The Loving Diet: a book review
Love is in the air. All you need is love. The power of love. In the name of love. Love seems to be the theme of all the most well known songs in history. The plots of many books and movies revolve around love, and even though these are (mostly) fictional stories, they can sometimes inspire us, and help us to remember how important and powerful love is. In the movie Moulin Rouge, they say that love will overcome all obstacles. It doesn’t have to be romantic love between you and your partner. There are so many types of love: you can love your friends, children, parents, pets, hobbies, etc. We all know how important love is and how sad life is without love. Children who don’t have a loving background at home suffer, romantic love that is not reciprocated hurts, and we always wish a lot of health, happiness, and love to those who are celebrating a birthday. But there is one type of love that is often overlooked, underestimated and not used enough, and that is self-love.
Very often we love and care for others but we forget about ourselves in the process. Receiving love is just as important as giving it. Most people don’t even realize that the power of love is not only the name of a beautiful song, but also a true force that is able to change lives, to heal, to promote happiness, and to make literal miracles happen. All emotions have a huge impact on both our mental and physical health. According to Jessica Flanigan, clinical nutritionist and the author of The Loving Diet, love is also the one puzzle piece that is very often missing from the healing picture. Jessica works with autoimmune patients as a nutrition therapist. She works alongside of many medical doctors, specialists, health coaches, and acupuncturists and she has created The Loving Diet protocol that helped her personally and now also her patients to heal their bodies, minimize inflammation, and reduce symptoms of all kinds of autoimmune conditions including Multiple Sclerosis, Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Lupus. She shares everything about her approach in her amazing book to teach you how to use love as a healing tool, just like you would do with a nutrient dense diet and/or prescribed medication.
THE MEDICAL APPROACH
Healing is the journey we take to believe we are worth our own fearlessness.
The Loving Diet protocol is not excluding modern medicine, not at all. Modern medicine has saved so many lives. Medical doctors cure dangerous acute illnesses, perform complicated surgeries, and often make very difficult life-or-death choices they (and we) have to live with. But medical professionals are still also just humans, and like the rest of us, they sometimes simply don’t know. We don’t ever want to turn you against your doctor, and this isn’t Jessica Flanigan’s intention in her book. The goal is to encourage you as a patient to make sure that the doctor you are working with works in your favor. If you feel like your medical specialist just sees you as another random person, or makes you feel like your concerns aren’t valid, ignoring the fact that you need special attention and personalized treatment, don’t hesitate to leave and find another doctor. You have the right to do that. It is YOUR health and if you feel like your doctor is not doing all s/he can to improve it, leave. No apologies, no hesitations. (Of course we recommend doing it in the most diplomatic way possible so your future practitioners aren’t biased by the information passed on to them).
It is not that s/he does not want to help you, but s/he may have reached the limit of his/her knowledge and abilities (whether s/he realizes it or not). Autoimmune issues are still very tricky to diagnose and many doctors simply don’t know how to handle them. They have years of schooling and medical practice, but when a new set of issues they have never seen before arises, or doesn’t look quite how it did in the textbook, they simply don’t know. Some of them might guess, but that can be pretty risky business, because they just don’t understand what is going on in your body at that point, and they might even get scared of hurting you even more. It can be hard for them because the current model puts doctors up on such a high pedestal they are the ones with the answers, and it can be really hard for them to admit they don’t know how to help. Don’t be mad at the doctor, but don’t stay if you are not improving or don’t see enough of the determined detective skills you need in your health care provider. We like to stress the fact that health is a right, not a privilege, and your doctor should always, always work with your best interests in mind. There are supportive, collaborative, loving practitioners out there, you just have to dig to find them (Jessica is also doing training for practitioners to help them becoming more loving in their practice, so watch for someone who has completed that program).
The first part of the book is focused on basics of autoimmune diseases, their types and causes, as well as three stages of autoimmunity, followed by a lot of very helpful tips on how to create your own panel of experts. They are your personal wellness team, and she discusses how to find the right practitioner(s), which questions to ask, what to look for in a doctor, and why settling for less than the best is not a good idea for an autoimmune patient (well, any patient, but its especially true for us). A doctor that is willing to listen, answer, collaborate, learn, and question current practices is the one you are looking for. They are not very easy to find (I firmly believe this will change in the future), but they are out there, ready to stand beside you and support you on your journey back to greater health.
THE DIET APPROACH
Real nourishment equals loving yourself.
Diet changes are very often necessary and hugely beneficial with autoimmune conditions. Most of us eat highly inflammatory, very processed foods on a daily basis and we are slowly hurting our bodies and immune systems, triggering certain processes in the body that can (and often do) lead to the onset of autoimmune disease. In most cases it is already there under the surface, dormant in your genes, but lifestyle and diet are major influences in which genes express themselves (aka epigenetic expression). Lets be brutally honest here there is no real cure for autoimmunity. All we can do is work towards remission by eliminating triggers, calming down the inflammation, getting our bodies out of panic mode into healing mode, and work on eliminating symptoms. This is not an easy process and it is a lifelong challenge once the genes are active. Your diet is a huge part of this process, one of the biggest actually. If you already eat a diet with no dairy, grains, and sugar, that’s a wonderful start, but you will probably need to give up some more foods you probably enjoy, like eggs, nuts and seeds, legumes, high FODMAP foods (think starchy, rapid conversion to sugar foods), nightshades (tomatoes, tomatillos, bell peppers, eggplant, ashwaganda, goji, etc), coffee, and even some fruits and spices. Eliminating some of these foods might only be temporary, and you might be able to reintroduce some of them back to your life (in moderation and with caution), but at the beginning of your healing journey, you need to be very strict with your diet to put out the fire of inflammation.
