Women & Weight on the AIP

JFC Petra WW and AIP1

Joanna Frankham and I are collaborating on a series about Women and Weight on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP).

We knew weight was top-of-mind for many women on the AIP, because we’re pretty plugged in to the community, but we had no idea it was such a big issue until we started our research.

So far, we’ve surveyed 20 long-term AIPers and have also conducted in-depth interviews with six women.

Last month, Joanna published the first post in the series, which outlines some findings from this research, including that the AIP (by itself) isn’t the solution for weight issues for most women.

So what is?

The short answer is that each of us seems to need to find an individualized approach.

To explore this complex subject, we’ll be publishing one post each month, alternating between Joanna’s blog and mine.

We wouldn’t feel right about asking other people to share their struggles with weight unless we reciprocated. So, I interviewed Jo. Next month, she’ll publish her interview with me.

Jo - grey TshirtWho’s Jo?

Joanna Frankham is a health coach and blogger from Sydney, Australia who is using the AIP to reverse Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS).

Here’s a transcript of our interview:

Petra: What has been your experience with weight before and after the AIP?

Joanna: Up until University I was a normal kid. I wasn’t skinny but I wasn’t fat. I was very active at school. Post-university I went to the UK and experienced the “Heathrow Injection” due to being in my early twenties, drinking and partying. That was the time that I first started having HS symptoms, though I had no idea what that was at the time. The HS started very slowly. Before the AIP, my weight went up and down depending on what was going on in my life. And that is still true. The AIP didn’t fix that.

I am a work in progress. The weight still weighs on me, literally and figuratively.

Petra: How long have you been on the AIP? How strict have you been?

Joanna: I started in early February 2014 and was on strict elimination for 9 months. HS is a painful, shameful affliction that affects your self-esteem, and I was willing to do just about anything.

I first found Tara Grant’s book The Hidden Plague: A Field Guide For Surviving and Overcoming Hidradenitis Suppurativa through a post on Mark Sisson’s blog in November of 2013. It was a massively cathartic experience. Previously, I hadn’t talked about HS with anyone, including my closest friends and family. I had hidden it from everyone. I was lucky that my HS was pretty centralized. I never got it in my armpits, just in my groin area. It’s incredibly painful.

First, I went paleo. Then I decided to go on the AIP. My Functional Medicine Doctor advised me to take a bunch of tests first and it turned out I had a Blastocystis infection. I tried a holistic treatment and then an antibiotic treatment, and as soon as I got the all-clear, I started the AIP. For the first time I was able to control some of my symptoms.

I was very lucky. My partner David was very supportive. I had profound improvement within 6 weeks. My flares were less angry. My mood was improved. I had more energy.

Then I accidentally glutened myself, and that was scary. I became depressed, the first time I had ever knowingly experienced a physiological reaction to food. Which reinforced the need to stay on the protocol.

I’m still ‘AIP lite’, it’s more than paleo, but less than AIP. Nightshades are off the table. I still limit my fruit intake. I’m very careful with my sugar intake. Partly because I know I have a problem with insulin or I wouldn’t be the weight I am.

I also worked very hard on the other elements of the protocol. I feel like the piece I have not yet figured out is stress management. I have been diagnosed with severe adrenal fatigue. I have always been a worrier. I am stressed about being stressed!

Petra: What have you found that works (and doesn’t work) for you for weight management?

Joanna: I don’t have ‘a one size fits all’ answer for weight management. And I say that as a health coach!

The AIP is definitely not a weight-loss or weight-gain dietary approach. For most people, especially those who need to lose weight, the AIP moves you toward a healthier set-point. For an unlucky few of us, the equation is more complicated.

I am one of the healthiest people I know in terms of diet and lifestyle. And there are days when I think this shit isn’t fair! At the same time, I have weirdly come to enjoy the process of learning and understanding my body through trying (and discarding) new things.

Through the process of elimination I have determined that it is most probably stress that is the factor that I need to address. I have got everything else dialed in: diet, movement, sleep, spending time outside, connectivity, and being in nature.

For stress management, the things I have tried are:

  • Yoga: I don’t think I’m blonde enough, skinny enough or tall enough to do yoga!
  • Qigong/Tai Chi: works for me. I enjoy that it is a moving meditation, but I have yet to find a new instructor since moving.
  • Meditation: I have a seriously chatty mind. It won’t shut up! I find Anne Angelone’s music offerings helpful.

Petra: What are you trying now?


Next Up!

Joanna will interview me. Find the next installment (and lots more!) on Joanna’s blog.

More About Jo:

For over twenty years Jo suffered from an undiagnosed, painful, chronic skin condition. It turned out that issue was autoimmune in nature – and it had a name: Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS).  After implementing holistic, workable changes to her diet and lifestyle, Jo successfully put her HS into remission.

Along the way, after becoming increasingly dissatisfied with her high-stress corporate human resources career, Jo retrained as a Health Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She now coaches others in how to improve their health and lifestyle using the principles of the Autoimmune Protocol.

