Tips for Planning a Wedding while healing your Autoimmune Disease

Tips for planning a wedding with an autoimmune disease

 

1.       Cut your guest list

This is a hard one because I’m sure there are soooooooo many people you love.  It’s a no brainer, though. More people means bigger party, means more money, means more planning, means more stress. Do yourself a favor and cut back. 

My husband and I made a rule that NO ONE was invited to our party unless the other had met the person (we had to make an exception for his relatives in Israel and Australia, but that was IT). We likely hurt some people’s feelings, which totally sucks, but if your partner hasn’t met someone, how important are they REALLY in your adult life? Plus, if you haven’t seen someone in over five years, you’re going to want to catch up with them. Weddings aren’t the best place for that because you’re being pulled in a million directions. Trust me, your old pal will likely understand, especially if they’ve planned a wedding before. 

 

 

2.       Don’t go dress shopping in the middle of your elimination phase (unless you plan to be on that diet up until you get married)

OOPS.  In January 2017 I started a SIBO diet. That meant no sugar, low carb, and low starch, which caused serious weight loss. I got skinny AF and it just so happened that was the only time my sister could come to Denver and go dress shopping with me. OOPS. We found a beautiful secondhand dress that was a bit over budget, but GORGEOUS… so I bought it. OOPS. Once I was feeling better, I started stress eating a lot of gluten-free food, particularly pizza (I LOVE YOU, PIZZERIA LOCALE).  OOPS.

I went to get my dress fitted about 3 months out and it was uncomfortably tight. The friends who came with me told me it looked great, though, so I stuck with it. I assumed I would be able to work out a couple times a week and get the dress to fit comfortably again, so I left it at the seamstress until my next fitting.

Fast forward to two weeks before my wedding. I brought one of my no bullshit friends with me to see the dress. When I walked out of the fitting room, my boobs (which had grown QUITE a bit) were popping out of the dress. The zipper would come undone a little bit when I moved, and I was really uncomfortable. I looked in the mirror and burst into tears  saying, “MY DAD CAN’T SEE ME LIKE THIS. LOOK AT MY BOOBS!” My friend looked at me, told the seamstress we were leaving, and drove me to the closest David’s Bridal to try on dresses for the next two hours. I cried the whole way there. 

3.       Stick to your protocol

Do your best to stick to your protocol while you’re in the midst of planning. Don’t get super stressed, yell out YOLO, and start guzzling down a Costco size pack of M&Ms. Not worth it. Make an effort to eat a well balanced, nutrient-dense diet that will support your body during the upcoming busy, stressful days. 

When everyone is in town and you’re celebrating you can let loose a little bit, but do your best to get back on track as quickly as possible. I personally ended up suffering for quite some time (bloating, depression, major fatigue, hemorrhoids) after I binge drank my wedding week away and ate a ton of gluten-free pizza and refined sugar, and hardly slept because of the spike in adrenaline. Did I survive? You betcha. Did I suffer? Much more than I needed to. My advice to you is know your limits and stay within them. If I could do it over again, I would definitely try to adhere to a paleo diet  until my wedding night and then immediately after.

If you don’t want to feel like shit, try to plan a paleo wedding. We opted for pizza because we had it on our first date and it has always, always been my favorite food. Most catering companies are willing to create whatever menu you want. You can also plan on having sugar-free mixed drinks and lots of Lacroix or San Pellegrino available.  That way, if you can’t drink alcohol, the bartender can still make you a cute little mocktail.

4.       Don’t go crazy with decorations and tiny details

The key to planning a wedding with an autoimmune disease is to SIMPLIFY. Consider opting for an outdoor wedding. Scenery is decoration enough so you won’t have to go crazy making the space look beautiful. The only decorations we had at our wedding were a couple signs, table assignments,  some bud vases on the main tables and bar, and a little collage of photos we had taken throughout the years. This required WAY less planning, organizing, and ultimately caused less stress.  REMEMBER: the majority of the people attending your wedding are NOT going to care how it looks. They just want to spend time with you and celebrate your love. If people judge you, that reflects poorly on their life, not on yours. Eff 'em!

