The AIP – One thing at a time.
It isn’t rocket science, but it does take some fortitude…
I’ve been following an Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) way of life for a few years, now. You could say that the AIP framework has become central to how I navigate my world. It informs my personal diet and lifestyle choices. It’s central to my mentoring and coaching practice.
It’s not exclusive, by any means. But, it is my foundational framework. I keep coming back to it because, at its heart, the AIP is based on science. And, its how I make everyday decisions that serve my current and future health.
The thing is, this AIP caper is not a static exercise. It is one that is continually evolving in a very personal way.
We’re funny creatures, we human beans, aren’t we? We tend to think we can do it all in one fell swoop – even when it comes to implementing complex diet and lifestyle changes that are outlined in the AIP.
But, we can’t. Science has proven that we are far better to approach multiple changes and choices individually; one at a time… This is why I created my Wheel of Health – to help me prioritise what’s most important for me at any given time in my health caper.
But, while there is science around the idea of single-tasking, it’s a slightly different topic to the idea of picking the one most important thing at a time on the AIP.
Let’s stick to our knitting…
In an effort to better understand how fellow AIPers approach their personal experience with the protocol, on a bit of a whim, I asked the following question on my coaching Facebook page:
If you had to pick the ONE most important thing that your AIP experience has taught you so far, what would that be?
My mentoring and coaching practice is all about breaking a health framework like the AIP down into bite-sized, manageable pieces, to enable you to make good choices and then to embed these into your everyday life; to crowd OUT the stuff that doesn’t serve you.
So, ASKING ABOUT the ONE most important thing was a very intentional request.
(I should note that I suspected that, for most, the answer would be a moving target and one that evolved over time, just as the protocol does.)
The responses to my question, from fellow AIPers from around the traps, were fascinating. They (re)confirmed for me just how individual this healing caper is for each of us in terms of our approach, even with a shared model.
Since I received such diverse responses for the SINGLE most important thing, I thought you may be interested, too. And, just maybe, the diversity in responses may serve to illustrate just how this healing caper is different for each of us.
So, let’s look at some of the responses. They can be grouped into some common themes…
As one respondent wrote, “No sweat, no panic, I can do this.” (<– I love this!)
Mindset is certainly a biggie when it comes to the AIP, especially as you are starting out on the elimination diet phase of your protocol. It can be a significant paradigm shift (both mentally and physically). Giving up all those food groups and familiarising yourself with what exactly is ‘in’ and what is ‘out’ – grains and gluten, dairy, nuts and seeds, nightshades (what’s a nightshade, again?), alcohol, and eggs… You have to be dedicated!
Some resources to help get you in the right frame of mind:
The term ‘self-care’ means just what it says: looking after yourself and treating yourself as a person who deserves care, as you would treat someone you love.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, for many of us, it isn’t easy. In fact – it can be one of the more challenging aspects of the AIP to truly embrace.
Some resources to help you with self-care:
- What’s the Deal with Self-Care? 15 Ideas for YOUR Self Care Arsenal by yours truly
- What Self Care Looks Like for Me by Erin at Real Food and Love
- Self-Care and Healing from Chronic Illness by Sarah Ballantyne
- Why Boundaries are Necessary for Self-Care by Kari Owens
As one respondent wrote, “Put yourself first when you can; like not narcissistic but in looking after yourself”
Prioritising yourself differs from self-care in that many of us have been taught from a young age to be self-less. That is, to put others first. Learning to put yourself first takes time, and it often involves reframing stories we have told ourself for a very long time.
Some resources to help you with prioritising yourself:
- Putting Myself First by Sarah Ballantyne (aka The Paleo Mom)
- Why Taking Action is the Essence of Self Love by Kari Owens
- Your Health Caper: Taking Personal Responsibility and Making it Yours by yours truly
- 5 Beliefs You Need to Let Go in Order to Put Yourself First by Steven Aitchison
Scientific studies show that sleep may be even more important for our health than diet!
We are increasingly learning more about the importance of consistent quality and quantity sleep. It is when we are asleep that our body repairs and regenerates. It is certainly true that it is a vital key to improved health.
Some resources on sleep:
- Sleep and the Autoimmune Protocol by yours truly
- 10 Tips to Improve Sleep Quality by Sarah Ballantyne
- Trouble Shooting Sleep with Dan Pardi Phoenix Helix podcast by Eileen Laird
Sleep, Anxiety and Insomnia: How to Sleep Better when You’re Anxious (video) by Emma McAdam
ABOVE THE LINE THINKING (plus the importance of stress management)
When you suffer from any sort of chronic illness, it can seem hopeless. The hope that I have experienced personally on my personal caper and seen the AIP bring to so many people is profound. The AIP can be transformative – at a time when it can feel like life will never be good again.
Some resources to offer hope:
- Optimism, Hope and Healing by Sarah Ballantyne
- GREAT Things I have l Have Learned from Having a Chronic Disease by yours truly
- From Victim to Empowered with Sarah Kolman Phoenix Helix podcast by Eileen Laird
- 10 Strategies to Reduce Stress and Anxiety Naturally by Sophie Van Tiggelen
Small Incremental Steps
For me, navigating the AIP is all about implementing small, incremental steps. It’s one of the best ways I know to encourage success.
You know, I think I’m going to start a #smallincrementalsteps hashtag! This is one of my coaching catch-phrases. Just quietly, I suspect a few of my #bloodyfabulous regular contributors were gently poking at me when they offered this as an option.
Resources to help you add small incremental steps:
- My morning ritual is one of the best things I have done for my personal health caper. So much so that I have developed a free mini eCourse to step you through developing your personal morning ritual
- Arguably the MOST important tool in your health toolbox – your food and mood journal is invaluable when it comes to understanding your unique health needs
- A small step I took to really get me thinking about my stress management was to implement daily legs up the wall sessions
What You Eat is Key!
And, this is just as much about what you ADD as it is about what you REMOVE. As one respondent wrote, “Focusing on lifestyle changes and adding in nutrient-dense foods, not just the ‘elimination.’” And another, “Being healthier feels so much better than the food I don’t eat tastes.”
What you eat matters. It’s just not all that matters. And, as you dig more into your personal AIP caper, and start reintroducing foods, you learn that some foods may not serve you. Or, they may not serve you now but after a time, they may yet be introduced.
The important thing is that you focus on a diverse, whole-food approach to eating – preferably in its natural state and as local, seasonal, and free from harmful additives and preservatives as possible.
And yes, that does mean spending time in the kitchen.
Some resources to help:
- Cooking is Not a Burden by Sarah Ballantyne
- What is Nutrient Density and Why is it Important by Chris Kresser
- How to Eat 8-Plus Serves of Vegetables (and Fruit) Every Day by yours truly
- 9 Tips for Adding Nutrient Density by yours truly
Kindness to yourself and TO Others
I really love this offering from an AIPer who has become a lovely friend.
Similar-but-different to the idea of self-care, kindness to self and others could almost become a personal mission or philosophy, I think.
In a world where ‘busyness’ is celebrated and ‘hustle’ is the norm, slowing down and prioritising kindness is a serious (but often important) shift for many of us who suffer from chronic illness and embark on a healing framework like AIP.
Is kindness something that’s on your radar?
- Why Self-Compassion is Not Selfish by yours truly
- Self Compassion with Dr Kristin Neff Phoenix Helix podcast by Eileen Laird
- 6 Science-Backed Ways Being Kind is Good for Your Health by Maile Proctor at Quiet Revolution
- Do the Loving-Kindness Hand Wash by yours truly