Balanced Bites Podcast | Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe

Podcast Episode #213: The Loving Diet (for autoimmunity) with Jessica Flanigan

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TopicsBalanced Bites Podcast | Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe
1. Updates from Diane [1:54] 2. Introducing our guest, Jessica Flanigan [3:18] 3. Jessica’s take on the autoimmune protocol [12:02] 4. Practical tips for balancing self love with autoimmunity [22:20] 5. Elimination diets and history of disordered eating [28:48] 6. Dealing with the anger and rebellion of “cheating” [32:42] 7. Benefiting from your illness [41:19] 8. Balancing restriction with the tendency to binge [44:03] 9. Dealing with unsupportive spouse/family [52:02] 10. Doing “everything right” but the mindset isn’t there [55:00] [smart_track_player url=”″ title=”#213: The Loving Diet (for autoimmunity) with Jessica Flanigan ” artist=”Diane Sanfilippo ” color=”00AEEF” social=”true” social_twitter=”true” social_facebook=”true” social_gplus=”true” ]

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Balance Bites: Episode #213: Podcast Episode #213: The Loving Diet (for autoimmunity) with Jessica Flanigan

You’re listening to the Balanced Bites podcast episode 213.

Welcome to the Balanced Bites podcast with Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe. Diane is a certified nutrition consultant, and the New York Times bestselling author of Practical Paleo, The 21-Day Sugar Detox, and co-author of Mediterranean Paleo Cooking. Liz is a nutritional therapy practitioner, and the best-selling author of Eat the Yolks and The Purely Primal Skincare Guide. Together, Diane and Liz answer your questions, interview leading health and wellness experts, and share their take on modern paleo living with their friendly and balanced approach. Remember our disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only, and are not to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Diane Sanfilippo: Hey everyone! Welcome back to another episode of the Balanced Bites podcast. Before we get into my interview today with Jessica Flanigan, who I know you guys are going to, not only love but learn so much from, let’s hear a word from one of our sponsors.

Liz Wolfe: Our podcast sponsorship today comes from Vital Choice, an online purveyor of the world’s best wild seafood delivered right to your door; because juggling a busy life doesn’t mean you should have to forgo healthy meals. At, you’ll find wild Alaskan salmon, halibut, tuna, sable fish, and cod, as well as prawns, crab, and scallops. You’ll also find grass-fed organic Wagyu beef, free range heritage chicken, fresh frozen organic berries, and dark organic chocolates. Make a vital choice by eating the highest quality food you can. Vital Choice; come home to real food.

1. Updates from Diane [1:54]

Diane Sanfilippo: Hey guys. Before we get into this weeks’ interview with Jessica Flanigan, I have one update to give everybody to make sure that nobody misses out on this opportunity because it is only open for a limited time right now. So until Tuesday, October 20th; so if you’re listening to this when it first airs on October 15th or thereabouts, you have just a few days left. If you’ve been interested in becoming a 21-Day Sugar Detox certified coach, the program will be open for enrollment through Tuesday, October 20th. We also have our first live call on that evening.

Now, if you for some reason can’t make that call, we record it, no problem, we take your questions ahead of time. We’ll also answer any questions you have after. But if you have questions about the program itself, anything about joining or what’s involved, make sure you visit We also have a Facebook group called the 21-Day Sugar Detox Coaches Program, and that is an interest group. So you can feel free to go ahead and ask to join that, we’ll answer all of your questions there, you don’t have to worry that you’re signing up for anything; that is just an interest group. We have folks in there who have just enrolled in the program, as well as folks who are just curious about what’s going on.

So that’s all I have for you; let’s get into my interview.

2. Introducing our guest, Jessica Flanigan [3:18]

Diane Sanfilippo: Jessica has been clinical nutritionist for 17 years. As a leader in the autoimmune paleo movement for over 2 years, she devotes her professional time to those with autoimmune disease. Her very popular website,, is an extensive resource for mind, body, and AIP recipe options that start from a place of wholeness. She also hosts a podcast called Love and Heal.

Her training and expertise goes far beyond nutritional training; tradition nutritional training, and is now sought out for training professionals to incorporate loving mindfulness into their clinical practices through developing skills of loving and presence inside of themselves. Jessica’s personal professional practice is loving. Through loving we are all able to be present in that place, healing and health can come forward in a clear and profound way. This is the surest path to joy, healing, and honoring the continual unfolding of our life story before us. I love that!

I just want to read my quote, because when I saw your book; well, like the draft of your book, months and months ago, for the first time, I remember being really sort of, I don’t know if taken back is the right way to say it, but just; like, wow, this is what we really need right now for this community. So here was the quote that I had given you for the book, and I think that our listeners would really appreciate hearing this.

“In The Loving Diet, Jessica has taken a topic that is typically handled in a very clinical way, and has treated it with care and compassion. The way we think, feel, and believe our lives to be is so often at the core of what it becomes. Of course, healing from autoimmune disease is a multifaceted approach, with nutrition and lifestyle as key factors, but Jessica takes it further. In this book, you’ll learn that finding peace with your situation and loving what is are pivotal elements to that healing.”

Welcome to the show Jessica!

