I Can’t Try AIP Because I’m A Perfectionist

Are you a lurker? Have you been hanging around Autoimmune Wellness for a few months (or even longer!), but you still aren’t giving AIP a shot? Are you hanging out online with the AIP community, but feeling like an imposter, ‘cause you still haven’t eaten a single AIP meal? Have you signed up for the free resources, listened to AIP podcasts, even thanked your AIP Instagram crush for all they do, but just can’t pull the trigger?

If so, this article was written for you. I know about you. I’ve heard your reasons “why not” many, many times in the last six years. I can’t start AIP because:

  • I can’t give up coffee.
  • I can’t give up chocolate.
  • I can’t give up wine.
  • I can’t, because I’m addicted to sugar.
  • I’m sensitive to coconut (and you can’t do AIP if you have trouble with coconut).
  • I don’t know how to cook.
  • I don’t know if it will help my specific autoimmune disease.
  • I don’t have enough time.
  • I just have to get through a big work project first.
  • Christmas is coming up.
  • I’m about to go on vacation.
  • I just have to get through my master’s degree first.
  • I’m moving.
  • I don’t like liver (honestly).
  • I don’t like seafood (oysters? are you kidding me?).
  • I don’t like vegetables.
  • I don’t like to cook.

I could keep going, but I know you’re picking up what I’m putting down. I think it’s time to problem solve, so you can give this protocol a shot and see if it’s right for you. We can’t give you a guarantee, but there’s plenty of anecdotal and objective evidence that it just might help. Feeling better is worth it, right!?

The Root of That “One Thing”

As a health coach I find that my clients and group members often have a common root problem when it comes to the “one thing” that is preventing them from trying AIP… perfectionism. Do you want to test whether or not it might be at the root of your “one thing?” Here’s the four most frequent signs of perfectionism I encounter as a coach, (these signs are backed up by the work of Counselor Elizabeth Scott, MS):

  • All or nothing thinking
  • Fear of failure
  • Procrastination
  • Critical

If you recognize yourself in those signs (and that’s okay, I see some of myself there too!), scroll back up and read that long (but not exhaustive, I’ve heard it all people!) list of “why nots.” Now with clarity on perfectionist tendencies you can so easily spot the root problem. There is nothing on the “why not” list that can’t be linked back to perfectionist tendencies.

Now, I am not saying that every single person out there having trouble trying AIP is struggling due to perfectionism. Sometimes the root problem is related to other issues, but what I am saying is that in my experience, coaching thousands of people, most of the time it is perfection preventing potential health breakthroughs. I see so many folks, women especially, that are hurting and paralyzed by it. It’s so often the cause that I have more and more adapted my coaching style toward confronting perfectionism and helping my clients and group members compassionately address the problem head on.

So, How Do I Deal With Perfectionism?

I think one particularly effective way to address it is to breakdown the “why nots” according to perfectionist tendencies and then tackle that particular tendency. Perfectionism can be a bit of an overwhelming issue to deal with if you try to “eat the whole elephant,” so taking on one tendency at a time can be a more effective method of conquering it. Plus, this way of handling it goes hand-in-hand with my favorite coaching tool… the gradual process.

All or Nothing Thinking

The first five “why nots” on our list:

  • I can’t give up coffee,
  • I can’t give up chocolate,
  • I can’t give up wine,
  • I can’t, because I’m addicted to sugar,
  • and, I’m sensitive to coconut (and you can’t do AIP if you have trouble with coconut)

can all be traced back to the “all or nothing thinking” perfectionist tendency. The hopeful AIPer is giving up without even trying due to the idea that if she can’t give up any one of those things or has trouble with a food perceived as “crucial” to AIP, then the entire protocol is not an option for her. “All or nothing” is a fallacy though, in life and in AIP. Almost everything we encounter actually has a lot more gray area. The best way to address this tendency is to start challenging your internal dialogue with nuance.

Example: Instead of, “I can’t give up coffee, so AIP won’t work for me, so I shouldn’t even try” use “I am going to implement all other aspects of AIP, but keep my coffee in and see if I have improvements. If I don’t see any positive changes after 30 days, I’ll make a plan to wean off coffee temporarily to see if it was preventing progress after all.”

Fear of Failure

The next two “why nots” on our list:

  • I don’t know how to cook,
  • and, I don’t know if it will help my specific autoimmune disease

can be linked back to the “fear of failure” perfectionist tendency. This time the hopeful AIPer isn’t even trying, because she isn’t certain of the outcome. Perfectionists usually want to control results and see attempting things that are new to them or unknown as very threatening, because it may not go well. The best way to address this tendency is to reframe the goal to include room for “failure.”

