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?

Continue reading

Biohacking Update: 12 months on the Autoimmune Protocol

9 monthsDecember 23rd is our 1-year AIP-iversary!

We started our long-term Autoimmune Protocol one year ago today.

One year ago, Matthew was almost debilitated by a constellation of chronic health issues. Despite all the conventional, alternative & downright weird things we’d tried in our attempts to reverse his autoimmune conditions over the previous five years.

12 months later, we’re elated & discouraged about the progress he’s made.

Reversing Autoimmune

There’s no question Matthew is reversing his autoimmune condition on the AIP. Reversing, slowly. Not curing.

All the experts say the once a body is in autoimmune response, it’ll always be inclined that way.

You can’t cure autoimmune.

But you can reverse it’s effects. Slowly. Through the nutritional & lifestyle hacks known collectively as the Autoimmune Protocol.

Here’s a brief summary of Matthew’s progress after 12-months on the AIP:

symptoms_12 months

And me?

I’ve been on the AIP for 12 months, too. Most of that time a ketogenic version. As a person without an autoimmune condition, I’m loving the results, which I’ve documented in the posts biohacking for peak experience & biohacking for career leverage.

A false start & a rough beginning

We’ve tried a bunch of nutritional protocols in our attempts to heal. From the specific carbohydrate diet to raw veganism, they all left Matthew somewhere on the continuum between worse & unchanged.

2012~2014Our first Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) was for 30 days in the summer of 2013.

We thought 30 days might do it!

When it didn’t, Matthew was pretty dispirited. And fairly hostile about the AIP. I’d been paleo for a couple of years and had experienced the alleviation of all of my symptoms, so I continued to be paleo after our first AIP experiment.

But Matthew insisted that regular paleo made him worse, so he reverted to all his SAD-old ways.

Turns out he was right. A regular paleo diet is insufficient and inflammatory for many people with autoimmune conditions.

A few months after our first AIP, we noticed that Matthew’s psoriasis symptoms had improved.  We traced the remission back to our 30-day AIP.

At the same time, his pain symptoms were getting steadily worse, along with his dependence on narcotic painkillers, which interfered with his ability to function & interact with people.

Then, in October of 2013, he developed inexplicable, debilitating nausea.

After further research, we decided to try a long-term AIP. Or, in truth, I did the research and I decided.

Matthew grudgingly agreed. He was severely compromised at that time & would never have been able to do the protocol, or the research required to find out about it, on his own.

Now he can.

Though this was only a year & a bit ago, it was before Dr Sarah Ballantyne’s book The Paleo Approach was published.

At that time the primary sources of information on the AIP came from the experimental blogs of AIP pioneers who were treating their own autoimmune diseases through nutrition & lifestyle. This movement is still being led by people who are taking their health into their own hands, and taking the time to blog about it.

low-FODMAP & ketogenic variations

It was only a couple of weeks into our long-term AIP, during which time I continued to research obsessively, that Matthew decided to try a low-FODMAP variation. He’s experimented with going off of it during the last year & always ends up back on it. He does better.

Last Spring I decided to experiment with an AIP-compliant version of the Wahls Paleo Plus, the ketogenic version of the Wahls Protocol. I liked it so much I decided to stick with a ketogenic AIP and have continued to experiment with different levels of carbohydrates.

What next?

A long time ago we resolved that we’re just going to keep trying.

Most of the things we’ve tried haven’t worked. Some have made Matthew worse. Occasionally, we have a breakthrough.

The AIP is a breakthrough.

We’re going to stick with it & keep trying new nutritional & lifestyle hacks in our quest for health and well-being.

Previous Biohacking Updates



Book Review: Keto Clarity


(Note: check out my Biohacking Update from February 2015 for details about my sub-optimal results of my 3½ month super-low-carb experiment.)

I’d been in ketosis for 3½ months (on a ketogenic version of the Autoimmune Protocol) before I read Keto Clarity: Your Definitive Guide to the Benefits of a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet by Jimmy Moore with Eric C. Westman.

I’ve shared a bit about the results of my ketogenic experiments in the posts Biohacking for Peak Experience and Biohacking for Career Leverage.

Even though I was in love with ketosis, I still had questions.