Jessica Flanigan: High Diane, thanks for having me. I’m super excited. Balanced Bites Podcast | Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe

Diane Sanfilippo: I’m so glad to have you here. You’re my neighbor to the north? Are you north of us here in San Francisco?

Jessica Flanigan: I am, I’m in Petaluma just about 30 minutes north.

Diane Sanfilippo: Awesome. Well, welcome. I’m really excited to talk to you. I think our listeners are going to get so much from this conversation. I just know that you have so much to offer them in terms of perspective and just a different way of thinking about things. This is stuff that Liz and I talk about a lot, but we are not people who have practice around AIP and autoimmunity in terms of a specific niche; that wasn’t something that either of us really took on as a hardcore niche, and I would love for you to tell people a little bit about your story, and your background, and kind of how you got to doing this work.

Jessica Flanigan: Well I’ve been a clinical nutritionist for a while, and I have an identical twin sister. And she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and celiac. And when she got that diagnosis, she came to me and said, we’re identical twins, so you have a probable chance, a 75% chance of carrying the same genes. So we found a version of the autoimmune paleo diet on Datis Kharrazian’s website so that was our first foray into it, two and a half years ago. And when she went on the autoimmune paleo diet, along with doing her own meditation and mindfulness practices, and also supplements, she dropped her antibodies in half within 6 weeks.

So, I decided to go on the diet as a preventative measure, and started extending that, offering that kind of coaching to my clients and people with autoimmune disease, it happens that there’s a lot of people with it. So people started finding me, and I created a business out of it, which has been awesome.

You know, I wanted to say that the reason why I created the Loving Diet specifically; if I could just share one small story, which I feel like sums up why I do what I do, and why I wrote the book. I was at a retreat that I was doing, an autoimmune paleo loving diet retreat, and all of the people who came had autoimmune disease, and we were going around the circle, and we were just saying, why are you here, what motivated you to make a change in your life through diet supplements or how you think. And there was this one lady who was there who, for all practical purposes could have been a super model. She’s drop dead gorgeous, mother of 5 kids, just you would never look at her and think that anything was wrong. She was the funniest person in the room, and she was sharing about why she was there.

She said I am here because joy died inside of me from my autoimmune disease. And I just, it stopped me. I’m like, this is so many people feel, they have a loss of something in their life that is beyond changing their diet and beyond taking supplements. As soon as she said that, it struck me so deeply that that is a reason to keep going deeper beyond diets and supplements, and how can I show this person how they can get joy back in their life, that they feel like autoimmune disease robbed them. So I wrote the book, The Loving Diet, to help people in a different way.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think that’s so powerful, and I think that was what really came through for me when I looked at the book, because I felt like there is so much clinical information. Like you said; there’s so much prescriptive; do this, don’t do that, so many don’ts, and I feel like people needed to get back some do’s, in a sense, and some just encouragement and softness around it.

Jessica Flanigan: Really. It’s one of the secret sauces, because by the time people find me, my normal client is someone who has been on AIP for over a year, they feel better but they’re not feeling as good as they hoped, and a lot of people are down to like 10 or 15 foods. And the mentality is, is a doing process. Which is, oh if I just get more strict with my diet, I’m going to heal. Oh, if I just get more strict with my supplements, I’m going to heal. If I get more strict with finding the perfect practitioner, I’m going to heal.

So I looked at that, and I’m like; that can’t be the way for healing. So I thought; what’s the biggest thing that we have in the world, that all religions have an affinity to; everyone seems to want more in their life, and that’s love. And I just thought, what if it was about us believing that we’re worth our own healing. What if we got really big and instead of being so structured and taking more and more away from our life to find healing, what if we got so big that everything was a part of the journey that we do for healing.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think I have goose bumps. I think that perspective is just one that is missing the most from the whole autoimmune bubble and world. I see so many people; I even recently saw a review of my book, of Practical Paleo, where I have notes on every recipe about how to remove things, or change it for following autoimmune, or if you’re not eating nightshades, etc. And someone was just kind of angry that it wasn’t more specific for autoimmune. And I get that. I get when you're feeling like there’s so little you can eat, you just want a book that you can eat everything in it; but the bottom line is, there’s almost never going to be a book like that for anyone, because then when you give someone a book that excludes all “autoimmune friendly foods”, what about FODMAPs? What about something else that I’m already allergic to. You know, it’s almost like there’s never something perfect for everyone except the emotional side and the mental emotional side of how we can change our thoughts and change our life around that. And I think just moving away from so much that’s prescriptive in that way.

3. Jessica’s take on the autoimmune protocol [12:02]

Diane Sanfilippo: I mean, I know that you are going to obviously still be talking about food and choices about food and things like that. Why don’t you tell people a little bit about what your; let’s talk a little bit about your nutritional approach to autoimmune diet, or a way to eat with autoimmunity, but let’s talk about where that may differ from a lot of perspectives that people have already heard just all over the place in the paleosphere, including from myself, perhaps.

Jessica Flanigan: Well I do agree, you’re right on, at least professionally, your philosophy and my philosophy are aligned in that regard, that there is no one diet and autoimmune paleo is really helpful. But I see that and all diets just to be a starting place for personalization.

