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Do you know that the AIP Diet is the best way to feel better from your autoimmune disease but are having a hard time sticking to it? Maybe even considering quitting? Don't do it before reading this.
I know it can be hard, but these are 10 of my top tips for being able to stay on the Autoimmune Protocol without a struggle, and possibly even enjoying it!
I know how hard it can be if you aren’t prepared with these. AIP isn’t as easy as grabbing a microwave meal out of the freezer case at your local grocery store or driving through a fast-food lane, and it probably never will be.
However, you CAN make it a LOT more difficult than it needs to be (and I speak from experience here). I want to help you prevent that and instead help you to succeed.
So let’s get to it. Either watch the video or read the tips below!
Tip 1 – Always have your why in mind
Why are you doing AIP?
Do you have a list of symptoms you’re trying to get rid of?
Little kids or grandkids you want to have the energy to play with?
It’s helpful to write your why down somewhere where you’ll see it and be reminded of why you’re making this change in your life, and at least temporarily giving up some of the foods you may love.
I also like to have it in the format of “I want this so that.”
Some examples could be if you’re writing a list of symptoms: “I want to get rid of my ridiculously heavy periods so that I can go out in public without worrying that I’m going to embarrass myself with a leak.”
“I want to have energy so that I can keep up with my toddler”
“I want to get rid of brain fog so that I can be an active participant in my meetings at work”.
Just listing the symptoms you want to stop is fine, but the “so that” part is really powerful.
It really helps cement the reasons why you’re sacrificing things in your brain, telling your brain that it’s worth it to you.
Tip 2 – Don't let yourself get too hungry
Eat meals at regular intervals filled with good fats and protein and always – and I mean ALWAYS – be prepared with snacks wherever you go.
Keep something nonperishable like a Chomps bar, Wild Zora bar, bag of dried fruit, or bag of plantain chips in your purse, your car, and your office desk.
Why do this?
Well, when you get hungry (or if your blood sugar drops) you lose willpower and resort to eating whatever is available.
And most times, that something isn’t AIP-friendly. So by having AIP-friendly snacks around you can at least know you’re prepared for an emergency.
Tip 3 – Meal plan
The quickest way to get off the AIP train is to not have a clue what your next meal is going to be.
If you don’t plan your meals ahead of time you probably won’t have the ingredients you need, the recipe ideas to make, and may not make the time you need to make the meals.
Then when it’s near dinnertime you’ll be tired from a long day and the idea of trying to figure out WHAT to make is enough to exhaust you, let alone actually making it.
So meal planning takes that out of the equation – you’ll know “On Tuesday night I’ll make this” and then have the ingredients ready and the time set aside to do so.
You don’t need to plan the whole week ahead of time if that’s not your thing – just even a day ahead is better than nothing.
Tip 4 – Always have 10 meal ideas at your fingertips
I recommend having AT LEAST 10 ideas for meals that you have tried and like or want to try.
Why do this?
When you do not have the time, energy, or desire to search for meal ideas, it really helps to have a list that you can reference.
Surfing the internet or searching through cookbooks can be fun, but only when you have the time and energy to do it.
A list takes the thinking out of it and makes it easy to meal plan.
You can keep the list on your phone, on a piece of paper, or even in a meal planning app if you have one you like (I personally love and use Plan to Eat)
Tip 5 – Have at LEAST one, if not more “convenience meals” available at all times
Whether this a dump-and-go freezer meal you have in the freezer, a meal you made and froze leftovers of, or a meal made from pantry staples, have something on hand.
Better yet, have at least one of each.
Why do this?
When you're tired, in pain, or time got away from you, you'll have some things you can just dump in a crockpot or reheat or mix together without much effort.
Tip 6 – Have fun meals and treats ready
Having fun meals and treats in mind to either make or buy, can really help with your mindset around AIP being restrictive.
Have things that feel like a cheat but aren't.
Or maybe have a few recipes you found on Pinterest that look like they could be really delicious – but aren’t necessarily something you’d make on a regular basis. Like a recipe for a dessert or some AIP cinnamon buns for breakfast (like these from Heal Me Delicious, yum!).
Sometimes you don’t even have to MAKE the meals – just having the recipe ideas on hand knowing that you COULD make it is enough to get you out of that “this is too restrictive and I can’t eat anything” mentality.
One other thing I love is to have on hand in my freezer are meals from Paleo on the Go (use code TOP15 to get $15 your first order!)- they're usually fun – like a chicken pot pie, breakfast empanadas, or pop tarts! – but also convenient, so they check the box for both this AND the last tip as well!
Tip 7 – Embody someone who is healthy
Try doing this exercise – think of someone who you admire who is healthy. Someone that if you were healthy like them you'd be happy.
Then close your eyes and imagine them stepping into your life.
What do they do?
What do they say?
How do they think?
Are there things you can take from this and apply to your own life?
We often get so stuck in our own patterns and ways of thinking that it really helps to gain this fresh perspective.
Tip 8 – Live “as if”
This goes along with Tip 7 and is a subtle mind shift, but it's what keeps MOST people from following through on habits and lifestyle changes.
