AIP Update: A January Reset

Well, here we are: the first week of the year and the time when many of us make New Year’s resolutions. I haven’t been much of a resolution person for the past ten years at least. I’m not exactly sure, but the last time I actually made resolutions might have been in high school! But now I find myself going back to the AIP, having wandered off it for a while, and my start date just happens to have been January 2nd.

I ran into some unforeseen (but foreseeable?) motivation problems this past fall. I had been feeling FANTASTIC on the Autoimmune Protocol and even managed to travel by air over a long distance without any major slip-ups. But then I started reintroducing, and quite frankly, I rushed it. I didn’t notice any major reactions to those reintroductions, but over several weeks and months, I started feeling more sluggish, more inflamed and more distracted, and eventually, I even saw some of my MS symptoms return (the soles of my feet have been numb and tingly for several weeks now).

By the end of October, I knew I had to go back to the full elimination phase of the AIP and start from scratch, but I just couldn’t find the motivation to get started. I felt overwhelmed by the planning and batch cooking I knew I would need to do, and I lacked the energy to just jump in. Ironically, I knew that I would gain back a lot of energy once I was on the AIP again, but it felt impossible to get out of the vicious circle.

But better late than never, right? I re-purged the pantry and fridge on New Year’s Day, and the next day, I just dove in. It hasn’t been as hard as I had feared, and I’m already on my 3rd day. I’m still working on weaning myself off of caffeine, but I don’t expect that to take more than a few more days, as I haven’t been consuming much. This isn’t as big of a change as my first leap into the AIP; I had been eating about 75% AIP-compliant meals, so there’s not nearly as much to eliminate as last time.

There were some podcasts and some reading that helped me locate that elusive motivation this time around, so I thought I’d share them with you in case you’re looking for some yourself:

  • Episode 61 of the Phoenix Helix Podcast inspired me with the stories of people who have experienced healing on the AIP.
  • Episode 228 of The Paleo View also provided advice and inspiration, as well as a measured perspective on resolutions and goal-setting.
  • Episode 68 of the Katy Says podcast is such a fun year in review and look ahead to 2017! And its focus on health got me in touch with how important my health truly is to me and how my vision for my life includes vibrant health (in other words, not how I’ve been feeling lately!).
  • Episode 97 of the Happier podcast is not quite a “New Year’s” or “resolution” episode, but it discusses starting your own “Happiness Project,” and that discussion gave me the idea of using each month of this new year for a particular aspect of my health journey. My January, for example, is all about getting back to the AIP to give me a strong foundation to make other changes.
  • And as odd as it might sound, I re-read Anne of Green Gables (I received this beautiful edition for Christmas), and the way Anne approaches improving herself with cheerful intent really inspired me to be more positive about my own desire to make some changes.

So here’s to a fresh start! I’ve got some batch-cooked meals in my fridge, plenty of broth and grassfed meat in my freezer, and renewed motivation to get back to feeling better!

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AIP Update: Week 5

I seem to be getting into a groove with cooking and eating AIP meals, but at the same time, I’m also starting to miss some favorites. It didn’t bother me at first to leave eggs or nuts off my plate, but now I’m feeling their absence. The lack of convenience foods has also made itself very noticeable—the jerkies and other shelf-stable meats I used to eat and which my family still eats are no longer options thanks to their nightshade content. So when I find myself needing a snack, I have a protein problem. Since it’s summer, there are plenty of fruits to snack on, and I always try to pair them with something to reduce the glycemic load, but that something tends to be more fat than protein—olives, avocados, or even a spoonful of coconut butter. My project for today is to make some chicken liver paté, fill it into serving-sized containers, and have that available for my snacks.

That all being said, however, I don’t need snacks as much as I used to, as AIP seems to be keeping my blood sugar quite stable. I like having an afternoon snack, but I can get by without it in a pinch. Last week, for example, I had a singing event that I had to leave for at 4pm, and I didn’t get home until around midnight. I made sure to eat a late, satisfying lunch, and I put some Anti-Inflammatory Meatballs (from The Healing Kitchen) in the freezer a few hours before I had to leave. I took the frozen meatballs plus some fruit and a ton of water with me. After the singing event, my choir went to dinner. I wasn’t able to order anything at the beer garden we went to, but I pulled out my meatballs and fruit, and even though it was much less than a normal dinner would be for me, it was enough to stave off hunger and keep up my energy for a long evening of socializing with my choir mates.

