All of my life I’ve found it very hard to significantly change my diet. I’m a people pleaser and an obliger and it’s hard for me to have the willpower to eat differently than the people around me. I’m also afraid of feeling hungry and not being “allowed” to eat anything or only being allowed to eat yucky food. I still remember the days in high school and college when dieting meant you snacked on rice cakes. I tried one once and it was so bland and tasteless, I could barely choke it down. I also did Weight Watchers several years ago and had some success. I logged everything I ate for months, counted points, and forced myself to go to aerobics at the gym several times a week, and I finally lost 16 pounds, which was my 10% weight loss goal. Then, I got married, moved far away from my gym, started eating anything I wanted, and gained 30 pounds in a matter of months.
So, the fact that I’ve been able to stick with the very strict AIP diet for 2+ months amazes me. I say 2+ months because I went on vacation during the month of February and was not able to follow AIP very well during that trip and I indulged in some Valentine’s chocolates when I got back. Here’s a summary of my diet in the last 7 months:
|September – December 2017||Gluten-, dairy-, and egg-free (80-100% of the time)||~7.2 lbs|
|January 2018||Strict Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)||~5.6 lbs|
|February 2018||~2 weeks vacation where I ate mostly Paleo including eggs, and some cheese, refried beans, corn tortillas, rice, etc.; ~2 weeks where I ate AIP with the addition of Valentine chocolates||~2.2 lbs|
|March 2018||Strict Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)||~5 lbs|
|April 2018||Started re-introducing foods||TBD|
I’ve lost 20 pounds since I started working with a nutritionist in September 2017. (Happy dance!) This includes 7 pounds from following a gluten-, dairy-, egg-free diet most of the time for 4 months (i.e. I would occasionally have gluten-free pizza with mozzarella cheese, etc.), and 13 pounds from when I started the autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet 3 months ago.
So, how did someone like me, who struggled with changing my diet my whole life, manage to eat a strict AIP diet for 2+ months? Here are the critical success factors that I recognize from my experience.
- See a nutritionist. I would never have considered even trying a Paleo diet, much less a strict diet like AIP, if I hadn’t seen a nutritionist who recommended it. Also, just having an appointment with her in 2 weeks or a month held me accountable to actually follow the diet and not cheat. I hate being held accountable! But I also hated the thought of going to that appointment and sitting in front of Elizabeth and having to admit that I didn’t see results because I didn’t follow her recommendations. For me, having a professional to meet with every 2 weeks or 1 month was vital. There’s no way I could have followed the AIP diet alone, or even with a friend. I needed a professional to give me food suggestions, product suggestions, and advice for dealing with any issues that come up (traveling, being hungry, getting constipated, etc.).
- Have a transition period. Those 4 months of going gluten-, dairy-, and egg-free were vitally important to transition my taste buds, my habits, and my mind for changing my diet. There was so much to learn in the beginning, so many labels to read, so many new foods to try that I would have been too overwhelmed to go strictly AIP from the beginning. When I first heard about the AIP, I thought I maybe could do it for one day, and I wasn’t even sure about that. Those 4 months of transition time allowed me to eat my normal foods with modifications (like gluten-free pizza crust and gluten/dairy/egg-free bagels) while my taste buds and mindset and home life adjusted. I had to tell my husband I couldn’t eat his grilled cheese sandwiches anymore, but I wasn’t getting “too weird” or too extreme yet. Around November, Elizabeth started encouraging me to think about doing AIP strictly for 30 days. I could see her point and finally agreed to start AIP in January 2018. This gave me the whole month of December to continue reading AIP resources and research and try some AIP recipes so I would be prepared.
- Work from home. I am lucky to have a job where I can work from home often. This was another vital part of making AIP work for me, especially in the first month. If I had the added stress of having to pack a lunch or eat out for lunch or having to sit in my office until 5 pm when I hadn’t packed enough food and I was hungry, I bet I would have caved at some point and eaten out of the vending machine or some food that was not on the plan. Working from home made it much easier for me not to worry about eating out and just focus on buying groceries and cooking meals that would fit the plan.
- Focus on 30 days. Elizabeth emphasized that you don’t follow AIP strictly for the rest of your life. You follow AIP for 30-90 days and then start slowly reintroducing foods. I was nervous to restrict my diet that much, but I kept telling myself, “It’s only for the month of January.” That became my mantra. I told my husband, Mike, “For the month of January, I’m being very strict with my diet.” I didn’t tell him all the details because he would have been shocked out of his mind. The idea of “it’s only for 30 days” was extremely helpful to get me through that first month. It’s not forever, it’s just for the next 30 days. When I met Elizabeth at the end of January, I was doing so well, losing weight, significantly less bloated, and feeling good, that she suggested I keep doing AIP for another 60 days. She said that it seemed like we found the right diet for my body. If I had not lost weight and I was still bloated and didn’t feel well, she said she would have considered another diet for me, but since I was doing so well, it was pretty clear that the Paleo diet was right for my body. I readily agreed to do AIP until the end of March (with the caveat that I was going on vacation in February) because I was in the groove then. I had done it for 30 days, and I felt confident that I could do it longer.