Autoimmune Protocol Update: So Far, Sooooo Good
I’m still writing Twin Cities Chef’s Table, but I wanted to give a quick update on my Adventures in Autoimmune Protocol. What a learning curve, you guys. I mean, I know a LOT about nutrition, cooking, food, what works for me to eat – in fact, I’m obsessive with all of it – but holy wow. I feel like I stepped through a portal into a new land where things I thought I knew – about food and about myself – have either fallen away or been polished to a high shine. I would label the process so far as: transformative.Flatiron Steak, Roasted/Mashed Parsnips, Wild Mushroom Sauce & Upland Cress
Also: delicious. I haven’t had this much fun cooking in a very long time. Each meal is a bit of an adventure, to encourage something new from what at first seems like a very limited number of ingredients. Basically, meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, and fat. But whoa! It’s soooo easy to get in a vegetable rut, it really is ridiculous how we Americans under-utilize the variety in our stores and markets. Meat too. And fish? We are utterly fish illiterate. As a person who needs variety in all things, I’m starting to push & scratch at the surface a bit and honestly, I’ve only just begun. Suffice it to say that I am jazzed to share recipes with you – recipes that even if you don’t give a rat’s you-know-what about autoimmune disease, you will want to dive into.“Snack Plate” with Tonnato, Olives, Sweet Potato Chips, Radishes
These pics are snaps off my phone, which I share on Instagram and my Fresh Tart Facebook page as a sort of online food journal, both for myself to remember what I’ve made, and for others to have a sense of how the autoimmune protocol (AIP) doesn’t have to mean boredom and deprivation. There’s a lovely community of us all in the same boat, cheering each other on and trading ideas for perking up meals.Collard Green Wrap with Steak, Mushrooms, Avocado, Lettuce & Onions
I’m just over a month in, by the way, with another month to go. Observations so far (other than falling back in love with cooking and feeling and looking so much better)…
1. What I thought I knew about the ratio of protein/fat/carbohydrates that works best for me was spot on. Over the years, and after MUCH trial and error, I have slowly learned that I look, feel, and perform my best on a higher fat/protein, lower carbohydrate diet. I’ve always eaten a lot of non-starchy vegetables, but I experimented over the last year with adding higher-carbohydrate foods back, mostly due to stress – gluten-free grains like rice, corn, quinoa, as well as baking with rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, and nut flours. Disaster. Food reactions, horrible bloating, weight gain, loss of energy. (Therefore this protocol.) Now that I’m back in my sweet spot – a very whole food/paleo style of eating – I feel GREAT. Batch Cooking on the Weekend: Roasted Squash & Beets
2. I thought I would miss drinking bubbles given how much I have always loved them but…I don’t. It reminds me of giving up gluten, which people assume must have been terribly difficult. But when something is making you feel rotten, it’s not that hard to let it go. Wine wasn’t tasting very good to me anymore, and even a small glass was giving me a terrible headache, sometimes almost immediately.Chicken, Bacon, Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potato, & Mushroom Hash
3. Ditto coffee. I was finding that two cups had become one cup, and sometimes I wouldn’t even finish that. It just didn’t taste good, it made me queasy, and it made me feel anxious in a way that isn’t normal for me. I used tea to slowly wean myself off caffeine (I can not quit caffeine cold-turkey without triggering a mind-blowing migraine) and now I’m just drinking herbal tea. It turns out, I just like drinking something warm in the morning.Fish Soup with Halibut, Shrimp & Bacon
4. I am sleeping like a rock. Like, I do not wake up even once all night long. What a gift! No more joint pain and/or itching from food reactions, no more waking up at 2 am from the stimulating effects of alcohol or caffeine. I’ve used a light box all winter long which I know has helped too, and I make sure to get a walk in sunlight every day, which has not been easy given the temps this winter. Sometimes it’s only for 15 or 20 minutes, but it’s better than nothing. An indoor yoga class is not a substitute for spending time outside. Damn you, Polar Vortex.Chicken Sausage with Roasted Fruit (Grapes, Star Fruit, Kumquats) & Maple Syrup
5. Plants are powerful – in good AND bad ways. The things I react to are plants, both inside my body and on my skin, a good reminder that most plants don’t want to be consumed. They possess intricate and powerful anti-nutrients, that humans have learned to work around with food preparation and cooking, that should not be underestimated. Grains in particular can wreak havoc on digestive systems, but I have gotten some pretty stern reminders from sunflower oil (angry red bumps on my skin), dandelion root (crushing headache), beet greens (stinging lips), chamomile (instant sneezing/congestion), and strawberries (itchy eyes/scalp) that plants deserve respect. I’m not going to stop eating them, of course, I love vegetables and fruits more than I love anything else, but I am certainly paying attention to those that slap and sting me and I will respectfully leave them alone.
If you’re looking for good nutrition reads – pretty sexy, right?! – I highly recommend Death by Food Pyramid : How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health by Denise Minger. I can hardly put it down it’s so good – seriously. Minger is the master of deconstructing and explaining nutrition studies and her book will blow your mind. Not to mention, she’s hilarious and her writing is snappy and fresh.
And I don’t know about you, but now that I have my food choices on track, and (despite sleet/snow today) now that temps are becoming sort of survivable, I’m ready to bust some new moves. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m a HUGE fan of the website Mark’s Daily Apple. I’ve had to dig deeper into this style of eating – aka Primal (a version of paleo) to suss out nagging food sensitivities, but this format is primarily how I reclaimed my health when I stopped eating gluten in 2010 (almost 4 years ago!). It takes a bit of experimentation to find the right balance of carbohydrates – everyone is different – but taking a break from grains, legumes, and dairy while focusing on good fats, high quality protein, and a rainbow of vegetables and fruits means dropped weight, consistent appetite, clear skin, and a surge of energy. Right now is NOT the official 21 Day Challenge – I believe it happens in September – but that’s OK, I want to do it right now. I’ll be re-focusing particularly on the excellent workout plan, which I am WAY out of following right now. Lord. It has been a long winter. As I said I’ve been walking whenever I can, but I’ve been less than impressive in “lifting heavy things” and sprinting. I’m calling today Day 1, woo hoo! The chart below is a good overview of the Challenge, but definitely click through to the whole (addictive) website for more information about eating real food, getting the most benefit from short workouts, and living a vibrant life. Good things.
I’ll be back soon with recipes – a puree of romanesco soup with beef-kale meatballs I made a few weeks ago was particularly a winner – but until then, Happy Almost Spring! How great was it to walk on an actual sidewalk this week? I was giddy, tralalaaah!