You know, my motto of the book is, the relationship to your disease is the cure. And so if you start in that place, and you ask yourself; right now, just anyone who is listening, what is my relationship to Hashimoto’s? And they just answer that, then often that same relationship can be applied to their practitioner and their supplements and their diet. And so if your relationship to Hashimoto’s is, all I feel like is I’m failing here, and then you start a diet, whatever diet it is, customized or not customized from that perspective, it’s going to color how life shows up for you.

So in some regards, you get really expansive and big; which is I trust myself, I trust that I can do this healing journey, then the diet just sort of becomes the P.S. You know; it’s just the thing that you do. Your orientation to your life and your disease is the starting place, and then everything else tends to work itself out. At least I’ve seen that to be true with my crowd. When they change the relationship to their disease, then often they will stop reacting to foods. Often in a matter of weeks they’ll go from 10 AIP foods to 30 AIP foods.

Often, when they change that relationship from a fear or a hostility to acceptance and cooperation, which doesn’t mean they have to like their disease. It just means, I’m going to take a different perspective here that there’s going to be some answers for me. I’m going to cooperate with what’s present. Then often times, something new will pop into their life. Like a new kind of food sensitivity testing or a new set of recipes, or friends on the same journey. It’s almost like when their relationship to their own life changes, then life itself changes. Which is really cool, because then you become more happy because there are more resources.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think that’s the natural thing that happens with almost any struggle that people have. When you soften a little bit, you allow a different awareness to come into your life, and those resources were actually there, kind of all along or those people were always there, but the way that they show up, or the way that the resources show up, the way you may be; it’s kind of like {laughs} this is a crazy analogy, but I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience, or anybody listening has, but you don’t have any idea that there are mattress stores all over your town until you start looking to buy a mattress. Because people don’t do it that often, and you literally drive past them and have no idea that they’re even there. But then one day, you’re looking for a mattress and your outlook; {laughs} and this is a really, just bear with me on this analogy.

I actually think there’s a word for this shift in awareness and shift in perception that happens together, but essentially when you shift how you think, and if you’re looking for something different, then that thing appears but it was always there. You know? It’s like this other set of recipes, this other blogger has been blogging for years, but all of a sudden you found their site because you shifted. Your energy shifted from being angry and closed off to being open and softened a little bit.

I think one of the things that I think you're saying also is, instead of looking at this list of foods that you're supposed to eat that don’t include as many foods as maybe you’d like; instead of looking at that as a limitation, looking at it almost as a key to a little bit of freedom, in a sense, so this is empowerment and freedom. I can eat these foods and see how I feel. I get to do this, this is a choice. Maybe flipping it around to the empowerment side of saying; if I do this, I’m empowering myself to have some say in how my body feels and pay attention to that, and respond to that, and change and shift based on how my body responds to that.

Jessica Flanigan: It’s such a great way to look at it, definitely. And you know, it’s interesting too because when we look at love and genetics, and autoimmune being genetics, that I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Heart Math Institute, but they’re in northern California, and they’ve started to do studies about how love and tension and epigenetics and DNA are all affected. They all can go together. And just by people having an intention, but taking the perspective that I’m going to use my life to work for me and not against me, or I’m going to take illness and take it from a stumbling block and make it into a stepping stone, just by; we’re talking about practical things, so those are two practical things people can do today.

But what science is showing is that that kind of intention, that kind of intentionality can actually change the helix of DNA and how we heal DNA and how DNA represents itself as far as the end result of being a disease. So science is starting to take a very deep look at what we think about our life can actually affect our genes. And that’s why I love the idea that, do the diet, get enough sleep, reduce your stress; but then there’s this other, deeper piece that you can look at which is; what is the intention of your life. Oftentimes when we change the intention of our life, our body and our biology can shift in response to that.

And that’s also the other thing about the Loving Diet that I love, is that that’s free medicine. {laughs} So I help my clients now, when we work together, we always start in that place too. Because sometimes, there’s events that can happen in people’s lives that can promote a belief about safety. And it’s normal, because we all have hard things happen to us, because we’re human beings. But sometimes, those kinds of believes start consciously. Like, my mother didn’t think I was going to result as anything. Or I was in a car accident, or you had some kind of abuse.

So those kinds of experiences start out as a conscious thought, because we have to make sense of them. Like you get fired from a job, and, oh I’m not worthy. So that conscious belief, if we don’t do anything to it, eventually it goes over into the unconscious, and it really can color the way that we live out our life, which is “I’m not worthy.” So if you think that, it’s going to affect your autonomic nervous system, and we can see now that we have people who are sympathetic dominant, which has a down regulation affect on the vagus nerve, for instance, and that’s really related to SIBO.

A lot of it comes from this one experience that we’ve had, and when we use intentionality, which is “I’m going to have my life work for me and not against me,” then often times, even just the nature of bringing forward that idea or that believe that we have in making in conscious, just by saying; oh! I believe that and that’s a belief I don’t want anymore in my life. That will just automatically release it, and then we can move forward, and healing rushes in.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think that’s; I have some very close friends throughout my life who I can see that that would be so true, that there’s an experience, there’s words that have come to them from close friends or family, negative words or negative emotions kind of put towards them or really intense experiences or struggles that have caused almost this rooted thought pattern around; not just a negativity, but yeah, this feeling of maybe not being 100% worthy of love, even though they may not be totally aware of that. Like on that subconscious level they feel that and that affects their constitution in a way that is so confusing to people. It’s like, they’re doing everything right in the practical sense; from the outside, when you see what they’re eating, the way they’re trying to live and all these things, and yet there’s something so much deeper that, as you said, is causing someone’s nervous system to basically be sympathetic all the time, meaning fight or flight.

