November marks four months on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. I’m going to be honest – AIP changed everything for me, in both really good and really difficult ways.
– I saw improvement in my symptoms. Change happened gradually – for me, I didn’t notice instant improvements. Also, it hasn’t been a linear path – there have been ups and downs in my joint pain, energy, and digestive health. When I started AIP, it was difficult to grab a door handle due to the pain in my fingers and wrists. After about two months, my pain had subsided to the point that only one finger occasionally gave me problems. Multiple medication changes have caused a series of ups and downs in the latest month or so, but my inflammation is leveling out again.
– I became empowered to accept my diagnosis and to have a say in what happens to my body because of it. Getting diagnosed with an autoimmune disease is one of the most disempowering things I’ve ever experienced. My doctor said, “There is no cure for this, and you will likely experience a lifetime of chronic pain and joint deformation.” After which she launched into a list of the possible medications I could start taking, followed by a list of scary side effects. I left that appointment feeling helpless, and proceeded to live in a state of denial about my RA – until I found Paleo, and then AIP. Eating this way has empowered me to learn about my disease, what may have caused it, and all of the ways I can nurture and heal my body with food.
– I got out of a stressful relationship. To be fair, when we started dating I was still in denial about having rheumatoid arthritis. We’d only been dating a month or two when I decided to start AIP. He was supportive in theory, but his own lifestyle was difficult to reconcile with my new one. As I became more focused on my health, I felt the need to focus inward. I had trouble committing fully to AIP and also keeping up with a new relationship that was somewhat stressful for multiple reasons. I just knew that I had to choose what was best for my health. Did that make it easy? Not at all, but I believe it was the right decision.
– I got off of THREE medications! And am still taking one. When I started AIP, I had been on four medications for my RA. Now I am down to one. This is a HUGE accomplishment. I believe AIP eased my transition off of one of the disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) that I had to stop taking due to side effects. I found a rheumatologist who is knowledgeable about functional medicine, and she supports my use of food and supplements along with meds. I will be working with her as this process continues.
– I embraced an earlier bed time. I try to crawl into bed at 9 and usually read until about 9:30. It takes me around a half an hour to fall asleep – leaving me with a solid 8 ½ hours of sleep every night. Now I can’t imagine what I used to do past 9 pm every night besides sleep!
– My exercise routine completely changed. Before starting AIP, I loved lifting weights and biking long distances. I still love those things. I believe it is actually prednisone that both enabled me to do them for so long, and now has taken them away from me due to the adrenal fatigue I am experiencing from stopping it. Now on good days I go for a brisk walk, do yoga and stretching, and lift some free weights at home. I hope to continue to heal my adrenal fatigue and hop on my bike again next summer.
– My budget is completely transformed. I used to have money allotted each month for meals at restaurants, alcoholic beverages at the bar, and my membership at the gym. Now pretty much all that money goes toward quality food and supplements. This transition happened slowly over the few months that I’ve been on AIP. I had to embrace the fact that good food is a priority for me. Now I invite my friends to go for walks or grab a cup of tea, or to join me at the Farmer’s Market. The shift in my social life hasn’t been a detriment to it, and I find it fits my overall AIP lifestyle much more than going to a bar.
– I lost weight, but that isn’t the point. I did lose weight by eating this way, but have tried not to make my focus. As someone who has struggled with weight and body image issues for my whole life, being able to look past the weight loss is not always easy. It’s almost like I have to practice looking at food as medicine and sustenance, not as a tool to feel control over the way I look.
– I learned to cook. Not that I didn’t know how before, but I’ve delved further into allowing my creativity to translate into the food I make. I make do with my tiny kitchen and experiment with recipes.
– I let go of the “It’s only 30 days!” mentality. I thought I would only do AIP for one month, and now I see it is a lifetime commitment. I’ve decided to hold off on reintroducing foods, since my symptoms and digestion are still not stabilized. Since they seem to change on a daily basis, I don’t think that I could pinpoint a change in symptoms on any food I tried to reintroduce. It’s important to me to wait until I feel completely ready before experimenting with reintroduction. Thankfully, I feel well adapted to eating AIP and am willing to continue it until I make the right tweaks to get me where I want to be.
I entered into this lifestyle with some resistance, some fear, and a lot of hope. Looking back now, I see how AIP slowly changed not only my diet but my capacity to give my body what it needs to heal – whether that be more sleep or time alone. Change is not easy to accept, but I grow increasingly sure that these changes are all a part of my healing process.