I’ve been following an AIP way of life for over five years, now. I’ve learnt a thing or two about how to turn your diet into a lifestyle.
Like many, I started out thinking it was a temporary measure – I thought I’d give the elimination phase of the protocol a red, hot go for a while and see what happened. Then, I could go back to living my life. My way.
Little did I know that my initial foray into changing my diet would turn into a lifestyle…
At the time that I started my personal AIP caper, I thought I had nothing to lose. I’d been living with a hideously painful and ugly skin affliction for half my life and I didn’t really hold out much hope that making diet and lifestyle changes could really effect much improvement. After all, I had seen doctors and specialists in three different countries. None of them had been able to help me improve my lot.
To say that AIP has changed my life in unimaginable ways is an understatement.
So, how do you go about turning your diet into diet a lifestyle? Here’s how I do it…
Start with the elimination phase
You have to start somewhere. And, as daunting as the elimination phase can appear at the beginning, it provides a very sound and scientifically-based framework* from which you can confidently move forward. The Autoimmune Protocol elimination phase gives clearly sets out the list of nutrient-dense, gut-healing foods that encourage good health and which potentially inflammatory foods to remove because they may be hindering it.
I remember thinking that the task ahead of me was impossible. Yet now, I return to a version of the elimination phase when I want to check myself. It has become my baseline.
If you’re completely new to the Autoimmune Protocol, head to this article by the Paleo Mom. If you’ve lost your way a little on AIP and want to (re)find your groove, come and join the next AIP Reset.
Keep a food and mood diary
I believe that your food and mood journal is the most important tool in your health toolbox because it helps you to personalise your health caper. Daily tracking is what will assist you most in understanding what works for you and what doesn’t.
My food and mood journal has been pivotal in showing me what is going on with my health. Mor than anything, this is the information that has helped me to turn my diet into a lifestyle.
In addition to tracking what I eat, I also record:-
- my symptoms
- sleep (quality and quantity)
- movement and exercise
- mood and stress levels
- mindfulness and self-care
- at the risk of over-sharing, I track my bathroom habits, too.
Sure. In the beginning, like many new things, it was a bit of a drag. But now it has become almost second nature.
Here’s a good question for you to ask yourself: If you had the choice to put yourself first, why wouldn’t you? Who else (other than possibly your Mum) will do it for you? AIP is all about taking personal responsibility for your health.
Owning the decision to follow a healthy diet is a big part of making it part of your everyday lifestyle.
- Be unapologetic – for some reason, it is considered acceptable for others to express opinions about what (and how) you choose to eat. Owning your decision to put your health first and following a protocol like AIP will go a long way to shutting up the naysayers.
- Become known as the healthy eating guru – This worked for me in the most unlikely of ways. Pre-AIP, I was known for my knowledge of dining out at the zjooshiest of restaurants here in Sydney. This stopped rather abruptly while I was in my elimination phase. And, my way of dealing with this was to entertain at home. The great thing about AIP is that it uses seasonal, fresh ingredients. It is easy to cook well – for AIPers and AIP muggles alike. Become a domestic goddess, and channel your inner AIP Nigella!
- Build up a library of recipes – One of the things I suggest to clients starting out on AIP is to create a personal AIP-friendly recipe folder. There are oodles of amazing AIP food bloggers out there A good place to start is the Phoenix Helix Recipe Roundtable (and you can check out my recipe archive, too!) Print out the recipes that you make. If you and your family give them two thumbs up, add them to your folder.
Create systems and rituals that support your way of life
This is my secret weapon when it comes to integrating your diet into a way of life. And, even to this day, I continue to do this by stealth in my own health caper. By making small, incremental changes over time, I crowd out the things that are not serving me and introduce more and more habits that do.
Some of the ways I do this are to:
- Create kitchen habits that support your diet. Here are seven of mine!
- Make nutrient density your hobby
- Make visiting your local farmers market a regular event and get to know your farmer (like the lovely Lauren in the pic to your left!)
- Add a vegetable to every meal
- Become a dinner party queen (or king)
Accept that this will take time
Turning your diet into a lifestyle is a long term prospect – you could even say it’s a lifetime one. And, if you find that idea a smidge daunting – consider how long it has taken you to come to the realisation that what you eat is so important!
And, because it is going to be your new lifestyle, it’s important that you pace yourself.
- Regularly identify your health priorities and set yourself practical goals to help you stay on track
- Pick the MOST important things to focus on at this time
- Create the time for critical thinking about what’s working, what’s not and what’s tricky
- Know that there will be times that you may stumble.
*The Autoimmune Protocol elimination diet is a template. While, for some, it may be the answer, other’s may find that it is the starting point for further exploration.