My Personal Battles with Stress

February 2, 2015 in Categories: , , by

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This has been a hard post to write.  It has always been important to me to be honest with you about my own challenges and successes, but when things aren’t going well, it’s hard to strike a balance between sharing my struggles and not sounding like a whiny ungrateful brat.

I’m actually doing so much (much, much) better now than I was, which I think allows me to write this post in a more mature and reflective way. I have shared most of this as bits and pieces in my newsletters and previous posts, but it’s time for a good long update.  In fact, it’s passed time.

Book Twins-ssmThe truth is that the last year and a half have been super tough for me healthwise.  I have really struggled with both my physical and emotional health as the result of high stress.  Primarily, my complaints have been gaining weight, fatigue, joint pain and some tendonitis, mild depression, and active lichen planus lesions. And the source of of those health problems has been the stress of writing (illustrating and photographing) and publishing two books back-to-back, both bestsellers and award-winning; continuing to be active on social media;  co-hosting a top-rated podcast every week; traveling for book signings, conferences and seminars; doing interviews and online conferences; launching a consulting company and generally running a small business (this blog); and working on a super secret super huge project (more on that below)–all while also trying to be an engaged mother, living far away from family (and thus help and support), and with a husband who has his own high-powered career to worry about.   That’s why it was so hard to talk about my health struggles:  because the reason for them is this amazing opportunity and privilege to be a mentor and educator for millions of people.

It’s hard to be honest about what this spectacular career has done to my health while still emphasizing just how much I appreciate all of it.  And I really do.  And while it’s definitely been a learning experience, I don’t regret a moment of it.

So, today I’m playing catch-up a little.  I’ve had the tendency to downplay my health struggles, while also attempting to continue to share them.  It’s been a hard balance to strike.  So, today, I want to be honest with you about how doing all the things I’m doing has affected me.  I often get asked “how do you do it all?” and the short answer is “I can’t.”.

The reason for this post is that it was brought to my attention that my recent diagnosis of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis has allowed some people to doubt the therapeutic potential of the autoimmune protocol and the recommendations in The Paleo Approach.  It makes me so angry that my philosophy on sharing with you that I’m a real person, who lives a fairly average life, who has real and common challenges to overcome, that wearing my heart on my sleeve and connecting with all of you, that this could undermine my credibility as a science writer or educator or mentor.  It scares me that my honesty gives naysayers more momentum to dissuade people from taking control of their health and seeing the kinds of amazing success that I’ve experienced (because despite my health struggles, I have been extremely successful managing my health with diet and lifestyle) and that hundreds of thousands of other people have experienced on the Paleo diet and the autoimmune protocol.

Most of the big bloggers/authors don’t share the ebb and flow of their own health battles with their fans.  It’s a marketing decision, because personal struggles can be seen as proof that even the most rigorously-proven diet and lifestyle recommendations are somehow faulty.  Someone who writes a weight loss book doesn’t want to confess to gaining 10 pounds even if the cause of it was something completely out of their control like injury or illness.  It’s the same with Paleo and Alternative Health bloggers. There’s a careful filter over what gets shared with you.

I am privileged to know what goes on behind the scenes, and it’s not my place to share personal information about other bloggers and authors with you.  But, I can generalize a few things.  Writing a book is one of the most strenuous and stressful tasks one can undertake.  Health issues/crashes/crises during or following publishing a book are extremely common.  And of course, I’m no exception.  In fact, between having an undiagnosed underlining autoimmune condition while writing two very big books back-to-back, I definitely was impacted on the more severe end of the spectrum (but far from the worst of everyone I know!).  My kind of health battles do not make me unique and certainly reflect the stress of a high-powered career rather than the validity of the autoimmune protocol.

Because health is not just about food.

I am going to quote myself, from page 144 in The Paleo Approach:  “If you do not manage stress, it will completely undermine all the other positive changes you make. ”   Yes, I wrote those insightful words about two years ago, just when my own stress level was kicked into high gear.  If fact, the importance of stress management is discussed in three chapters in The Paleo Approach and was summarized in this post from last weekAnd the irony is that stress has been my major obstacle to better health for almost 2 years.

