When I started the autoimmune protocol, I discovered personally the importance of getting back to basics and simplifying the autoimmune protocol (AIP).
I started the autoimmune protocol with a simple printout of what to include and what to exclude that my naturopath gave me. The printout did not say “autoimmune protocol” at the top, but I discovered it closely resembled the autoimmune protocol within a day or two.
Fast forward almost a year and a half later, and today I know the ins and outs of the autoimmune protocol, scientifically why it works, I own many resources, and found many favorite recipes.
However, there were times over the last year and a half where the autoimmune protocol felt downright overwhelming.
When I start to feel overwhelmed, I get back to basics and focus on simplifying the autoimmune protocol.
I remind myself to make sure I am remembering ALL parts of the autoimmune protocol including nutrition and lifestyle factors like sleep, stress, and movement.
Simplifying the AIP: Nutrition
What I Can Eat
To me, simplifying the AIP means focusing on what I CAN eat. I CAN eat a variety of:
- Veggies – I shoot for local, in season, and organic, but let’s be real, sometimes life gets busy and trying to eat “in season” is not my top priority.
- Fats – I’ve found it’s SO important to make sure I eat enough fats. Fats are slow burning, help me feel satiated, and are incredibly important for health.
- Fruit – I personally love to eat fruit for dessert. I often here different schools of thought on the timing of eating fruit, if it’s okay to combine fruit with meals, types of fruit that has too much sugar in it, etc. It IS important to be aware of how you feel when you eat fruit, and recognize any signs of blood sugar issues, especially when troubleshooting. However, when I’m trying to simplify the AIP, I simply try to make sure I’m eating a few servings of fruit each day, and listen to my body as far as what kind of fruit sounds good.
Listing the Possibilities
After reminding myself of the variety of foods I CAN eat, I found it helpful to make a list of my favorite proteins, veggies, fats, and fruits. I also listed my favorite ways to cook, along with my favorite spices. I then used the list to mix and match foods to create my meal plan, or simply to help with meal ideas.
Note: my list does not include all AIP approved foods. It simply includes my favorite AIP foods.
Cooking, Cooking, and More Cooking
I never cooked so much in life until I started the autoimmune protocol!
Thankfully, I did not know the plethora of AIP recipes online. I might have given up before I started.
I simply thought of the foods I could eat, and learned out to cook them in basic ways.
I learned how to oven roast veggies and meats.
I figured out how to pan fry almost anything.
I bought an Instant Pot.
My husband grilled.
I dusted off my steamer.
In summary, I broke up with my microwave, and learned how to cook real food in real ways.
More often than not, I Googled things like:
“How long do I bake chicken drumsticks in the oven at 350?” and “How do I cook Brussel sprouts?” and “How do I cut a butternut squash?”
As far as I’ve come, I still use Google regularly when I cook.
My point is, learning how to cook real food in simple ways felt like a game changer to me!
I’ve since found a number of AIP recipes I love, but when life gets overwhelming, I get back to basics.
When the Going Gets Tough
Life is not all rainbows and butterflies, and as good as I feel when I eat according to the AIP, I still experience days where I just feel done.
My mind starts wandering to what I cannot eat, I compare myself to others who eat ANYTHING they want with seemingly no consequence, and so on.
I learned not to go down that rabbit hole.
I try to stop my mind in it’s tracks.
How? Here are just a few ideas that help me:
- Turn on my favorite song and dance crazy. Or I grab my man for a slow dance.
- Better yet, grab my man for a 5 second Frenchie. Doesn’t making out with your man distract you?! One of the best distractions out there. Trust me, our men are happy to distract us anytime!
- Look up my favorite AIPers or AIP blogger’s social media accounts or blogs for support.
- Go for a walk.
- Pet your fur kid.
- Snuggle your little ones and tell them why you feel SO lucky you get to be their mama…and remember the way you eat helps you be the best mama you can!
- Remind yourself of your WHYs. Why you are going through this nightmare of starting the AIP in the first place. Holding on to your why will help turn your AIP journey from what feels like a nightmare to a beautiful dream. Not a perfect dream, but a beautiful one where you can find relief from autoimmune symptoms, sugar cravings, caffeine addictions, and more.
Simplifying the AIP: Sleep
Our bodies needs sleep to recover and heal.
Sounds simple, but it felt anything but simple when I started the AIP.
I woke up most nights like clockwork between three and four a.m. and found myself awake for hours. Many times unable to fall back asleep before the time came to get out of bed.
So started a vicious little anxiety cycle surrounding sleep. Every evening, in the hours before bedtime approached, I felt anxiety. I felt exhausted, and falling asleep did not cause the anxiety. Waking up in the middle of the night and seeing the clock read 3:01am caused my anxiety. Questions filled my head:
What is I cannot fall back asleep?
