As people bump along through intro (because really, bumping along is what it is), we tend to become frustrated at points. At times we feel we’re doing “one step forward, two steps back” as we discover reactions to foods. Die-off alone can trigger major fatigue; add to that the massive learning curve and focus involved, and we can feel like obsessed zombies for stretches of time. At points, we consider giving up. We wonder, “Is it worth it? Will there even be results? Am I throwing time, energy, effort and money down the drain?”
In the Twelve Step community of recovery, a phrase used is “progress not perfection”. It applies well here, and in a couple of ways.
First, if we veer from the program, all is not lost. After sustaining an injury during intro, Jo needed to weigh out whether pain or painkillers would have a deeper impact on her body. She opted for painkillers, and worried whether these would undo the gains brought through intro. Before their turn, I snagged a handful of unsoaked cashews and gobbled them up. I was really sad about the misstep, somewhat disappointed in myself. Annie felt the need to omit a number of Stage 2 & 3 preparations and move on to some from Stage 4. At two months in, Kim is still experiencing pre-menstrual symptoms while noting that my own disappeared very early on.
Need any of us fret? Not at all. As a total perfectionist in some areas, I truly understand the desire to do things just so and, perfectionistic or not, certainly we all want maximum results for our incredible intro efforts! What’s important to focus on is progress.
Because intro brings up so much -fatigue, frustration, unavoidable mistakes, avoidable misteps, an unmasking of reactions not previously obvious (see GAPS Guide page 57)- it is sometimes hard to see the forest for these prickly trees. We can lose sight of the fact that our bodies are undergoing an incredible and profound healing, even while frustrating reactions arise. Because the body is undertaking this healing in waves and layers, we experience the light in glimpses. Nicola Ann is newly experiencing a racing heart and significant fears, among other issues, but also reports that the whites of her eyes are holding white vs yellow, her urine test is finally normal, redness and blisters on the skin are gone, she is so far experiencing no pre-menstrual acne, and she’s able to move around better than she has in a long, long time.
While after his first day of healing my son slept through the night for his first time ever, and while he spoke his first-ever sentence on the third day, and while he showed other miraculous turnarounds within the first week, his stools were all over the map for several months and every time he was offered the fruit he so craved he began screaming at the top of his lungs and lunging about. Scary! I initially put a lot of effort into tracing the cause of the stool changes -eggs? almond flour?- and ultimately let it go. I mean, my son could now talk, bathe, toilet, have his hair and teeth brushed… I finally focused on the forest and let the trees go. Over time, the stools became consistently fine and my son was also able to have fruit with no change in his countenance.
Ultimately, no human will experience perfect health. Children doing GAPS have an excellent chance of becoming fully healthy. However, they will still tantrum some days, they will still wake in the night at times, they will still get the flu and vomit all over themselves. Adults doing GAPS also have an excellent chance of becoming very healthy. We’ll not necessarily, though, develop the boundless energy of children, if we’re inherently introverts we’ll remain introverts, and we may be far more vulnerable than our children to the effects of non-GAPS foods. The idea of GAPS is not to become invincible, perfect, powerhouses. The idea of GAPS is to support the body back to effective digestion -and assimilation and use- of key materials so that we can enjoy very good health. It’s possible that we could tweak endlessly for even better results, but I think there’s a point that we need to apply the 80/20 rule. ie. It can be wise to apply a good go of energy (“20%”) to achieve excellence (“80%”). After that point, we’re in danger of shifting to applying 80% energy to achieve an additional 20% gain. Sometimes, it’s okay to say, “Enough.” We can say, “You know what, we started out with all these issues, and we’ve had these gains. We’re going to coast here for awhile and enjoy, and if more healing comes, or if one day we’re inspired to make another couple of major changes we will. But for now we’re going to focus on how far we’ve come.” And, so long as we carry on with our general course, the healing will continue to unfold, slowly but surely.
What might the 20/80 look like in GAPS? It might look like largely eating the program as outlined, but also: ingesting three tablespoons of nut butter every few days even though it makes us crabby; including beloved spinach in the family’s meatballs even though one member has gas afterwards; eating an abundance of GAPS treats on a child’s birthday party two months into healing, experiencing splitting headaches the next day, but remembering the event with smiles anyway.
Perhaps one day we’ll commit to eliminating nuts for two weeks before retesting them, or opt to replace the spinach with kale, or focus on activities vs food for the next party. Maybe. And maybe not. Regardless, we’ve in the meantime introduced fermented fish or home-fermented vegetables, and/or are having a serving of marrow soup each day and/or have replaced rice with grated caulflower and… It’s all stuff we weren’t doing four weeks or two years ago!
Progress not perfection.
- Before starting GAPS or intro (or now with your best recall), list the symptoms you are (or were) experiencing. On days of frustration, or when you wander from the program and wonder if it’s “worth it”, review your list.
- As you proceed with the program, be mindful that many people experience a healing of symptoms they didn’t even really know they had! ie. After two months on the program, you find your feet no longer hurt. For the previous three years you’d been so caught up in the awful psoraisis that you didn’t even realize your feet were also screaming! As you discover surprise healings, add the old symptoms to your list.
- If ever in doubt, return to your previous diet for a month. After one month, determine whether you had in fact been experiencing progress.