The Autoimmune Protocol. Just saying those words can lead to overwhelm in some people. No matter whether coming from a SAD (Standard American Diet) or coming from already eating a real food diet, the thought of making so many eliminations can be daunting. This certainly was the case for me. But in my heart of hearts, I knew I wanted to try the diet to see if it could help make me feel better.
I have been eating a real food diet for the past 4 years since being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease. And for that, my diet morphed into being completely processed-food free, grain free, legume free and almost dairy free (I still ate sheep/goat cheese, butter and occasional ice cream). But in the last year, I realized that I might feel even better if I eliminated some of the other foods, as outlined in The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne. I already know that I am an all-or-nothing kind of gal, but I was really worried I would quit if I could not do it “right”. So, instead of taking the stairs two at a time, I decided to take them one at a time and break it down into simpler steps.
First, I broke each of the food groups into their own category. This helped because I was no longer facing this huge list of “no foods.” Even if I read a long list of “yes foods” the long list of “no foods” meant I was seeking individual ingredients out and constantly having to make decisions. For me, this leads to instant overwhelm and with the shorter list of categories, I could start feeling some of the anxiety lifting. My summarized categories turned out to be: Sugars, Nightshades, Nuts/Seeds, Dairy and Eggs.
Then, I sat down and wrote out how how I would replace those items with other foods or habits. You see, I have crutch foods. I’d find a food that “worked” and I would stick to it. Breakfast? Eggs. Afternoon snack? 80% Dark Chocolate. Dessert? 100% Dark Chocolate. You get the idea. But now, I had to find a way to replace those things. So I wrote out some ideas for how to replace the repetitive foods that were going to be eliminated. Of course, I referenced recipes on Sarah Ballantyne’s site and in Mickey Trescott’s Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook to help me! Also in that process, I realized my sweet cravings were often after meals. So I decided to take short walks after meals instead of reaching for the dark chocolate. Now, your list might look different than mine, but I will share my list with you below.
And finally I set forth a gradual schedule for me to make small changes that, over time, lead to the complete elimination plan. This was new for me, being the “all in” kind of gal. I knew that I needed to phase this in, else I may give up entirely if I slip up. So small moves. I decided to eliminate a single food group every 3 days. During that 3 days, I’d be able to get used to my substitutions and plans from step 2 to easily prepare by shopping ahead of time. By the time 15 days rolled around, I had all of the food groups eliminated. Ta da! Full blown AutoImmune Protocol, baby!
Here is my schedule and set of replacements. You can easily use mine, but you will probably gain more benefit and insight by creating your own. I decided to eliminate the food groups based on what I thought was going to work best for my schedule, or what I thought was going to be easiest. To that end, I left eggs to be last. Interestingly, I discovered that transitioning away from my daily egg-breakfast crutch wasn’t as hard as I had imagined it to be.