5.       ASK/PAY FOR HELP

I guarantee you have friends who are musicians, artists, master crafters, and master organizers. All of those will come in handy as you plan your wedding. Don’t feel weird about asking them to help because chances are they will want to be part of your special day. Here’s what we got help with:

Graphic Design: I am fortunate that one of my best friends in the whole world also happens to be a very talented graphic designer (check her out here). She was a freaking ROCK STAR at putting together programs, menus, hand painting signs and escort cards, and giving me general design direction. She’s brilliant.

Photography: One of my other good friends (Ahlia Photo)  took flippin' gorgeous engagement shots and was a second shooter at our wedding (we wanted her to be able to party with us so we asked her not to take photos after the ceremony). It was nice that we didn’t have to stand around awkwardly with a photographer we weren't familiar with and be the center of attention. Since we love her (and she’s one of the most zen people around) she helped keep us calm and relaxed throughout the process. 

Music: We used an iPod to DJ our wedding (it guaranteed we wouldn’t have to do the chicken dance or the cupid shuffle and saved us about 1k). Some of our friends helped us pick out songs and pressed “play” for big moments like our first dance (so much pressure!). She nailed it and we are eternally grateful to her that there wasn’t a long silence before we awkwardly danced in front of everyone we love.

Bridesmaid Dresses: In order to make my life easier, I sent my bridesmaids a paint swatch with the color dress I wanted them to wear and they all picked out their own. That took the pressure off me to find a dress that fit everyone’s body and budget. Pro-tip: send this color early and make sure you have a deadline 2 months before you actually want everyone to have their dress.

Wedding Coordinating: We also hired a day-of wedding planner. She helped corral the deliveries, caterers, wait staff, photographers, family, bartenders, handed out tips at the end of the night, packed up all our decorations, etc. (pro-tip, if a coordinator says her assistant will be running your wedding, make sure you meet with that assistant to see if it's a good fit before you sign a contract). She made sure the night ran smoothly so that my husband and I didn’t have to worry about any of that.

I wouldn't recommend the company we used, but if you’re looking for someone fantastic in the Denver area, I recommend Courtney at The Day Of.   I’ve worked with her on other events (she was a guest at our wedding so she didn’t do coordinating for us that day) and she is a bundle of professional, organized, joy and really has her shit together (like gives everyone working on your wedding a schedule broken down into 5-15 minute increments so everything runs well).

6.       It doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to be yours

Your wedding does not need to be Pinterest perfect. I repeat, your wedding does not need to be Pinterest perfect. Practice letting go of this weird societal pressure to have an elaborate, expensive looking wedding and embrace what’s important…  that you and your partner are making vows to love and support each other for the rest of your lives, surrounded by people who have always been there for you.  Try to plan something that feels authentic to who you are as a couple because that will make decisions a lot easier. 

I strongly suggest you make a list of the things that are most important to you about a wedding. This isn’t a list with “my flowers are gorgeous.” This list should include the spiritual components of your wedding like:

-marrying my best friend

-being surrounded by people I love

-dancing and having fun

 -celebrating community

Keep this list handy at all times. If you start getting wrapped up in the materialistic components of wedding planning, look at your list. Take some deep breaths. Close your eyes and imagine yourself having a blast doing all the things that are on there. That’s what matters.

 

Tips for planning a wedding with an autoimmune disease

7.       Before you start planning, get stress reduction action plan together.

Stress can be a huge trigger for many of us with autoimmune disease. Check in with yourself regularly. If you find you’re feeling overwhelmed (which, like 99.9% of you will be at some point during the planning process), follow the action plan you set up for yourself before you start doing anything else. Those actions can include:

-taking a mental health day from work (if you are privileged enough to be able to do that)

-take a bath

-do yoga

-go on a walk

-cook a delicious meal

-hug someone (get their consent first….)

-meditate

… or anything else that calms you down and brings you joy. Many cities have donation-based yoga and meditation classes if you can’t afford (me!) a regular membership or a $15-$20 drop-in fee.  

That’s it! Those are the things I learned from planning my wedding with an autoimmune disease. It’s hard to balance your health and planning for one of the biggest events of your life, but I have the utmost faith that you’ll be able to pull this off. Keep your chin up!

