I started out my Autoimmune Protocol research with a list of foods that I should eat and avoid, handed to me by my chiropractor when I complained about symptoms of pain and fatigue. I immediately went home and started Googling AIP, searching for recipes and advice.
I printed out a ton of information and a stack of recipes (why do we always think that recipes will solve our problems?), but I didn’t really know what to do with it all. When should I get started? What was I going to eat? Did I really even want to do this?
If you’re feeling like you’ve done the research on AIP, but you aren’t quite sure where to start, you don’t need to keep searching for more websites and recipes – you need a PLAN! The more comfortable you are with your plan, the more likely you are to stick with AIP when you really just want to break down and eat a jelly doughnut instead.
Here are a few questions that I asked myself to create a plan that worked for me and set me up for success in my Autoimmune Protocol journey:
- Why do I want to start the Autoimmune Protocol?
Seriously – why do you want to do this? Why is it important to change what you eat and how you’re living your life?
If your reason is, “I want to feel better,” or “I don’t want to be in pain anymore,” ask yourself again: “Why do I want to feel better?” or “What would my life look like if I wasn’t in pain on a daily basis?”
Take the time to imagine how feeling better would allow you get back to the activities that you used to love, like climbing a mountain or taking a jog around the neighborhood. Imagine how your relationships will improve when you actually feel well enough to leave the house. Imagine the day that you can say yes when your kids want you to get down on the floor and play games with them.
When your reasons run deep and hold a lot of meaning for you, you will not only face much less temptation but also gain more support from others. My “WHY” was that I wanted to be the fun mom who could actually enjoy spending time with her family. Before AIP, I wasn’t that mom – my joint pain had gotten intolerable. I wasn’t yet 40 but felt like I was 80 years old. I could barely walk in the mornings and had to ice my ankles and wrists each night. I was much too young to feel that darn old! Since beginning AIP I have found relief from many of my symptoms, which keeps me committed to what would otherwise be a very tough lifestyle to follow.
When I am sure about my “Why,” I have found that my family and friends are more supportive and that it is easier for me to eat what I know will make me feel healthy. On the occasions that I get questions from others or I start to question myself, I can stand firm on knowing why I am giving up all the “good stuff;” because no food tastes delicious enough to deal with the pain that I was suffering.
What is the mantra that will keep you strong when you’re faced with temptation?
- When are you starting (and ending) AIP?
It’s good to be clear on exactly when you’re going to be in the strict Elimination Phase of AIP. An absolute minimum amount of time is 30 days, but I truly believe that 60 days or longer is a more realistic timeframe for your body to heal. Whatever you decide, make a firm commitment to yourself that no matter what, you are going to stick with it for at least that amount of time.
If you want to keep going beyond that point you certainly can! I know, I know, I never thought I would want to stay on AIP for one second longer than I had to, but after I started feeling so great, I was motivated to keep going to see how much better I could really feel! Don’t worry about that right now, though, just make your commitment and focus on sticking to it.
And yes, I encourage you to have an end date and reintroduction plan as well. AIP is not meant to be forever, and after your body has moved through the healing process it is important to start reintroducing healthy foods back into your diet. Without a plan, the reintroduction step can feel a bit scary and out of control. Start thinking ahead now, knowing that you can adjust to your body’s needs later on.
- Do you want to go “cold turkey” AIP or ease into it?
I highly recommend that if you haven’t already, take a few days to get organized and put your plan together before you jump right in – usually 3 – 7 days is plenty of time. When you’re ready for DAY ONE, what do you want that to look like for you?
Personally, after a week of preparation I chose to go cold turkey with AIP. I was tired of being in pain and wanted to see results faster, and I didn’t want to drag things out. I also thought that it would be easier to have a clear set of rules to follow instead of always making the decision of what to eat or do.
Some people do better with easing into AIP, though. If the thought of giving up so many foods at once is so overwhelming that you feel frozen in place, you might want to consider the slower approach. You may want to start with cutting out what are usually the biggest offenders, like gluten, dairy, and/or sugar, or you may want to start with eliminating what you think you will miss the least.
How you choose to start totally depends on your personality, and you can choose what works for you. There isn’t a right answer! The most important part is to just get started on the path to better health. Every step that you take will bring you closer to that life you imagined where you weren’t in pain anymore.
- What are you going to do about your caffeine habit?
