“Belief is a wonderful way to pass the time until the facts come in.”
― Carl R White
The science behind Sarah Ballantyne’s bestselling book, The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body was one of the primary reasons that I first considered undertaking a diet and lifestyle change as extreme as the the Autoimmune Protocol. As with so many people who have turned to AIP, I never expected the profound impact it would have on my life.
Science is about thinking critically. And, so too, is AIP.
It is not about obsession or blindly following a template. Rather, it is about looking at the facts; having a dedicated period on an elimination diet to remove potentially inflammatory foods and allowing our gut to heal, and implementing positive changes to help us improve our health and mitigate our autoimmune symptoms. And, continuing to fine tune this process to meet our individual needs; developing our own personal AIP way of life, if you will.
The tool that is pivotal to understanding just what is serving us over time is the food and mood diary. Creating a habit of tracking our diet and lifestyle experiences is the best way to understand patterns and trends. This applies to the elimination phase, the reintroduction phase and beyond.
But! – tracking is just step 1 in a 2 step process
After we track, we must think critically. We must analyse our results. If we don’t, there is little point in undertaking that effort.
CRITICAL THINKING: the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.
When we think critically, we
- open our mind up to question our own thinking
- develop a willingness to be wrong
- put logic before personal bias
- question, and even embrace, thinking other than our own
- recognise when there are contradictions
We know that the food and mood diary is all about keeping us honest and allowing us to remove as many potential variables as possible to allow for analysis of our unique needs. It’s also the holy grail when it comes to setting the foundation for thinking critically about your body’s responses to what you eat, how you sleep, managing stress, getting enough Vitamin D and time outside, digestive challenges, movement and – my personal favorite – nutrient density.
And, it evolves over time
In my coaching practice, many clients find their food and mood diary can help in finding a rhythm – but it does involve reflection and analysis. This is often where coaching can help – it can be challenging to identify issues when you are close to the problem!
I have one client – let’s call him ‘P’ – who started out focusing on the food aspects of his personal protocol. Over time – which included learning how to cook for himself! – he found that learning self compassion was a key factor in managing his autoimmune problems. P called it ‘creating space for himself’. It involved developing a daily practice whereby he slowed right down and reflected on what was going on in his life. And, he would never have identified this as being such an importantl issue for him without first taking the time to think critically about his food and mood diary.
But how do you do this?
Start by asking yourself the following:
- What’s working, what’s not working and what’s tricky?
Remove the bits that are working so that you can start working on areas that are more challenging for you.
- Take a step back and look for patterns.
We know that correlation is not causation, but it’s a good place to start. When you hear hoof beats think horses; and then go back and consider zebras, too! In other words, consider the obvious, but think outside the box, too.
- Break your protocol down into manageable chunks.
Take each area of your protocol and examine it more closely. It will allow you to see it more clearly
- Consider creating charts and graphs.
Even if Excel is not your thing, sometimes charting your food and mood diary results can help you pinpoint just where things are going wrong. Look for patterns.
Ultimately, there are no hard and fast rules for thinking critically about your food and mood diary, but with a little effort and consistency, you’ll become better at understanding your body.