 

TIPS FOR PLANNING A WEDDING WITH AN AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE
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TIPS FOR PLANNING A WEDDING WITH AN AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE
Tips to plan a wedding with an autoimmune disease
Tips for planning a wedding with an autoimmune disease
Tips to plan a wedding with an autoimmune disease
Tips for planning a wedding with an autoimmune disease
How to plan a wedding with an autoimmune disease
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How to Determine Which Foods Are Causing You Inflammation?

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HOW DID YOU FIGURE OUT WHAT FOODS ARE CAUSING AN INFLAMMATORY RESPONSE? I AM BECOMING AFRAID OF FOOD. I FEEL LIKE IT'S HURTING ME EVERY TIME I EAT. I'Ve BEEN TRYING TO STAY AWAY FROM GLUTEN AND DAIRY, BUT EVEN THEN I WAkE UP AT 4 AM EVERY DAY WITH A WRENCHING PAIN IN MY RIBS, LIKE SOMETHING IS PISSING MY GUTS OFF.

I WAS DIAGNOSED WITH SJOGREN'S SYNDROME A FEW YEARS AGO, AND IT'S SO FRUSTRATING THAT EVERY TIME YOU VISIT A DOCTOR TALKING ABOUT THE PAIN, THEY JUST WANT TO GIVE YOU MORE PILLS. I'M FINALLY DELVING INTO THE INSTAGRAM COMMUNITY WITH AIP PAGES DIPPING MY TOES IN. TOO MUCH INFORMATION SCARES ME SO I'VE BEEN AVOIDING IT.

UGH, HAVING A LOW-ENERGY, HIGH-PAIN DAY AND THOUGHT I'D FINALLY REACH OUT TO SOMEONE.

Dear Afraid of Food,

I'm sorry to know you're struggling with a flare up right now. Food should be medicine, not something you fear. I know it can be hard to navigate our conventional healthcare system where there's a pill to answer every ailment, only to cause others down the line. It sounds like you're coming around to the idea that a holistic approach could work for you, and I think that's awesome! While I believe it is the best way, it certainly isn't the easiest. Here are the steps I recommend you take to determine which foods are triggering your flare. 

1. Find a functional doctor and holistic nutritionist near you.  It helps to have the support of a medical team to run the right labs and get to the root of what's causing your disease.  If you're looking for a list of these, you can find Nutritional Therapy Practitioners and Consultants by going to www.nutritionaltherapy.com/directory/map. You can also check out Autoimmune Wellness' resource page to find support groups in your area. I found my healthcare squad through joining one of these groups and getting recommendations from local AIPers. 

2. I recognize nutritionists and functional docs aren't in the budget for everyone.  Plus, some people are so traumatized from seeing conventional medical providers that they may need time before stepping back in a doctor's office (been there!). When that happened to me, I got Mickey's book, Autoimmune Paleo. She lays out the AIP diet with SUPER SIMPLE, delicious recipes, and it’s way less overwhelming than cruising the internet. It guides you in eliminating potential triggers until you're feeling better, then helps you add them back in one at a time to see if you have reactions. This diet is a serious commitment, but I found it to be the best way to determine foods that were problematic to me. The good news about the AIP diet is that it isn't meant to last forever. People typically do it 3-12 months before they start reintroducing. 

3. While AIP is a great place to start, some of us still had symptoms on it after 3-6 months. If that’s the case with you, it’s imperative you connect with a functional doc to figure out what else could be going on (for me it was SIBO and Candida from a decade of a processed vegan/vegetarian diet). 

It hurts my heart to know you've been feeling afraid of food lately. I love this quote by Heather Morgan, "Every time you eat or drink you're either feeding disease or fighting it." You can absolutely find the foods that have been feeding your Sjogren's Syndrome, but it's going to take some serious dedication. One thing I like to do on a monthly basis is write down the reasons WHY I choose to stick to my diet and lifestyle changes. For you, it could be "I want more energy, I don't want to be afraid of food, I don't want to be on pills for the rest of my life." Put that in a place you'll see it every day or keep it in your pocket and take a peek at it when chocolate chip cookies start to tempt you. 

