One thing I hear very often is “I want to start the Autoimmune Protocol but I don’t know where to start!” and I remember the horror I felt when I read about the protocol for the first time. Seriously, what sane person cuts out cheese and wine and chocolate?! Well, I guess the kind of person who has had enough of feeling like crap and doesn’t want to just keep increasing the medication whilst getting more and more ill. So that means me – and quite possibly you!
So here’s what worked for me, and I hope that collating all the info I found helpful in one place will take some of the stress out of the experience for you. If you have any other resources you’d like to share please mention in the comments below 🙂
- Research – when I thought I might want to delve into taking on the Autoimmune Protocol (it’s also known as Autoimmune Paleo or just AIP for short) I read all the info I could find on it. Mainly blogs. My favourites were (and are) Autoimmune-Paleo by Mickey Trescott, Paleo Mom by Sarah Ballantyne and Phoenix Helix by Eileen Laird, and I really recommend you check out all these links as the information these ladies share really is priceless. I absorbed all I could from these blogs to make myself familiar with the, er, “rules” (hate that word, but it fits!) and as my mind became more used to the concepts of AIP and the benefits it could bring the idea of me starting AIP became far less daunting.
- Set the date – set a date not too far away, but not too close either, you want to have enough time to prepare yourself, mentally as well as practically. Once I’d got my head around the dos and don’ts of AIP (mainly from reading the blogs mentioned above) I decided to start a couple of weeks after a holiday we had planned. This gave me 3 months (it was a long holiday!) to ease myself in and OD on aforementioned cheese and wine!
- Ease yourself in – for many, following a Paleo lifestyle is a precurser to starting AIP, as Paleo shares a number of the same principals. Before starting AIP I had been a “clean” eater, no processed foods, no gluten, no added sugar, no white starches, but I certainly wasn’t “Paleo” – I still ate dairy, legumes, gluten free grains, which most Paleo followers don’t eat. So in the weeks before properly getting started ion AIP I cut out chocolate, legumes, seeds, grains and nuts altogether and started cutting down on coffee, alcohol, nightshades (tomatoes, white potatoes, capsicum, eggplant, chilli) and dairy. This was all before my “official” start date so it was just a practice run, I didn’t feel any pressure and it gave me time to use up any non-AIP ingredients (I seriously hate waste…).
- Last minute “revision” – one thing I was endlessly grateful for in the first couple of weeks of my AIP journey were Mickey Trescott’s “cheat sheets” on what you can and cannot eat on AIP. I printed them out, highlighted the foods that were usually a part of my diet and from there knew which foods I need to buy or replace on my next shopping trip to get me set up for AIP. Getting my head around what ingredients I could and couldn’t use, before being confronted with a huge array of produce, made the whole process a lot less stressful. And it meant that when my boyfriend asked questions about what we could buy that week – he usually comes to the market with me, lucky as I need him to help carry the bags! – I knew the answer.
- Social media – I made sure I was following some great AIP accounts on Instagram and Facebook as there’s nothing worse than seeing delicious food appearing in your feed THAT YOU CAN’T EAT!!! Conversely, the joy of seeing an amazing dish made from ingredients that you can eat just makes it that bit easier to keep on track and stay inspired! As well as the blogs I’ve mentioned above who all have their own Facebook and Instagram accounts, a few more of my favourite Instagram are: @aipxwhole30, @hewontknowitspaleo and @the_paleo_partridge.
- Spring clean – as I’ve already mentioned, I can’t stand waste! So hopefully you’ve given yourself enough time to use up any food items in your fridge and cupboards that aren’t AIP friendly. If not, give them to friends that will eat them, just don’t keep them. Otherwise, when that day comes when you just can’t be bothered to whip up another AIP friendly meal from scratch and you’ve got nothing in the freezer you will remember that tin of baked beans in the back of the cupboard and you will eat them! The world won’t end, but after all the hard work you’ve put in it’s a shame to take a backwards step in your gut healing process. What do I do when that day comes? I keep tins of salmon in the cupboard and I always have at least a sweet potato and some other vegetable in my cupboard – or I’ll stop off on the way home and buy a zucchini and some cauliflower (or something like that – you get the idea!) to go with my salmon.
- The shop – by now you should be an AIP expert! And if not, just fake it til you make it because you soon will be 😉 You have your list of things you can and things you can’t eat, you’ve been inspired by numerous AIP accounts on Facebook and Instagram, drooled over delicious recipes on the blogs I mentioned and you should have a pretty good idea of what your first week’s menu is going to be. I started in Winter so I knew I’d be cooking stews and roasts, which I’d have been cooking anyway, I just needed to tweak them a little bit to make sure they were AIP friendly (goodbye tomato, brown rice and quinoa – hello sweet potato and pumpkin!).
So that’s it – those are my tips of how to mentally and practically prepare yourself for AIP! It really is all about the preparation – and your health is worth the time and energy you will spend. If you’d like to read more about my experiences on AIP (disclosure – I may have slipped up a couple of times in the early days…!!) you can find my week by week progress reports listed under the heading Autoimmune Protocol on the right hand side.
Good luck, I hope you found this useful and I hope AIP works for you! If you have any questions or anything you want to share please write in the comments section below 🙂 xx