I know it’s hard for people who have never written a book to understand the process.  Perhaps the easiest way to explain it is just the sheer amount of work it is. For 22 months straight, I worked 70-80-hour weeks, while trying my best to only work while my kids were at school or asleep.  And the first year, my youngest was home with me full-time.  During that time, I also traveled for conferences and seminars.  Once The Paleo Approach was published, I traveled for book signings two weekends a month.  Every trip took time away from the other tasks I had on my plate.  I had real, firm deadlines which meant late nights and skipping out on exercise to get more work done. I also had the pressure of “getting it right”:  writing books designed to guide people with chronic illness to regain their health is intensely psychologically stressful.  Being wrong could mean someone’s life.  So, there was a lot of double and triple checking, all of which I had to do myself due to the technical nature of The Paleo Approach.  I am definitely a perfectionist, but that’s a good thing to be when writing a book like this.

IMG_4893The detriments to my health crept up on me.  At first, my body seemed to tolerate the later bedtime, the lack of downtime in the evenings, fewer walks and yoga classes.  Sure, I was relying on caffeine in the morning more, and maybe I was a bit quicker to snap at a kid, but it seemed tolerable.  I kept this pace going for more than six months before the effects started to accumulate.

And then it started to get to me.  My weight started creeping up in May/June 2013.  I was needing more caffeine in the morning to get me going but enjoying these wonderful second winds at night (terrible indicator of adrenal and hormonal health, but handy for working).  I started yelling.  When I’d realize that I was yelling for no good reason, I’d start crying.  There was a lot of strain on my marriage.  My kids still talk about the time that I sat in my youngest daughter’s bed and just cried and hugged them and apologized over and over again through blubbering sobs for an hour.

IMG_6698I hit this point where any additional stress just threw me over the ledge.  If I burned the broccoli (which started happening more and more frequently), I’d either start yelling while throwing the pot into the sink, or I’d sink to the floor and cry, feeling powerless.  I had frequent arguments with my husband, and there was lots of “when this [expletive deleted] book is done” talk.

And yet, I always felt like I was hanging on, albeit by a thread… I felt like I was handling the stress and even though things were tough, it was okay.  I was mostly just living in denial.  Survival mode.

There were times where things were a bit better.  When I first got my treadmill desk, I felt so much better.  When summer hit, and I was outside more, that boosted my mood.  When my manuscript first went to the editor, I had a much-needed break while I waited for her feedback.  But with all the ups and downs, each down was a little more than each up.

And then, we hit a crisis point in June 2013:  my publisher and I realized that the book that I was writing was too big to bind.  The original all-in-one book that I had intended on writing needed to be turned into The Paleo Approach and The Paleo Approach Cookbook.  And, we discovered that there was no way we’d meet the deadlines so the publication date was pushed back.  It was a PR nightmare.  Fans who followed me closely were excited to be getting a huge sciency guidebook.  Many, many people felt ripped off that they would have to wait for the recipes.  I was inundated with requests for free books from people who pre-ordered before the project became two books.  Many others were just confused.   The book stayed in the Amazon cookbook categories (The Paleo Approach is still listed as a cookbook on Amazon, which my publisher and I have no ability to change!), and confused even more people once it was released.

And right on its heels we hit a second crisis point:  we couldn’t find a medical illustrator who could do the illustrations I wanted for The Paleo Approach.  The only solution was for me to do them myself.  This would mean a further delay in publication, another PR challenge, and a whole lot more work for me.  I didn’t have an assistant until this point:  just when I was starting in on the over 40 technical illustrations that I did for The Paleo Approach while also editing the 250,000 word manuscript (a tedious job even with a professional editor).  Given that I now have 4 employees, it’s hard for me to even remember back then, when I was working so much on the book, trying to keep up with blog posts, replying to all the blog comments, every Facebook wall post, emails from fans, and generally trying to continue to grow my social media presence.  Worst, all the illustrating meant hours and hours of work that could only be done sitting down.  My treadmill desk started gathering dust, as did my workout clothes.

