Today’s guest post comes from Mika, who writes over at Slightly Lost Girl about her journey using the Autoimmune Protocol to fight Crohn’s Disease. Mika shares all kinds of great articles about the Autoimmune Protocol as well as recipes and personal stories, so hop on over and check her out if you don’t already follow her! She is a fluent Spanish speaker runs the only website I know of that provides Autoimmune Protocol information and resources in Spanish. Find her Spanish site La Chica Paleo here!
We’ve all been there in some way or another – trying to find our AIP way surrounded by people or situations that just aren’t AIP-friendly. Here Mika tells us how she stays focused and motivated to eat the way she needs to, without going completely insane… even when her husband is stashing snacks in the house! Take it away, Mika!
The best way to get started on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is by moving to another planet where there is no gluten or dairy and cloning all of your friends and family into AIP versions of themselves. This way they won’t eat any “off limits” foods in front of you. Unfortunately this planet doesn’t exist yet. You probably have a spouse, older children, roommates or other family members who are just not willing to change their diet overnight, even for the best of causes. We live in a society of donuts, pizza and social events that are laced with cake and fried finger food. Eating out at most restaurants requires playing a game of 20 questions with the waiter (often ending up with some kind of poison on your plate anyway!). Honestly, following the AIP is a huge challenge! On a daily basis, we are faced with foods that we no longer eat and we have to deal with both social and emotional consequences of eating entirely different foods from most of our friends and family.
I follow the AIP because I have severe Crohn’s disease. After taking damaging immunosuppressors and biological medications for years with little success, I found the AIP. Sticking to the AIP has restored my health to a level that I hadn’t imagined possible. It took getting very sick for me to reach a point where I was willing to change my diet so drastically. I remember lying in a hospital in Southern Brazil and thinking “This is it, I need to fix this NOW and I am willing to do whatever it takes.” Shortly after this I found and implemented the AIP and began my slow recovery. The results have been phenomenal and for me, eating real food has now become a lifelong passion, not just a cure to my illness.
I wish that everyone would see the benefits of eating a balanced whole food based diet. Most of our problems (both physical and emotional) could probably be solved just by eating better. However, I have found that trying to force other people to agree with me (in the kitchen or out) is the quickest way to make them lose interest and resist my suggestions. Sometimes, the harder I push…the harder they push back. My husband, while supportive, has no interest in following my diet. He still drinks coffee and eats donuts on a regular basis. He often shows up from work with fresh baked baguettes. While I would love it if he embraced the paleo lifestyle and enjoyed eating my sautéed kale with organ meat, that is not our reality right now. Being around “off limits” foods can be difficult and cooking two different breakfasts, lunches and dinners is out of the question. Here is what I do to deal with this difficult situation in my daily life.
Did you know that president Obama doesn’t choose his own clothes or what he eats? Seriously! Why? Because he has more important things to think about…like political decisions that affect millions of people. The small daily stresses of deciding what to eat or wear are eliminated so that he can devote all of his thoughts to what really matters. What does that have to do with the AIP? We often torture ourselves spending way too much time and energy thinking about our food. “Should I eat this muffin? It’s gluten free and looks so delicious! It is probably OK. ” If we do not consider foods outside of our diets as FOOD this stress and thought process is eliminated. Obama doesn’t sit there trying to decide which tie to wear and whether or not he should use a belt, he simply puts on the clothes that are set out for him. Do the same with your food. Don’t think about whether or not you should eat the muffin, just remember that you don’t eat muffins. I see my husband’s packaged cookies on the counter and don’t think..”Mmmm I want one of those, but I shouldn’t.” I see those cookies and think: “not food!” The option no longer exists. I must admit it has taken me a long time to get to this point and initial slip-ups in my diet slowed down my progress, but using this mindset has made it a lot easier! The AIP usually requires an extreme “all or nothing” approach to achieve the best results.
Be Patient With Myself & My Non-Paleo Family Members / Friends
When I first changed my diet my mother-in-law simply didn’t believe that I couldn’t eat certain things. She would insist that “just a little wouldn’t hurt” and offer me “off-limits” foods over and over again. She didn’t do this to bother me… even though it seemed like it. For her, offering food is the polite thing to do and my dietary choices simply didn’t make sense to her. She still offers me cookies and bread and butter every time we visit. I always make sure to eat before we visit and bring a snack just in case. I politely refuse the food she offers knowing that not everyone will accept or understand my diet. I also often avoid eating at other people’s houses because I know that refusing food (or risking contamination with dairy, gluten or nightshades) is very stressful. Instead I invite them to my house where I can make food that everyone (including myself) can enjoy.
