This post was first published on Angie’s original site on November 11, 2013. It is being republished here with minor updates.
Can you guess which question I get more often than all the others? It’s not, “What foods do I avoid on the Autoimmune Protocol?” and it’s not, “How do you plan your menus?” It’s basically some variation of this question, “But how do I really eat this way?” I know that when a person asks this question, they aren’t looking for easy to understand “whys” or practical “how-to” advice anymore. They are concerned about the actual, long-term impact of making such a huge dietary and lifestyle change. What they mean is, “What about the next work potluck? What if everyone thinks I am bizarre? What if these restrictions annoy people close to me?”
I have boiled down my thoughts on this question to three simple answers. After four years of following AIP, this is how I really eat this way:
- I don’t do FFFEF. Uh, what the heck is FFFEF? FFFEF stands for “Future Food-Focused Event Fear.” I do not give my precious time up to worrying about how I will navigate my husband’s holiday work party or the neighbor’s BBQ invite or an impromptu brunch with friends. Don’t let yourself fall into a habit of constantly strategizing how to handle food-centered events that may or may not be happening at some point on your social calendar. Engaging this type of fear just leads to either, A) feeling overwhelmed or B) feeling sorry for yourself. When an event comes up, not an imaginary scenario you might be faced with, but an actual invite, decide what you can reasonably do to participate without risking your health and then do that with confidence. For instance, I’ll eat before my husband’s holiday work party, so that I’m not starving and while I’m there I’ll enjoy a sparkling cider while we socialize. Just say no to FFFEF!
- I’m not weird. I’m telling you, do NOT be weird. If you act wishy-washy, uncomfortable, or uncertain about your food choices, the people around you will also act weird. They won’t take you seriously, they’ll find it easy to dismiss your choices, and they’ll see your health goals as fringe ideas for new-age hocus-pocus fruitcake types. Don’t be a new-age hocus-pocus fruitcake type. Be confident when you inform others about the dietary plan you are following. If your confidence is still not enough to take the looks of shock and awe off their faces, then emphasize how much you enjoy just being with them. Some folks may mistakenly believe that if you aren’t eating exactly the same food they are having, then you aren’t “being” with them or enjoying their company. However, you are wise to food and know differently. Feeling well enough to socialize with friends and family is a gift and has nothing to do with the food being consumed. Tell the people around you exactly that if they are still being weird about your food choices. They’ll probably have a new look of shock and awe. That look is called respect. (None of this is too say that you should take yourself too seriously either. Learn the balance.)
- I don’t please everyone. Gasp! It is not even possible for me to please everyone around me, so why would I focus on it? Instead, I try to make sure that I am happy, reasonably comfortable, and as healthy as possible. I don’t focus on whether or not others find my diet and lifestyle choices strange or irritating. The fact is that most people have loads of their own troubles and probably have very little time to think about and question my healing journey. Here’s an example: A friend wants me to go out to a restaurant where I know I can’t safely order food. The people pleaser part of me could feel that I must go out with her, but that will lead to me being unhappy, uncomfortable, and not as healthy as I want…whiiiich is not that awesome for our friendship. So, I’ll say, “I know that place is fantastic, but I won’t be able to order there without ending up sick. Do you want to go window shopping with me for the afternoon instead?” Done. Simple. If she is overly offended that I won’t eat at that restaurant, she doesn’t value my good health enough. I actually think this Wikihow article on how to stop people pleasing is very helpful, if this is a major obstacle for you.
That’s it. That’s how I really eat this way. That’s how I’ve been doing this sustainably for many years now. I believe being healthy is a revolutionary act in our society right now, but getting there is not radical at all. It takes three simple steps.