Today I am excited to share with you my friend Leslie’s guest post about her transition to the Autoimmune Protocol. It is my hope that her story can help some of you in taking on AIP, because I know it can be daunting.
Hello, everyone! I’m Leslie, and I run The Whole Life Balance blog. I write about the Paleo and AIP lifestyle, natural living, and balancing all of the above with a busy life. Grace and I met at Paleo f(x) back in April, and afterward, we decided to cross-blog. Check out her guest post.
Today, I’m going to share my story of how I transitioned to the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). Forgive me while I spend a few sentences explaining what AIP is, just in case there are any readers who are unfamiliar. AIP is an elimination diet meant to help identify foods that are triggering negative reactions and contributing to autoimmunity. Therefore, those who follow AIP will eventually reintroduce the foods that have been eliminated. However, it has to be done one food at a time so that you can determine positive and negative reactions. In essence, AIP eliminates all of the following: grains (including gluten), dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, coffee, chocolate, legumes, and nightshades (this is the one most people don’t know–tomatoes, peppers, spices made from peppers, eggplant, white potatoes).
Now, I want to give a brief background on my journey. I have Hashimoto’s disease, which means that my thyroid typically underperforms; it’s an autoimmune disease. I learned about the Paleo diet in December 2013, and I wanted to try it because of its positive effects for people like myself. I followed the Paleo diet fairly strictly–I’d say 85/15, maybe even 90/10–for over a year; it eliminates grains, legumes, and dairy. I learned about AIP pretty early on and was actually scared to have to do it, because it seemed so restrictive. Unfortunately, more than a year on Paleo brought no noticeable improvements in my Hashimoto’s symptoms. In fact, an extremely stressful job exacerbated my symptoms. So, back in March, I stumbled across the SAD to AIP in SIX program which was created by Angie Alt. She partners with Mickey Trescott in the autoimmune community, and they co-host the blog Autoimmune-Paleo . Spontaneously, I decided to sign up.
And so began my transition from Paleo to AIP. Angie created a thorough and engaging program to help clients gently transition to the full elimination phase AIP. Let me clear up the name: “SAD” refers to Standard American Diet, we’ve already covered “AIP,” and “SIX” refers to the length of the program–six weeks. The name indicates that the program is geared toward individuals who currently follow the SAD, but really anyone wanting to transition to AIP is welcome to complete the program. To use myself as an example, I was already Paleo, and I was welcomed into the program, even though I just kind of skipped over some of the eliminations because I already wasn’t eating those types of foods.
Here’s a little bit of the nitty gritty of the program. The first week is dedicated to building a support system of family and/or friends who will help you get through the program. It’s also spent getting to know the other individuals going through the program in your group. You’ll also meet the coaches that Angie has brought on to help her mentor everyone in the program. However, keep in mind that it is group coaching done via a secret group on Facebook, so there is no one-on-one coaching. After that first week, the eliminations start. Angie bases her process of the eliminations off of the recommendations of Dr. Sarah Ballantyne of The Paleo Mom, author of The Paleo Approach and The Paleo Approach Cookbook. She begins with the food groups that are shown to cause the biggest negative impacts for most people and then works her way along from there. If I recall correctly, there were about two food groups (of those that I listed above) eliminated per week. As you can imagine, it was a staged elimination process rather than a cold-turkey one in order to make it more sustainable.
Angie and the mentor coaches post inspirational stories and photos as well as links to helpful blog posts throughout the program. They also pose thought-provoking questions to help get clients thinking about how they’ll tackle certain elements of AIP. Additionally, Angie sends out a weekly assignment document with little “homework assignments” for each day of the week. Some days it was reading a blog post or two about why a certain group of food is removed on AIP, and other days it was grocery shopping. The program really is designed to set clients up for success.
I had a very positive experience with the program, personally. Although AIP was daunting to me, I was willing to give it a try for the benefit of my Hashimoto’s. I found the staged eliminations to be incredibly helpful, and I attribute the sustainability of the protocol to that process. It gave me time to wrap my head around what was going to be eliminated and how I could get along without it. At that time, I only had one AIP cookbook, but during the program, I threw caution to the wind and ordered three more. Those helped me so much! I had hundreds of recipes within reach, instead of scouring the Internet without any real idea of what I wanted. I find searching for recipes on the Internet to be a bit of a time sink because so many options come up for any given thing; “recipe shopping” in cookbooks keeps my time spent meal planning more manageable. The one thing I wasn’t very good about when I completed the program was the food journal. I’ve never been the food journal type, and while I know that it can provide a ton of useful information, I really just forgot to do it…a lot. I think I will try to come up with my own version of a food journal and make myself be more dedicated to it when I start reintroducing foods, because it will be much more useful and important then.
The last week of the program was the first week of full-on AIP, so I have been AIP since April 6th. That’s just over two months, as of this writing. Most of the literature that I’ve read on AIP suggests an elimination phase of 3-6 months, but it varies from person to person. I know some people in my group were going to stick to it for 30 days after the program ended, and I know other people in the AIP community who followed strict AIP for years. The approach that I chose was to just go with the flow. I’ve been working really hard to stick to it, despite some pretty intense cravings for things I used to be able to eat while only following Paleo. I had accidental exposure to nightshades during the program, after they were eliminated, and that caused joint pain in my hand for several days. This has caused me to be a little anxious about reintroducing those foods when the time comes. However, I’m really just looking for my Hashimoto’s symptoms to settle down. A lot of stress was recently removed from my life, I’ve been able to sleep a lot lately, and I’m on a more natural thyroid medication now. Once I feel like things have leveled out, and my TSH (thyroid hormone) stops jumping from one extreme to the other, I’ll start reintroducing foods following Dr. Sarah Ballantyne’s guide.
I hope that my story is helpful to you and inspires you to give AIP a try. I’ve truly become accustomed to it now, and I don’t really miss too much–not even chocolate! I highly recommend the SAD to AIP in SIX program because it is so gentle and sustainable. If you have any further questions about the program or just want to chat AIP with me, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading and wishing you health and happiness!
*Please note that my guest post contains an affiliate link to the program I am writing about. This affiliation contributes to me being able to continue to cover the expenses of my blog. Thanks for your understanding!