I think everybody knows somebody who is kind of like that, almost that person has this sense of a heightened reactiveness all the time. Even if it’s not angry, it’s just that, like they vibrate. You know? It’s like you’re in a space with them, and you’re like that energy is up here, and I need it down here. That’s just how that person’s energy is, but in a way that’s; I don’t know {laughs} I’m thinking about people I can give this book to, and be like, even if you don’t have autoimmunity, I think there are people who could really benefit from the way that this approach can just change the way they think about everything.

4. Practical tips for balancing self love with autoimmunity [22:20]

Diane Sanfilippo: So, what are some practical tips? We have so many questions. People responded hugely on Instagram and Facebook; I just posted a picture of the book, and we’re getting so many questions about some of your practical tips, maybe if you want to pick either some highlight from what you talk about in the book, or just three or four things that are just really practical tangible things people can do to help strike that balance, or help get themselves to that place of a calmer, more loving understanding or relationship with their body and their disease and what’s happening.

Jessica Flanigan: Yeah, because it’s not something; this goes really far beyond stress reduction. It goes into the journey that people are taking, that their souls are taking.

So here are some tools; one is, just right now, decide that you’re going to trust your life. So I’m totally into fake it until you make it person, and so even if that feels weird. Take a post it pad; I put this in the book, my favorite place to put a post it is in my medicine cabinet, because when people brush their teeth, it’s like ,what are you doing? Looking in the mirror {laughs} thinking about emails. So post something, when you brush your teeth, as an affirmation. So create some core affirmations that you can just keep saying.

And I will tell you that, for the last 6 years, I have used these affirmations and sometimes in my darkest moments, it’s the only thing I can remember. Which is; ok, it doesn’t feel like I can trust my life right now, but I’m just going to keep saying. That’s the first thing; I trust my journey, I trust my life, I trust that there’s something here about this chronic illness that’s going to add to my life and not take away. I’m going to just trust that my journey is tailor made for me, and that it’s based on wholeness. That’s the first thing; just make a decision, even if you have to fake it until you make it, then go ahead and do that. But just use intention.

The second thing is that, you can sit in a quiet place, and you can think about going to times that maybe you felt like you were struggling in your life, or big things happened that were hard to understand, or maybe you made up a belief. So what I do is, I go back to that time, and I imagine who I was then, and how scared I felt, and how there were no answers, and I couldn’t understand why it was happening. And I go back from my present self now, and I just go back and I talk to her, and I give her words of wisdom, which is; “you’re going to get through this. You’re worthy. You are whole. I’m going to love you. Even though it felt like this person did this thing, and that hurt or it was mean, I’m going to love you.”

Because I feel like that’s really what we’re doing when we go into chronic illnesses, we’re having an experience of remembering that we’re worth our own loving, and we’re remembering that we’re worth our own healing. So that’s the beautiful flip side to going through that struggle. You’re uncovering a deeper part of yourself that knows that it can go through a hard time, and love ourselves while we’re going through a hard time.

I practice that a lot too; like I went to the dentist a couple of weeks ago, and I had to get this scary thing checked out. She thought I had a cancer in my jawbone. So I started to do what I ask all my clients to do, which was, I was very tender with myself. I let myself be upset and sad. I took extra time out to talk and reassure myself that I could trust this experience and that there was something in it; even though I didn’t understand what it might be, but that there was some wisdom about it. So I’m just constantly working in the place of reframing struggle and difficulty and suffering, because that’s the part about autoimmune disease. We can’t really heal it; we can go into remission. So, I tell my clients; well, if we can’t heal it, and we can go into remission, then let’s use it as a constant friend that’s a steady stream of information about how to improve our life.

So I think those are some good tips, just to get everyone started. And I tell all my clients, too. I am going to believe in you until you believe in you. Because I see healing happen so often now when people use, like a multisystem approach through diet, supplements, the right practitioner, and really loving themselves struggling or going through a hard time. All those three things together, I’ve seen people rapidly start getting better.

And it’s not that multiple sclerosis is going to heal; but when we take a look at the relationship to the disease is the cure, then we create a different relationship to our suffering. So the suffering might not go away, it might not change as much as we want it to, but we’ve created a different relationship to it. So we can find joy in the midst of struggle and physical discomfort.

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5. Elimination diets and history of disordered eating [28:48]

Diane Sanfilippo: Awesome. I love that. We have so many questions here, I’m going to try and get to some more of them, because there are quite a few. It looks like a bunch of women kind of all echo each other on this question. Jessica is asking, “How do you strike the balance of loving yourself and trying to heal your body from decades of damage.” She says, “For instance, it seems like I should try an elimination diet to find foods that don’t agree with me, but a history of disordered eating and those types of challenges can be triggers when they go to eliminate certain foods.

I actually think that they are quite a number of women who are dealing with that, where they’re honestly trying to balance needing potentially to change their diet, and I don’t like the word restrictive, but almost having to restrict it from certain foods to help heal. But also that restrictive eating can be a trigger for them. Is there information or words of advice that you have around that?