This was when the weight gain became noticeable.  I was having more sugar cravings, and found myself eating in the evenings to keep myself awake while I worked.  I couldn’t take time off.  Not even a single day off.  If I took an evening off to go to bed early or spend some time with my husband, then I’d pay for it with an even longer and more stressful To Do list the next day.  Every spare minute was spent working.  By the last couple months of getting The Paleo Approach ready to be printed, I was nearly completely sedentary and getting several hours less sleep every single night than what I needed.  I relied on caffeine and huge amounts of fruit and Paleo-friendly treats to keep me going.  I was starting to experience joint pain that would come and go.  My moods were erratic.  And I’d gained 15 pounds.

IMG_1461I still felt like I was surviving.  If you asked me how it was going, I’d say “tough, but the light is at the end of the tunnel”.  I believe that my clean nutrient-dense diet is actually what kept the wheels on the cart.  I managed all this without any medications or supplements.  Plus, I found the work that I was doing incredibly rewarding.  It felt like I had finally figured out what I am meant to do.  I was loving how The Paleo Approach was coming together and that kept me going.  I was enjoying beginning to being viewed as a thought-leader in the Paleo community.   My talk at the Ancestral Health Symposium in August 2013 got so much attention, and established me as an important voice in the community.  It felt good to be successful.  It felt good to make a difference in people’s lives.

IMG_6805The morning after The Paleo Approach went to the printer in early December 2013, I woke up with pneumonia.  I had infection after infection for the next 6 weeks.  I was exhausted and slept all the time.  I hired a second assistant to help share the burden of maintaining the blog and social media sites.  We delayed the release of The Paleo Approach Cookbook so that I could recover for a while before diving into finishing it.  I focused on activity, got back to some yoga classes and started taking strength classes with my husband.  And I put more effort into quality time with my kids.  I had until this point thought that once I was sleeping and more active, my health would bounce back.  I figured my super nutrient-dense diet would continue to protect me.   But my health didn’t bounce back.  And that was scary.

A third-degree burn which first got infected and then had me suffering a systemic allergic reaction to the antibiotics didn’t help either.  There’s absolutely no scar now, but it’s hard to forget the drama of those few months in early 2014.  Broad-spectrum antibiotics and prednisone were not what my body needed to heal.

IMG_3469And then an amazing thing happened:  I found out about Dr. Lynn Flowers, a local functional medicine MD with a passion for Paleo.  We did a bunch of testing and found out that I had complete adrenal burnout and hormone imbalances (see this post on why those go together).  I had high markers of inflammation.  I started on supplements, and felt better immediately.  In fact, I’m absolutely certain that working with Dr. Flowers is what kept me together while I finished The Paleo Approach Cookbook.

At this point, I also started traveling more.  Traveling more meant more risky meals in restaurants, including accidental nightshade, gluten and dairy exposures (all foods that really, really don’t work for me).  It meant jet lag, and late nights, and then more stressful weeks either preparing to travel or catching up from travel.  But I managed. Mostly.

IMG_6080I even started CrossFit in the Spring of 2014, which was a tremendous stress relief and seemed to give me more energy rather than take it away.  I saw myself gain strength, even if the scale didn’t budge, and my moods began to improve again.  Maybe at this point, the ups were bigger than the downs.

And then it was the last few stressful weeks of another book.  I finished The Paleo Approach Cookbook while traveling alone with my kids, getting ready for my brother’s wedding (my daughters and I were all in the wedding party so there were lots of responsibilities), and looking after my mother who was ill at the time.  If I thought the final weeks of finishing The Paleo Approach were rough, this was ten times worse.  My hair started falling out, which should have been a major clue that the stress was impacting my thyroid, but I blamed it on hormones.

