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The Loving Diet

Hi everyone! I’m really excited to share with you my experience reading The Loving Diet by Jessica Flanigan. This is definitely not your typical book review, because this isn’t your typical book.

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I had of course heard of Jessica, prior to hearing about her book, but I’m not super focused on the AIP community, so I have to admit that I didn’t follow her work closely prior to learning about her book, but she came into my life at exactly the time she was supposed to, and I will forever be grateful.

When my good friend Diane posted about having Jessica on her podcast, for the release of her book, The Loving Diet, something lit up inside of me. For months I told Bill that I felt like I needed something to help me reframe illness. I had done therapy for about a year, and although it had some benefit, and was definitely part of my journey in a positive way, I didn’t get enough from it that made me want to go back, or feel like it was a really good use of my time. I was at a pretty low point around this time, and felt like I needed some sort of emotional support, and decided to let myself be open to the right thing coming into my space. Then came Jessica, and her book.

I immediately reached out to Jessica. I told her what had been going on with me, and that I felt like her book was exactly what I was looking for. Rather than just get her book, I felt like I needed to connect with her personally as well. In true Jessica fashion, she wrote back to me with so much love and compassion, and hope for me. She even shared with me that she herself went through a time in her life that was similar to what I have been experiencing. As I’m sure many of you know by reading the things that I post openly, when you hear that someone had an experience similar to yours, and they made it to the other side, it gives you so much hope. Hearing from Jessica made me even more excited and eager to read her book, and since then she has been someone who has greatly impacted my life, and someone who inspires me daily. I can’t even put into words how much my connection to her means to me. She is one of a couple people right now who has helped guide me just a little closer to the light.

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The Loving Diet is completely about reframing illness, and seeing what it is bringing to your life, rather than what it is taking from you. When you bring more loving into your life, healing just happens. No truer words have ever been spoken. Here is an example. I remember when I was deep into the candida cleanse that I did last winter, and I was feeling really horrible. Bill and I had gone to Whole Foods to get groceries. I could barely pick out any food because I felt so sick to my stomach. I was extremely anxious, and really upset with myself that I felt so badly. I blamed myself for all of it, and was so angry that I felt so uncomfortable. Whole Foods is my “happy place”, and I felt so awful, that I didn’t want to be in there. We got in our car, and I was miserable, and saying every horrible thing to myself that I possibly could. Bill took my hand and as we drove out of the parking lot, he said “It’s okay. Let me take care of you. We will go home, and I’ll make you some tea, and we can watch movies.” As soon as he said those words, everything in my body relaxed, and by the time we got to our food co-op (5 minute drive from Whole Foods), I felt so much better, and was able to enjoy the end of our shopping trip. Just hearing him say that he loved me, and what I was feeling was okay, and I didn’t need to try to change it, made it pass. 

Jessica believes that there is an emotional root cause to illness, and I really agree with her on this one. The more people I talk to, the more stories I hear about some emotionally traumatic life event that happened around the time that their illness was triggered. Even looking back at the last few years for me, Bill and I went through some really stressful times. A childhood friend passed away from cancer right around when we got engaged (this had more impact on me, than I realized for a really long time). The night of one of our most intense shoots for Gather, I was woken up by a call that my sister was in the hospital and needed emergency surgery, and Bill and I woke up and went to the hospital to be with her. When I got to the hospital, the first thing the nurse told me was that most people die from what was happening to her. My sister had never had surgery before, and I was the family member there to kiss her goodbye and tell her everything would be okay, as they wheeled her off into surgery, after which I promptly fell apart into a puddle of tears. Someone in my immediate family went to a rehab center for addiction 5 months before our wedding. We were forced to move out of our home 4 months before our wedding so our landlord could live there, and had to quickly find a place to live so that we could send out our wedding invitations on time. Just a few days after we found out we had to move, my great uncle passed away, so all of my family on my moms side had to come into town for a funeral just a few months before they’d be back here again for my wedding. I had intense conflict with family a month before I got married, after feeling like I had done everything in my power to put other people first (because I knew people were giving up their time for me), rather than be an entitled bride.

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All of the these emotional triggers collided with the stress of planning the biggest event of my life, and what topped it off was this fear inside of me about the transition to married life and adulthood. As much as I want a family of my own, being a parent is scary to me. The shift from us being the children and grandchildren, to us being the parents, and our parents becoming grandparents felt unsettling. The reality that the people I love wont be around forever, is scary to me. It’s really no shocker, when I look at the last few years of my life, and add up everything that has happened, and see that I kept experiencing more and more stress and anxiety. We all know from Epigenetics, that a stressful life event can switch on genes that we don’t want on, so how about several stressful life events, one after the other? People don’t realize the impact that emotional trauma has on your health. In our society, we are expected to cope without missing a beat, and continue on with life. Mind over matter. Emotional stress is a key player, and I am starting to see how it is one that is meant to teach us, and bring us all closer to our greatness, if we will allow it to.

The voice inside of me, telling me that I needed to care for myself in a bigger way kept getting louder, and louder, until finally it was screaming, and I had to listen. This experience has changed me in a lot of ways, and since I’m not through it yet, I’m still unsure of the person who I will be when I reach the other side. Having to cope with sadness, fear, and upset is a part of life. It would be great if we could all go through life without challenges or suffering, but part of that suffering is the contrast that allows us to really appreciate the good. Even recently, Bill and I have gone through yet again, something intensely upsetting, disappointing, and hurtful. Something where we have to dig down inside of ourselves to find peace, when it might not come otherwise. The goal shouldn’t be to feel numb to heartbreak, but to be able to love yourself through it. That loving is what makes it less painful. I’m learning to love the sad me, the scared me, the me who has had a panic attack, the me who doesn’t have as much energy one day as I’d like, the me whose appetite still sucks sometimes, and the me who’s worried that sharing all of this will jinx it ;-). Learning to love myself through all of it, is how I keep moving toward the light on the other side.

Although it is incredibly hard and painful work, I am grateful that I have been given this opportunity, and am doing the work to get through it. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many days, or even parts of every day where I just want to kick and scream, and say “ENOUGH. I’m so over this.” There are even more days when I say over and over “Can’t I be there yet?!” There are still days where I need someone to tell me that I can do this, and it is going to be okay. This is constant work for me. As for most of us, it is much easier to be your own critic, than it is to be your own caretaker.

I have gifted The Loving Diet to several family members and friends, because I believe in this book so much. Jessica and her book have really shifted things inside of me, and have helped me move forward in a really positive, and huge way. I have made tremendous strides in a very short period of time recently, and Jessica and her book have been a very big part of that. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is suffering. I even think just having it in your home will bring you toward greater healing. It is truly magical.

xo,

Hayley


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