Keep “Off Limits” Food Separate
Another way to avoid temptations is by keeping “off-limits” foods separate. I have a huge tupperware box where I store all my husband´s chips, cookies, pasta and anything else non-perishable that I don’t eat. The saying “out of sight, out of mind” is often true. That way I won’t end up looking at his cereal box when I go into the pantry for something else. If you have roommates I suggest that you ask if you can have the top shelf of the refrigerator, that way when you open it you won’t have to move your roommate’s cheddar cheese to find your homemade sauerkraut. You can do the same in the pantry, choose a shelf or cupboard to be yours so that you don’t even have to look at other food items before you find your own!
Draw Lines Where I Need To
For me this has been really important. I LOVE CHEESE! I am not going to prohibit my husband from eating pizza or lasagna, but I will ask that he does it when he goes out with his friends and not in the house. Cheese is one of the few instances with which my above mentioned Obama technique doesn’t seem to work. I have asked my husband to enjoy cheese when I am not around, and if the family wants to have a pizza night they go out and I stay home for some relaxing “me” time. If you have Celiac disease or a very strong gluten sensitivity you might need to make this kind of request about gluten products.
Make My Own “Treats”
When the whole family is having ice cream I don’t just sit there and watch, instead I make myself a treat that I can enjoy. This doesn’t have to be complicated…for me it is usually a ripe mango or some homemade jello. Another great AIP treat is frozen berries with coconut whipped cream. Feeling restricted is no fun so it is important to find ways that you feel satisfied as well! Be careful though: too many treats can sabotage your recovery. Read more about appropriate AIP treats here.
Make Meals That Can Be Modified Easily For Everyone To Enjoy
I am not superwoman…. and even though my husband doesn’t follow my diet I am not willing to make two different breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Breakfast is easy, my husband usually just has some black coffee (with lots of sugar, the Brazilian way) and something from his box of treats. He takes his lunch (usually leftovers) to work with him, so all I have to deal with is dinner! Some of my favorite AIP/Non-AIP dinner options are:
- Baked Chicken– It takes about five minutes to prepare and the oven does the rest. I often add more veggies to the pan for myself, and on the other side I add potatoes for my husband.
- Stir Fry- I fry ground beef (or any other protein) with onions and the veggies that my husband likes, then I serve his portion over rice and add more veggies to the pan for myself. Sometimes I add zoodles or eat over baked squash.
- Pasta- I make a No-mato sauce and serve his over noodles and mine over zoodles
- Fajitas- I cook our protein of choice with the veggies he likes and then serve, his with tortilla shells and mine with nori. He often has a side of leftover rice and beans and I often add avocado.
Enjoy My Food & Connect With Others
One of the things that has helped me most as I continue on my AIP journey is finding other people who think like me. I recently discovered a whole WORLD of people on instagram who take pictures of their AIP meals and inspire each other to try new recipes! I am also part of The Paleo Approach facebook group where people share their trials and successes with the AIP. Following the AIP can seem isolating, lonely and just plain HARD. Finding a community of people who are going through the same things as you are (even if they live on the other side of the planet) can make this loneliness and frustration disappear. I used to pride myself on never having met anyone on the internet… but now I am proud to know so many fabulous people and autoimmune disease fighters through my blog and online communities. These new friends support me as I continue to improve my health and help others do the same. Follow me on instagram (@slightlylostgirl) and I will introduce you to my best AIP buddies!
Lead By Example
As I mentioned before, I have no intention of forcing anyone to change their diet. However, just by changing the food choices available at home, my husband has started to eat more vegetables and less junk. As the months go by he is more willing to eat my “weird” foods and enjoys trying new things. My extended family has also been inspired by the drastic improvements in my health and both my mother and father are now eating mostly paleo. Even my teenaged sister has been trying to eat less junk and more whole foods. By showing our families and friends how we can use whole foods to heal ourselves and improve our health we become the best possible advertisement for a real food lifestyle!
Keep up the good work,