Example: Instead of, “I must be a flawless cook to do AIP” try “I’ll focus on very basic AIP recipes to start and build from there as I learn to navigate the kitchen better” or instead of “This has to cure my autoimmune disease” try “I’ll experiment to see if any aspect of this protocol makes me feel noticeably better.” While the expanded goal isn’t truly failure, it might help the perfectionist feel there is breathing room to try by reframing the goal to include less than perfect outcomes.

Procrastination

The next six “why nots” on our list:

  • I don’t have enough time,
  • I just have to get through a big work project first,
  • The holidays are coming up,
  • I’m about to go on vacation,
  • I just have to get through my master’s degree first,
  • and, I’m moving,

can all be related to the “procrastination” perfectionist tendency. It kind of seems weird that perfectionists can struggle with procrastination, but it’s because they are crippled to even start something they are afraid they can’t pull off perfectly. While it’s true that some of these “why nots” do present some legitimate challenges, planning and prep could make most of the challenges doable. However, the hopeful AIPer is just focused on the challenge that might prevent perfection with the protocol. The best way to address this tendency is to try smaller steps.

Example: Instead of, “I want to do AIP, but since the holiday season is coming it’s too hard to do it perfectly” try “I am going to plan for a gluten-free holiday and then start layering in more aspects of AIP after the holiday is over and I can implement with less stress” or instead of “I don’t have enough time to do AIP, so I’m not going to start” consider “This week I’m going to spend one hour going over my schedule and making space to start cooking two AIP meals per week. I’ll keep shifting my priorities weekly until I’ve worked out a new schedule that better supports my health.”

Critical

The last four “why nots” on our list:

  • I don’t like liver (honestly),
  • I don’t like seafood (oysters? are you kidding me?),
  • I don’t like vegetables,
  • and, I don’t like to cook

can all be connected to the “critical” perfectionist tendency. Yes, yes, I get it! There are flavor and task preferences at play too, but hear me out. Perfectionists are ultra aware of the tiny mistakes they make or the parts of their experiences that aren’t 100% ideal and it makes it tough for them to see anything else or enjoy any part of their experiences. Here the hopeful AIPer is faced with trying or doing something they don’t like and it clouds everything for them due to criticism. Really! The thought of attempting a few bites of liver is less than perfect and it makes a whole a protocol unacceptable. The best way to address this tendency is to get curious about the things you don’t love. Literally.

Example: Instead of “I don’t like vegetables and that means AIP is impossible for me” consider “What nutrients are in asparagus? What do those nutrients do? How would they benefit me?” or instead of “I hate cooking so AIP is out” try “What are the reasons that top chefs love cooking? What would make cooking more bearable for me?”

Whew! How was that for problem solving? Tell me, are you struggling with perfectionism preventing you from trying AIP. Did any of these tendencies and the ways to address them resonate with you?

About Angie Alt

Angie Alt is part of the blogging duo behind Autoimmune Wellness. She helps others take charge of their health the same way she took charge of her own after suffering with Celiac and other autoimmune diseases; one creative, nutritious meal at a time. Her special focus is on mixing “data with soul” by looking at the honest heart of the autoimmune journey (which sometimes includes curse words). She’s also a world traveler who has been medically evacuated from two foreign countries. Strategizing worst-case scenarios is now something of a hobby. She is a Certified Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and author of The Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook: Eating for All Phases of the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. You can also find her on Instagram.

24 comments

  • Jeri says

    I was never able to convince myself to do the full-on AIP, but I did grasp the concept and did as much as I wanted/felt I could do. Just following the concepts helped me tremendously. It gave me a tool so that when I did have a food reaction I could see if what I was eating was on the “do not eat list” and then narrow it down to test it out. Also, re-learning what healthy eating for me might be has been invaluable.

    • Angie Alt says

      Jeri, so glad you were able to find the right fit for you!

  • M says

    For me was that I had to face alcoholism first. I’m one year sober and it has helped immensely. I am also working a program which also helps the “all or nothing” and “perfectionist” thinking.

    Most physicians counselors and coaches never would have seen it in me because my life looked so perfect, but I knew it was a problem.

    I hope that my response will help someone else who may be struggling with alcoholism!

    • Angie Alt says

      Thank you so much for sharing M! Tackling alcoholism is a brave step & you are not the only one in the AIP community that needed to handle that first. Congrats on 1 yr & wishing you good luck w/ the next step!

