Five Steps To Create A Health Mindset For AutoimmuneApr 09, 2023
That's how most of my clients and members feel by the time they get to me.
They have spent months (sometimes years) working on habits and different experts to try and fix or improve their health and diagnosis.
They've absolutely made progress ... have tried several different medications and supplements (some of worked better than others), and because its human nature to want to solve a problem, they have been down a million rabbit holes looking for advice and tips on natural health. They've tried all sorts of things and want to do more ... yet at the same time ... feel pulled in a million directions in their day-to-day lives, aren't sure what next step is best for them, are skeptical of new people and things because they have very little room for "new" in their lives, AND have a hard time putting all the things into a simple plan they can follow.
Let me be clear ... these are smart, health savvy women. They are high achievers and truly, nothing they can't do.
The problem is that they are doing all the things 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 to stay in control and ahead of a disease.
And when they can't do all the things perfectly, they feel like they're failing.
Women with autoimmune are resilient. They want to get better! At least my clients do.
But they do need simplicity ... 20% effort for 80% return ... and without a focus on perfect so progress happens.
This is why I spend a lot of time spent breaking down changes into bite-sized pieces to help make the process easier ... more digestible. So clients and members inside The Network experience small successes every week to help with motivation.
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. Heres is another article that explains ... Stress, Fatigue and Autoimmune.
- 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 that eating chocolate cake is actually kale in disguise, and it will make you healthier? Probably not. Cake is cake, but there is room for "having your cake and eating it too" from time to time. In fact, stressing over NOT eating the cake can sometimes do more damage. I have witnessed this with my own family and clients.
A much better approach is learning now to connect your thoughts with your body ... and taking small micro steps to strengthen that relationship.
This will get 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 - 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 and would hand a client a food list and would say ..."Now just follow these guidelines, it's not hard. You should completely overhaul everything you're eating for yourself and your family before our next appointment so we can talk about sleep, morning routine, supplements and exercise because these are really important and it looks like you're not doing any of that right either."
This is an exaggeration, but you get the idea.
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. The stress of it all was making my kid's symptoms worse! 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. It's so helpful that the clinics I worked at also use this approach in their high-end VIP programs.
Focus and intention for the win.
This also helps you take a lighter and brighter approach to change with a clear cut plan to eliminate confusion. The results will be consistent AND it gives you time to start listening to your body, learn from your behaviours, and celebrate your accomplishments along the way for even more momentum and motivation.
Health mindset for autoimmune - strategy 2
Substitutions are key if you are following a nutrition plan or making lifestyle changes of any sort.
Here's an example ...
Recently in another facebook group (not my own), 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, sweet or snack replacement/solution to feel like there is some normality and satisfaction in their lives when they bless and release sugar.
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, 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 - strategy 3
Instead of having a YES/NO 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 prevents people from starting something new ("it's too difficult, that won't work for me, I don't have enough time for that right now") and it can lead to feelings of guilt, shame and failure.
Keeping a journal is really helpful in this situation. The purpose is not to be perfect!
Trying new things, making mistakes, figuring out what you like and don't like helps you learn how to make better choices for your unique situation. Journalling food or daily habits is a useful too because 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.
That's a pretty perfect outcome, isn't it? Feeling empowered and knowing what works best for you? I'll take that any day over a perfectionist approach.
Health mindset for autoimmune - strategy 4
Autoimmune isn't caused by one thing alone and therefore isn't fixed by one thing alone. What else can you do beyond food to help reduce inflammation and improve quality of life, mood and outlook?
Just like with food, I encourage you to pick ONE thing to focus on at a time ... and go slow. This way you commit to it.
Is it getting outside everyday to support circadian rhythm, fresh air and connection to nature? Maybe it's a short meditation daily at work to reset the nervous system and support hormones, digestion and immune health. Maybe it's building strength, balance and range of motion with your physio therapist or getting started on a mindful yoga practice at home.
The path is completely up to you ... the only caveat being progress, not perfect.
Health mindset for autoimmune - strategy 5
Lastly, be selective in the company you keep so that you have the moral support you need to move ahead with your goals. This may mean looking outside the home and assembling a cheerleading squad who understands what you're going through.
I'll be honest. When I first went back to school for nutrition and a young family at home, I had to look outside my home for that with my colleagues at school. One of the worst fights my husband and I ever had - I'm talking divorce worthy fights - was about corn.
I kid you not. It sounds kinda sad in retrospect, but it really wasn't about the corn...
It was about his fear of change and not having (or caring) about the same vision of health as me.
We are (kinda) on the same page now, still happily married and corn is no longer considered a vegetable in our family ... but we still have it from time to time. Kind of like cake.
My point being ... all of these changes you're going through and trying to make ... it can get lonely. Surround yourself with people who lift each other up and you'll surely rise as a team.
Mindset for health can be a powerful tool for better physical health. There’s a proven mind-body connection that research can measure.
However, it's not just about "thinking positively." If that worked, PollyAnna would be a drug. Mindset is about dropping the yes/no and good/bad labels and getting curious about what's right for YOU.
Lifestyle changes are as equally important as food changes when it comes to health. For both, apply a reality-based approach so you can stick with it for the long term.
And lastly, assemble a team to support you so that you don't have to walk this path alone
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.