“Don’t let your past limit your future.”
Creating a Sustainable Healing Diet and Lifestyle
When you start the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, it’s largely about restrictions. Removing inflammatory foods and habits and replacing them with healthier choices. When you see the positive impact on your autoimmune symptoms, it can be incredibly empowering. But this is just the first step. The long-term goal is learning to listen to your body. Where do you need to exercise self-control, and where can you have a little freedom? Finding this freedom is finding your wiggle room, and it’s key to making a long-term healing lifestyle sustainable.
What Wiggle Room Is Not
It’s not swinging like a pendulum between perfectly healthy choices and then bingeing on foods and behaviors that cause you to flare. That back and forth is incredibly hard on the body and spirit. If you find yourself stuck in this pattern, don’t judge yourself harshly. It’s very human, and self-compassion is the first step to breaking this cycle. Here are two podcasts that can help: Intuitive Eating and the AIP and Overcoming Self-Sabotage.
Wiggle room is calmer than that back and forth swing. It’s a conversation with the body, and it’s something we learn over time. It’s mindful, not impulsive. It’s subtle, not extreme. It’s based on knowing yourself and making conscious choices that don’t increase your stress, but alleviate it.
What Does Wiggle Room Look Like?
For me, it’s knowing which foods I can enjoy every day, which I can enjoy once a week, and which I can enjoy just occasionally. It’s knowing that I can indulge a little more on vacation vs. how I eat at home year-round. It’s giving my body more support during an autoimmune flare, while enjoying more freedom when I am in remission. It’s knowing that the occasional late night causes me no harm, but if it becomes a pattern, inflammation will follow. It’s being aware of the stress levels in my life and knowing when more meditation will help vs. taking a day off from meditation (because sometimes I need a day where nothing extra is required of me). It’s about embracing imperfection and the peace that comes with that, while still living a life that supports my health. Wiggle room is based on the knowledge that autoimmune sensitivity isn’t static – it changes based on many influences, and wiggle room lives within that fluctuation.
Finding Your Wiggle Room with Food
Since food is foundational to a healing lifestyle, this is a great place to begin. The elimination phase is the most famous part of the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, but that phase is meant to be temporary. Reintroductions are an important second step. That’s where you learn which foods to enjoy, which foods to avoid altogether, and which foods you can enjoy occasionally. My Paleo AIP Reintroduction E-Book guides you through this process step-by-step (and even includes recipes). It’s also helpful to know that reintroductions don’t always remain static. As autoimmune health improves and inflammation lowers, food sensitivity often lowers as well. I’ve been on a healing diet for 9 years, and I have more wiggle room now than when I first started.
Finding Your Wiggle Room with Lifestyle
30-day challenges are a wonderful way to start a new healthy habit. I did one myself to start a meditation habit, and did the same to establish a sleep-supporting bedtime routine. But once you’ve established a healthy habit, it’s fine to move it from daily to daily-ish. It’s not a failure if you meditate 25 days out of 30 instead of every single day. That’s not falling off the wagon. That’s giving yourself a little wiggle room. If your goal is to meditate 15 minutes daily and some days you only have time for 5, that’s fine, too. Wiggle room is the practice of giving yourself a little bit of grace, and feeling the foundation of your habit strengthen rather than crumble within that flexibility.
What Impacts Wiggle Room?
I mentioned above that autoimmune sensitivity varies, and many things impact it: food, sleep, stress, emotions, toxins, big life changes, illness, relationships, world events. Some of these things are within our control and some aren’t.
Wiggle room is a stress management practice. Joy and relaxation can be medicine just as food can be. They can lower inflammation and even improve food tolerance. Sometimes a little wiggle room in your diet or daily habits can benefit your health more than strict adherence to rules. Through self-experimentation (and a little trial and error), you learn to set your own rules and find the wiggle room that’s most beneficial to you.
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