I’d tried online research, but everything I found was contradictory: ketosis is bad; ketosis is freaking awesome; more ketosis is better; there is no such thing as more ketosis, urine test strips are useful; urine test strips are useless; ‘carb cycling’ is necessary; or unnecessary; or we’re really not sure. That and incomprehensible scientific explanations about the biological processes involved in ketosis that I really, truly tried to read.

Even though I didn’t have all the information I wanted, I stuck with a ketogenic diet because:

  1. Terry Wahls says it’s good & she’s a wizard;
  2. It feels amazing; &
  3. It addresses my ethical issues about being paleo.

But I didn’t really, completely know if ketosis was a valid, sustainable approach to running my life in the long term. Until I read this book. Now I’m utterly convinced that ketosis is for me (and that it’s probably for you, too).

Keto Clarity: My reviewKeto Clarity

Moore (& Westman) have written a comprehensible & comprehensive book on ketogenic lifestyle.

It’s readable. As soon as it arrived in the mail, Keto Carity interrupted both the historical novels I’d been previously immersed in. I read it cover to cover.

Things I liked

  1. The book includes the expertise of 22 additional ketogenic experts, including medical doctors, researchers, elite athletes and influential paleolithic lifestyle people. Their perspectives were diverse and while they didn’t actually, actively contradict each other, they were disparate enough to give a good sense of the range of orthodoxies among keto-proponents. I liked that.
  2. The book has three chapters that review current research on ketosis: ‘Solid Science’; ‘Good Evidence’ & ‘Emerging Research’. What a friendly way to approach the subject. And what compelling evidence about proven & potential benefits of ketosis. Including for curing cancer.
  3. It outlines how to set up your own ketogenic n=1 (self-experiment).
  4. It provides comprehensive information about testing for ketones, including why urine test strips are not useful in the long term.
  5. It addresses women’s concerns, not excessively but sufficiently, including intermittent fasting for women; reduced ketones during menstruation; & metabolic changes during menopause that can affect carbohydrate tolerance.
  6. It explores of the common critiques of ketosis and the origins of these. Fascinating.
  7. It explains the connection between ketones & blood sugar: ketones up; blood sugar down. And vice versa.
  8. It references to My Big Fat Diet, an experiment in ancestral eating from my very own corner of the planet.
  9. Jimmy Moore is a blogger. I love that bloggers keep leading the way.
  10. And it might be just be me but I am uninterested in the real-life examples of real-life people that most self-help & health books are riddled with. I always skip them. But  I also always wonder if the author hasn’t tucked some important information into one of these stories, so then I get stressed out & feel compelled to go back & skim them. If you are a fan of example stories, you’ll find them in Keto-Clarity. Happily nestled in their own chapter. Brilliant. It’s the only chapter I didn’t fully read, but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.

My critique

My critiques are minor. Nevertheless, here they are:

  1. Down the rabbit holeJimmy Moore uses too many cliches. In my humble opinion. That was a cliche. It’s easy to do. His worst offense was “Take a chill pill, people!” on page 182. That was really bad. But I also learned something about myself, because when he used the cliched phrase ‘through the rabbit hole’ I wasn’t ruffled. Because it’s a literary reference. So I learned that it’s not that I dislike all cliches, but that I am a cliche snob. So, even though I can’t condone the use of the phrase ‘chill pill’ under any circumstances, I appreciated the opportunity to learn that about myself.
  2. Jimmy Moore is into ketosis, not paleo & not the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). I don’t critique him for that. But I do critique him for being into ketosis in a SAD kind of way. For example, he recommends boullion cubes (a couple of times) as a way to boost sodium intake when in ketosis. Last time I checked (5 minutes ago) boullion cubes contained salt, sugar, partially hydrogenated palm oil, monosodium glutamate (MSG), cornstarch,  disodium inosinate, & TBHQ (a chemical preservative). In other words, they’re not food. There are other ways to get salt. Like salt.
  3. Likewise, the recipes and menu plans are not AIP friendly, so were pretty useless to me. But, likewise, I can’t really fault him for that. Except for the recipe idea from Wendy McCullough to pan-fry under-ripe avocados. That is brilliant.
  4. I don’t like the design of dust jacket, but underneath, the book is rather handsome, with an elegant purple spine.

