Autoimmune Protocol (Day 1)

September 30th, 2014 at 9:09 am
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Well. It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me, huh?

I wish I had a lofty reason for my absence, like crunching to complete a new cookbook or working behind the scenes on a big secret project. In truth, though, I’ve gone silent for a few weeks because I’ve been working on a project of an entirely different sort: me.

Back in early August, when I posted about my 14-Day Wellness Jumpstart, I was super motivated and ready to start taking fitness more seriously again. Well, the first week or two went well, but things quickly took a downhill turn. On top of all the emotional stress I’ve been under, adding exercise back to the mix—which is itself another form of physiological stress—seemed to send my body into an immune flare-up.

I know many of you have experienced something similar before, where your body just takes on a mind of its own no matter what you seem to do or try. For the past month or so, I’ve been dealing with a wide range of unwelcome symptoms.

Acne has taken over my skin like an army, my stomach is often unsettled no matter what I eat, my menstrual cycle is all over the board (TMI?), and I’m bloated and uncomfortable more often than not. I can easily gain (and sometimes lose) 8 pounds in a week, depending on what my body feels like doing. It’s crazy and, as you can imagine, incredibly frustrating and baffling!

As someone who has essentially built their career around being a health and wellness advocate, I can honestly tell you that these past few months have been some of the most challenging I’ve experienced. I feel like I’m a fraud for encouraging others to make their health a priority, when my own is clearly off the rails.

Tears are frequent. Emotionally charged prayer time is a daily occurrence. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for my faith in recent days! It has been my one constant anchor on some pretty difficult days.

For those of you who’ve dealt with chronic pain or health issues before, my heart breaks for you. This is tough stuff. The emotional weight of it all can quickly morph into a python of negativity, squeezing out every last shred of joy and hope.

Tears. Pain. Overwhelm. I’m right there with you.

And yet.

There’s a small, almost inaudible voice way down deep within me urging me to press on through this rough patch. To not shirk away from the situation in shame, but instead bring it out into the light. Darkness breeds secrecy and anxiety. Light reveals new mercies and liberating freedom.

So in the spirit of spreading light instead of ducking into the shadows, here I am. Writing this post and sharing with you that it’s not all cookies and pumpkin bread in my life right now.

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A New Approach

What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, right?

Yesterday I kicked off a totally new approach to tackling my health issues head on: the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP).

Many of you are familiar with the AIP—and many of you have done it before. I give you a big round of applause! It’s one of the most challenging diet/lifestyle protocols out there, in my opinion.

Essentially, the AIP is designed to reduce systemic inflammation, heal the gut, and balance hormones. By removing inflammatory foods and focusing on repairing gut health, thousands of AIP followers have made incredible gains in their health—restoring immunity, healing skin conditions, overcoming infertility, losing weight, getting rid of cravings, calming arthritis, and much more.

I’d highly recommend that you check out Sarah Ballantyne’s primer on the AIP here. She’s a wealth of information on this topic and explains the scope of it better than I ever could. (And also check out her book, The Paleo Approach.)

In short, these are the foods to avoid:

  • Grains (including gluten-free grains)
  • Dairy (including ghee)
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, all peppers, tomatillos, goji berries, and spices derived from peppers)
  • Sweeteners (including stevia)
  • It’s also recommended to avoid alcohol, NSAIDs, and too much fruit.

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The biggest ones for me on this list will be nuts, seeds, tomatoes, peppers, goji berries, and spices derived from peppers. I don’t drink alcohol and I’ve managed without grains, dairy, eggs, and sweeteners before, so those won’t pose too much of a problem.

In terms of exercise, it’s recommended to avoid anything too intense or prolonged. Most experts suggest walking, light jogging, yoga, and light strength training. In other words, the goal is not to overdo it. As the body heals, it’s essential not to tax the immune system with more stress than necessary.

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My Plan

My goal is to follow the AIP as closely as possible for the entire month of October before making any changes or adjustments. That’s a looooooonng time to follow a diet this limited! I’ve got to admit that I’m more than a little nervous about doing this for 30+ days.

So I’ve decided to blog my way through the process over the coming weeks. One of the most therapeutic practices for me on a personal level is writing, so what better time than now to start doing more of it?

October is going to look a lot different here than September did. I’ll be publishing something new most days. It won’t always be perfectly photographed recipes or long updates. But it will be straight from my heart, reflecting exactly what I’m going through, how I’m striving to improve, and steps I’m taking to lead a nourished life.

Life is messy, you guys. It curves and swerves, upheaves and bereaves, crashes and thrashes.

Real life isn’t about perfectly photographed food, or viral blog posts, or following health trends, or making the best green smoothies.

Real life is celebrating the successes, no matter how small. It’s seeking the sacred in the everyday. It’s having a bad week (or month or season or year or decade), and coming through it stronger and wiser. Real life is trading in perfection for progress. It’s swapping judgment for joy.

Day 1 Recap

I “officially” started the protocol yesterday. I’m keeping my meals super simple here at the beginning. This is a big adjustment and I don’t want to overwhelm myself with trying to be all creative and cheffy right at the start. :)

What I Ate

  • Breakfast: chicken mixed with carrots, avocado, and apple cider vinegar
  • Mid-morning: cup of homemade bone broth whisked with some cinnamon (it was actually good)
  • Lunch: chicken with roasted asparagus and avocado
  • Mid-afternoon: about 15 ounces of homemade green juice (cucumber, celery, romaine, carrot, ginger)
  • Dinner: turkey crumbles mixed with roasted asparagus, apple cider vinegar, and bone broth
  • Evening: cup of ginger tea while watching Season 3 of Downton Abbey again (that finale is such a tear jerker!)

(It felt a little weird eating asparagus in September, but I had some on hand from a recipe I developed over the weekend. May as well use it up!)

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How I Moved

  • Afternoon: 1 hour walk outside in the sunshine. Could be the last 80 degree day we’ll see for a while here in Wisconsin.

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How I Felt
For the first half of the day I felt pretty bloated and uncomfortable. By evening I could notice my stomach settling. The ginger tea was very soothing. I took a 30 minute nap after lunch and still was tired enough to go to bed by 8:45 pm. But if my body wants rest, I’m giving it rest!

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Thank you, as always, for reading! I’m eager to share my AIP journey with you over the next few weeks and learn from you as well. Leave your comments, tips, and questions below. I’m going to need some support to get through this. ;)

Peace, love, and bone broth,
-Hallie-

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