Jessica Flanigan: Well, from a physiological standpoint, I really like Cyrex Lab panel 10, which s a food reactivity panel, and it tests IgG and IgA, and so I’m starting to suggest that. There’s a lot of controversy in the autoimmune paleo world and the paleo world about food sensitivity testing, and I personally really like their test, because I feel like they do two standards of deviation, and they clean their ELISA plates differently, so just as a practical sense, I am starting to recommend that people just take that test. Because often times, there are AIP foods that people are having sensitivities to, like lettuce. So that will continue to spark an inflammatory response.

But then, then other side of that is, then they might get a sense of relief of like; oh, I know actually I can eat that food. If eggs aren’t bothering you, then why remove them? Or if you’re not having an inflammatory response to them. So, from practical side, I feel like that has helped a lot of people.

Elimination and challenge diets are great, but they can be really hard, especially if you’re not having a strong enough IgG response. You know, you get a mild headache, and you’re like; oh, was that mild headache lettuce, or was that mild headache PMS? So it can get tricky to discern between the two.

As far as the mind/body approach is, we have a pressure of; I’m successful if I heal quickly, I’m successful if I have positive thinking; I’m successful if I get my combination just right and my antibody levels drop in half, like I was talking about with my sister. The whole goal of you finding joy, putting joy back in your life, is that the whole of you doing the journey of illness, you’ve already crossed the finish line. I see people get caught in positive thinking; where they say, well if I don’t think positive, then I’m failing health. And so what I do is I reel it back, and I get really big, which is you doing and trying and loving while you're doing chronic illness is the secret. It’s loving you while you're struggling.

Because while you love you while you're struggling, then you don’t discount the anger, you don’t discount some days you have really bad days; you don’t discount that sometimes you cheat on your diet. You love the whole kit and kaboodle. And that in itself is a healing gesture. And that can line up our biology and our epigenetics to usher in healing.

6. Dealing with the anger and rebellion of “cheating” [32:42]

Diane Sanfilippo: What about people who struggle with loving themselves and going through the journey of, maybe not sticking with what they feel like they “should be” eating because they’re angry, or because they feel; just that they feel angry and they feel like, I’m so over it, being limited, but then it causes this other problem of, now I feel guilty and mad at myself for eating those foods. Right?

Jessica Flanigan: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Like, there’s this cycle that happens with people. I think a few people are asking this in different ways, but it’s like; they have this list, even if it is from a test or whatever, and it’s like, ok here’s what I should be eating. But they just don’t, for whatever reason, because they feel in the moment like they want to rebel and not have to be stuck doing whatever it is, and then they’re not even feeling good about that, you know what I mean? They end up feeling disappointed in themselves or angry with themselves for getting off track for X amount of time and not contributing to what they feel is the best way for them to approach it. Does that make sense?

Jessica Flanigan: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: That cycle that might happen?

Jessica Flanigan: So, if anger is the place where they would start, so anger is the primary emotion, and then the guilt comes next, right? In the way that you were sort of posing that question. Which is, I feel angry because it’s the way this is right now.

So, there’s a couple of different ways to approach it. One is that you can work with the anger. What is anger here; does it have a message for me? Is there something about the way that I’m living my life that is causing me to feel angry? Are there relationships in my life that are causing me to be angry? Am I upset about the entire setup of my life; I’m living in a place I don’t want to live, I’m in a relationship that I don’t want to be in, I don’t have the career that I want.

So usually I tend to go a little bit bigger, and talk about, where’s this anger coming from? What is it trying to tell you? Instead of it being more about the diet, or the supplements, or “I’m not strict enough about my diet.” So I tend to go macro when those things come up. Oftentimes we find out that there’s bigger believes that are behind the anger; which is, I feel like god forgot about me. I feel like god is not with me on this healing journey. I feel like, no matter where I turn, I’m not going to get answers. I feel like I’m not lovable from my partner.

So when anger happens, I tend to go a little bit bigger, and look at where are the places that anger is trying to; it holds a message for us. And so then the diet and the supplements and the practitioners, those tend to be a little bit further down the river. So I go up river.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think that you totally just hit the nail on the head, and I bet everyone listening who feels like they’ve been in that place is like, she’s talking to me right now. And what I’m hearing you say on another level, which without these exact words is, anger in this situation; and I think in a lot of situations, actually, if you think about what makes people angry. It tends to be that they feel that they’re not in control of something, or that they’re a victim, or that they’re helpless or unsupported in some way. If you think about where anger comes from; if you just think about an argument with somebody, you know; why are you angry. Generally it’s spurring from you feeling like that person didn’t take your feelings into consideration; they did something; somehow you have become a victim. Somehow you have become out of control, or someone has afflicted something upon you, and that tends to cause that anger when something just doesn’t go your way. And that’s where I think that mindset really is coming from a lot of the time.

And you know, in this situation, it’s not so farfetched that somebody would have that feeling, you know? That feeling initially of, why me? Why is this happening to me? But I think what you’re saying is, that’s staying in that place. I don’t know; I guess in my practical terms, it’s unproductive to stay there.

