Create a Mindset For Autoimmune Health & Nutrition
Updated: May 3
That's how most of my clients first feel when they start changing their habits to support their autoimmune or chronic condition.
By the time they see to me, they are burnt out.
They've tried several different medications and have been down a million rabbit holes looking for advice and tips on natural health - wanting to take action - yet they feel pulled in a million directions and have a hard time putting all the pieces together to implement what they have learned.
That's because the majority of people I speak with are caught in the sandwich generation - taking care of kids (and sometimes grandkids) while also caring for their parents. They are working full time and if at home, they have a full life with school, volunteer work and church.
They are doing it all for everyone else, and as a result, have very little left for themselves at the end of the day. All of this on top of managing a chronic illness which takes an incredible amount of time and planning.
Over time, all of this can lead to low mood which can further impact motivation and consistency. In fact, studies show that those living with chronic illness are more at risk for depression - two to three times higher.
Yet, people are resilient! They want to get better.
This is why I spend a lot of time spent breaking down changes into bite-sized pieces to help make the process easier. So clients can see small successes every week to help with motivation.
Helping them understand that where you are right now ... is NOT as good as it gets.
The word mindset is very vague. It is sometimes called “the story you tell yourself.” It’s a mental attitude or belief system that influences how we interpret events or circumstances, often reflecting years of experiences and the thoughts/attitudes of those who surround us.
A great example is the notion of the body attacking itself.
Biochemically, yes there are self antigens. But the message ... the body is attacking itself ... puts many people directly into a victim state (my body is betraying me), and that's hard to get out of.
When it comes to health (or any matter), if a challenge seems overwhelming, too monumental, too complicated ... it will be. A person will get no where if they believe they have no control.
Yet natural health solutions that are proven to improve energy, digestion and inflammation don't have to be complicated, and they can absolutely improve quality of life while living with a chronic illness.
Here people have control. With autoimmune, there is always control over nutrition, lifestyle and mindset habits that directly impact outlook, energy, digestion and yes, inflammation.
When we shift the belief from "I'm complicated" to "I am capable" then suddenly the door to solutions opens.
Very interesting health mindset study
Here's an example of how mindset can impact health.
Researchers at Stanford University reviewed health and wellness data from over 60,000 people of diverse backgrounds. What they found was that the people who merely thought they were a lot less active had a higher risk of death than the general public.
In another much smaller study, women who were professional hotel cleaners were told they were active because their job was physical. Four weeks later, these women started reporting they were active and experienced a decrease in weight, blood sugar and other biochemical markers for health.
How is this even possible?
Researchers offered a few explanations as to why this might be.
One is that maybe if we feel like we're less active (even if we are not) ... it may put us in a more "stressed" state. And stress has a negative impact on health and inflammation.
Two ... if we feel we're more active, then we will live that way ... habits will follow that make us feel good about daily actions.
Three ... a placebo effect ... no different than a sugar pill. If we believe we are active, we will enjoy the health benefits!
THIS is the power of the mind-body connection where the body embodies what the mind visualizes.
Will this work if you believe chocolate cake is actually kale in disguise, and it will make you healthier?
Probably not. Cake is cake.
But learning now to connect your thoughts with your body ... and taking small micro steps to strengthen that relationship ... gets you to a place where you can enjoy the cake and not feeling guilty about it because you're taking other actions in your health that brings the cake back into balance.
This is why I tell my clients not to sweat the small things. Life happens. Cake happens. It's what you do and how you think in between which matters more.
How to adopt a health mindset for autoimmune or anti-inflammatory nutrition - strategy 1
I used to be an all-or-nothing person. My approach to nutrition was cold turkey. That's when I had less experience. That's before autoimmune walked into our lives. I learned VERY quickly that the added perceived stress around changes to diet or lifestyle just isn't worth it.
This is why I adopted a worry-less, slow approach to change.
It ultimately became my signature method of Reality Based Meal Planning, focusing on one meal at a time. And when I made the switch to how I practice, that's when my clients started experiencing amazing results.
Change is usually best done incrementally - one step at a time. I've been doing this for a while and I now know with certainty that people can really only focus on one thing at a time in order for it to stick.
If you take a lighter and brighter approach to change with a clear cut plan to eliminate confusion, you will move forward. The results will be consistent, you will take time to listen to your body, learn from your behaviours, and you will feel great about your accomplishments.
Health mindset strategy for autoimmune nutrition 2 - Pantry swaps
Substitutions are key if you are following a nutrition plan of any sort.
Recently, I saw a woman post a long list of "no go" red foods that a practitioner had ordered for her child with celiac. Mom was in a state of overwhelm "How am I going to be able to do this? I have a picky eater." No guidance or meal solutions were given on how to actually follow that list.
Another example is that many of my clients need a drink and "treat" replacement/solution to feel like there is some normality and satisfaction in their lives. This helps improve their positive mindset ... they don't feel deprived from food when they already feel limited in their bodies.
So, as you are making change (one step at a time), I encourage you to take time to find the replacements or substitutions you need to succeed. There will be hits and misses along the way. That's o.k. It's an adventure and it will help you figure out what really works for your taste preferences and lifestyle.
Then, when you have some tested recipes and food items that meet your needs, you will feel more confident and adopt a great mindset to continue building on your success.
Health mindset for autoimmune nutrition strategy 3 - Good enough
Instead of having a black and white approach where everything is good or bad, why not try aiming for "good enough" to empower yourself to make better choices, instead of perfect choices.
The notion of perfection, I believe, leads to a deprivation mindset. All or nothing. It can prevent people from continuing a health plan ("it's too difficult") and it can lead to feelings of guilt, shame and failure.
Keeping a food journal is really helpful in this situation. The purpose is not to be perfect. It helps you learn how to make better choices for your unique situation.
You see, when you track what you eat, you learn how certain foods (or combinations of foods) impact your cravings, mood, digestion, energy, sleep and inflammation. It helps guide your next steps for small change.
And it helps identify where you may need additional support or clarity.
Mindset for health can be a powerful tool for better physical health. There’s a proven mind-body connection that research can measure.
Thinking positively, and dropping the black/white and good/bad labels, can help you reach your health goals.
How is your mindset for health? Which of these tips resonate with you the most? How are you going to implement them in your life? I would love to know your thoughts.