Getting Started

One of the hardest things about switching to a new way of eating is just getting started. It’s easy to put it off, or for the task to seem just too difficult. The first few days will definitely be the toughest, but don’t let that scare you off. When I began, I was amazed at how soon my new diet just started to feel normal and natural. Pretty soon, I was barely thinking about it, let alone stressing out.

Here’s my answers to some questions you might have about starting your new Low-FODMAP Life!

Should I see a doctor or dietitian first?

Absolutely. For your own peace of mind (and mine!) make sure you see a physician and/or a dietitian to make sure you’re not suffering from celiac disease or other conditions before you attempt the low-FODMAP diet.

How do I know if FODMAPs are a problem?

The only useful way I’ve found is to eliminate FODMAPs from your diet for at least eight weeks and monitor your symptoms carefully. It can take a long time for your system to completely get rid of foods that are giving your problems, so be patient. Keep a record of your symptoms.

How do I know which FODMAPs specifically I’m having a problem with?

After about six weeks, you should carefully start introducing individual categories one at a time and seeing if you react. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time for this stage of the process. One of the most startling discoveries I made was that it often took me 24-36 hours to react to a problem food, which, until I realized that, made it very difficult to pinpoint which were affecting me. Give yourself at least three days, or even a week, in between introductions.

How soon should I start to feel better?

That all depends on you; there’s too many variables to make any sort of specific prediction. Personally, after about two weeks, I started to see a change in my symptoms.

How do I plan for my first weeks without FODMAPs?

The key word here is “plan.” For one, give yourself some run-up time to shop and make meal plans. Don’t just say “Okay, I’m starting today!” I found it useful to spend a weekend shopping, planning and cooking and start on Monday. Know what you’re eating at every meal at least a couple of days in advance so you don’t get caught unawares, get “hangry” and just grab a slice of pizza. Consult my FODMAP food list before you shop; make sure you have a copy on your phone or in your wallet. Monash University’s¬†iPhone and Android apps, which provide a searchable list of foods, are also really handy.

Do I need to avoid restaurants and eating out?

Strictly speaking, no, but I found that at least at the beginning, it was best to avoid them. You just never know what’s in that sauce or salad dressing, and, frankly, onions and garlic are pretty much EVERYWHERE. If you accidentally consume some, it will mess with your results. My advice, at least for the first couple months, is to cook for yourself and pack a lunch. That might seem hard at first, but you really do get used to it. Plus you may even shed a few pounds, which was for me at least, a nice side bonus.

What if I get frustrated or annoyed?

Not “what if” so much as “when.” Give yourself permission to get frustrated and annoyed, especially in the first few days. It’s okay. The feeling will pass as you develop new habits and get used to the changes.

Should I get my friends and family to help?

Definitely! I don’t think I could have ever done this without the support of my very patient wife. Make sure your family (and even co-workers) know what you’re doing and how they can encourage you (and not tempt you by making you a sandwich!) Their support can make all the difference.