Jessica Flanigan: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Because feeling that and allowing yourself to stay there and just being ok with yourself. You’re saying getting bigger than that, and being like, ok I’m going to observe that emotion, and now I’m going to do something with it. I feel like that’s really helpful for people, like what you’re saying about that. Like, ok, observe it. {laughs} It’ alright it’s there, you’re allowed to feel that. But now let’s dissect it, and really see where it’s coming from. Because it’s not always coming from the disease; I think it’s coming from that loss of power somehow.

Jessica Flanigan: Yes. And you know, that’s a great point. Anger is not productive. But a lot of times, when we look at anger that’s holding on, it’s because we haven’t paid attention to it. And often times, when you just take the time to appreciate it, pay attention, and find out what it has to say, then it will dissolve and you can be on your merry little way. So that’s the cool thing; if something keeps coming up over and over again, like relationships in your life aren’t working, pay attention to that. It’s the whole idea that we have to do positive thinking; there’s nothing wrong with positive thinking. But when we repress anger in our efforts to think positive because we’re trying to heal our bodies, it won’t work.

And if you take another macro look at this, which is anger then helps us to understand about ourselves, that we’re worthy of wonderful love. That we’re worthy of a career that really lights us on fire, and makes us excited to get up every day. Anger was how we remembered that. Because we took the time to believe ourselves worthy to listen to everything inside of ourselves. So that’s how we can move from a place of anger to a place of healing; listen, accept it, participate with it, and often there will be big radical shifts in how we live our life. And that was what anger was here to do; is to be a teacher to us.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s so good. I love that. That is so good.

Jessica Flanigan: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. Oh. What you said about the anger kind of forming to help you learn that you're worthy of something different than whatever kind of came your way; so let’s say it was an argument with a person and it made you angry, or someone did something that made you angry, I think part of that, yeah part of what I was thinking about, if somebody feels helpless or unsupported or unloved, or that they were a victim, but what you're saying is kind of the balance of that too. Like, maybe they really weren’t loved and they deserve it. And that was really {laughs} I don’t know, that was good. I liked that. That was really good.

Jessica Flanigan: Yeah, use everything to lift. Everything. So we’re like; oh you're successful, so I’m going to use that to lift. Or oh, you’re beautiful. We use all the good things. But then when really bad things happen; oh, I’m so sorry, you’re in a wheelchair with your MS, or I’m so sorry you have cancer. Those are profound opportunities that we can use to transform our life to learn really wonderful things about ourselves, which is; at the whole of everything, we are whole. And we are worthy. So anger, resentment, suffering, all of those things are here to help us understand that. Then we can use every single thing in our life as education.

7. Benefiting from your illness [41:19]

Diane Sanfilippo: I know that you talk about the power of someone’s illness in their life; what do you want to tell people about how that works. The power that they give their illness, and the impact that that has on their life and how you want them to think about it.

Jessica Flanigan: What I say in response to that is, define yourself by the loving of your illness instead of your illness. Again, that doesn’t mean that we have to be friends with multiple sclerosis. It means that there’s an opportunity here to use multiple sclerosis for our benefit. So when we look at the power that illness has, we can make a decision and an intention that we’re going to use our illness as powerful tools to learn about ourselves, to grow, to accept, and to widen the space in our heart from which we love ourselves struggling and going through hard times.

So then I feel like that shifts the power from, we’re having to do illness, to we’re a person who’s having an experience, and one of our experiences is illness. But that’s just one experience that we have .and when we make loving, and the love inside of ourselves, that we can go through hard things, that will change the power illness has over us. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the illness is going to be cured, or that it will change. But I feel like when you get loving inside of yourself, you’re cooperating with what’s present.

Sometimes that can be scary, though, because then people say; oh, well doesn’t that mean that I’m giving MS all the control over my life. And it doesn’t, because what you’re doing is you're just giving it some stage time, and letting it get up to the microphone in your life. Which is; do you guys have something to tell me? Ok I’m listening. For right now, I’m going to stop fighting you, and I’m just going to see if you have anything that you need to tell me.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Jessica Flanigan: And that changes and shifts.

Diane Sanfilippo: I’m going to let you talk, but I got something to say first. {laughs} Sorry, it’s just like, all I’m picturing is a little Kanye West breaking in and grabbing the mic and being like; I have to tell you this, alright. {laughs} This is my random pop culture reference.

I think that’s so valid. It’s got something to say, let it teach you something, but don’t let it run the whole conference, basically, of your life.

Jessica Flanigan: Right.

8. Balancing restriction with the tendency to binge [44:03]

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. Alright, we have a few more questions here. This one is actually; I feel like it’s kind of similar to what we were talking about before, where you mentioned about the food allergy testing and how that can help people who were feeling like the way they’re “supposed to eat” for whatever illness they’re trying to deal with, that can really help illuminate some things, and I think that was a really good point. That as much as sometimes we feel like food allergy testing may or may not be always the best way, I think for some people it can soften things a little, because it can allow you to see; ok, eggs actually are not a problem for you. You should keep eating them, what have you.

But this one is about how can I strike the balance; this one is from, oh I don’t know how to say her name. “How can I strike the balance between wanting to nourish my body with healthful foods, and not promoting binging tendencies by feeling like I’m restricting myself, or overrestricting.” So this is, again, the balance of a little bit of some disordered eating that might come into play, but also the restrictions that may come from a nutritional approach where somebody is told; don’t eat these foods.

