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“In school we learn that mistakes are bad, and we are punished for making them. Yet, if you look at the way humans are designed to learn, we learn by making mistakes. We learn to walk by falling down. If we never fell down, we would never walk.”
~ Robert T. Kiyosaki
Not Committing 100%
In the paleo movement, people talk a lot about paleo perfectionism and how it's better to follow the 80/20 rule, to take the pressure off and make the lifestyle sustainable. This means you follow the rules 80% of the time, and break them when needed. If you're following paleo for weight loss or to tweak some minor health issues, this might work. Unfortunately, if you have an autoimmune disease, it doesn't. During the elimination phase of the paleo autoimmune protocol, we have to follow the 100% rule, and I get it: that sucks. It's a lot of pressure, but the stakes are high and the rewards worth it. We're trying to do what the doctors say is impossible. We're reversing disease that took years to develop in our bodies. We're literally transforming our genes. That's no small thing, and that's why we need to be “all in.” Marriages with only 80% commitment don't make it. Parents would never be only partially committed to their children. You are an amazing human being, and worth a 100% commitment to yourself and your health.
Ignoring Nutrient Density
Healing diets focus a lot on removing foods from the diet that promote inflammation and exacerbate autoimmune disease. And it's true that avoiding these foods is essential to healing. Our immune systems will stay overactive if continually triggered by food intolerances. However, there's another side to this equation, and that's the healing power of nourishing food. We need rich and diverse nutrition for our bodies to rebuild on a cellular level. There are specific foods that help this process: organ meats, wildcaught seafood, bone broth, healthy fats, and lots of fresh vegetables. A diet of chicken breasts and AIP-modified desserts isn't going to get you there. If you haven't started incorporating these superfoods into your diet yet, start today.
Rushing the Reintroduction Process
The Autoimmune Protocol is hard to do. It's restrictive and time consuming. For that reason, many people force themselves through the elimination period (barely) and then binge on all the restricted foods at once. Unfortunately, this nullifies the whole experiment. Remember why you're doing this: you want to heal, and the AIP is a powerful healing tool when done correctly. It allows your body to communicate very clearly about the foods that are helpful vs. foods that are harmful. However, this communication happens during the reintroduction process. If you rush it, you miss that valuable information. Follow the tips in my reintroduction guide on how to take it slowly, and learn what your body is trying to tell you. It is absolutely the key to developing the personalized diet that is perfect for you.
Thinking It's Just About the Food
Diet is a huge component in healing, but it's not the only one. For example, did you know that sleep deprivation turns on inflammatory genes in your body, messes with your immune system, de-regulates your hormones, and is even being investigated as a cause of autoimmune disease? 8 hours per night is the minimum we need, but the Paleo Mom says 9-10 is even better. And here's the catch: the sleep needs to be consistent, in order for you to heal. You can't have a bunch of short nights and then make up for it later in the week. Science shows that keeps the inflammation process going. If you have trouble sleeping, check out these tips on how to develop healthy sleep habits.
Stress is another important factor to consider. We tend to think the stressful areas in our life are out of control, but we often have more power than we're willing to admit. Sometimes it's making the tough choices necessary to remove the stressors (like Angie Alt talks about in this excellent article). Other times it's accepting what we can't change, but changing how they affect us. Meditation and EFT are two powerful tools for inner peace (and the autoimmune healing that promotes).
Not Getting the Support You Need
This is a tough one. Some of us are lucky enough to have people in our lives who are completely supportive of our healing journey. It's much easier to stay on a healing diet if your family joins you (or at least doesn't tempt you by bringing home pizza for dinner). The same goes for friends; many people have talked about so-called friends sabotaging their efforts, which can make your already difficult life, much harder.
I really don't think you can do this alone, so that means finding the support you need to succeed. One way is to have the tough conversations with your friends and family which will hopefully get them on board. If not, reach out to others who are on the same journey. The internet is a great place for this. One of the reasons I started this blog was to join the global community of individuals walking this rare path. Let's face it, most people with autoimmune disease want the medication and the junk food, with no desire to take an active part in their health. We're the minority, and we need to help each other. Facebook has an AIP Recipe Group as well as an AIP Support Group. And there are also local meet-up groups worldwide.
I've written a series of articles to guide you through the autoimmune protocol, step by step. It includes FAQ, a grocery list, book reviews, and more. Click here to see the whole list.