Caffeine itself is surprisingly not restricted on AIP (thank goodness!), but coffee and soda are, so it’s best to have an alternate plan. If you don’t drink caffeine you can skip this section! But let’s be honest; most of us have a caffeine addiction, especially when it comes to coffee. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you don’t quit caffeine cold turkey – the headaches that you may get from withdrawal are more than you should have to deal with! AIP is about healing your body, not punishing it.
It may sound silly, but my addiction was Diet Coke. I chose to drink a little bit less every day for several days until I didn’t feel that I needed it anymore. My last few days I had one 20-ounce bottle that I would take a few sips from each day. When I got to the bottom of the bottle the soda was really flat and gross, and literally left a bad taste in my mouth—yuck!
A brand-new AIP coffee alternative just launched, and I’m really excited to share it with you: https://sipherbals.com/. While it doesn’t have caffeine to give you that jolt, it can still help you ease into the day with a familiar morning routine.
Before AIP I wasn’t a big fan of tea, but as my only caffeine option, I have learned to love it the last few months (especially with a little honey added to it). Herbal loose-leaf tea is the best way to go!
- How will you handle not drinking alcohol?
This can be a tough one! Before AIP, I drank a glass of wine to relax at the end of the day and more than just one glass when I was partying on the weekend with friends.
My two biggest suggestions are to have something else to drink instead and to be clear with your friends that you are not drinking and why. At parties, I now either carry around a large water bottle or a wine glass filled with kombucha.
Other beverage options include tea, coconut water, maple water, and watermelon water. Always read the labels to ensure that particular brands are AIP-friendly.
- How is your family going to be involved in your AIP journey?
Talk to your family about what you’re doing, but most importantly WHY you’re doing it. When my husband realized how much pain I was in, and that I was committed to doing AIP for my health, he jumped on board.
My family eats what I call “modified AIP.” For us, that means that the main entrée at dinner is AIP, but they usually have at least one non-AIP side that’s easy to make like bread, rice, or pasta. It keeps them happier, and it means that I don’t have to cook two separate meals for my family. I also have non-AIP snacks in the house for my kids, but I keep them far away from the cabinet with my food, and I only open that cabinet to get out food for them.
My family mostly eats a separate breakfast, lunch, and snacks, but they did that before AIP so those meals have not been a big changer for us. My husband eats whatever he wants when he’s at the office, which helps him satisfy his cravings. My family will order pizza or make spaghetti when I’m gone for the evening.
My son had just turned six when I began AIP, so I knew that he wouldn’t fully understand what was going on with me. I explained it by telling him that I had “allergies” and that I wouldn’t be able to eat everything that I usually did. This is language that he could understand since they often talk about allergies at school. I also told him that I would be trying new foods, and he has been excited to try them with me! He doesn’t always like them, but I’m proud of him for supporting me!
- Figure out what you’re going to eat.
The first thing that I did was start researching recipes. However, many websites and bloggers use similar terms like “Anti-Inflammatory Diet” or don’t practice strict AIP, so it was difficult in the beginning to figure out which sites to trust. I also didn’t have a lot of the specialty ingredients that some of the recipes called for, and got really frustrated with where to find them.
Keep the meals really simple in the beginning. In fact, I still do! I don’t love spending lots of time in the kitchen, and I need to preserve my energy for other things. My favorite AIP meal is grilled steak, baked sweet potato, and Brussel sprouts roasted in bacon fat.
The first mistake I made on AIP was to try to go crazy with the recipes and make things that were similar to my favorite dishes, like tortillas made with coconut flour. This was a disaster! The tortillas were really thick and gooey in the center no matter how long I cooked them. I learned that the better idea was to make a taco salad with mixed greens, cucumber, avocado, and AIP taco meat. So much easier, and delicious! During this process, you will learn to embrace a whole new way of eating that will make you feel better.
A really easy way to get in the required vegetables is to throw whatever veggies you like in a pan with a fat (like olive oil, coconut oil, or bacon grease) and roast for about 20-25 minutes. You can sprinkle some sea salt and an herb like rosemary on the top if you want. It’s even easier if you can find precut veggies at the grocery store.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite AIP recipes: https://simplyaip.com/aip-resources/
So there you have it, just a few questions to ask yourself before you get started with AIP to set yourself up for success! If you’re looking for some extra guidance in this area, or just don’t know where to go from here, I would love to invite you download my AIP Starter Guide here: https://simplyaip.com/getting-started-guide/ . It’s totally FREE and teaches you my best strategies, resources, and all the info you need to get started on your journey to better health!