Jessica Flanigan: Ok, so the nutritionist hat on, it would be that if you’re looking at the, you want to nourish your body, there’s multiple ways to make that consideration. Which is, make sure that there’s not something that’s precipitating leaky gut; coinfections. I see just in almost everybody with autoimmune disease. So clear up the coinfections; get the hypothalamic pituitary axis working again, and pay attention to the brain, increased digestion. Going way above just normal eat healthy.

But then, if I put on my loving hat, I would say that there is a part of you, and she’s called the person who binges, and she wants to be your friend. And you keep pushing her away, because you’ve made her wrong because you don’t like the result of what happens when you binge. And I’m just wondering if, for a moment, you were to give her some compassion. That the part of you who is wanting to binge would like to hold your hand, and she would like to tell you some things, and that spending some time loving her might get you out of her who is trying to get your attention by repeatedly giving you the binging tendencies.

So instead of running away from her; the binging part of her, I would say, let’s pull her closer. Let’s make her a part of our special group. Let’s give her some stage time. Let’s go in and see if there is something in live that she was told that is ready to be resolved; like I’m not worthy of healing, or love forgot about me.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s so good. {laughs}

Jessica Flanigan: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: I’m picturing this happening where; it is almost like this separate person, because I feel like when this situation comes up that something happens, like a binge, it is almost like someone else takes over. It’s like women, we have our “normal selves”, and then; that has definitely happened in my life. I feel like I don’t think it’s been to a point that maybe some women have struggled with, but I’ve definitely had it happen. And what you’re describing is totally spot on in terms of what helps to shed light on why it’s happening. What is the feeling that’s really behind it?

It’s kind of like what I talked about with Alex Jameson a few weeks ago, we talked about cravings and things like that, and the emotions that are behind the actions that we don’t want to listen to those initial emotions, but then we will listen to the emotions of shame, and guilt, and being angry with ourselves if we did go through, for example, that binge. Or did just eat the things we “weren’t supposed to eat”. So it’s like we allow the guilt, and the anger, and the shame to have the stage, but we never allowed the binge; the emotion behind that binge to have the stage.

Jessica Flanigan: Uh-huh.

Diane Sanfilippo: Whatever that emotion was.

Jessica Flanigan: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: Does that make sense? {laughs} I feel like, I’m actually like, you’re saying it and I’m picture it, and I’m picturing someone who is about to go through that. Whether it’s, I’m so tired of being told not to eat these foods and I’m just going to eat them, and feeling like; who is that person who is feeling so angry and wanting to be rebellious that she’s not being heard. So now she’s just going to start screaming. {laughs} You know?

Jessica Flanigan: Yeah. Here’s a great analogy. Let’s say the lady who is binging; let’s say 90% of her doesn’t binge, but 10% of her does. And she’s trying to science her way out; which is, I’m going to do anything I can to figure out how to kick the binger out of the situation because I don’t like what happens when I binge. And so she’s only loving 90% of herself. So there’s this 10% piece, which is like; wait. It’s still part of her.

So as we try; and I see this happening a lot in autoimmune paleo; we try to science our way out, and we’re like, ok I’m just going to get more strict. I’m just going to get super serious about my healing here. I’m going to cut everything out, and the only thing I’m going to do is think positive thoughts, and get 8 hours of sleep, and I’m going to eat 15 foods, and gosh darn it {laughs} this is going to be it.

So when you look at her; what if she incorporated love, accepted 100% of her? That would mean that the part of her that was binging is included in that equation. So it pulls in a different skill set when you consider; ok, I’m scared if I pay attention to the binging part of me, because that’s going to give the binging part more power. And what I’m suggesting is, that when you pay attention to the very part of you that you claim think has this idea that isn’t working, it will actually move you through the difficulty faster. And the binging part doesn’t need to be there anymore, because you got the message. You got the memo.

So she’s like; ok, everybody understands this now. This is what my binging is here to say. And a lot of times, it just resolves itself.

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9. Dealing with unsupportive spouse/family [52:02]

Diane Sanfilippo: So, I think this might be one of the last questions, and again, I think this one is probably echoed by a few people who posted questions. But what about someone who gets to a place where, they are feeling really good about a lot of what you're saying. They’re with you, and they’re making these changes, and getting to this place of loving themselves and all of that; but they’re dealing with either a spouse who either isn’t very understanding, or perhaps is not as supportive. The struggle there, or even just other family members or friends who are kind of adding to the complexity of how difficult this can be to handle. What about that type of situation?

Jessica Flanigan: That’s hard, because a lot of times when people start shifting and growing, it can be uncomfortable for people around them. And I always use that as a skill to build my internal resources. So we all understand what it’s like when people don’t understand or they feel confused, or they feel scared. So I show them as much compassion as I show myself. So I do it both ways. I increase the compassion inside myself that I don’t understand why I’m not getting the help and support; and then I also use it as a message of; ok, well this is just another message that is helping me understand that I can do this. This is a journey of my heart.

