Over 5 years ago, I became physically and cognitively disabled from a probably decades long combination of damage from Hashimoto’s, Celiac and Antiphospholipid Syndrome.
I could barely speak, think, stand, move or care for myself and I was told that this would be my new normal that I would need to learn to accept. I was unable to work and I had no idea at that time if I had a future and if I would ever be able to support myself again.
And so began the search that I know so many of you are familiar with: How to find a way to reverse my symptoms, heal my body and get as much function back as I possibly could so that I would be able to work, support my family and find myself again.
One of the most powerful tools I found and began using apart from Natural Desiccated Thyroid or NDT to replace the thyroid hormones that my own, destroyed thyroid was incapable of making, was the AIP diet.
It made complete sense to me that giving my body nutrient dense food, managing my sleep, stress and mindset was going to give my body what it needed to heal as much as it could.
And I got great results!
Within 16 months I was well enough to able to start building up my therapy business from the ground up again, had seen most of my symptoms go into remission and lost all of the inflammation weight I had gained prior to diagnosis.
I settled into a new lifestyle of lots of veggies, ferments, pre and probiotics and worked closely with my Naturopath to make sure that the vitamin deficiencies I had been diagnosed with were supplemented and my levels were getting back to normal.
My liver and kidney function that were less than 50% at diagnosis, recovered to full capacity, my hair stopped falling out and began to re-grow and my brain began working better.
But there was one thing that did not get better.
I had constant, ongoing gut issues, especially at night which caused discomfort and broken sleep. It was very rare that I was unaware of my gut function at all which is how it should be when your gut is functioning normally.
The work it does in the background should be out of awareness and you only feel it when there is something wrong.
But, I had made so much great progress that if ongoing gut discomfort was was the price I had to pay, then so be it. I was so much better than I had been and I continued to feel a little better each year.
Over time as I added more reintroductions back into my diet, eating a wider range of vegetables than ever before in my life and finding “new to me” products, my addiction to sugar and carbohydrates began to slowly creep back in.
I found “legal” chocolate made with cacao and low coconut sugar that I really loved.
I found Cassava flour and began baking cakes and other treats for my family.
I learned how to make absolutely delicious Tapioca pudding that I had never had before and loved its creamy, starchy texture.
I also found coconut milk ice cream, vegetable chips and coconut yoghurt. All of these things are wonderful if you can eat them in moderation.
I however, am not a moderator.
I have had weight issues all of my life from the age of 9 when it seemed like overnight I went from a normal sized girl to an obese one which was most likely, when Hashimoto’s first began its slow and insidious creep into my life.
I was on my first diet at 9 and most of my life from that moment on was spent in an endless cycle of yoyo dieting, restriction, binge eating and regaining all of the weight plus a few more kilo’s to grow fatter on.
Ironically, I had finally come to peace with my body and my weight and was practicing intuitive eating two years before chronic illness hit my life like a high speed train wreck and one of the preceding symptoms that I put down to menopause was a whole lot of weight gain around the middle of my body without any change in my eating patterns.
I thought in the first 3 years of AIP and learning how to live my new life with chronic illness that I had finally beaten my years of disordered eating but it was just underground, waiting to emerge again.
As I mentioned before, when it comes to eating, I am not a moderator.
There is a model of eating which proposes that you are either a moderator which means you can have small amounts of something, enjoy it, put the something away in the cupboard or the refrigerator and not think of it again until you want some more.
Abstainers do not have the ability to moderate food. It’s all or nothing for us.
If the trigger food is in my house, I feel compelled to eat it until it is all gone. I simply can’t ignore it, knowing it is there, ready to be consumed.
I tell myself I will just have a little more, then a little more, until before I know it, it’s all gone and it’s only then that I can stop thinking about the treat.
I allowed myself to become complacent.
Rather than “occasional treats” I was eating ice cream and chocolate and veggie chips weekly and before I knew it, I had slipped right back into my old, carbohydrate and sugar addicted ways, all AIP compliant but all almost impossible for me to moderate unless I completely abstained.
I baked a Cassava flour cake “for the family” but they didn’t really like it so I ate it all.