IMG_5682But, I didn’t wake up the next day with pneumonia.  I held on.  In part, I held on because my diet was dialed in and I was more active than when I finished the first book.  And in part, I held on out of sheer willpower.  I went straight from sending The Paleo Approach Cookbook off to the printer to filming a television pilot.  In fact, I had been working on the pilot (I co-created and co-produced it, meaning I had my hands in every single aspect of the show) already for months.  Yes, as if publishing two books last year wasn’t enough, I took on this third monumental task.  I can’t tell you more about this right now, but there’s a big announcement coming in the very, very near future.

I took a 2-month break from traveling, after finishing The Paleo Approach Cookbook.  After finishing filming the pilot, I focused more time on looking after myself.  The news that The Paleo Approach made the New York Times Bestseller list was the best medicine.  But then the traveling started again.  My schedule started to fill up with interviews.   A documentary team came to my home and filmed our life for a couple of days.  It seemed like every single commitment that I had put off to finish writing the books arrived on my plate all at the same time.  I couldn’t keep up.

I hired again and added to my team at the beginning of November, but I should have done it much, much sooner.  The backlog of work was enormous, and my energy was plummeting.  And then, I went on a week-long book tour.  It was an amazing experience, but it was the straw that broke the camels back.

Upon returning from the book tour, my weight started creeping up again, but very disproportionately to how well I was eating.  I gained a further 10 pounds.  My energy was non-existent and my sleep quality was terrible.  I started experiencing severe joint pain, muscle fatigue, loss of coordination, and headaches.   My lichen planus lesions got much worse.  The mild numbness that I always had in my left ring finger turned into both arms going completely numb and tingly on a regular basis.  I again went from infection to infection to infection.  I was sleeping a ton, working far less, spending more time with my family, and not getting better.  And I was depressed.  When my husband asked when the last time I truly felt happy was, I answered “when I was last pregnant”.  That’s five and a half years ago.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s the answer I came up with at the time.

All this culminated a month ago in a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.  And I want to emphasize that while being a new diagnosis, this does not make it a new disease.  As I’ve already discussed in this post, I believe that I’ve had Hashi’s since before puberty.  I believe that it’s my primary autoimmune disease and the root of all of the health struggles I’ve had for the last 30 years.  And Hashi’s is notorious for being particularly sensitive to stress.

And this diagnosis makes all the symptoms I suffered in response to high stress make sense.  And it explains why even in periods of relative calm, I didn’t bounce back.  Thyroid hormones are immune regulators, so an underactive thyroid is a barrier to healing from immune and autoimmune diseases.  It explains why the weight didn’t fall off as soon as I had all my ducks in a row.  An underactive thyroid directly increases hunger and cravings while lowering metabolism.  But, I wrote two books and filmed a television show pilot and it meant that I gained 25 pounds and felt crummy for a couple of months.  If I didn’t have everything else dialed in, think how much worse it could have been.  While I still feel some anger that no doctor was able to diagnose me earlier in my life, I see the triumph in being able to keep my disease at bay until stress overwhelmed me.

DAWN1356smI don’t regret any of it.  I am glad I wrote The Paleo Approach and The Paleo Approach Cookbook.  They are amazing books that are helping hundreds of thousands of people and I’m so proud of them.  And I am super proud of the pilot.  I am so appreciative of the honor I have of being a thought-leader, educator, mentor, and role model.  But, I’m human.  And I was not proactive enough in managing my stress levels to prevent a major health crisis.  But, I also learned a whole heck of a lot.

The number one thing I learned:  I am strong.  Stronger than I ever knew.  And I’m resilient.  I’m stubborn as an ox, ambitious, and passionate about helping others.  I have more confidence now that I’ve ever had in my life.  I’ve learned how to be assertive.  And I’ve learned how to style my hair (yes, that makes this list).  I’m a type A personality and a perfectionist, but I’ve learned how to say “no”, to ask for help, and to accept “good enough”.  And I’ve learned that what I’m doing is important–so important that I have to figure out how to do it in a way that preserves my health.

