This article is a modified excerpt from The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook

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If you’ve adopted or are transitioning to The Myers Way® Autoimmune Solution Protocol or another autoimmune protocol (AIP)–whether you’ve recently been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease or have been dealing with one for years–congratulations! You’re on the right path. Optimizing your diet is one of the best steps you can take to reverse your condition and set yourself up for a life of vibrant health. One question I get asked all the time by my patients who are making the switch is how to get your family on board with an AIP lifestyle.

The Challenges With An AIP Lifestyle

Most of you reading this are probably women, and many of you are moms, since women are three times more likely than men to develop autoimmune conditions, and those conditions often develop during or after pregnancy. As women and mothers, you are probably used to putting everyone else first—your children, your partner, your parents. You may be used to showing your love for your family by preparing comfort foods to brighten their days, baking rich desserts to celebrate special occasions, and indulging their tastes for not-so-healthful meals (pizza night anyone?). The thought that these beloved rituals may change when adopting an AIP lifestyle could be worrisome to your or your loved ones. Or, your family may be reluctant to change their habits, period–after all, they’ve been eating these foods for years. This can lead to turmoil at the dinner table, or worse, it can cause you to prepare TWO meals every night, one AIP version for you, and one “regular” meal for your partner and children.

I’m a mom, wife, physician, and business owner, so I get it! However, and I want you to really internalize this: this is the moment when you need to put yourself first. The very best way for you to be there for your family is if you are healthy, happy, and whole. By committing to your health, you are truly supporting everyone. And the easiest way to maintain that commitment is to get your whole family on board with a lifestyle that will support your health. It’s all about finding a balance, and though it may take some getting used to–and learning how to make your family’s favorites a bit differently–you can keep a well-fed and happy family, while also supporting your health (and theirs!).

Why It’s a Way of Life

The first thing to understand is that I call my program “The Myers Way®” because the Autoimmune Solution Protocol is not simply a diet. It’s a way of life. This is a vital distinction because autoimmunity impacts our short-term and long-term well-being. It is not a weight-loss program where a cheat day is okay because the consequence is an extra lingering pound or two. Once you identify the symptoms of autoimmunity, finding the root cause and living the solution is vital for moving to the healthy end of the autoimmune spectrum and staying there.

Getting Your Family to Appreciate AIP Nourishing Foods

I was very lucky because I was raised from day one eating real whole foods. We shopped at the local natural foods store (before there was a Whole Foods), had a garden, grew sprouts, and made our own yogurt. My dad taught me how to cook, and my mom taught me how to bake. I learned how to be involved with the food that I put in my body and understood that it was meant to nourish me. I dedicated The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook to my parents because they instilled in me the importance of a nourishing diet and real whole foods.

Although it turned out that the type of food I was eating (a vegetarian diet of grains, legumes, and dairy) wasn’t good for me because of my predisposition toward autoimmunity, I will always be grateful to my parents for teaching me how to be involved with my food.

Even if you, your partner, or your children didn’t grow up this way, now is the perfect time to start! Explain to your family that you will be changing the way you eat by enjoying delicious, real foods with the power to nourish everyone’s bodies and improve their health. Rather than thinking of this as asking your family to give up certain foods, think about it in terms of the health benefits they’ll be gaining!

The Family Benefits of AIP

Women often tell me that their partners lose weight, think more clearly, and have more energy, and that their children are more focused in school, have fewer emotional outbursts, and their behavioral issues vanish—all by switching to The Myers Way® or an AIP or Paleo protocol.

You want the very best for your children, and making eating for optimal health a way of life while they’re young is much easier than trying to make the switch when they’re in their teens or twenties. Again, this is something I will always be grateful for with my own parents because once I finally figured out what diet worked best for reversing autoimmunity, I wasn’t switching abruptly from junk foods to broccoli; I was still eating broccoli and simply swapping out whole grains for lean, organic, grass-fed meats.

