Today's the day! Come meet my first guest on AIP Spotlight! If you haven't heard, I'm using this series to share some of the vast experience and heart found in the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) community with you. Why? I think it is a key to AIP success to share ideas and insights, as well as to feel that we are not in this alone.
I am extremely excited and grateful to introduce Alaena Haber as my first guest! I'm sure many of you have heard of this amazing lady. You may have seen her name on The Healing Kitchen, her AIP cookbook, or over on her blog Grazed & Enthused. (I won't lie, I geeked out a little when she agreed to be interviewed.)
Besides being a total sweetheart, Alaena is very down to earth and knowledgeable. I love how she has made her website into such a great AIP resource. If you haven't checked out her website, or aren't following her on Instagram (@grazedandenthused), do yourself a favour and get on that
Alaena kindly took the time to share a real look at her AIP life with us. You're going to love her honest answers about the challenges and rewards she has seen following the AIP. I'm sure you'll find her interview as helpful and encouraging as I did. What a great way to kick off the AIP Spotlight interviews! (Look for the next interview in the series Monday, Nov. 28th.)
To start, tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a new mom who has her master's degree in occupational therapy. I work with children with developmental, neurological, and orthopedic conditions. I am also the blogger behind Grazed & Enthused and the recipe developer of The Healing Kitchen, a 100% AIP cookbook that hit bookstores in December 2015.
How long have you followed the Autoimmune Protocol, and what prompted you to try it?
I have followed the principles of the AIP since February 2014, so just over 2 1/2 years now. I have successfully reintroduced several food groups, but I still follow the tenets of the protocol and many of my meals still happen to be 100% AIP. I was prompted to try it after having an unsuccessful go at seeing if Paleo would make a difference in my autoimmune symptoms. It largely did not, so I finally jumped into the AIP around the time it was becoming legitimized by the work of Dr. Sarah Ballantyne.
What have you found to be most challenging in following the Autoimmune Protocol and what has helped you overcome this?
The interruption of my social life was initially very challenging. I no longer could participate in happy hour, Saturday gluten-free donuts, or sushi night with friends. It was really, really difficult and heartbreaking at first. I learned to advocate enough for the importance of my dietary choices that my friends and family let me choose where we go out to eat now. No, I don't get to participate in happy hour in the same way, but it doesn't stop me from enjoying the company of my loved ones. And who doesn't love to wake up hangover-free anyways!?
Other than food, what aspect of AIP living have you found has the biggest impact on your health?
STRESS MANAGEMENT. This needs to be in all caps. If you don't get a handle on your emotional and mental stress, it's going to be very difficult to see if the protocol is working for you or not. I manage my stress in several ways: saying "no" more often than not (not over-committing myself in any area of life), meditating daily (just 10 minutes a day with the Headspace app), going for daily walks (sunshine and fresh air does wonders for your cortisol levels), and ridding my life of toxic people (this requires honesty and getting rid of your "guilty conscious" or "people pleaser" mentality so many of us with AI disease have). I also make sure to give my husband long, giant hugs every single day because physical touch with another human being is necessary for mental wellbeing.
Share 1 thing you wish you had known when you started the Autoimmune Protocol.
It doesn't have to be complicated. When I first started, I tried to re-make a lot of my old favorites. Not only was that time-consuming and expensive, it missed the point of the AIP. I now keep my meals very simple with an easy formula: quality protein, leafy greens, healthy fats and broth/starchy vegetables at least once a day. I eat 3 solid meals a day and have snacks whenever I feel like I need to. I'm not about deprivation and really feel like we need to be eating a wide variety of foods to meet our nutritional healing needs.
What rewarding results have you seen from following the AIP?
Before I started AIP, I was on the Paleo diet for a full year but included eggs, nuts, dairy, sugar, and nightshades weekly. Paleo did not fix my main health issues which stemmed from a "leaky gut" and undiscovered food intolerances as well as burning the candle at both ends with my lifestyle choices. After following AIP for 2 weeks, many of my daily gut symptoms went away, and this allowed me to focus on long-time adrenal and fertility issues. After receiving an infertility diagnosis 7 years ago, I conceived my first child about 18 months after starting AIP. She was born 6 months ago, and she is definitely the most rewarding result I could have imagined!
Do you have any tips for working along with your doctor while following the Autoimmune Protocol?
It's important to be forthright in your initial appointment after starting the AIP. I always tell my physicians about my diet and lifestyle, so that they know I am doing everything on my end of the bargain to see positive results. It also shows them that you're taking an active role in your health and earns their respect and acknowledgment later down the line when you have ideas about how your treatment plan is progressing.
Name one of your go-to AIP recipes. Why do you love it?
[Click on Alaena's gorgeous photo to go get her recipe on Grazed & Enthused.]
What are your top 3 AIP pantry items?
Coconut aminos, fish sauce, and apple cider vinegar. All three have the ability to take a fairly bland meal into something really flavorful. I add these to soups, stews, skillets, and marinades many times a week!
Following the Autoimmune Protocol affects more than just ourselves. How have you incorporated AIP into your household?
My husband loves home-cooked food, and his taste buds have transformed over the last 5 years eating my recipes. He's been with me through a short vegan stint (his least favorite!), SCD, Paleo and now AIP. It's important to have support at home, and I empathize with those that don't receive it. He has always been an incredible support for me. The easiest way for me to save myself extra dishes is to have a non-AIP starch like white rice cooked in bone broth to increase the calories and satiety factors of my meals for my active husband. I also ask him to cook his own breakfast since it usually consists of eggs and sausage with nightshades in it; that way I'm only cooking for us about once a day since lunch is always leftovers from dinner the day before.
Do you have any advice for eating out while following the Autoimmune Protocol?
Tons! In fact I wrote a really comprehensive blog post on it HERE.
Thank you, Alaena! Don't you just love her realistic, positive attitude?
I had to smile about the "long, giant hugs" she gives her husband as part of her stress management. That's part of my daily routine for the same reasons, too! (I remember explaining the science behind touch and mental health to my guy...I have a suspicion he thought I was a bit wacky but he's a good man and just went with it.) I also loved her many tips for safely eating out in the linked blog post. Make sure you give it a read!
What was your favourite tip from Alaena? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!
That was fun! I can't wait to share the next AIP Spotlight interview with you all. Until next Monday!
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The Emancipated Epicure, Bethany. I'm a Foodie & Autoimmune Warrior who loves to cook. Working at healing with the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol.
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