This post isn’t about whining, but instead about sharing the dark side of an incredible journey that brought me to both an amazing place professionally but at the expense of my own health.  I want people to understand that it was extreme stress that caused my health issues, not any fault of my scientific knowledge.  And I want others to critically evaluate their own lives, and their own careers. I plan to demonstrate that you don’t have to give up a high-powered career in order to find work-life balance.  And that’s a worthy goal for everyone.

DAWN1173smcI also want to assure you of something.  I’ve learned some very valuable lessons.  I’m currently healing rapidly, feeling amazing, and losing weight (finally! I’ve lost 7 pounds already!  woot!).  My joint pain is nearly gone, my energy level has skyrocketed, my skin is looking great, and I truly feel happy again.  In part, I’m feeling fantastic because I’m finally taking disease-appropriate medication to support my thyroid function.  And in part, I’m feeling fantastic because I’ve expanded my team enough that I can really take care of myself.  I’m active, I’m sleeping a ton, I’m getting massages, laughing, playing with my kids, reading fiction, and spending quality time with my husband.   Really, I’m feeling fantastic because I’m finally following ALL of the recommendations in The Paleo Approach.  Sometimes the lifestyle recommendations are the hardest ones to actually implement.

And knowing that I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and all the work I’m doing now to better nurture myself, is helping me to figure out how to make this sustainable.  I’m developing an entire toolkit of strategies to make this amazing career sustainable while continuing to improve my health, rather than the other way around. And I won’t be starting another book until I’ve got this part completely figured out.

I’ve seen more personal growth over the last two years than any other time in my life.  And I can honestly say, from this side, that it was worth it.  And the future is looking pretty darned sunny.


How brave of you to post pictures of yourself stresses. In your recent photos you look radiant, engaged, alive and happy. such inspiration…..thanks doesn’t cover it

Sending you hugs and blessings, Sarah! Thank you for this post. I am in a place right now where I know I need to reduce stress before I head any further down the path you just traveled and described in your post. I can see me in what you wrote and I take your warning to heart. I don’t think you can ever make a mistake by being “real” with your audience. It’s one of the things I love about you. Take care!

This speaks so much to me! While I don’t have a high-powered career, have never written a book, and don’t live a public life, I DO completely understand the Type A, pushing-yourself-till-you-break personality….I’ve been there, done that. In the span of 3 years, my husband went on 2 combat deployments to Afghanistan, came back from the first one with PTSD, TBI symptoms, and depression (the emotions of which I took on myself), I was working/commuting 60 hours per week (partly as a way to cope with the deployments and the stress), sleeping an average of 4-6 hours a night (and then binge sleeping on the weekends), I planned our wedding during the second deployment (while not working QUITE as much but still too much), and let myself get so stressed before Christmas that I got a stomach virus and it took me 3 months to fully recover. I was diagnosed with lymphocytic colitis and felt like my life was falling apart because I was told that “there are no natural remedies for colitis” and the doc wanted me to take a steroid. I have since learned how to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night (although I still binge sleep on the weekends), I’m not working at a job I hate, I know how to take time for myself, I’m *mostly* doing AIP, etc. One thing I do still struggle with (that have actually gotten worse) are sharp mood swings/emotional stress. But perhaps I am more attuned to my mood now since I’m not “self-medicating” with enormous amounts of work and constant activity. I feel not so alone reading this post. Thank you!!