Keto Clarity 4Despite my picky criticisms, I completely recommend this book. Even if you don’t think you are interested in ketosis. Yet.

Ketosis & Physical Activity

At the end of the book I knew almost everything I wanted to know about a ketogenic lifestyle, including whether ketosis is compatible with high performance physical activity, which was my #1 lingering question when I was 40 days into my ketogenic experiment on the Wahls Paleo Plus.

The answer is: yes, but you need to get fully keto-adapted first and that can take time. Three to four weeks in most people. It took 4o days for me.

During the transition, you will probably experience a reduction in physical stamina (I did), which (understandably) leads a lot of people to give up on ketosis before they start to experience the benefits. Keto Clarity refers to a study on endurance training for elite cyclists that was almost abandoned after 2 weeks due to declining performance. Luckily they persevered until they became keto-adapted, resulting in improvements in VO2 max; amount of glycogen in muscle; and other markers. The moral of that is (another literary cliche), stick with it.

“There is a lot of misinformation and disinformation – if not outright, unwarranted hysteria – concerning the potential risks of a low-carbohydrate, fat-based ketogenic diet.” ~Nora Gedgaudas in Keto Clarity.


A Paleo New Year

April seems to be my paleo new year.BeforeandAfter

Two years ago in April I went Paleo and lost 75 lbs in 5 months.

Soon after that I realized all 9 of my health issues had disappeared.

At the time I thought I’d ‘made it’. After all, I’d achieved even more than I’d set out to do.

I didn’t realize I was still only in the foothills of health and I’d taken just the first baby steps in my paleo experiments.

What I’ve experienced since then, as my food has become increasingly pure and my gut has continued to heal, is previously unimagined levels of well-being.

As someone who struggled with depression and anxiety every day in my pre-paleo life, I’m still astounded by the feeling of psychological well-being. And the impact psychological health has had on all aspects of my life, including my career.

Levelling Up

During my first paleo year I only ate fish & poultry, which was obviously sufficient for weight loss & initial healing. As a recovering vegetarian, I wasn’t prepared to eat mammals at first, but it became apparent that I needed to reduce my reliance on fowl as a protein source.

So last April, I had my first bite of steak.

And this April, after 3½ months on the Autoimmune Protocol, I went ketogenic on the Wahls Paleo Plus.

As April seems to be my Paleo new year, I’m going to make a resolution.

This year I’m going to level up to organ meat.

I’ve been recalcitrant on the offal front. I actually don’t even want to change (that’s sort of the definition of recalcitrant). But I know it’s the next step.

And one year from now I will no doubt wonder why I stayed offal-obstinate for so long.

Maybe it was because I started with lamb kidney.

Started and ended with lamb kidney.

I know it’s politically incorrect to say so, because in paleo-land we’re all just supposed to start salivating & shouting hallelujah the moment we see a pile of fresh organs in the butcher’s display case, but lamb kidney tastes like urine and the taste stays in your mouth for a long time, even if you brush your teeth (& your tongue) repeatedly.

I’m an offal wimp.

I just had to get that off my chest.

According to the Paleo PI, kidney is intermediate offal. Tongue & heart is the place to start.

I actually think chicken liver might be the way to edge in for me.

In any case, I’m celebrating my new year with offal.

Celebrate with me!



AIP 101: the fry-up

Fry up w crispsMaybe this hardly counts as a recipe, except there’s an art to a phenomenal fry-up.

It can be the kind of meal that you look forward to at work all day because it’s perfect comfort food, makes almost no dishes, & makes you feel fantastic.AIP_ABC

In fact, mastering fry-ups & salads & bone broth might be the key to AIP success. They’re the AIP ABCs.

I cook a fry-up or two every week, more when I’m busy, and I always plan one for the day after I cook pulled pork. The bacon-laced fat from a happily-raised pork roast is a perfect start to a luscious fry-up of ground meat & greens.

In fact, truly transcendent fry-ups partly depend on the quality and flavour of the fat. A succulent fry up is not a lean fry up. And fat keeps you satiated longer.

