This is a follow up post to last year's 5 Tips for Surviving the AIP or Repairvite Diet. Be sure to read that post too for tons more helpful info!
Going on a super-restricted elimination diet like the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) or RepairVite Diet to heal leaky gut syndrome can seem like an impossible task, especially when you're feeling sick, tired, and worn out - which is probably exactly why you are going on one of these diets!
I've previously spent the better part of a year following one or the other of these diets, so I understand. I've also learned some very important lessons along the way that I want to share with you in hopes that it makes your own experience a little easier. This post focuses less on food and more on everything else - read this post for tips on food.
#1. Perspective is everything - and gratitude is critically important
I made this mistake the first time I did RepairVite. I went in with what psychologists call a scarcity mindset. Meaning, I focused on what was missing rather than on what I should be grateful to have. I resented the fact that I had to give up staple foods in my diet. I mean gosh - I was already eating so well....why did I have to give up my beloved fresh organic tomatoes and pastured eggs from the farmer's market??!
I let myself feel this intense longing for the foods I had to cut out instead of feeling gratitude for all of the delicious, healthy, healing foods I was able to eat. More often than I would like to admit, I would sit down in an annoyed huff to eat my nourishing meals. This is downright poisonous behavior.
Jessica Flanigan talks a LOT about perspective in her utterly fabulous book The Loving Diet (which, if you are on or think you need to go on the AIP you MUST read this book above all others). It is so important to catch yourself when you are snowballing down a hole filled with scarcity mindset thoughts and turn them around, and feeling gratitude is the easiest way to do this.
In my own case, when I was thinking about how sad I was that my local grass-fed beef burger had no fresh ripe tomato or mustard on it, I should have been feeling so happy and grateful that I was able to both find and afford this truly delicious, juicy grass-fed beef and also that I was able to treat myself to some plantain chips on the side, one of my favorite snacks. Instead of resenting cleaning all the dirty dishes at the end of the day, I should have felt gratitude that I was able to spend the time in the kitchen preparing all my nourishing food from scratch and that I felt so good eating this food. Rather than get angry that I could no longer go out to eat at my favorite local Cuban restaurant, I should have let myself get excited that I could make my own AIP-compliant restaurant quality food instead (like my amazing lechon asado). I hope you get the idea here - you have the power to turn your perspective on its head from negative to positive.
My acupuncturist told me a few months ago in the middle of my recent health crisis, when I was in tears talking about how bad I felt, that I needed to let myself feel gratitude, and remember that that I was able to walk in the door to get treatment that day. That really struck me - I was in this horrible place mentally, felt like the world was ending around me, yet I was alive and breathing (always something to be grateful for!) and able to take myself out of the house to treat myself to acupuncture to feel so much better.
So, when you are first embarking on either of these diets, DO NOT focus on the list of foods you aren't allowed to eat - focus instead on what you have and what you will gain in the process.
#2. Treat Yo Self - every single week
This can mean with food, but I also think it is important to treat yourself to something NOT food related every week. What are some of your favorite things to do? Maybe like me, you love a good massage. Or petting cats and playing with dogs at your local shelter or rescue. I also love to pull out my trumpet or sketch pad to be creative. Give yourself permission to take time for YOU in the midst of everything else going on. This will nourish your mind and soul to help you keep balance.
If you want to treat yourself with food too (which I highly recommend), I've got tons of incredible recipes on my site that fit the bill, and there are so many more elsewhere on the web. Choose something that makes you squeal with excitement and MAKE IT. Do this at least once per week.
My husband took it upon himself to bring joy into our home when we were doing RepairVite & AIP by becoming a master mocktail slinger. There is something so nourishing about the process of creating something delicious to drink from scratch while using healthy ingredients.
Having an abundance mindset comes naturally to my husband, so with his help, eventually each evening he and I both looked forward to getting in the kitchen together while I got our food read and he got our special drinks ready.
He has created such an amazing collection of drink recipes, so I highly encourage you to check out his eBook and drink recipe club Nourishing Concoctions! All of them either are by nature or easily adapted to be AIP compliant.
Last year I also teamed up with my sister for a collection of AIP baked goods and treats that you can enjoy on special occasions - birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. It's called The Allergy-Free Holiday Table and has the best ever cakes, cookies, pies, candies, and more. But remember - these recipes really are meant to be enjoyed for special events.....don't overdo it!
#3. Don't let food take over your life
I know this sounds REALLY hard when you have to be so careful to avoid so many different foods. It happened to me - I became so fixated on food that it threw my whole life out of balance. Yes, it is important to know the rules you need to follow, and make sure you plan ahead well enough that you will be able to stick to the specifics of the diet, but really, try to do as much as you can to put this on autopilot after you get the hang of it at first.
And, I think this is so important, don't freak out if you make a mistake and eat something you're not supposed to. I've been there, done that, punishing myself over and over again.
If I had it to do over again, I would have used 20 Dishes AIP meal planning to help me take my mind off of the food. This fabulous system gives you a week's worth of fully AIP compliant meals that are easy to cook and best of all can be prepped in just 1 hour each week. Yes, you read that right - you can spend just 1 hour preparing all of your food for the week. Recruit a friend or family member to help you out on prep day if you have low energy and stamina. I spent such an insane amount of time in the kitchen each week when I was on the AIP - I wish 20 Dishes had been around back then for me to take advantage of!
#4. Focus on emotional healing, too
This is another reason why I just love Jessica's book The Loving Diet, since she places 1/3 of the emphasis on healing autoimmunity (or whatever your health problem is) on LOVE and emotional healing. I wish I had started this aspect of my own healing journey so much sooner.
If you are anything like me, it's easy to be so mean to yourself when you're feeling sick. I've shamed myself into feeling extreme guilt, anger, regret, even self-hatred when I've been at my lowest low points.
One of my meditation teachers said in class recently that we need to be our own best friends (and meditation is a great way to cultivate that friendship). She spoke of "changing the CD" in our minds - throwing away the one that repeats the negative self talk and replacing it with a new one that is encouraging, kind, compassionate, and uplifting.
This is work is ongoing for me. I've adopted a daily meditation practice and have set an intention to practice mindfulness (here's an article I wrote about mindfulness recently) each and every day to help me with this emotional self-care. Whenever I notice negative self-talk happening in my mind, I take a deep breath and push the thought away, replacing it with something positive. We all have so much we can be proud of and should congratulate ourselves for - it can be your kids, your pets, your degrees, your relationship, your successful business, that great meal you made last weekend, and some days it can simply be that you got out of bed to face the world.