Oh Sarah! Your post couldn’t have hit home for me any harder! Ibought your book last summer and sadly, did not have the energy, strength, or self-will to approach the Paleo Diet in this way. I’m not a scientist. I’m a fast food restaurant owner! Yikes, I know! I have 4 kids, ages 10 down to 5. I’m only 33, but I’ve been on the health hamster wheel since I had my gallbladder removed at 23 years old. I feel like we are kindred spirits in a way because in order for our business to build up to the “success” it has become, I have neglected my health for 10 years and before that, I didn’t even care because I grew up in a volatile, broken home. My teenage years, in efforts to escape that home, I spent rigorously exercising, socializing, and hitting AP classes hard, all the while fuleing my “needs” with coffee, Coke, fast food, and 3 to 4 hours of fitful sleep per night. I’ve been a disaster waiting to happen. Like you, I have struggled in my marriage and relationships with my children. Many a doctor I’ve seen in the last 10 years never recommended to me that I was just plain stressed out with a dose of gut dysbiosis. All this effort has worn me down in every way possible. The idea that there is hope is very paramount to my recovery. Thank you for your brutal honesty. I truly have been lifted up by your journey and hope to follow the Whole 30 approach to Paleo initially before taking a larger step like following your protocol. Good for you that you take your own well being into your own hands and are also giving us a transparency that as friends in healing, we all need.

I think it is both brave and wise to share this with everyone. It is so true that stress, worry and lack of recovery time will undermine other health efforts. Diet really is only a part of it. The fact that you made it through all of this with chronic disease is a testament to the health efforts you consistently make and the food choices are an important part of that. So you are a real person. Real people need rest, love and relaxation. This post will help people who are trying to fit it all in and are still not seeing the results they hope for with diet and exercise alone. I am so glad you are feeling better again and making that a priority.

Thanks for your honesty. I am in the biggest Hashimotos related health crisis of my life, and continue to struggle with so many symptoms despite being on the AIP for 35 days. One of the scarier symptoms is feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope in my usual manner. I refer to your book daily. I have a functional medicine practitioner I am working with long distance, and have many diagnostic tests pending. I was forced to take time off from my high stress job because I simply couldn’t function . That has been a gift as I couldn’t manage my self care program without unlimited time to use my energy when it is available. Your book, blogs and website have been very helpful, and I am very grateful. I am trying to nurture my spirit and build resilience. Expressing gratitude is an important part of that. Thank you for all you have done for those suffering from Autoimmune illness. I will send you a success story in the near future!

You are truly an inspiration and don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise. The fact that you still have so much drive shows how effective the autoimmune paleo diet is when under incredible stress…lets call yours celebrity stress…yes I think you are up there. I am a nurse and a skeptic about things without proof. Basically I don’t buy into anything unless you have confirmed it. And that left hand ring finger thing…I have just recently developed it and believe it is yet another autoimmune disease called Dupuytren’s Contractures….

Sarah you were instrumental in helping me make the link between my multiple autoimmune issues and the value of an autoimmune protocol in managing them over 2 years ago. Like you I am driven and passionate about my work. Reading this post has prompted reflection on all the other strategies that are just as important as getting the food right. For the first time in 5 hectic weeks I am home; this post has cleared my “To Do” list – I’m heading out to lie in the sun and breathe deeply blessed clean air. Thank you for all your hard work, and in this post, heartfelt honesty.

Thank you Sarah, for sharing this story. Today I am picking up your first book from my mailbox, and will read it with even more appreciation.
You’re a blessing to so many of us!

Sarah, you give me hope! I’ve felt sick for years. Thought it was Fibromyalgia for 16 years, but recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. Found your site tonight and am excited to read more, learn more, feel great again. It’s been way too long since I could honestly say that. Thanks for your transparency.

Sarah, This post brought tears to my eyes of everything you went through to help SO many people! You are a gift to so many people. I read your previous post about the stress of the books, and it never occurred to me that your health issues in any way undermined your books. In fact, the health issues only validated what you had written and had been saying all along- the importance of the lifestyle changes, in ADDITION to the diet… And they’re not easy for anyone to implement! And thank you for your honesty, too (always assumed others were not being completely honest). I am so happy you are getting the diagnoses and support you need. I think that our autoimmune illnesses have much to teach us (as it seems that many of us have perfectionism and achievement-orientedness) about taking caring of ourselves.

