01 June 2015

glad I did it, glad it's done

I am finished with The Autoimmune Protocol: I set out to do it for two months but stopped at one (now I can say that I did a Whole30 but more hardcore). I put peanut butter in my smoothie this morning and it was excellent.

I decided to cut the project short for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I had zero success on the eczema front. Zero. It flared, subsided, and flared again all month, as it usually does. It actually grew worse overall because of the heat-- this is why I don't like summer much-- and I would have been miserable without my prescription steroid creams. (I wish I didn't have to use them at all, but I try to weigh pros and cons in all my health-related decisions, and in this case pro tips the scales.)

sausage, sweet potatoes, baby kale, apples, bacon: not bad
If I had seen even a bit of improvement I would have continued. I was not surprised about this "failure" because my skin issues have never been diagnosed as autoimmune in nature. I am sure that AIP works wonders for many people with autoimmune disorders but I think my eczema is more complex than that.

Speaking of pros and cons, I found that following AIP guidelines delivered a whopping load of stress. It's incredibly hard to cook this way. Even the permitted spices and seasonings are restrictive. I mean, no cumin? No mustard? Please! I was constantly meal planning, buying groceries, trying to come up with something we could eat, and making food (because virtually nothing could be purchased premade). We ate great stuff-- grilled cilantro pork chops, lemon garlic chicken, sweet potato fries, huge salads packed with artichokes and spinach and coconut balsamic vinegar-- but it was tough to pull off. Then there was the cost. Jared and I both eat a lot no matter what our diet is, but we spent 40% more than usual in our grocery budget for May.  I was burnt out by the end. When I chose to stop AIP early, I felt like I was coming up for air after struggling under a month-long riptide.

Again, it would have been worthwhile had I seen any health improvements. I didn't, though, at least nothing that would merit staying on AIP. (We did decide to make some other, less extreme changes to our diet going forward. More on that later.) Without substantive benefits, I couldn't convince myself to continue something that was making me so unhappy. It seems pretty clear to me that yogurt and tomatoes are not what is making me sick. Something is, but I need more than an elimination diet to fix it.

The most obvious thing I got out of this experiment was quick weight loss. I'd already been dropping the pregnancy poundage, but Jared says I lost it even faster once I started AIP, and he certainly looks at me enough to tell. I am almost back to my pre-Zoe weight, which was the skinniest I'd been since getting married. A little more and I will be at my "high school ballerina" weight . . . though everything in my body has been stretched out and rearranged twice, so it won't ever look the same. :-)

It's not because I restricted calories or volume, either. We were eating roast beef and avocados like our lives depended on it. I suspect that the protocol's no-grains-or-dairy rule made the most difference. I've also read that coconut oil can facilitate weight loss because of its medium-chain triglycerides. We blew through an entire 43-oz container of coconut oil, so make of that what you will!

Now I know what to do next time I have a big baby belly to get rid of.

And dairy's expensive, you know? It was encouraging to discover that we could get by without. Jared noticed some health improvements that he attributed to not eating it. We both consume a lot of dairy products when they're around, so we decided that we will purchase smaller amounts with better quality: a wedge of Manchego to enjoy one evening, rather than a huge bag of cheddar lurking in the bag of the fridge.

In addition, I have known for a while that I have a bad sugar addiction. Within four days of starting AIP, my cravings had gone. I wasn't wishing for dessert after every meal or digging around for something "bready." So while I will be adding most AIP-illegal foods back into my diet, I will keep grains out 90% of the time. (The other 10% will be spent on beer and birthday cake.) I don't need them, and without cinnamon rolls whispering my name I will be free to focus on more nutrient dense food instead.

And that was something I hoped to accomplish by this, too: packing in more nutrition and eating less fluff. Ellie loves food, and I want her to become accustomed to eating sardines and roasted asparagus ("more spaygus? please more spaygus!") while she is still adventurous in her tastes. She needs the vitamins, fat, and protein of a paleo-ish diet. She doesn't need goldfish crackers. We get plenty of carbs from fruit and potatoes, anyway. Plantain chips are good!

The last thing I gained from doing AIP was a kickstart to searching for a solution. AIP didn't fix my skin but I want to work harder at finding something that will. I've tried and failed so often that in the past year I had reached a point of despair; it seemed pointless to visit one more doctor, take one more treatment. I have been inspired to keep searching.

I am glad I did this. I am glad it's over.


  1. Rachel Wilhelm02 June, 2015 14:35

    I'm sorry it didn't help, but glad you found new motivation (and enjoyed the peanut butter).

    We'll be happy to start selling eggs to you again! :)

  2. I don't recall reading anything about your eczema before, so you may have mentioned this, but I will tell you a couple of things I've experienced. I have battled eczema my whole life, plus other skin issues. I knew I couldn't eat very many oranges before I would have a rash. Of course there is the stress factor, and I've seen that play, especially when my husband was dying earlier this year, and I had an otherwise unexplained outbreak of eczema.

    A few months ago I started eating a lot of oranges, in spite of already having eczema that wouldn't go away, because my siblings who grow them had brought me bags full, and I had just become a widow and couldn't think straight. At the same time I started eating lots of seaweed snacks, and my eczema went away *at the same time I was eating oranges* -- I think it might have had something to do with the iodine or minerals in the seaweed.

    The other thing I know is that taking a LOT of fish oil works much better for various conditions than taking the usual recommended starting dose. I mean 3-5 grams of EFA's per day. I take it in liquid form to get that much. One tsp of Carlson's fish oil concentrate gives you 2400 mg of EFA's, and I take "something" more than that every day, and just upping the dose from 1-2 grams has made a huge difference in my dry eye problem, for example.

    It's terribly hard to assess all the factors contributing to our ailments, when we can't measure most of them, and probably don't know all the stresses that our poor psyches are suffering! But I wanted to add to your possible tools. May God bless your family!