I will admit that I have been a paleo skeptic for many years.
Perhaps it’s the fact that through the years I’ve had many people try and ‘convert’ me to this style of eating. Maybe it’s because I didn’t do crossfit. Perhaps I was happy to throw stones without having researched or tried it. Who knows.
Even now, after lots of study, research and self-experimentation, I am hesitant about promoting or endorsing any style of eating that promotes the exclusion of food groups, preferring instead to adopt a non-diet, lifestyle-oriented approach. I’m so pleased to see across the world that many dieticians, healthcare practitioners and individuals are adopting a non-diet approach, recognizing that what is required for health is an approach that empowers individuals to adjust their lifestyle, incrementally, using their strengths and assets to help them.
The non-diet, empowerment approach is what I use when I work with my clients as a food, lifestyle and wellness coach. We work together to set goals, identify strengths and overcome obstacles. Rather than act as ‘the expert’, I act as a coach – helping women to understand themselves – the behaviors which might be holding them back and the healthy behaviors that they feel could help them feel more energized, healthier and in control of their future. Together, we come up with a holistic strategy to not only improve health, but quality of life. This might incorporate diet, mindfulness/meditation, yoga, fitness or career change.
My own personal journey has also shown me that certain eating approaches can and do help individuals – particularly those lost in the woods and seemingly abandoned by allopathic medicine practitioners. I use the word ‘approach’ rather than ‘diet’, because there is a vast difference. Diets don’t lead to long-term outcomes. The diet fads of the past two decades have just left us fatter, and sicker than ever before. However, changing our overall approach to eating over the long-term, making small intentional shifts one at a time, yields more success. And I’m testament to that.
When I first got sick, I didn’t quite appreciate just how important food is for our health. I wanted to know what was wrong, how to get better, and how to do it in the quickest and least painful way possible. I didn’t realise that the very thing that might have led my immune system to be compromised in the first place, was the very thing that I could use to get better. I’ve learnt in the last few years is that food is the most important component of health and vitality. More so, it is one of the few things that we can consistently control in an increasingly stressful world.
I recently finished watching the new documentary ‘Overfed and Undernourished’, a great film with a simple message. In it, Joe Cross, legendary health entrepreneur and mega-weightloss achiever, says humans are pretty simple. We need air, food, water, sunlight and sleep. Reduce the quality of any of those energy sources, and we’ll suffer. I like that simple message. Yes, we are all individual, and we all need to try different eating approaches to see what makes us feel best. But at the end of the day, there are some universals.
Plants and other animals also need the same inputs as us– air, food, water and sunlight. It makes sense that we eat those things which gain energy from the sun and the water and the nutrients. It doesn’t make sense that we eat things that are made in chemical labs by people in white coats who’s job it is to find the most addictive substances on earth and combine them to make money. I came across the autoimmune protocol after about 12 months of diet experimentation to deal with adrenal fatigue and autoimmune illness.
I knew intuitively that there was a link between my diet and my symptoms. So I knew that finding an eating approach which reduced my symptoms could greatly improve my quality of life. Although on the surface I longed to eat croissants and drink soft drinks (mainly because that’s what I’m surrounded with), deep down my body was crying out for nutrients. I had already gone gluten and wheat free, and had mostly excluded dairy, all processed food and soy as well. However, I was still eating ‘healthy’ grains (quinoa, buckwheat and rice) and occasional treats of chocolate and coffee. During a particularly bad flare up, and bedridden with maddening fatigue, I decided to try the protocol for 4 weeks.
I read everything I could about paleo, the protocol and I started to gather recipes. Along the way, I became a convert to this style of eating. I individualised the protocol and combined it with several other diet tricks I’d learned along the way (see my post here) and, after the exclusion of grains in particular, felt immediately better. What I immediately noticed is how many more vegetables I was eating when I removed the grains (many of us inadvertently take what should be a moderate side dish and turn grains into the main meal). I also noticed how much more satisfied I felt, and how the sugar cravings associated with adrenal fatigue disappeared. Rather than struggle to deal with the increase in protein, my body responded really well. I had to know more.
Enter Mickey Trescott, blogger and creator of Autoimmune Paleo, and author of ‘The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook’. Mickey took time out of her busy schedule (on her book tour) to chat with us about the protocol and give us some tips on trying it out for ourselves.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do
I’m the creator and co-blogger at autoimmune-paleo.com, a site dedicated to providing recipes and resources for those suffering from autoimmunity and chronic illness. I used the autoimmune protocol to heal from a multitude of issues, mainly Celiac and Hashimoto’s disease (you can read my story here). I am a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner with a background in personal chef work, and my specialty is making elimination diets accessible to everyone. I live in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, with my husband and hope to start a homestead in the next few years.
What is the autoimmune protocol (AIP)?
The autoimmune protocol is an elimination diet specifically for those with autoimmunity that removes grains, beans, legumes, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, and nightshade spices. After 30 days or more on the elimination diet, a person can then attempt to reintroduce foods one at a time to assess sensitivity. In addition, nutrient-dense foods are added to the diet to speed healing.
What foods are not allowed and why?
Grains, beans, legumes, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, and nightshades—I’ve got printout guides here. They are not included because science has shown them to be either highly allergenic foods, or irritating to leaky gut, which has been found in all autoimmune diseases. By removing all foods that are potential sensitivities, it enables people to reverse symptoms and have a chance at healing.
Tell us about your new cookbook!
The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook is a recipe and guidebook for the Autoimmune Protocol. It tells you clearly which foods to avoid and include, how to reintroduce, as well as gives readers tips and tricks that I learned along the way on my personal journey. It includes 2 month-long meal plans as well as over 110 recipes that are compliant for the elimination diet.
What is your favourite AIP recipe?
The Nomato sauce in my book is one of the staples I make on a regular basis. It is a replacement for tomato sauce, which traditionally has tomatoes and nightshade spices. Instead, I use beets, carrots, and lots of savory herbs to make a flavorful sauce that can be used in many dishes.
What changes should those following the AIP diet notice in their health?
The best changes for me were the reversal of any autoimmune symptoms, but this does not happen for everyone all at once. In addition, changes in digestion, mood, skin, and energy are common.
How long do you need to follow the protocol for?
Most people find that they need to follow the elimination diet until they start seeing some improvement to see any benefit from the reintroduction process. This usually translates to 30 days or more.
For those who are new to AIP and are yet to venture into cooking organ meats, what advice do you have?
When I was new to AIP I had been Vegan for 10 years, and so I definitely did not want to be cooking organ meat! I developed this pate recipe that is palatable with the addition of bacon and lots of herbs.
How important do you think community and support is as a component of healing?
Community is huge! I found a disease-specific support group early on in my healing and am still connected to some of the friends I made today.
How do you nurture yourself and your own health among all of the craziness?
I prioritize sleep, stress reduction, and feeding myself well amidst all of the work and traveling. Even though I am healthy now, I know the things that got me here in the first place and I am a stickler about keeping them in my routine.
Do you feel it’s important that people look for ways to give back as part of their journey?
Of course! This is why I started my blog and started developing free resources to help folks—there was no way I was going to experience what I did and not put it out there for others to benefit from. A lot of people find help from joining community support groups or blogging themselves, to help raise awareness and support for this lifestyle.
Thanks to Mickey for her words of wisdom! We can’t wait to try the cookbook out.
Want help in your wellness journey? Contact me now for more information on one on one food, lifestyle and wellness coaching!