And now I have the joy of instilling that same appreciation for nourishing foods in my own daughter! Rather than rice cereal, cow’s milk, and gluten, Elle drinks camel’s milk and eats grass-fed, pasture-raised meats, and organic vegetables and fruits. She doesn’t have an autoimmune disorder, and by eating this way, I hope she never will. Elle is thriving, and we eat The Myers Way® meals together every night as a family, enjoying many of the recipes in The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook.

Remember, The Myers Way® isn’t about deprivation—you will be enjoying delicious, flavorful foods that will keep you energized and full. Though it may take some time to adjust, just remember: you, your partner, and your children were designed to thrive on real, whole foods, and you’re making a powerful investment in their health, as well as yours.

Tips for Getting Your Family on Board with AIP

Use this list of action items to simplify the process of getting your family on board with The Myers Way® Autoimmune Solution Protocol.

1. Start slow. If you or a family member does not have autoimmunity and you just want to use diet to improve your health, you can go slowly. This works especially well if someone in your family is particularly picky (when I was twelve I went through a phase where I’d eat only white rice and cottage cheese—so trust me, I get it!).

Make simple swaps for picky eaters, then transition to more autoimmune-friendly foods. Switch your child’s favorite boxed macaroni and cheese to a gluten-free, dairy-free version. If your child (or even your partner!) is used to packing a sandwich for lunch, you can first switch to gluten-free bread and then move on to using cassava tortillas or lettuce wraps. Swap dairy-filled ice cream for a dairy-free alternative, and then move to Creamy Frozen Fruit Pops or Coconut Chocolate Mousse blended to ice cream consistency for a frozen treat (both of these recipes are included in my new cookbook!).

2. Involve your family in the shopping and cooking process. Ask for your partner’s input on recipes for the week. Let your child select a new fruit or vegetable to try, or choose their own autoimmune-friendly snacks for school.

Another great introduction is for everyone to start the day with a delicious smoothie, featuring The Myers Way® Paleo Protein to keep them full and energized until lunch. Your child can even pick out his or her own ingredients!

3. Stock your house with nourishing AIP snacks and wholesome foods–cooked chicken, roasted sweet potatoes and toppings, bowls of berries, and coconut milk yogurt. If your family members are hungry, they will eat it.

4. Pick your battles. Too many restrictions—whether associated with homework, bedtime, or food—can make kids feel like outsiders or want to rebel against any limitations whatsoever. Fighting peer pressure (“Emma’s family eats pasta with tomato sauce . . .”), advertising, (“Kids, try this new cereal . . .”), and even just busy schedules will always take some effort. The key is to pick your battles. Are you okay with your family members ordering what they want in a restaurant, yet bringing only healthy foods into your home? Or are you okay if your child eats the “regular” cupcake at a birthday party? Only you and your family can decide what guidelines work best.

For example, I buy all organic food for cooking at home, and do my best to find restaurants that use organic ingredients. However, sometimes that’s simply not an option, so I’ll eat produce or meats that aren’t organic. I also drink only filtered water at home and in my office, and I take my glass bottle with me wherever I go; however, when I’m in a foreign country in a rural area and the only safe water to drink is in a plastic bottle, I drink that water. We don’t live in a perfect world, and there will be times where you make concessions; it’s all about making informed choices and finding a balance. I know my “absolute no” foods, which I never eat, and make compromises when I need to. Be flexible and find what works best for your family.

5. Celebrate successes. Point out when your partner or children make good choices and keep the praise and encouragement coming.

6. And always remember: your health comes first! Just as you want the best for your family, they want the best for you too. Following an autoimmune-friendly diet is an essential part of taking back your health and being the best woman, partner, and mother you can be. That fact alone should be enough to enlist your family’s support. Plus, once they experience just how delicious an AIP diet can be–and how good it makes them feel–I’m sure you will have no trouble getting everyone on board, including yourself!