What if I cannot function tomorrow?
What if this lack of sleep worsens my autoimmune symptoms?
What if my kids need me and wake me up?
What if, what if, what if…
In time, I found ways to improve my sleep. The keyword being time. It took me time, patience, and experimenting with ways to improve my sleep.
I wrote an entire article on my experience with improving my sleep, which you can read here. I will simply add that my nutrition and balancing my blood sugar also improved my sleep.
I will also add that my family and I moved recently. My husband and I decided to make our bedroom TV free. In fact, we moved in about three weeks ago, and have no electronics in our bedroom. As a result, our bedroom is pitch black at night (we also have no light pollution where we live). It’s improved my sleep, and I love it!
My whole point is to encourage you to find what works for you! Simply remember that sleep is vital for health, and start working your way toward better sleep.
Simplifying the AIP: Stress
“Even if your diet is perfect, stress can still destroy your health.”Chris Kresser
Anyone else experienced this?
Stress is not good.
Getting stress under control is an important part of the AIP.
I consider myself VERY experienced when it comes to feeling stress…I’m pretty much an expert.
Some things that helped me:
- Recognizing chronic stress
- Setting boundaries
- Removing toxic relationships
- Communicating with loved ones
- Managing finances consistently / making sound financial decisions
- Going to therapy / talking to a trusted loved one
- Movement / walking / exercise
- Activities that bring joy
- Time in nature / outdoors
You may be thinking “Ummmm, Shanna…I am starting the AIP, I FEEL so stressed. I do not know if I can do this. I feel like crap, but this is HARD! The AIP is INCREASING my stress.”
To put my arms around you, give you a BIG hug, and lovingly tell you, “the AIP isn’t your problem. It is going to be part of your solution. It may not feel like it now, but if you can give it a real shot, it CAN change your life for the better. So, dig down deep, and figure out what helps you relieve stress…and do it.”
If you are anything like I was when I started the AIP, then your response back to me is something like “Shanna, THAT’S the problem!! Eating Mint’N Chip ice cream and carne asada taquitos with a side of chips and salsa helps me feel less stressed…and now I cannot eat those anymore!!”
To step up my hug game and give you a BEAR hug, and tell you…
“I’ve been there. I feel you. It feels like ALL kinds of sucky. But if we are being honest, eating those foods are only a bandaid. And not even a good bandaid. More like a bandaid in the water that keeps falling off and doesn’t stick when you try to put it back on. Then what are we left with…
“More stress…and shame. Shame from realizing we lost our self control and broke our promise to ourselves that THIS time we were going to eat better. So again, dig down deep, get to know yourself, and find healthy ways of managing stress. I wish I could give you a shortcut and tell you what makes you truly happy. I cannot. It is something only you can do for yourself. But I am cheering you on. And I believe in you.”
Simplifying the AIP: Movement
Did you know movement is part of the AIP too?
I keep this one as simple as I can: I walk.
I do not have a distance in mind, I simply walk. On good days, I walk farther. On rough days, I walk less.
I go on walks everyday, and it feels awesome!
Well, it usually feels awesome. Sometimes it feels like “I don’t want to walk today. I’m tired. I’d rather be watching a movie.”
I also have a newfound love of playing pickleball with my family. I never heard of pickleball until we moved, and there’s a pickleball court up the street. Picture tennis meets ping pong. It’s amazing. I am terrible at it, which throws in the added benefit of lots of belly laughing.
In the winter, I love snowboarding. As in, I’d do it every single day if I could!
I also love to dance silly with my teenage daughter to our favorite songs. Bonus: not only are we moving, but we are usually laughing, which again, I am completely convinced is mandatory for healing and living well with chronic illness.
Whatever you like to do, just move! And do not be discouraged with where you are now in your wellness journey.
A year and a half ago, I could only manage to walk a less than half a mile loop at a snails pace some days. Nevertheless, I swallowed my pride, and put one foot in front of the other.
It started with one step. That one step is what got me here today…walking miles, and playing pickleball.
I am still not where I want to be, but I celebrate how far I’ve come.
Dare to take that first step, even if it’s scary.
I cannot wait to see where it takes you!
Simplifying the AIP: Love
I am sending you so much love and support, my fellow autoimmune warrior.
Please, please, please know you are not alone.
Please reach out if you have any questions, or simply need some loving encouragement.
Life may feel over if you just received your diagnosis, or if you are in a terrible flare, but I choose to think it’s just beginning.
This new chapter in your life can be filled with beauty, joy, love, and laughter.
You got this!
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I am overwhelmed.. afraid to eat due to horrible total body hives.. been in this road alone for almost 10 days…you gave me some hope
I feel you…it’s SO overwhelming at first. From somebody who has been there…you CAN do this. Just take it one day at a time…or one hour at a time. Sending you SO much love and support.