  • Rebecca says

    Love this! As an ISTJ personality (perfectionist/chronic information gatherer) this REALLY resonated with me. I’m an AIP lurker, but am looking to start incorporating a few steps at a time very soon.

    • Angie Alt says

      Go for it Rebecca! You have nothing to lose & everything to gain!

  • Amelia Gerlach says

    Very good article!

  • Randa says

    I recognise myself completely in this. I’ve been lurking, reading and listening because something needs to change. Im so tired and bloated all the time. I struggle because Ive been vegan for 2 years now. It goes against a lot that I believe in. Will the AIP also work with just fish? Or is the meat and the liver( even when I ate meat I never liked liver) Thanks for all these articles and information! 🙏🏽

    • Angie Alt says

      Randa, there are folks who begin a transition from vegan to AIP by first incorporating fish. I think you will find overtime though that a little meat, esp. red meat & organ meats, helps restore your health. It is very rich in iron & other nutrients that you may be very deficient in as a vegan. If you need inspiration, check out my partner here, Mickey Trescott. She also made a transition from veganism.

  • Nikki says

    Thank you for this article! I have probably used all of these excuses for not going all in on AIP. I see so many people out there who are sucessful and feel bad that I can’t seem to get it together for myself. Maybe it’s because I am being too rigid in my thinking. I am assuming that everyone is doing it perfectly, why can’t I? Maybe they are not perfect either? I tend to be that all or nothing thinker so if I can just focus on the steps I can do instead of beating myself up for what I can’t do, maybe I will make progress. I appreciate your perspective on this it has helped me see this in another light.

    • Angie Alt says

      I am SO happy to read this Nikki! Take it a little at a time!

  • Darcie Light says

    I needed this article 6 months or a year, or two years ago! LOL But thanks to SAD to AIP in 6 weeks I am over it 🙂
    http://sadtoaip.com/

  • Darcie says

    I needed this article 6 months or a year, or two years ago! LOL But thanks to SAD to AIP in 6 weeks I am over it 🙂
    http://sadtoaip.com/

    • Angie Alt says

      Hooray! Darcie it was a pleasure to have you in my program! I’m so glad it worked!

  • L. P. says

    Thank you for this article.
    Baby steps sounds more doable.
    Been trying to do it all and became so discouraged. Also other health issues and energy levels have been very trying and a struggle to “ get it all in and all the changes”when you’re just not feeling well and resistance is down.
    Thank you

  • Cathy says

    As someone who fell into these perfectionist categories, I can relate! When my coworker first told me how AIP would help, I feel so utterly overwhelmed I couldn’t even think straight. At the time, I was gluten free and felt as though I was eating so healthy and yet I didn’t have enough energy or stamina. I was not a huge fruit or vegetable eater and felt as though I wouldn’t have anything to eat if I started AIP!

    I continued to think and read up on AIP and low and behold, I gave it a try in May 2018. Amazingly, I have stuck with it and have seen how the inflammation is slowly but surely exiting from my body. I have also lost 44 pounds and gone down 2 clothes sizes. And best of all, I am exercising daily (I look forward to it!!!), take the stairs instead of the elevator and love to take my parent’s dogs for a walk 🙂 I feel so much better and can’t wait for my next blood work to see if I can come off of thyroid medication (I am hypothyroid).

    I tell all of my family and friends about this way of life and unfortunately, most of them fall into the above category. I only hope that some day, they will give AIP a try as I would bet, they would feel so much better!

    • Angie Alt says

      This is awesome Cathy! Great work & so glad you gave it a shot!

  • Mary Maass says

    Excellent article. Thank you for breaking it down so clearly. My biggest “thing” is being overwhelmed by my gut and my issues here. You have truly inspired me.

  • Sarah says

    This definitely resonated with me, especially the all or nothing thinking.
    What happens is I will stay with the diet for about three weeks, then I’ll have a food that is off the protocol and feel like I’ve blown the whole diet and need to start over.

    Should we try and stay with the diet while travelling? There are so many temptations when I can’t control what foods are around me.

    • Angie Alt says

      Sarah, I’m glad this resonated so much. If you are in the elimination phase & trying to heal & clear the slate so you can have a clear reintro phase, it really is best to stay focused even while traveling. It can be hard, but there are loads of travel tips + inspiration on sticking to it available in the AIP community. You can search our blog for all our travel ideas & google “Travel Tips+AIP” for tons of other resources. Keep trying & don’t let that “all or nothing” tendency derail you.

Leave a Comment