We recently had a chance to chat with author and certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner Mickey Trescott, author of the best-selling book, The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, co-host of The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast, creator of the video cooking program AIP Batch Cook, and cofounder of Autoimmune Paleo. She’s also co-author of the newly-released Autoimmune Wellness Handbook, a comprehensive guide to living healthfully with autoimmune disease. Our Q&A with Mickey is below and we think you’ll enjoy it. Like many of us, her journey to wellness after her Hashimoto’s diagnosis wasn’t an easy road, nor was it a straight one.
Your food-as-medicine journey began early on with your discovery that cutting dairy essentially cured your asthma. How do you think that influenced your approach to health and wellness moving forward, for better or worse?
When I discovered Veganism, I had been eating a Standard American Diet and so when my asthma disappeared it gave me a lot of validation that the way I was eating was the right way to eat. I was able to run for the first time in my life! Because of the change I saw in myself I became very dogmatic and strict, really pushing the limits of the Vegan diet.
So when I got sick it was a long, difficult transition because I really believed eating meat was bad for me. It took me a long time to accept that eating animal products would be part of my recovery. Even after I started the Autoimmune Protocol and was eating Paleo, I didn’t want to identify as Paleo because that felt as dogmatic as Veganism had been.
The experience of exploring different diets was what inspired me to get a nutrition certification. The Autoimmune Protocol changed my life in a big way but I didn’t want to be back in a place where I was dogmatically telling people they had to eat this way and this way only to be healthy. So studying nutrition and realizing that everyone has a different ideal diet has really informed what I teach. My goal is helping people figure out the best foods to support their health.
Approached that way, the Autoimmune Protocol isn’t extreme. Some people I know eat dairy, some eat eggs, and others don’t. It’s not restrictive for restriction’s sake but rather very flexible, and if my Vegan background taught me anything it’s that you need to be open minded about food. A big range of changes can work for different people, and I never want to shut that down.
Transitioning from Vegan to Paleo wasn’t a minor change but ultimately it was a necessary one after your Hashimoto’s diagnosis. What kinds of feelings did you experience moving away from a Vegan path?
I was really afraid at first because I’d been given a lot of misinformation about how meat is digested, and I was especially reluctant to eat red meat. But I was at a point where I was so debilitated I couldn’t even get out of bed and there were no avenues left to explore. Ultimately, I was desperate to feel better and willing to give it a try, and when I started to eat meat the changes in me were so obvious.
I actually felt warm for the first time in months. There was color in my cheeks. I had energy! All the fear and the feeling that I was betraying what I believed just vanished. My own health wasn’t worth sacrificing, and I realized I didn’t have to go against my values. Then and now I make sure I’m eating meat that comes from animals raised in a sustainable and ethical way.
Your journey from extreme illness to wellness has been a harrowing journey. Did that inspire your desire to help other people dealing with chronic illness achieve wellness?
My professional background included working as a personal chef and working with food. When I got too sick to work, I spend nine months thinking about what I was going to do when I got better. My first thought was that I wanted to go back to cooking for one person or family because that was the best job I ever had. The only problem was that personal chef jobs are hard to find.
Then it occurred to me that I had had this amazing transformative experience with food and I could start a blog. I began sharing my experiences with food as medicine and recipes that had worked for me, and there was this huge overwhelming response from people who had heard about the Autoimmune Protocol and were searching for recipes. There was so much traffic I started thinking about writing an ebook of recipes and I enrolled in a nutrition program.
Really, I wanted to cover all my bases – help people online or maybe go back to work working with people with health problems, and become a nutritionist. I did go back to work cooking for a family with children with special needs who had to eat a very particular diet. And I wrote the ebook, which attracted so much attention that I realized it needed to be a print book.
I think of my path as organic, me moving from step to step, and finding success helping people along the way.
How did you connect with Angie, your cofounder at Autoimmune Paleo?
When I started my blog I found just five other women doing the Autoimmune Protocol and writing about it online. Angie was one of them, and the six of us began supporting each other and eventually became friends. Five of us are still out there with blogs and ebooks – I consider us the founders of an online movement that has exploded because there was really a need.
That said, Autoimmune Paleo has grown slowly but the response we get is amazing. Our model is super heavy on giving people information for free because our mission is to share the details of the elimination diet and recipes so people who need to can get started whether they can buy a book or not. We don’t want to hold people back; we want to help them heal. And our followers are overwhelmed with gratitude because they can’t believe we’re just giving away all of this information for free, but we want them to feel better and to tell their friends that this works. It’s the best marketing there is!
We really believe in being a part of this revolution surrounding how those who are sick manage their autoimmune diseases and how doctors approach them – we’re changing the system from the bottom up by educating and empowering people.
What advice would you give someone who has found Autoimmune Paleo for the first time and isn’t sure where to start?
The first thing they can do is sign up for the email list. That will get them the quick start series, which is an introduction to all of the resources available on the website. The second thing they should do, if they can, is buy a copy of The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook – it’s literally everything Angie and I wish we’d known when we started this journey.
For anyone who is out there suffering, it’s a gentle and encouraging guide to all the steps we lay out in our other materials organized in a way that’s not at all overwhelming. The Internet can be an amazing source of information but it’s endless and there’s too much information to take in sometimes. Angie and I have spent the past two years taking everything we’ve learned and turning it into a resource that is literally handbook. It’s very practical, it’s upbeat, and it’s there when you need it. I hope it helps a lot of people!
Are you in NYC? Join Hashimoto’s Awareness cofounder Fabienne on November 5 at Hu’s Kitchen for a discussion and Q&A with Mickey and Angie, plus a book signing and AIP compliant meal. Tickets are available here!