I’ve been following an Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) way of life for 5 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 coaching practice.
It’s not exclusive, by any means.
But, it is my foundational framework. I keep coming back to it because, at it’s heart, AIP is based on science. And, everyday decisions that serve my current and future health.
This AIP caper is not a static process, though. 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 AIP.
But, we can’t. Science has proven that we are far better to approach multiple changes and choices individually; one at a time…
“The shortest way to do many things is to do only one thing at once.” – Samuel Smiles
…I digress – that is a whole other blog post (Check out single tasking, if you’re interested!)
In an effort to better understand how others approach their personal AIP experience, on a bit of a whim, I recently asked the following question on my Joanna Frankham 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 coaching practice is all about breaking a health framework (like 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, the ONE most important thing was a very intentional request.
(It’s just that I suspect that, for most, the answer is a moving target that evolves over time, just like 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, they may serve to show you that this healing caper is different for each of us.
So, let’s look at some of the responses…
And, in a similar vein from another respondent – “No sweat, no panic, I can do this.”
Mindset IS certainly a biggie when it comes to AIP, especially as you are starting out on the elimination diet phase of the 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:
- Getting Beyond Feeling Deprived by Sarah Ballantyne (aka The Paleo Mom)
- Overcoming Self Sabotage Phoenix Helix podcast by Eileen Laird
- Moving Past Limiting Beliefs by Rory Linehan (aka the Paleo PI)
- How to Make the Autoimmune Protocol Easier by Michelle Hover from Unbound Wellness
The term ‘self-care’ means just what it says: looking after yourself and treating yourself as 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 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
- Manage Stress with Soul-Centered Self-Care by Sarah Kolman at Autoimmune Wellness
- Self-Care and Healing from Chronic Illness by Sarah Ballantyne (aka The Paleo Mom)
- Why Boundaries are Necessary for Self-Care by Kari Owens
And, on the same subject from another respondent – “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 learning more about the importance of consistent quality and quantity sleep every week. Sleep is when our body repairs and regenerates. It is certainly true that it is a vital key to improved health.
Some resources on sleep:
- Sleep: Why it’s Important for Those With Autoimmune Disease, and How to Get More of It by Mickey Trescott at Autoimmune Wellness
- Sleep and the Autoimmune Protocol by yours truly
- 10 Tips to Improve Sleep Quality by Sarah Ballantyne (aka The Paleo Mom)
- Trouble Shooting Sleep with Dan Pardi Phoenix Helix podcast by Eileen Laird
Hope For a Good Life with Chronic Illness (And, the Important of Stress Reduction)
When you suffer from an sort of chronic illness, it can seem hopeless. The hope that I have experienced personally and seen AIP bring to so many people is profound. 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 (aka The Paleo Mom)
- 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 of A Squirrel in the Kitchen
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.
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!
Other suggestions along the same lines – “Focusing on lifestyle changes and adding in nutrient dense foods not just the ‘elimination’” and “Being healthier feels so much better than the food I don’t eat tastes.”
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ― Hippocrates
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 (aka The Paleo Mom)
- How to Eat 8-Plus Serves of Vegetables (and Fruit) Every Day by yours truly
- 7 Kitchen Habits that Are a Regular Part of My Health Caper by yours truly
- The Argument for Nutrient Density by Mickey Trescott at Autoimmune Wellness
- 9 Tips for Adding Nutrient Density by yours truly
Kindness to Self and 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 Phienix Helix podcast by Eileen Laird
- 6 Science-Backed Ways Being Kind is Good for Your Health by Maile Proctor at Quiet Revolution