If you are working with ground meat that already contains a lot of fat, like pork or some ground beef, you’ll have to use your judgement about whether to leave it or pour some of it off as it cooks. Generally, most people discard the fat from any factory-raised meat & consider fat from happy pastured animals to be an excellent food source. A lot of ground meat is quite lean, including pastured beef, and adding fat will increase the succulence factor by the square root of fabulous. For myself, I save higher fat ground pork for making breakfast sausages, like these from Phoenix Helix.

Aip snackfood: fry-up with crisps

Fancy-up leftover fry-up with homemade crisps

You need 4 things for a great fry up: meat, vegetables, fat & seasoning. I prefer to use greens, but any vegetation that meets your requirements, including already cooked leftovers, is copacetic.

A fry-up can be mostly about the meat, or more about the veg, depending on what you need in a given meal. Dr Terry Wahls recommends 9 cups of vegetables every day & a fry-up is a great way to get those in.

My favorite (low-FODMAP) fry-up

  • Several generous tablespoons bacon fat; or pieces of pork fat leftover from Kalua Pig; or coconut oil;
  • 2 lbs ground meat (Using 2 types is tasty: beef, bison, lamb, elk, venison);
  • 1-2 bunches or 1lb greens (chard, bok choy, spinach);
  • ¼ cup coconut aminos;
  • 2 tablespoons herbs (basil, savory, marjoram, oregano…);
  • 3-4 tablespoons sea vegetables;
  • Himalyan Salt (or similar), to taste;

Melt the fat, fry the meat, add the herbs & salt. When the meat is nearly cooked, add the greens, sea vegetables & coconut aminos. Cook until the greens are wilted.

If it’s a meal in one, eat it from a bowl with chopsticks, a fork or a spoon, depending on your mood.

Or use it as wrap-filling with a chiffonade of lettuce in green flatbread. Or serve it with AIP crisps.

Reinvent leftover fry-up by adding something new, maybe abundant turmeric & ginger browned in coconut oil, some more greens, a little diced papaya & some sliced leftover chicken for a superlative breakfast.

The fry-up. You could live on it. Happily. The AIP doesn’t have to be hard!

Weird diets in the quest for health



Our kids are used to our weird diets. As far as they’re concerned, we’re always on one.

I guess they’re right…

Weird diets we’ve tried in our quest for health…

Petra’s health issues:

Borderline obesity (back & forth across the border!) + depression & anxiety

Matthew’s health issues:

Psoriatic arthritis, chronic pain, psoriasis + associated crappy complications


Vegetarianism (in Matthew’s case, with an occasional stealthy steak)

Ongoing decades-long struggle with weight, depression & anxiety

Worsening of all symptoms


4 months on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet

No change

No change


Standard American Diet (or in Petra’s case, back to vegetarianism)

No change

Worsening of all symptoms


Raw vegan

No change

Worsening of all symptoms



Alleviation of 9 health issues including obesity depression & anxiety

Worsening of all symptoms

Summer 2013:

30-day Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP)

I have no health issues that I am aware of since going paleo, but both times on the AIP I have experienced a dramatic increase in energy* & mental health: I feel buoyant & fantastic!

No change during, but  afterwards: A sustained alleviation of Psoriasis symptoms

Late 2013-ongoing:

Auto-Immune Protocol (including a low-FODMAP variation we’re doing now)

No change (so far)…

…but given that most other weird diets have resulted in worsening of all his symptoms, no change is an improvement!

*During a 25-day experiment with a super low-carb version of the AIP my energy tanked. Interestingly, I gained weight during that time even with the reduction in carbs, because my energy was so low that I couldn’t exercise as much. After a few days back on a higher-carb (relatively speaking) version of the AIP my energy soared again.


Recovering Vegetarian

I love short ribs!

I love short ribs!

For the 1st year of paleo I ate only poultry & seafood. No mammals.

My first mammal was last April 14th. I know because it was Matthew’s 45th birthday dinner. We went out and I ordered the halibut. He ordered the best local grass-fed steak. And gave me a tiny bite.

I had to eat it. I knew that I was eating way too much poultry and, besides, it was his birthday wish.

