating because, I know, restricting foods can be a challenge! In my opinion, the most important part of this whole process is the reintroduction portion, which funnily enough is the part that gets looked over the most.

An elimination diet allows your body to reset so that you're able to “clear the muddy waters” and really tune into how food affects you. I strongly encourage setting up a gradual reintroduction process of foods (such as dairy, grains, sugar, alcohol, etc.) to gather data about how each of these things works in your body, rather than go out and eat 'all of the things' for the next three days of your 'freedom', as tempting as it may be! Think of it as an extension of your elimination diet.

With that data you can really understand how things like dairy affects your body, how much and what kind you can have, and how it works in your own unique diet. Any type of diet, calorie counting or elimination can set you up to feel like you're either 'on the wagon' or 'off the wagon', which is why they can be pretty ineffective and even harmful if done in a haphazard way. Gathering information through a reintroduction process is really powerful because it helps us to get really clear on what works for us and to carry these good habits and new knowledge forward into our everyday lives, so that we can make empowered choices.

2. Define what food freedom means to you.

Although healing diets aren't 'easy' per say, when we have a list of what we can and can’t eat, it can be comforting and helpful to have that rigid structure. But once we get away from this structure and delve into the grey area, it can get a little more confusing to figure out what works for us individually.

I always tell people to aim for a 90/10 diet (depending on where you are on your healing journey) where 90% of the time you eat good, nutrient dense food that works for your body and 10% of the time you eat whatever you want in accordance with your body. The thing is, we don’t have a lot of guidance as to what a 90/10 lifestyle even looks like. We only know what it looks like to have strict rigid guidelines in place or to be in a total free for all!

What I would encourage you to do, and what I've been having some of my clients do lately, is to take a minute to write down or think about what 90/10 actually looks like for you. What is food freedom? What would feel really good and sustainable for you? What’s important to you?

Here are some thoughts from a client about what a sustainable lifestyle would feel like for her:

  • More energy

  • Lighter in mood and actual weight

  • Decreased bags under my eyes

  • Better digestion

  • Better sleep, more rested

  • Sharper focus and concentration

  • Improved memory, especially short-term

  • Less cranky, more even-keeled moods

  • Less likely to be thrown off mood-wise, more balanced

  • Like I'm really taking care of myself as best as possible - pride

How do I ideally want to feel around decision-making and food on a day-to-day basis?

  • In control

  • That I'm providing nutrients and healing to my body

  • Like it's not such an internal battle

  • Like it's not something I can discard without intention or thought or feeling badly

  • What I want is to be untroubled -- less burdened -- about every decision when it comes to the choices that I make to think or dream about food, to plan meals, to eat -- to actually put things in my mouth, taste it, chew it, swallow it into my body. I don't want to feel like I have to abdicate my decisions and desires.

These are beautiful examples that came to light when she put some mindful attention to what her ideal lifestyle would look and feel like! Let me know what you come up with when considering what a sustainable diet/lifestyle really means to you, I’d love to hear.

3. What are your non-negotiables?

So maybe you’ve done your healing diet, you're feeling really great, and you've found some sustainability in your everyday diet, but then you move houses, your job responsibilities ramp up, your kids are home for the summer, stress increases and all of your good habits fall away.

You then begin to creep back into your old habits, seeking comfort in food, and have a hard time maintaining any of the momentum or the progress that you made in finding what foods work for your body. The good news? There's no such thing as being bad or good, winning or failing, there is only information that you can use moving forward.

I see clients becoming derailed by stress all the time. They then think they can’t get back to where they were, start to feel a sense of guilt and begin this process again of being on the wagon or off, rather than finding a way to maintain health even during the most stressful times. 

What I encourage you to do is to have some non-negotiables in place that you hold steady to or even increase during times of stress. During times of stress we may let our basic needs fall away, go into survival mode, gravitate towards more sugary foods for comfort, increase caffeine consumption to feel cope with fatigue, and become a lot less mindful about what we're putting into our bodies. In reality, what we want to do is increase these practices during crazy, stressful times.

When I’m stressed and crazy busy, my non-negotiables are:

  • Have a good breakfast with protein, fat and veggie carbs
  • Have 10 minutes of silence daily
  • Drink water and avoid coffee

Instead of making loads of excuses like I used to, I now say to myself, “This is just what I do. During times of high stress, I do these things more rather than less. No matter what!” This will allow you to get out of a constant cycle of being on and off the wagon and allowing external life influences to derail you at every step.


If you want to talk more about what this looks like in your life specifically, I always offer free 30-minute discovery sessions to get clear on your major health concerns and what’s standing in your way.

We are all unique and will implement each of these strategies differently, so contact me to set up a consultation and we can create a plan of action specifically for you.

In Health, 

Christina Tidwell, MN, RN, CHC