Three years ago, I began my journey on the Paleo lifestyle. I have to admit, at first it was difficult, and I made a LOT of mistakes. In addition to having to teach myself the proper way to eat, I was experiencing some health difficulties which made it harder for me to cook and be active as much as I needed to be. However, through this experience, I neglected some very important aspects of embracing the full Paleo lifestyle, including stress management, sleep and activity.
The hardest part of embracing a new healthy lifestyle, is, in my opinion, overhauling your diet. I went from eating carbs for breakfast, lunch and dinner to going completely cold turkey on gluten. I still ate grains (oats, rice, barley) without understanding that those food items were mimicking the gluten reaction in my body. I felt better, but not fully 100%.
I worked out a lot in those days to overcompensate for my diet. I lost weight, but I still wasn’t fully committed to the lifestyle. I slept like shit, drank caffeine at all hours of the day, struggled to get in the necessary amount of water and was stressed to the max. I worked 50+ hours a week at a very stressful job (still do!) and I let myself get run down and sick. My diet wasn’t able to outrun the other lifestyle factors that I wasn’t fully committing to.
Once I started digging in to the principles behind the Autoimmune Protocol Diet, or AIP, I started to focus more on the lifestyle factors versus the diet, which was already better than it was before. I stopped eating dairy, I cut out nightshades, nuts and seeds, and cut out eggs (I used to eat eggs every single day). I knew I needed to allow my body to heal from the inside out, and the most important factor to me was getting more sleep.
My husband Jason and I used to fall asleep around 11 p.m. and we would keep the television on in our bedroom to fall asleep. We may not have watched it, but the television was bright and loud. We would wake up around 5:30/6:00 a.m. every morning and we were exhausted. It felt like I barely got any sleep and what I did get was restless. I knew we could do better in this department, and I knew that it wouldn’t take many changes to make an impact.
We started by installing soft lights above our bed so we could read without the overhead light in our bedroom. I have always loved to read, so reading at night was a good way for me to de-stress and wind down. We would start this ritual around 10 p.m., read for 20-30 minutes, and fall asleep. I felt better, but still not 100%.
After seeing a Facebook post by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne on the importance of wearing amber-tinted glasses at night, I was convinced. This way, we could enjoy the soft glow from our overhead lights but still allow our bodies to wind down naturally. Jason and I laughed at how ridiculous we looked wearing sunglasses to bed, but it worked! We felt more rested in the mornings and according to my FitBit, I really was less restless throughout the night. I was having dreams, so I know I am getting into the all-important REM cycle.
Diet is good, sleep is good…now I needed to de-stress. Exercise has always helped to alleviate a lot of my feelings of anxiety. I started by getting back into a nice, slow exercise routine (aiming for just 2-3 days per week) of dancing, pilates, or weight lifting. I have now worked up to 5+ days per week, and I never push myself more than 30 minutes. I feel better, and look better. I’m gaining strength that I never truly had before without having to kill myself in the effort.
My job is my job, and quite honestly, I’ll probably be doing it for a while. So I knew that if that was the case, I needed to figure out a better way to de-stress during the day. Now, I take walks when I feel anxious, walk away from my computer to talk to a friend, or I listen to music at my desk. I also made an effort to never check my work email after I left the office. There is NOTHING so important that it can’t wait until 8:30 the next morning. I need my time at night to live for ME.
I have also made better efforts at getting outside and connecting with the natural world. Twenty minutes a day of sunlight is all I need to feel more grounded. Jason and I love to hike and take our dogs for walks, and we love to putter around in our garden and in our yard. We even started playing catch at night and letting the dos run around and play. Anything to get us outside and enjoying the world that God has created for us.
Is my AIP journey perfect? Absolutely not. I could be more diligent in my diet, and I could always do more to eliminate the stress in my life. But I am also human, and doing the best I can while managing my autoimmune disease, Ig therapy treatments, and cancer remission. Life is a journey, and I’m so glad that I have incorporated the principles of the AIP into my life. I love sharing my experience with my friends and family, and anyone who will listen to me ramble on about the benefits that they could enjoy. My goal is to make this world a healthier place, one person at a time. It started with me and my husband, and now I have members of my family joining in on the healthy lifestyle.
For more information about the AIP, please contact me. Do yourself a favor and read some of my past posts. If you could incorporate one aspect of what I have done and gain a healthier perspective and start feeling better, wouldn’t it be worth it?