She has a warm, direct and slightly irreverent approach – she believes this business of improving health is one that should be a positive experience. She currently blogs about all things health and food related at joannafrankham.com. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, is an experienced human resources professional, and is a qualified Health Coach.

Contact Jo at Joanna@joannafrankham.com.


8 thoughts on “Women & Weight on the AIP

  1. Thanks for this post. After one of my flares left me unable to eat for 4 months I lost a significant amount of weight. Once the flare subsided and I could eat again (which I did healthfully, I had been gluten and dairy free for some time) I gained about 60 lbs – my body simply wouldn’t stop holding onto the weight. Since that time I’ve gone paleo and then AIP, like Joanna been diagnosed with several adrenal fatigue, and never lost a single pound. I agree that it’s hard to face society’s prejudice toward the overweight, all the harder when we eat so incredibly healthfully. I know many of my co workers simply don’t believe that I’m not at home secretly sucking down Oreos – otherwise how could I still be fat? I also know that we are taught that healthy is the new skinny and I do respect and embrace that – I am so grateful to be able to eat and eat well. Yet I would , for my overall health, like to be able to lose some weight. I agree with Joanna on the stress part – also one of my hardest things to manage. Anyway just wanted to thank you again for addressing this issue.

    • Thanks for your comment, Deb. One of the themes I am really interested in exploring through this series is how stress about our weight impacts our healing–and our weight. To be good feminists, we’re all supposed to feel good about ourselves no matter what weight we are, especially if we’re big. But what I’ve noticing through this research is that this stricture can end up causing stress, because we feel pressure to be totally okay with our bigger bodies, when actually the opposite is true. So we can’t talk about it and end up feeling isolated in our experience. What I’m curious about is how does all this stress, about weight and about feeling the need to pretend we feel good about the shape of our bodies even when we don’t, affect the healing process?

      • Yes! Absolutely agree. And as someone who has been up and down with weight all my life I can say that during the times I was a “socially acceptable” weight I was very conscious of the fact that one huge stressor in my life had been lifted and no longer existed. What a relief it was !!! I no longer had the heavy and ever present to do list item in my brain of “must lose weight”. We’re not supposed to admit to being happier when thinner – but I was!! I’m glad you are doing this work – thank you. There’s really no easy answer unless somewhere deep in the blood work or perhaps the emotional work as well – you find some magical glitch that once righted, allows the body to release the weight.

  2. I love this work, thank you both. At my worst during May 2014 I was so nauseous and unable to keep food down much and lost 60 pounds in short order (yes, I was overweight). I began AIP that same May and, until recently, maintained that weight loss. Last November I reintroduced and began occasionally eating eggs, nuts, seeds and rare dairy; I thought I had achieved success. I now have psoriasis plaques on my feet again for the first time since AIP and, additionally, I have gained some weight for the first time in two years without really changing much about how much I eat. I know I need to do an AIP reset, but that also has me feeling sad, honestly. I’ll have to think about how my stress has interacted with these other factors, certainly November and December are stressful in my life. I am very much looking forward to the successive posts of yours and Joanna’s.

  3. Pingback: Women, Weight and the Autoimmune Protocol – Part 1 – joannafrankham.com

  4. This is really interesting and en pointe for me! Except for a handful of years, I’ve been overweight for the entirety of my life and I’ve struggled with self-concept and stress. Though it has yet to be officially diagnosed, I have always operated under the assumption that my adrenals are all but blown. Being overweight adds to my stress, especially when I’m surrounded by a community where the vast majority experience weight loss or at least normalization when adopting a paleo lifestyle! I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism just after the birth of my child 20 years ago. Then about 5 years ago I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis with associated gut issues. I promptly adopted a GF/DF diet but had only modest healing and recovery. A year and a half ago, after lots of research, I went very strictly AIP. I was already strictly GF/DF, so the transition was not traumatic. I’ve continued to experience healing in several areas, however my weight has not decreased. In fact, I’ve gained about 10 more lbs since going AIP (on top of the 30 I needed to lose after developing Hashi’s). My functional medicine doc and I keep tweaking and refining, but to no avail. My family and co-workers are only marginally supportive; I get a lot of “If I had to eat like you do and didn’t drop a pound, I’d give it up!”. Trust me, I’ve been tempted! I’m sure that stress and sleep are contributors (increase in one causes disruption in the other), but despite some improvements in coping with stress, I have not experienced any gains (or losses, rather!). Knowing the long term dangers of being overweight is it’s own set of stressors, especially when one is doing their absolute level best, but their body has turned traitor and won’t reward all the effort. Then you worry, “is there something else wrong that we’ve missed?” It’s a vicious circle, to be sure. I am at least somewhat heartened to know that I’m NOT the only one who wasn’t promptly transformed by AIP. I’ll look forward to more of what you find out.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Gina. Not only are you not alone, but you have beautifully described the experience of so many women that we have connected with through this research.

  5. Pingback: Women, Weight and the Autoimmune Protocol – Part 3 – joannafrankham.com

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