Part 2: Level 1 of Eating to Live–
A Slow Start
Not gonna lie, our Eating to Live journey started out rough.
When Jason decided that yes, he was really going to do the Eating to Live protocol, he jumped in with two feet. But he didn’t know much about where he was jumping, or how to do it without crashing and burning. I suddenly became his lifeline, which was unfortunate for him, as the whole daily feed-all-these-hungry-people thing has never been my favorite part of life even without these new food restrictions.
Life with Food Restrictions
To be clear, food restrictions are not a new thing in our home. We had raised a Type 1 diabetic child and a high-functioning ASD kid with extreme sensory and food issues. We’d had all sorts of food restriction stress going on in our house over the past two decades. So having another family member with strict food restrictions just made me feel extra tired.
To do a true elimination diet in Level 1, Jason was required to avoid all sugar, gluten, poultry, meat, and dairy from his diet. You read that list and think, “So what in the world does he eat, then?” There is a very helpful food chart located on the Membership Portal of the Eating to Live website and in the book, Eating to Live: Unlocking the Leaky Gut Code. Even while avoiding those large food categories, there are a lot more foods that you can eat in Level 1 than you might think.
The Eating to Live Level 1 Food List
There’s a list of vegetables that’s pages long. Plenty of fruits, too. There are good dairy substitutes listed, healthy oils, a handful of sweeteners, non-gluten grains…and you can have all the fish and seafood your heart desires. It actually looks pretty encouraging.
Until you remember the following key things:
- Jason is a remarkably picky eater. He doesn’t really do veggies or seafood.
- Jason’s wife is a remarkably untalented cook, who has no experience with this type of meal planning and prep, and not much desire to re-learn how to do these things after already raising some difficult eaters!
I think I was kind of hoping he’d just figure it out for himself. We both work; I don’t have much more available free time than he does when it comes to running the household. But that’s not exactly how things went down. It went more like this:
Jason was great about religiously avoiding the things he wasn’t supposed to eat. What he wasn’t so great at was finding replacements that he could and would eat. He could no longer eat his basic go-to meals of Costco protein bars and scrambled eggs. And I wasn’t great at altering the daily dinner plans to accommodate his new restrictions (I was still feeding the teenager with ASD food issues, that was already hard enough). When all the family would come over for Sunday dinner, I continued to make their favorites, and he’d get extra whiney as we rudely ate our rolls and jam or homemade ice cream in front of him. “What? Where’s my dessert?” he’d grumble, fully expecting that I’d have made some magical sugar- and gluten-free concoction just for him. Sadly, I’m just not that wife.
A Hungry Husband
So, for those first few weeks, he stopped eating the foods he was supposed to in order to be in compliance with Level 1, but he didn’t replace them with healthy options. He simply didn’t eat. This, of course, resulted in a hangry, grumpy Jason.
I did make an effort to at least cook foods for daily dinner that he could eat. The recipes on the Eating to Live website that Carla has developed were my saving grace here. Carla is a phenomenal cook, so at first I was intimidated, but I found these healthy recipes to be quite simple and user-friendly. The normal shopping list just had to be switched up a bit (coconut aminos instead of soy, some avocado oil, coconut milk, etc.) and then we were good to go.
I bought some tilapia from Trader Joe’s and cooked it up using this ETL recipe. Expecting push-back from my son with food issues, he surprised me after some initial hesitancy by eating the whole thing! Jason, on the other hand, was a total baby about it. He dramatically ate a few bites and that was it.
Jason was losing weight (of course he was, he was hardly eating anything!), but he was also constantly grouchy and tired. A couple of weeks in I was ready for him to throw in the towel on the whole thing when we had a turning point.
The Turning Point on his Eating to Live Journey
We were celebrating a family birthday and went to an all-you-can-eat cereal bar for dinner. The walls were filled with big see-through containers of cereal and you could fill your bowl as many times as you wanted with as many gluten- and sugar-filled cereals as you can imagine! It was hilarious and fun for everyone– except Jason. His empty stomach growled and he tried to distract himself by entertaining our grandbaby. Then, suddenly he left.
He was back a few minutes later with a bag from a restaurant a few doors down. “I got myself a poké bowl!” he announced, and he sat down to eat a big bowl of pink tuna bites and fresh veggies.
I was stunned. Was this the same guy who’d gagged on my tilapia a few nights prior? Even more stunning, he liked it! He liked the poké! He ate the whole thing and said he felt better than he had in weeks.
The Rewards of Eating to Live
That night, all of us cereal eaters felt bloated and crappy from our all-you-can-eat fest. Meanwhile, Jason felt great! He was full and satisfied with energy to spare. This was the turning point in Jason’s Eating to Live experience. He realized he actually could find healthy foods he liked, and that when he ate them, he felt so much better. It was a mind-opening experience for him.
Foods that he regularly ate during his Level 1 phase of Eating to Live included zucchini noodles with a fresh marinara sauce, lots of fresh fruit, salad, gluten-free veggie pizza, and black bean or impossible burgers wrapped in lettuce. Sometimes he even ate some salmon. Carla and David helped him find a protein bar that was plan-compliant, that helped a lot.
Once the Eating to Live Protein Shakes were available, life became considerably easier. Having an easy go-to that met all his elimination diet requirements (sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, and plant-based) and that tasted good was a game-changer and helped him to stay compliant.
Eating to Live is Working!
I’m so glad he didn’t give up. Because we started seeing significant improvement. The constant back pain was becoming much more bearable– and much less constant. He started feeling like himself a little bit again. The pain relief was making all of his efforts worth it. This was truly motivating to him. His other immediate motivation? He wanted to move to Level 2. He wanted eggs back in his diet, and he wanted ‘em bad!
Stay tuned for Part 3 in this series to see how things went for Jason (and for me!) when Carla moved him to Level 2 in the Eating to Live Meal Plan.