The Loving Diets actual diet approach is basically a mix of Autoimmune Paleo, the low FODMAP diet, and the SIBO food plan. There is a warning included in the book: the list of what you will be able to eat is very short. For that reason, there is no list of foods you will NOT be allowed to have so basically if you don’t see it on the pages of the book, you cant eat it. Simple, tough, limiting, but temporary and worth it. Your health, well, your life is at stake and even though it will be hard, you CAN do it. There are some recipes included at the end of the book and ideas for people with children or bigger families that still want to cook for the whole tribe and not just themselves, which might be even more challenging, time consuming, and expensive. Very often with elimination diets, we tend to see these restrictions as something negative and stressful. Many people will say things like there is no way I am giving up bread or I cant function without my morning cup of coffee. You can, and you will, if that’s what your body needs to heal. You don’t deserve junk food, you deserve the highest quality foods possible. It is possible for you to live free of pain! If you see all those diet rules as a form of punishment and you associate all kinds of negative emotions with them, it is time to flip the switch and start treating each delicious, nourishing meal as a gift you are giving to your body in order to show it love, care, and respect.
Jessica does not go into details about the definition of Autoimmune Paleo (that would take a whole other book!), but she recommends a few resources you might want to look into, including our favorite Sarah Ballantyne (aka ThePaleoMom). So before you dive into The Loving Diet book, you might want to check out her blog and also her excellent book The Paleo Approach (this is my favorite AIP book of all). Your can also find a treasure trove of AIP resources (including quick reference charts, recipes, links to blogs, etc) at www.autoimmune-paleo.com/resources. The Loving Diet goes beyond the AIP protocol, with its main focus on gut healing and reducing inflammation. You need to stop adding fuel to the fire, put it out, and investigate to see why it was there so you can prevent it from restarting (or flaring). But even though good medical care and a perfectly clean diet are crucial in the healing process, sometimes it is not enough. This last aspect of The Loving Diet might be difficult to grasp for many, but it is maybe the most important. I saved this part for last on purpose, because to me, this one is the most challenging part of the whole protocol. Here it comes again: LOVE.
THE LOVING APPROACH
We decide if our stumbling blocks become our stepping stones.
Let’s go back to the beginning for a moment the power of love. If you’ve read our posts about meditation and the benefits of yoga before, you might already understand the importance of mindfulness and how powerful our thoughts and feelings are. We also told you about how different emotions impact our nervous system in our post about willpower. Our emotions provoke certain reactions in the brain and it has a significant effect on our physical health. Everything is interconnected in our bodies and while this might be very difficult to wrap your head around: the relationship you have with your current medical condition matters, and if you really want to help your physical body heal, you have to not just accept, but start loving the person you are including your disease, as you are in the present.
We see a lot of people who hate their bodies because of their health condition(s), who suffer from chronic pain, depression, fatigue, and more, unable to see any glimpse of light in their current situation. Negative emotions and negative thoughts bring negative outcomes in our overall existence. People who are at war with their disease get tired of fighting and they live seeing their own body as an enemy, while the actual truth is that our body is doing everything it possibly can to communicate the issue and get better. Strategic medicine, supplements, and diet support our healing, but a negative attitude towards the disease is very often the thing that undermines our efforts. The Loving Diet suggests something that for many people will be a revolutionary idea loving the disease. Learning to cooperate with the illness, instead of fighting it. Taking the illness as a part of yourself and then loving yourself as a whole. Trying to see the illness as an opportunity to learn something about your body, instead of treating it as a punishment or a curse. Shifting the outlook from fighting to accepting and working together, and even recognizing the gifts it brings into your life (like forcing you to maintain a work/life or active/rest balance). Accepting your disease does not mean giving up and letting it win, accepting it means you have already won.
I love this quote: Life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% of how we react to it. This is true in many ways and it fits here perfectly. As of now, autoimmune disease cant be cured, and that is a difficult truth to accept. Once it is activated in your body, there is only one thing that will determine the direction of your life your own attitude towards the illness. The way we think changes the biochemistry of our brain and we all know what too much negativity can do. But The Loving Diet approach proves one key thing there is no such a thing as too much love. The simple act of loving and accepting your whole self-initiates positive healing reactions that start in the brain, and spread throughout the whole body. You deserve to love yourself, your body deserves to be loved, and The Loving Diet teaches you how to do just that. The book is interlaced with loving affirmations and mindful exercises that will help you move from struggling to healing through the power of love (here we go again, I will not get the song out of my head now).
We never recommend random books just because they are currently bestsellers on Amazon or they are a hot new thing. If we decide to promote a book, a product, or a person, it is because we believe in them and in what they have to offer. We value our health, we want you to value yours, and we also want to help you move into greater vitality and longevity. Everyone on our team is different and has a different medical history, a different set of symptoms, different goals and needs, and of course we all fall into different metabolic types and age groups, but we believe that the experience and knowledge we have gained on our own journeys can be helpful and is worth sharing with you, our readers, followers, customers, and friends. If you still struggle, if you still battle an autoimmune disease and you feel like you are not winning, maybe you could consider accepting it instead? Maybe even learn to love it? It is not giving up, it is not surrender, it is empowerment. Visit Jessica’s blog for more information, order The Loving Diet book, and start your healing journey with the most functional medicine of all loving.