I didn’t gag or explode into flames. And it didn’t taste like I thought it would. Like blood.

It was actually really good. And surprisingly not a big deal.

But my recovery from vegetarianism started before that. When I was pregnant the first time I had an irresistible yearning for salmon. The second time, roast chicken & turkey.

That should have been a clue! When I was pregnant I reverted to eating animals, but afterwards always returned to a pattern somewhere along the vegan-vegetarian continuum.

I would have told you that I was a skinny pregnant person but a fat breastfeeding person, without ever making the connection.

Of course, along the way, I did the whole early 21st century raw-vegan thing. Bought the Excalibur dehydrator & the Champion juicer. Dehydrated vast quantities of high omega-6 nuts & seeds making raw-vegan bread, crackers & cookies. Juiced cornucopias of sugar-iffic fruit.

Wondered why I still wasn’t losing weight. Or feeling any better…

When I went Paleo in 2012, I ate exclusively fish & poultry for the first year.

But I could tell that the volume of poultry was problematic & knew I needed to find a way to eat mammals.

After my first bite of steak, I advanced steadily.

First, I had 1/3 of a small steak. Of my own. It left a pool of liquid at the bottom of my plate that I tried not to associate with blood.

Then I tried bacon. I started out with the best quality charcuterie bacon and it did not take long to learn to love it.

  • Ground beef.
  • Ham.
  • At first I found lamb repellent, but I started mixing ground lamb with ground chicken and came to appreciate it.
  • Bison. Easy. I started to carry bison jerky in my purse all the time.
  • Elk. Bring it on!
  • Lamb Kidney. Not a fan. But I tried it.

Hard to believe. In 9 months. I’m a fully adapted meat-eater.

The thing that amazed me as a new carnivore was how easy it is to prepare most meat. Short ribs in the slow cooker. They’re divine. Ham in the oven. So simple.

But if someone had tried to tell me how uncomplicated it was over here, when I was grudgingly assembling all those intricate tofu lasagnas, I wouldn’t have listened.


Emerald City Soup (AIP-friendly)

Emerald Soup

You know you need to eat your greens to get to the Emerald City. This soup gets you onto the yellow brick expressway… and it’s Autoimmune Protocol friendly!

Yield: 3 bowls full

  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, including stems
  • 2 bunches spinach (or ½ of a 1lb bin of prewashed baby spinach)
  • 1 ½ cups chopped honeydew or watermelon
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • ½ cup lime juice
  • ½ cup coconut aminos

Whirl all ingredients in a food processor.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Feel great!

Top 3 tips for Paleo Newbs

Top 3 tips

I’ve been surprised by the number of people who have told me they are going paleo after reading my blog.

When I started, I thought that if it made a difference to one person I’d be thrilled.

I had lunch with a friend who was on Paleo day 11. She’d already lost 8 pounds but what she was really hoping for was the lifting of her ‘brain fog’. That takes time.

She asked me for my Top 3 Tips for people just starting out on the paleo path.

The first 2 were easy:

  1. Don’t stress about exercise. Learning to locate & prepare paleo food while dealing with withdrawal from sugars & starches is enough. If trying to fit in exercise is stressing you out, concentrate on paleo-purity until your energy levels soar and all you want to do is move.
  2. Plan & be prepared. Plan your meals, your food shopping & your food prep time. I always plan my meals 1-2 weeks in advance. I also keep bison jerky in my purse. Made from genuine Vancouver Island bison raised by genuine Vancouver Island Hell’s Angels. I rarely need it, but I always have it. Just knowing it’s there is enables me to do my thing out in the world without worrying about where I’ll find food I can eat.

It took me a minute to think of #3, but it might be the most difficult and the most important:

  1. Be gentle and loving with yourself. I know that sounds like an inane new-age cliché. But if you’ve been self-medicating with starches & sugars for years, (like I did for decades) going paleo is going to be an intensive whole-self healing process. Fatuous new-age clichés notwithstanding, the ONLY way to do that kind of healing work is to find self-love. Grrrr. That’s still my response some days: I don’t want to do self-love & healing today, I just want self-loathing & a brioche. And, irritatingly, it’s days like that when you need to be especially gentle and loving with yourself.