Top 3 weight management strategies on the Autoimmune Protocol

JFC Petra WW and AIP1This is the 4th in a series of posts about Women, Weight and the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP).

Find the first on Joanna Frankham’s blog.

This post focuses on the top-three strategies for weight management identified through research that Joanna and I conducted with 20 long-term AIPers, 90% of whom indicated that weight management still causes them stress.

Our Method

Through a confidential survey, one question we asked respondents was about weight management strategies that worked for them while on the AIP. The question wasn’t multiple choice: people had to come up with their own ideas.

11 of the 20 women who participated in the survey had not yet identified things that worked. Nine of the 20 women had. From these responses, three strategies emerged.

We conducted in-depth interviews with an additional four women. The results of these conversations supported these three themes.

1. Modifying Diet

66% (6/9) of women indicated that modifying diet was one of the weight management strategies that worked.

Modifying diet, within the constraints of the AIP, means:

  1. Adjusting macronutrient (protein, fat and carbohydrate) ratios;
  2. Altering intake of certain AIP-legal foods; and
  3. Changing the pattern of eating during the day.

Examples included:

  • “Stopping snacking and transitioning to 3 large meals daily”;
  • “Cutting out AIP treats and sweeteners”;
  • “Reducing my fat macros”;
  • “Cutting out fruits”;
  • “Cutting out refined starches”; and
  • “Increasing protein”

During her interview with me, Sophie Van Tiggelen from A Squirrel in the Kitchen, noticed that her weight gain was related to changes in her diet while on the AIP: “When I started to relax a little bit more and snack in the afternoon, I started to gain weight again. Lately I have been eating AIP food, but I have been eating too many carbs and AIP treats. I was not able to maintain that level of restriction. I’m still struggling mentally with this.”

She shared one of her strategies “I try to always have soup ready. I have cravings at 3 or 4 o’clock. If I have a big bowl of soup, I’m good until dinner. It’s being aware of the ‘weak hours’ during the day.”

Astrid Fox from Heal Me in the Kitchen also shared strategies relating to diet during our interview.

Two examples she gave:

  1. “I am doing an AIP Whole 30. I would like to keep eating the way I am right now. Being more intentional about food. Really sitting down and eating and looking at my food. Not reading the paper, just eating my food. We’re always trying to multitask. On the Whole 30 I’m snacking less. Being mindful. When I’m prepping dinner, I’m not taking a bite. With my Ulcerative Colitis I really think it all starts with the brain. The brain gut axis. It’s only been a week [on the AIP Whole 30] and I’m getting relief of my symptoms. I’ve reduced the amount of fruit. Reduced sugar. Increased my veggies, I’m eating lots of squash.”
  2. “I know smoothies are really easy but when I have one I don’t register that I’ve eaten. I’ll drink bone broth. I put a lot of chicken feet and a lot of bones in the pot. My kids and I fight over the chicken feet: we’re like the Adams’ family.”

2. Moderating exercise

55% (5/9) of women who had found weight management strategies that worked for them indicated that moderating exercise helped.

Though one survey respondent indicated that adding exercise to her protocol helped her to manage her weight, the other four explained that it was engaging in gentler forms of exercise that made the difference.

Examples included:

  • “The right kind of exercise: regular, not excessive. Yoga, occasional sprint intervals and walking.”
  • “Reducing physical stress, like doing too much exercise.”
  • “Restorative yoga and similar type of movement daily.”
  • “Gentle movement outside, and yoga poses.”

In an interview with Joanna, Alexandra Raver who blogs at Don’t Eat the Spatula said that previous to the AIP, her weight loss attempts involved attending ‘bootcamp’ at 5:30am four days a week. She explained that she didn’t lose much weight, but she did get sick and ended up with severe adrenal fatigue.

Astrid Fox also spoke about moderating exercise: “I don’t run. I yoga. Way more restorative than most people think. I used to do Bikrams. It was just too intense for me. Now I do yoga and belly dancing self-practice at home.”

3. Managing Stress

44% (4/9) of women indicated that stress management helped the regulate their weight. In fact, all four of these respondents identified stress management as their #1 weight management strategy.

Astrid Fox also spoke about stress management in her interview with me. She explained that stress management is a process that takes time, and one that has to be kept up in the long-run: “The more stressed I am the more it affects my weight. There was a time when I was very stressed. I wasn’t eating more or anything different, but I was slowly gaining weight. Finding that peace, and not being so focused on the weight or the fat, is hard, but important. I was my mum’s caregiver for so long, I’m always in emergency mode. It’s taken a few years to recover. It’s still going. I overreact to small things. I react and get all stressed out. I’m a lot better, but we still have to manage lifes many stresses.”

Alexandra Raver touched on all three themes in her interview with Joanna. She explained that after her diagnosis with adrenal fatigue by a naturopath in 2014, she stopped the intensive bootcamp workouts, and started to focus on health rather than weight. This shift involve modifying her exercise regime and her diet (to emphasize nutrient-density), and also reduced the stress she was putting on her system by no longer waking up before dawn for bootcamp.

As a result of these strategies, Alexandra lost 30lbs (13.5kgs) and got pregnant, something she had previously given up on.

Your Turn!

Do you want to add to the conversation?

Joanna and I would like to extend this exploration further.

If you are on a paleo healing protocol, you can participate in our research through this confidential survey.

The next installment in this series will be published on Joanna’s blog in May.

9 thoughts on “Top 3 weight management strategies on the Autoimmune Protocol

  1. Very interesting. While I am not on the AIP all the tips are easy to understand and be put to use by anyone working towards eating healthier and losing extra weight. Heck I’d agree that my tips and tricks during weight loss were the same. I look forward to reading over the previous posts in the series as well as the next one in May.

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

  3. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones as my weight “normalised” pretty much by itself on AIP (I lost 17kg gradually over about a year, and it’s stayed off; I’m now a healthy, comfortable weight). If I feel I need to lose some weight (which I don’t right now), cutting back on the carbs seems to work pretty reliably for me. Low carb is not sustainable for me long term, though. I never used to like sweet potatoes, but roasted in coconut oil with onions and balsamic vinegar, they’ve become a truly comforting food. I wouldn’t like to be without them now!

    • I am glad you have found something that works for you, Sarah. I agree about sweet potatoes. For some reason I avoided the white ones until recently, but they are amazing!

  4. It’s fascinating to get an insight intp people’s individual journeys.

    As humans, I think we like to oversimplify things, including weight-loss. Even now, I think most folks put it down to calories in vs. calories out. It’s so helpful to see examples in people’s daily lives of the many factors which play into weight loss.

    Thanks for a great article Petra and Jo. I’ll be sharing today.

    • What I found so interesting was that pulling back from intensive exercise made the difference. I know that is a fairly common recommendation from paleo experts, but it’s still so contrary to what I’ve been told all my life that it is still somehow surprising to me!

  5. Weight loss has been easy for me on AIP. I’ve been on AIP for about 3 months (SAD to AIP in Six group in January – hi Joanna 🙂 ) I’ve lost over 20 lbs. I find that when I eat a lot of starches (love those plantain chips!), my weight loss stops. When I back off starches, it starts again.

    That said, AIP doesn’t seem to be doing a lot for my RA. I’m actually worse now than when I started. I’ve been in an RA flare for well over a month now. I used to have mild Sjogrens and now it is much worse. So it makes me wonder if the weight loss is releasing toxins into my system and that may have something to do with this endless flare … Anyone have thoughts on this?

    • Susan, your hypothesis makes sense. I know when I lost weight rapidly I experienced some detox symptoms. But there may be something else going on as well that is causing the flare.

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