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The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is actually really tough.
You've got the constant pull of fast food and conventional processed foods pretty much everywhere. The smell of doughnuts at the fair, the oozing blanket of cheese on a freshly-baked pizza... and you're not supposed to have any of it. I've put together, from my own experience, some tips on how you can stick to the AIP - it's supposed to be until your symptoms subside, so that might take a while - in the modern world. Feeling like you're about to dive into that pile of warm choc chip cookies? Read this first...
Meal Plans Are Your Friend
You know when you used to push your trolley around the supermarket, wondering what you were going to eat for the week's meals and making it up as you go along? Yeah, those days are gone. You'll need a steady supply of veggies (fresh or frozen) and some quality meats and fish. You'll need to actually sit down and work out what you'll be eating for each meal and then create a shopping list. Once you get into the hang of it, it's quite stress-free, knowing what you're eating each day and not having to think about it once it's on your plan.
Batch Cook and Prep Ahead
I am always seeing fellow AIP bloggers on Instagram sharing photos of their prepped veggies for the week. And I don't do this as much as I should, because I can easily fit peeling, trimming and shredding 500g of Brussels Sprouts somewhere into my daily schedule. Kat, who writes at The Primordial Table often slices and shreds her veggies and then puts them in bowls, covered, in the fridge so she can just grab a handful and cook them when she's hungry. Brilliant.
Don't Run Out of Veggies (or Bacon)
Never run out of AIP compliant food, because then you'll be tempted to eat something non AIP which might give you a flare-up and you'll have to start it all again. Just keep some veggies in the fridge - on the last day before I have to go shopping again, I often have an emergency breakfast of some chopped up veggies stir-fried with some chopped up bacon. Or a salad with a tin of sardines.
Love Your Leftovers
I eat leftovers so often I sometimes wonder when it was that I actually cooked the original meal it all came from. Save everything. A handful of cooked chicken, a piece of fish that no one could eat - a couple of pieces of broccoli... Chuck it into a salad or stir-fry it in a pan. There's also soup. Eating leftovers is often instant (for me, usually straight from the fridge or fried for a few minutes to reheat), saves money and will keep you away from processed foods that are designed by manufacturers to be convenient but might not be the best thing for your health.
Sugar (Yep, Even Maple Syrup) is Not Your Friend
One of the mistakes some people make when they start AIP is that they think: 'Oh, on AIP honey and maple syrup are allowed - I can just eat that instead of sugar.' But sugar is still sugar, and still has the same response, ultimately, in the body. You can eat AIP desserts in moderation, just don't overdo it. A scoop of AIP-compliant coconut ice cream is more healthy than a conventional custard-filled, sprinkle-adorned iced doughnut. Just go easy. I wrote a post about AIP desserts and what role they have in a healing diet last year - go have a look.
Read The Labels
Read them. Read labels to make sure something is AIP compliant and doesn't include any eliminated ingredients. And then also read labels when you're in the supermarket debating with yourself whether to chuck that caramel chocolate bar in your basket. Looking at the list of ingredients (most I can't even pronounce and don't even know what they are) puts me off eating that food. It'll make you think twice before cracking open the cookies in the middle of a sugar craving in those early days.
Have AIP Compliant Snacks Handy
Carrot sticks, AIP flatbreads, cans of tuna or sardines - there are loads of AIP compliant snacks you can eat when you're feeling a bit peckish. If, like me, you live in a house where the rest of the family eats conventional foods, having some crunchy veg to chew on, or some rich, creamy coconut yoghurt to eat with a banana will stop you reaching for something you don't really want to eat. My ebook on AIP Paleo Snacks and Quick Lunches is available on the Kindle, if you're looking for more AIP snack ideas.
Remember Why You're Doing It
Right. No one gets up one day and just says 'I'm going to stop eating dairy, nuts, seeds, nightshades and gluten.' We do it because we're following a programme designed to calm down our immune system naturally so we can eventually see what makes our individual body attack itself and then we stop eating or doing that thing (or those things). Does ice cream always give you an upset tummy? Does coffee always give you headaches? Does sugar affect your skin? Once you get used to what your triggers are, you'll be less inclined to eat them. I know that when I eat well, my digestion is fine, my IBS is non existent and my skin is clear and not itchy and I can wear black tops again. If I indulge in even one bowl of ice cream, I can kiss all that goodbye. And I've cheated and indulged that many times over the last year that I know it really will happen every time. So now I am more determined than ever to really look after myself.
Need everyday AIP meal inspiration? Come follow me on Instagram @joromerofood and see what I'm eating. You might also find the book The Simple Guide to the Autoimmune Protocol useful, written by Phoenix Helix blogger Eileen Laird. It includes tips on sticking to AIP as well as the basics on the diet, so you're more likely to keep on track.
Do you have any tips for overcoming challenges when you're on a healthy eating or elimination diet? What works for you?