Most people live from a model or way of being called “Have Do Be”.
Once I HAVE, I’ll DO, then I’ll BE.
An example of this would be – once I HAVE the energy I'll DO the AIP diet and then I'll BE healthy.
But do you see the issue in this? When will you get the energy unless you DO the AIP diet?
Instead, try the other way around – be… do…. have.
I AM healthy, therefore I DO the things I need to do to be healthy and therefore I HAVE energy.
As I said, it's a mindset shift but think about it – if you live from “Once I have energy”, do you think you’ll make the diet and lifestyle changes you need to do?
You'll put off doing the things you need to do UNTIL you have energy. You’re essentially defeated from the start.
But if you live from the opposite, from the IDENTITY of someone who is healthy, you’ll say and think – “I AM healthy, therefore I DO the things I need to do”.
You'll live AS IF you're a healthy person.
You’d then find it much easier to do the things that someone who is healthy would do to get and stay healthy, like diet and lifestyle changes, and then, as a result, you'll have energy.
Take on the identity of someone who is being who you want to be. You can use the identity of that person you thought of in the last tip.
And just to drive this home a bit more, think of a non-smoker.
A non-smoker has the identity of someone who doesn’t smoke.
They wouldn’t suddenly pick up a cigarette and smoke it, right? Not usually at least.
It most likely wouldn’t even cross their mind to pick one up.
So in the same vein – someone with the identity of a healthy person wouldn’t probably eat the gluten-filled donuts that are sitting on the desk, just because they’re there, right?
And a healthy person would prioritize something like a walk over sitting and staring at their phone for an hour.
This takes practice but it truly helps and I’d say is one of the biggest factors in how I’ve been able to make the shift from someone who constantly wanted the foods that caused autoimmune flares to someone who eats the foods that make me feel my best.
Tip 9 – The Goal of AIP is NOT to do it perfectly
This is really important, so let me repeat that. The Goal of AIP is NOT to do it perfectly.
The goal of doing the AIP diet is to make you feel BETTER, NOT to do it perfectly.
There is no AWARD for doing it 100% perfectly, no grades at the end, no police who are going to arrest you for eating chocolate or drinking coffee.
Doing the AIP diet perfectly may be the easiest way to discern if you have tolerance issues with certain foods and to heal a leaky gut, but does this mean if you had coffee one day that you need to start over?
Or even worse – does it mean you should start down the rabbit hole of “this is too hard, I can't live without coffee, there's no way I can do this, I'm just going to quit”?
Where is that going to put you a few months from now with your autoimmune disease?
With your symptoms?
With your quality of life?
I'd MUCH rather you treat every day as a new day and if you somehow eat something that isn't compliant, just move on.
EVERY meal, every snack, every bite of food you eat is an opportunity to heal and feel better.
And you'll heal even if you do “cheat”.
It just may take a bit LONGER depending on what and how many times you do, but PLEASE do not look at AIP as something you have to do 100% perfectly for 30 days or else you fail and might as well quit.
Please rather look at it as a tool in your toolbox for healing.
A tool that you’re choosing to wield to get your life back.
Who CARES if it’s not done perfectly?!?
A year from now are you going to say “I feel better because of doing AIP 100% correctly” or are you going to say “Wow, I can’t believe how GOOD I feel!” (no matter how ugly and winding the road may have been?).
So relax and know that everything you’re doing is helping you get to your goal.
Tip 10 – Try taking it slow
If you DO find yourself constantly falling off the proverbial AIP bandwagon though, maybe you're overwhelming yourself with too much at once.
Perhaps a cold-turkey style of AIP is just TOO MUCH for you and you'd do much better with a gradual implementation of the AIP diet.
This is where you remove a group of foods a week, as you slowly adjust to doing AIP.
For instance, in Week 1 you’d remove gluten but otherwise eat normally.
Week 2 you remove dairy (and continue to remove gluten).
Week 3 you remove all other grains (and continue to remove gluten and dairy).
And so on and so forth.
And maybe it's not just a WEEK you do this – maybe it's a MONTH for each.
These things are highly individual depending on you and your own personal situation, personality, etc.
But the overall goal is to eventually get to the full AIP elimination.
You may just find that this may be a better way of going about it than overloading yourself with everything at once, plus this gives you an opportunity to find recipes you like and get used to cooking and eating in a different way before you get to full AIP.
If you take nothing else from this
If you take nothing else from these tips, remember that every step you take towards healing is amazing.
This is not a sprint – healing is a long-term marathon. You want to feel good tomorrow, next week, next year, and 30 years from now.
You’re doing a GREAT job whether you do AIP “perfectly” or eat AIP with a few runs to Starbucks and McDonalds in between.
Now you may feel a bit better about STICKING to an AIP diet, but you may still feel a bit overwhelmed with DOING it.
Making dump-and-go freezer meals are one of the EASIEST ways to get yourself stocked up with delicious, simple meals for those times when you're tired, busy, or can't even. Learn more about them and get some recipes in this post: AIP Freezer Meals!