You are not in this fight alone, lady! There are tons of autoimmune warriors in this battle with you. If any readers have additional suggestions for how Afraid of Food can determine which foods cause inflammation, please share your tips in the comments.

Love,

Whitney

 

*******I am not a doctor. This is what worked for me on my healing journey. If you feel you need immediate attention, please schedule an appointment with your medical providor********

How Do I have a Social Life With Low Energy?

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I’m finding it hard to make social plans because my energy is so unpredictable, and it’s usually lower than I expect at some point during the day. I’ve just been avoiding making any plans at all, for fear of needing to cancel - which was happening a lot. I also don’t know how to make new friends for the same reason...how do you ever make plans without explaining what you’re going through? I’m a private person and don’t want to share my diagnosis as the reason I’m not like everyone else right now.


Dear Seeking a Social Life,

I can totally relate. I wouldn't leave the house when I was first diagnosed with my autoimmune disease. I never knew when I would go into what I call "zombie" mode with glazed over eyes and trouble keeping up with conversation. Here are a few things I've implemented to help me stay social and make new friends:

 

1. Meet with a nutritionist and functional doctor to start feeling better

I was on the Autoimmune Paleo Diet for close to three months before I started seeing my healthcare practitioners. They were impressed that I knew so much about leaky gut and surprised to find my inflammation and antibodies were still quite high. I stayed on the diet a while longer but my fatigue and bloating weren't going away. We decided to test for SIBO and that has been the single most beneficial thing I've done since starting my healing journey. Kicking SIBO's butt helped me get my energy back and allowed me to start hanging out with my friends again. I'm not saying you have SIBO, but if you're feeling chronically fatigued a functional doc and nutritionist can help you get to the root cause. 

2. Be honest with people about where you're at

I know you said you're uncomfortable sharing your personal life with people. Part of creating deep, honest friendships is being vulnerable with others and sharing our gloomy parts. Your friends are less likely to be pissed about your last minute cancellation if you say something along the lines of "I really want to hang out with you, but my autoimmune disease is kicking my ass today. Would it be possible for us to reschedule?" or "Hey, I know I've been canceling our plans a lot lately. I would love to hang out with you but I'm really struggling to find energy to leave the house today. Would you be down to watch a movie on the couch with me and drink tea?" If you have cool friends, they aren't going to pitch a fit about how unreliable you are. They'll understand that you're struggling and want to be there for you. 

3. Connect with others who have autoimmune diseases

You know you'll have things in common, right? I've used Instagram and Facebook as a way to make new friends who understand my struggle. I started by joining an Autoimmune Paleo Facebook Support Group in Denver. See if there's one in your area by going to the Autoimmune Community page on Autoimmune Wellness. My local chapter plans monthly potlucks. If you don't see a support group in your city, consider creating one. I've also connected with several people interested in holistic health by sending them a message on Instagram. I've met with a couple people for coffee and picked up the phone to chat with people across the country. One of them has been my go-to gal with all things related to Candida. I'll never forget when I texted her to see if she suffered from "itching" and she's like "are you talking girl parts?" YES, YES I WAS TALKING GIRL PARTS! Thank god I didn't have to explain that to her. Now we text all the time about business, blogging and nutrition. 

4. Get over needing to please people

I understand not wanting to cancel on people, I truly do. I get stressed about the stress I know comes with doing things that overwhelm me, and then about how people will feel when I cancel on them. It can get so bad that I end up sobbing and feeling sorry for myself. Why didn't I just say no to begin with? Because I wanted people to feel like I was a good friend or that I was normal. Guess what? I don't identify as normal. I'm a 30-year-old woman who shows up to the party with kombucha and goes to bed before most 5th graders. How 'bout them apples?

I love the saying "you can't pour from an empty cup." If you want to be a good friend to others you have to start by being a good friend to your body. Listen to it! Draw it baths, give it supplements, feed it nourishing meals, and sleep when it asks you to sleep. Part of healing our autoimmune disease is softening our approach towards ourselves, accepting where we're at on our journey, and putting our healing first. If people don't want to invite you places because of that, fuck 'em. I promise you'll find your people. Start by taking care of yourself and shifting your mindset. You've got this. 

Love,

Whitney