Every week when I went shopping, I went to the Health Food store and got my “legal” chocolate and ate it all that day.
Because the coconut yoghurt was so easy to have with little preparation, I ate a lot of it for quick meals with fruit like cooked apples or fresh berries. All great in moderation but as I mentioned, I am not a moderator.
My already bad gut issues got worse with all of the sugar.
I started gaining weight, clothes in my wardrobe no longer fit me and it wasn’t until I saw pictures of myself at an awards night where I was one of the nominees for the “Shine Coach of the Year” that the reality of my weight gain hit.
I was almost back to my highest weight, even thought I never went back to SAD (Standard Australian Diet) eating and I was still eating lots of veggies, fruit and good quality protein.
I did 30 days completely sugar free because as an abstainer, it is much easier for me to do that and while it helped me break the cycle, my gut issues continued to give me misery.
It felt very much that I was missing something.
Most of the time except for the last 6 months where I went off the rails into lots more carbs and coconut sugar, I was strict AIP for well over 4 years.
I felt like there was something else going on that was stopping my gut from healing because healing your gut is the number one focus of improving your health with AIP.
Rebuilding your gut microbiome, closing the “leaks” in the intestinal barrier so that the gut remains the closed system that it is supposed to be is such a significant factor in reducing inflammation and autoimmune attacks.
The interesting thing is that in my search for something to explain why I was still having gut issues that were not healing with strict AIP, noting which foods I reacted to and avoiding them and careful reintroduction of foods (before my sojourn off the track into AIP carbohydrate land) nothing seemed to work.
If you have gut symptoms, then you know that it’s a constant drain on your ability to feel good. There were so few moments where my gut felt peaceful that it only made things feel worse, like getting glimpses of how things “could” be, on those rare days when my gut actually felt fine.
And as has happened so often over the years in my life, I started noticing a particular thing popping up in my face, just like it was trying to get my attention. A new way of eating that seemed to be calling to me.
At first, I resisted.
It looked a bit extreme, even for me who has had to defend my AIP lifestyle so many times over the years from people who told me it was “dangerous” and “too out there” and “orthorexic” but it kept coming into my line of sight over and over again.
So I started reading.
I started following people who were part of the lifestyle.
I began doing my research as I have with every other thing I have tried since I became chronically ill and seeing those pictures of me from the awards night, knowing all the clothes in my wardrobe unable to be worn, wanting to do something to finally fix my ongoing gut issues that years of AIP had not resolved for me, it started feeling like I really needed to pay attention.
It was like my instincts were telling me that this was the next phase in my health journey but I was reluctant to take the step and commit because what if it made things worse?
I have worked so hard for so many years to get my life and health back and as someone with chronic illness, you know how when you finally achieve that precarious balance, you do not want to do anything that is going to tip you over the edge back into flares or old symptoms again.
Seeing the reality of all the weight I had regained in those awards night pictures gave me the push I needed to give this new dietary protocol a try.
Not out of shame because I love and appreciate my body and all that it does for me but because I know it would feel better for my body and for me to not have to carry all that additional weight that had already created its own problems.
Fungal skin issues in folds and creases where sweat gathers.
Ongoing bacterial infections in my belly button that couldn’t ever properly heal because of all the weight around my middle.
Looking older and frumpier than I actually feel.
The general discomfort and misery that can come with feeling uncomfortable in your own skin.
The extra weight was harder on my joints, took more energy to move my body around and fat around my organs makes them have to work that extra bit harder to function.
I want to make it very clear that I do not blame the AIP diet in any way, shape or form. It came along when I needed it most, it helped me get to where I am today and I love and admire so many people in the AIP community, many of whom I am blessed to call friends. You are never going to hear me bad mouthing AIP.
I take full responsibility for my lapses into indulging in too many AIP treats, carbohydrates and products. I am the only one making the decisions of what I put into my mouth.
But I felt that there was something missing that could take me to that next level and I felt ready to take the leap into my big, fat dietary experiment with a big mixture of excitement and apprehension.
And next week I will share my new way of eating with you and all of the reasons why I chose it.
See you then!