We are each committed to taking personal responsibility for our own health, and supporting other people around the planet who are interested in doing the same thing.
As part of #AIP4me week, I’ve joined forces with four other paleo healing protocol bloggers. We’re each exploring two elements of the ‘AIP Evolved’ Manifesto created by Angie Alt and Mickey Trescott and we’re publishing the results on each other’s blogs.
Here’s where you’ll find us:
- Emma from the Bacon Mum posted at Joanna Frankham and addresses manifesto elements #11 Seek help and #12 Test, don’t guess.
- Jaime from Gutsy by Nature is posting right here and tackling #14 Strive for balance and #17 Practice gratitude.
- Rory from the Paleo PI posted on Gutsy by Nature and is concentrating on #3 Information is power and #16 Reframe the negatives.
- Joanna from Joanna Frankham posted on the Paleo PI and focuses on #8 Be a nutrient-seeker and #18 Eyes on your own journey.
- I posted on the Bacon Mum and wrote about #2 Embrace the template and #4 Start simple.
These posts are rolling out all week and we’re linking them together as we go. #HowIAIP. #AIP4me.
Here’s Jaime Hartman with #14 Strive for balance and #17 Practice gratitude.
I have a long and complicated health story that includes a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease at age 19, followed by over a decade of hard-core medications to manage repeated flares, then a series of seven surgeries in my early 30s that left me with a borderline short bowel syndrome that causes nutritional deficiencies, a bout with drug resistant clostridium difficile infection, and a recent diagnosis of Lyme disease. You can read more about my story on my blog, Gutsy By Nature, where I post about my experiences as well as some science and my own paleo recipes.
#14 Strive for balance: Restoring our health is a worthy pursuit but it is not a religion
When Angie and Mickey asked me to participate in #AIP4me week to help spread the word about the “AIP Evolved” manifesto, I happily said yes.
Following the principles of the paleo autoimmune protocol, both in diet and lifestyle, has made a tremendous difference for me as I manage these complex health problems and I am eager to spread the word, but often disheartened when I see angst-ridden conversations in support groups or hear directly from readers who are struggling with shame or guilt, or feeling discouraged by what they perceive to be an intimidating or overly-restrictive list of commandments as to what they must never eat.
I was particularly heartbroken when one AIP support group member wrote that he “had no right” to try reintroductions of eliminated foods because his healing was not yet 100%, as if following AIP was some kind of punishment or penance and that eating non-AIP foods was something you had to earn. Sadly, this comment is not unique. Too many people seem to have conflated the elimination protocol “don’t eat” foods with something akin to religious dietary laws, instead of recognizing that it is merely a list of foods that might be contributing to your health challenges.
Here is the reality. It is a long list and avoiding those foods forever is not only unsustainable in the real world, but also unnecessary because chances are really good that not all of them are problematic for you! That’s why I’m such a big proponent of reintroducing foods once you’ve started to feel better, even if you haven’t reached the elusive goal of total remission or having zero symptoms.
As the manifesto says, “restoring our health is a worthy pursuit” but you also need to balance that with a degree of acceptance and self love.
Your illness is not an enemy that needs to be vanquished.
You don’t have to conquer it, you don’t have to achieve perfection to be worthy of happiness.
Here are specific ways I maintain balance in my healing diet and lifestyle.
- Set realistic goals and expectations. If my goal was having perfect health and being completely pain free at all times, I would never achieve it (nor would anyone else – illness and pain to some degree is just a fact of life!).
- Experiment with reintroductions, deliberately and carefully. Over time I have been able to reintroduce many foods that are initially eliminated and have discovered through that process exactly which foods I am better off avoiding.
- Work with both conventional and alternative medical practitioners to get to the root cause of my conditions while also managing my symptoms and making life more comfortable, including taking medications for pain. Need more validation to make that choice for yourself? Check out this this post from Phoenix Helix on when painkillers are GOOD for you.
- Use the Dirty Dozen – Clean Fifteen guide to prioritize which fruits and vegetables should be organic and buy the healthiest meat I can source and afford, but don’t obsess about it.
- Banish the concept of “cheating.” There are no rules, therefore it is not possible to break them. Every bite I eat is a choice – most bites are health promoting, many are just neutral, and some bites are just for pleasure! If I choose pleasure and that ends up hurting me, then I learn from the experience and maybe next time I won’t make the same choice.
#17: Practice gratitude: Give thought energy to what is good and right in your life
I admit, gratitude is not always easy.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking “if only…”
If only I had not been bitten by a Lyme-disease carrying tick, if my first colon surgery had gone differently, if I had not taken antibiotics and antifungals and birth control pills that may have disrupted my gut flora and contributed to triggering Crohn’s disease, if I did not have the genetic predisposition to autoimmunity… If only these negative things had not happened, then today I would be completely healthy and worrying about “normal” things instead.
When I do catch myself getting fixated on the negative, it helps to remind myself that sh** happens to everyone, that I am not alone in this struggle.
I ask myself whether or not I would really be willing to trade my troubles for someone else’s? The truth is that few of us would.
Perhaps you’ve heard a variation on this story in which a group of strangers are asked to write their biggest problems on a piece of paper and drop it into a basket. Then each person draws a set of problems from the basket and is asked to consider whether they would trade problems, and each person refuses.
No matter how sick you are, no matter how big your problems, chances are good that there are many things in your life that are wonderful. This is true even within your own body; as the great mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn writes in Full Catastrophe Living, “As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than there is wrong, no matter how ill or how hopeless you may feel.”
Here are the ways that I practice gratitude and give thought and energy to what is good and right in my life:
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Maintain a happiness folder.
- Display mementos of happy times in my work space.
- Practice loving kindness (metta) meditation.
- Pay it forward by sending personal thank you notes.
If any of this resonates with you, then you might like some of my other posts on similar topics, including:
- What Paleo Means to Me: A Gutsy Living Manifesto
- Healthy Paleo Travel Habits: Living with an Autoimmune Disease
- I’ll Never Be a Paleo Success Story (and Why I’m OK With That)
- IBD Awareness Week: Celebrating 20 Years of Living with Crohn’s Disease
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