I work with a team of people, my own team who speak this language, so I have found that that helps a lot. When you have a spouse that doesn’t understand, there are people out there that you can get on board on your team who can speak the language that can help you deepen this process. And that might be a good way to take the pressure off of friends and spouses, and build the team of people who can help you deepen this process that you're going to do inside yourself.

Because you know; my daughter is not paleo. {laughs} And none of my family is paleo. And so when I go out and do things with them, I look at it is; instead of, oh there’s nothing I’m going to be able to eat, or I’m not going to be able to talk about what’s happening in my life, then I use it as a way to; oh, well I’m just going to go to that place inside myself and widen that container, that I know I’m ok struggling here. I’m not going to have a really great dinner tonight, but that’s ok. I know that I’m going to be able to be compassionate, even though they don’t understand.

10. Doing “everything right” but the mindset isn’t there [55:00]

Diane Sanfilippo: So, I think this is probably our last question, and again another one that really has been echoed by a lot of people. “What recommendations or starting point would you give to somebody who has seemingly tried everything; can’t seem to get past the beginning stage of healing anything, when all different takes on diet; elimination, Candida, AIP, etc., have been unsuccessfully tried and self love is an issue as well as finding a balance to not succumb to disordered eating,” which we’ve talked about a whole bunch now, “will diet always be unsuccessful if the mindset isn’t healthy and healed? What are realistic things the average person with limited resources can do?”

So I think this is really like, so many people, I’m sure we’ve both seen this. There are so many ways to kind of come at these different illnesses, and every practitioner you see tends to have a different; oh, I think it’s always this, or I think it’s always that. When people are feeling unsuccessful, and they’re not sure that their mindset is there, is that where you come to first? You have to get your mindset straight first, or do you feel like there’s a way that they can work in conjunction? How do you normally take that approach? I mean, I know you said you’ll be loving them until they’re loving themselves, but what if this is a journey they need to take on their own, and not have a practitioner help with.

Jessica Flanigan: Gosh that’s such a great question. You know, salvation, what we consider to be salvation; salvation, healing, love, everyone has their own way that it can come into form. So for some people, maybe taking high doses of vitamin C is going to get them to the loving place. And for some people, doing strict autoimmune paleo might get them to the place.

My crowd is perfect performers. So 90% of my practice are people who have been doing perfect autoimmune paleo, they’re 5 doctors in, and there is something about them being stuck that has woken them up to something bigger that is an opportunity. So those are the people that tend to schedule appointments with me. Which was; gosh, there’s this bigger conversation I could be having about my illness, and my doctor’s aren’t having it, and my nutritionists aren’t having it, and the autoimmune paleo crowd is not having it, and that is: What can I learn from my experience?

One of my most favorite ways, if you feel ultra stuck right now, is this exercise I call it talking to the blob. And it’s like the ice breaker. And what it does; it’s in my book, and it’s a simple visualization where you can; it doesn’t matter where you’re at in your life. What you’ve been through, what you haven’t been through. You just sit in a quiet place, and you imagine your illness sitting on the other side of the room as a blob or however; I like a blob because it tends to not be super scary, and you start asking the blob questions, imaging it being your disease. They can be very simple questions; where do I go from here? What are you asking of my life? What are the gifts you’re going to give me? How can I find the people who are going to help? What am I doing now that I can change?

So all of that comes back to the other theme I was talking about, which is intention. So right there, just by posing different kinds of questions that maybe you haven’t specifically asked your illness and your life, can start giving answers, starting a different conversation. And sometimes even just that simple way of starting a different conversation can usher in a whole new area of healing.

Diane Sanfilippo: I love this interview. {laughs}

Jessica Flanigan: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: So much. I think this is something that so many of our listeners really needed to hear. I love your energy, you have just this really; it’s like, we’ve actually met in person, more than once I think, right?

Jessica Flanigan: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: And Jessica has this, I don’t even know how to best describe it. But it’s like a warm and happy bubbly personality, but it’s like a calm bubbly. {laughs}

Jessica Flanigan: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: And it’s just very sweet and nurturing but also very wise and thoughtful. So I just, I really like you, and I really like your energy, and I really like what you’re putting out into the world, and I’m really glad that we had the chance to talk about this to our listeners. So thank you for joining me today.

Jessica Flanigan: Thank you so much, Diane. I sit in honor of the work you’re doing, and allowing this idea that there’s more that people can do. So thank you for asking me to be on. And thank you for writing the blurb to my book. It got put on the front cover.

Diane Sanfilippo: You know, I didn’t even notice that until I went; I looked at the back, and I was like, oh there’s the quote that I wrote. Then I flipped it around to take the picture to post on Instagram; I was like, I didn’t even realize {laughs} it was on the cover. That was; I think that’s the first time anybody’s done that, so that makes me feel special. So thank you.

Jessica Flanigan: Thank you.

Diane Sanfilippo: Alright you guys, that’s it for this week. I loved this show so much. Find out more about Jessica at The Loving Diet is for sale now. I know you can get it on Amazon, and I’m sure you’ll be able to find it at bookstores near you. But I would always call a bookstore ahead of time before you go in; same with any book. You just never know what’s on the shelves. You can find me at and Liz at Don’t forget to join our email lists for free goodies and updates you don’t find anywhere else on our websites or even on the podcast. While you’re on the internet, leave us an iTunes review. We’ll see you next week.

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