On the New Year

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Ah yes, the post-Christmas anticipation for New Years. I like the idea of starting fresh and making new goals, even if in past years my resolutions didn’t last much past the end of January. I enjoy the sense of possibility, of self-improvement, of hope.

For me this year, instead of hoping that the leap into 2015 will see all of my bad habits disappear magically (because 2015 Emily is so much more put together than the 2014 version!), I decided to plan on a series of 30-day challenges. For me, 30-day challenges are easier to swallow than resolving to do something for an entire year. They provide variety and the feeling of accomplishment of establishing healthy habits.

I’ve decided to focus on activities that will help me manage my stress. In the past couple of months, I’ve kind of been letting this slide. Stress is one of those factors that is so difficult to pin down because we live with it always, and it piggy-backs on other things that can’t exactly be avoided like work, school, and relationships. But finding a way to deal with it is so important, as psychological stress plays a major role in physical health.

My 30-day challenges for the first half of 2015 will  incorporate different ways to manage stress. February will be a 29-day challenge, and on the months with 31 days, the final day will be a break from all challenges before jumping into the next. My hope is that after six 30-day challenges I can evaluate the year so far, and continue on with a new set of challenges for the rest of the 2015.

January: 20 minutes of yoga every day. There are too many health benefits of yoga to list, but from personal experience I know that I feel more grounded, limber, and relaxed when I do a little yoga often. Twenty minutes is a completely doable time-frame to work with.

February: Make a piece of art every day. Now, I’m not a skilled artist or anything, but I find that creating art is very peaceful and I just never take the time to do it. For this challenge, I can draw, paint, or make a collage each day.

March: 10 minutes of meditation every day. There are so many benefits to meditating, yet I have trouble getting myself to do it even for a short time each day. This March, that all changes!

April: Journal every day – even if it’s just one sentence.

May: Send an email/text message/phone call/letter to a friend/family member every day. Though I am definitely an introvert, but there is no denying that simply connecting with someone I love throughout the day, giving and receiving encouragement, can help relieve stress in an instant. I also have a number of friends from my past that pop into my mind from time to time, and I think I should send them an email to see what they’re up to! but rarely get around to it.

June: Take a photo a day. This is just a good way to slow down and notice what’s going on around me.

If you are planning to take the leap into some big dietary/lifestyle changes on January 1, the Family Resolution Revolution bundle is a great resource. Put together by Paleo Parents, the bundle includes The Paleo Approach Dinner Club e-book (for your resolution to build community around eating for health) and a bunch of other amazing e-books, meal plans, magazine subscriptions, and resources. The bundle includes over $800 worth of resources and it only costs $39. That’s a deal! It’s only available until January 4. Learn more about at at the Family Resolution Revolution website.

As the New Year approaches, what are your resolutions/hopes/plans for 2015?

Awesome FREE Resource for the Holidays!

Holidays on AIP

This is a quick post to let you know about a new, free recipe guide called “Holidays on the Autoimmune Protocol.” The document is a collection of links to 85 AIP-complaint recipes from a number of talented bloggers. Recipes are split up into categories of appetizers, breads and rolls, sauces, entrees, sides, desserts, and leftovers. Be sure to check it out and again – it’s free!

Find more information and the link to download the PDF at http://autoimmune-paleo.com/introducing-holidays-on-the-autoimmune-protocol/.

On the Ten Ways AIP has Changed My Life

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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.