For those of us with an autoimmune disease, the profound effect that other factors have on our lives – such as work-life balance, stress management, relationships, our state of mind – all have on our health can often be more powerful than diet changes. Balancing Life Style Factors are essential to your overall health.
Removing inflammatory foods from our diets can certainly have an impact, and we undoubtedly start to see huge benefits when we do this. Over time however, life-style factors may often become a bigger part of the picture. We can soon realize that to be an active participant in our health, especially when we have autoimmune disease, this isn’t just about a short-term diet; it is about a long-term lifestyle. As we heal, so we focus on other layers of our life, very much like peeling back an onion
Understanding who we are and how we are feeling within ourselves is typically something we can suppress during our sicker times. When we were dealing with pain, misdiagnosis, lack of understanding, impact on relationships, loss of jobs, and the financial burden of autoimmune disease, we can lose sight of who we are at our core. Being asked to refocus on that side of ourselves can be challenging… I remember thinking to myself where the hell do I start!
As students of IIN, Jo and I were introduced to the concept of The Circle of Life. We were encouraged to ask our clients to rate themselves on a scale of 1-10 (1 being at the center of the circle and 10 being on the outer edge of the circle) as to how they perceived they sat on some key life-style factors and emotions known as Primary Foods. ‘Primary’ because these factors influence how we feel about ourselves, and therefore influence the choices we make for ourselves. Diet is considered a Secondary Food, necessary to sustain life but not core to who we are.
The same principle applies to the Autoimmune Protocol. Life-style factors play such a very important role that if we aren’t feeling supported or if we are stressed, then following an elimination diet can be a challenge and we can stumble. It’s important to dial that all in.
Because of this, we have adjusted the Circle of Life to our own Autoimmune Protocol version, addressing the key principles of the Autoimmune Protocol. Remember this isn’t about a short-term diet; it is about a long-term lifestyle, so we wanted you to be able to measure yourself so that you can evaluate, reflect and see in a clear visual just where you need to focus your energy before thinking about reintroducing foods.
Think of this like playing a game of cards, such as Blackjack. You don’t place a bet when you are holding a weak set of cards. You wait until your hand is at its strongest before you place that bet. The stronger your hand, the better chance you have of winning. A weak hand will not reap you any benefits. The reintroduction process is the same, you wait until you have the strongest hand; you wait until you have the strongest gut; a single variable – such as being on the elimination diet for 6 months – will not reap strong rewards if you haven’t improved your overall health with additional supporting factors!
We want to be real here and say, you shouldn’t think about reintroducing foods back into your diet if you don’t have some core life-style factors dialed in especially sleep because without focusing on these elements your gut won’t be as strong as it can be, and those reintroductions may result in symptoms which you will potentially ‘blame’ on the food reintroduced, when in fact it may have been a result of a week with only 4 hours sleep per night or a week of long work hours due to a boss that’s a jerk… yup, we’ve all been there!
THESE FACTORS can and will impact you successfully reintroducing foods, so let’s have the strongest hand, before we gamble on our health.
The last time you gambled, you brought the lowest hand you possibly have ever had to the table, you took a risk at your lowest ebb, the cards were in your favor. But this time, let’s strengthen that hand. Download our AIP Circle of Life to determine which areas of your life you need to strengthen before considering reintroductions. We will be providing further guidance about how to improve each of these factors in the coming weeks
How to use the circle.
- Simply place a dot on the line in each category to indicate your level of fulfillment within each area. Place a dot at the center of the circle to indicate lack of fulfillment, or on the outer edge of the circle to indicate fulfillment. Most people fall somewhere in between, if you have many towards the circle, please don’t be alarmed, this about becoming self-aware. Trust us it’s a good thing.
- Connect the dots to see your AIP Circle of Life.
- Identify imbalances. Determine where to spend more time and energy to create balance.
We recommend that you carry this out regularly so that you can track your progress, and in combination with your food and mood journal. This will help you to understand triggers and potential areas of improvement.
 © Institute for Integrative Nutrition | Used with permission