I’ve had some setbacks, too, however. My digestion hasn’t been great, and I’ve been wondering if it’s related to the fact that I’m eating a lot of plantains in one form or another. I’ve been journaling my food intake and symptoms, but I haven’t found a clear pattern yet. I’ve also had several days of massive fatigue—waking up after a good, long night’s sleep and feeling like I barely slept at all, and then having that feeling stick around all day. These days have been isolated incidents so far, but they’re really discouraging. I can barely concentrate on my work (or anything else), and my whole body just feels like lead. And the fact that it comes after a good night makes it all the more mysterious. One thing I think it may indicate is that I need to get a thyroid panel done again. Recent blood work revealed that my TSH is creeping up, but I need to have my doctor look at my other thyroid values to see what, if anything, is going on there.

This week, I’ve been trying to get more organized in the kitchen. Batch cooking is really helping me with having enough AIP foods on hand at all times, but since my husband and kids aren’t eating strict AIP (my husband is mostly Paleo, but our kids are not, even though they eat a healthy, whole foods diet), I find myself making multiple meals far too often. Since I’m doing 90% of the cooking, I’m basically burning out on cooking fast, so I’m trying to harmonize our diets more so that I’m making at most one side extra per meal instead of two entire meals in parallel. I’ll report back on how that goes!

AIP Update: Week 3

I’m on week 3 of my journey on the Autoimmune Protocol, and I thought I’d give a little update.

The most noticeable difference for me is that I’m hungry! I struggle with my appetite a lot, which has meant that I’m often hovering around the point where being thin becomes being unhealthily underweight. While I do get hungry, it’s often not at meal times, and I frequently find myself feeling physically hungry while not having enough of an appetite to eat. And there are many times when I start eating a meal, only to feel uncomfortably full after eating only a small amount. When this happens, I tend to get hungry or feel weak soon after since it wasn’t actually enough food. So the fact that I’m hungry and have an appetite is huge! I’m eating more, and that’s great news, not least because I was worried I might lose even more weight on the AIP.

While I’m spending a lot of time in the kitchen, I don’t really feel like it’s more time than when I was eating just Paleo. I have finally gotten into the spirit of batch cooking, something I have been trying to do for years. Thanks in large part to my Instant Pot, I can make 3-4 pounds of meat at a time, and I am learning to double my recipes for sides as well (using my giant cast iron wok is very helpful for making mountains of greens at once). This means that I cook large batches a few times a week (our kitchen and fridge aren’t nearly large enough to hold the food that would result from a once weekly cook-up), and most meals are just varying combinations of leftovers, sometimes with one part of it made fresh (like a salad). This past week, I made carnitas with 3 1/2 pounds of pork (using the recipe from The Healing Kitchen), a double batch of plantain tortillas, a double batch of lamb meatballs from The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook (what a genius idea to put lemon zest and olives in the meatballs!), a huge batch of braised chard, a batch of my AIP breakfast sausage, Mickey Trescott’s turmeric sauce, tzatziki also from The Healing Kitchen, and a huge batch of rhubarb compote (recipe coming soon!). With all of these meal components, I was able to mix and match meats, sauces and veggies, often supplemented by sweet potato hash and/or a fresh salad. The only time I felt desperate in the kitchen was late last week when I had run out of all my batch-cooked protein and I felt too drained after a long day to prepare some meat. My husband bailed me out that evening, but I still had a blood sugar crash and resulting migraine. Lesson learned: be prepared!

Lastly, my energy seems better. While I’m still getting a noticeable afternoon slump somewhere between 2 and 4 pm, I have found that once I rest a little, I’ve mostly had the energy to pick up my kids from school, come home, and get dinner on the table. And that is not a given. For the most part over the past two years, I have been able to make dinner if my kids come home from school on their own or my husband picks them up. Or I can pick them up, but then someone else has to make dinner, or we need to eat leftovers or takeout. But the past few days, I have been able to do both, and it makes me feel like maybe I just might get my life back with this diet and lifestyle approach.