One of the things that I feel is often missing from these paleo discussions is therapy. For a perfectionist personality, paleo offers so many things TO DO with out getting at the underlying unconscious compulsions that are driving them. Honestly, in my own case, my perfectionism was made worse by paleo. I’d go from 0 to 60 back to 0, telling myself I needed to chill out, when really I needed to figure out why I couldn’t allow myself to go 30-45 mph. Anyway, that’s what came up for me as I read this. Glad to hear you’re doing better. You deserve it. :-)

I bought The Paleo Approach and it’s helped me so much. I knew in reading it that you were an honest, intelligent and caring person – it just shines through. This post just underlines that and puts more exclamation marks at the end of the phrase ‘honest, intelligent and caring person’.

I feel like you have shared something deeply personal and important with us. It feels like it did when I heard Eileen Laird say that she was still healing on the autoimmune protocol, that it was a journey for her. That was so freeing and encouraging for me. And I think that it is probably a journey for most of us really, some good times, some horrendous times, but better times than if we weren’t paleo or AIP.

Thank you so much for sharing this with us. All you can do is put the truth out there without fear or favour. If other people choose to misunderstand and to see everything as black or white, good or bad, then that’s really their problem. Your honesty helps those of us who are listening. And trying. And taking our two steps forward and one step back. You are making a difference to us and, believe me, we are grateful and you have friends all over the world who value you and what you have to say. Keep up the amazing job!

Body weight is largely involuntarily regulated. There aee numerous things the body can do to exert its control independent of you voluntary efforts. The hody hasca mind of its own regarding weight. ColemanmFriedman,Rosenbaum et al have discovered this.


Thank you for sharing with us what you went through because I find its so helpful to know I’m not alone. It makes me feel that I’m not crazy! I find taking care of ones self is a full time job. I am sorry to hear the struggles you had and I want to say thank you for all you do. Your struggles have helped so many people You are truly are a sweetheart and a very caring person.

Best wishes,


Sarah, So brave of you to share your health and feelings. You have been through some tough times. It can be easy to overdo when you love what you are doing. And it’s obvious that you do. So happy that you are taking care of yourself, have added some one to assist you, and are starting to feel better. Please continue to take care . We love all of your posting and very helpful information. You have taught us so much.

Sarah, thank you for your honesty. I am currently beginning my second week of AIP and am about 2/3 of the way through reading The Paleo Approach. The other night I commented to my husband that I was pretty sure that “Sarah Ballantyne” was actually a team of about 50 people because there was just NO. WAY. I was joking, of course, but at the same time the achieving, perfectionist voice in my head asked why I was struggling just to stay ahead with cooking, housekeeping, parenting my daughter, and working my measly 20 hour/week job. My lifestyle factors, while improved, remain far from perfect. If I don’t monitor myself, I will actually find myself stressing about about how I’ve not managed to stop stressing out! Ugh! How did other people do this? Especially Sarah Ballantyne! Was she…a witch..? 😉

I don’t think your ‘confession’ undermines your work, rather, I think your candidness (yup, that’s a word…) 1) unfortunately, underscores the importance of lifestyle, and 2) highlights that you are principled and honest, and that your priority is not just about pitching another book/product/brand. You want people to make science-backed choices to help themselves get well.

Your book is incredible. It is helping me to understand the complexity of my disease and it is giving me hope. Most of all, through your book, you gave me permission to stop blaming myself for causing this disease by the choices I made in the past. I can stop fixating on what I did to myself to bring this on and focus instead on how to positively move forward. That is an incredible gift and certainly worth a great deal more than the cover price of your amazing book. I am sorry the cost was high to you and your family, but I am so very grateful that it got written. Be well!

Hi Sarah,
There is such a chorus of good will here, I think you can turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the critics. Being such a presence on social media is a stress in itself, and I feel that the Aussie tall poppy syndrome, plays out regularly in the internet environment.
My recent Hashis diagnosis also forced me to rethink how I set priorities, and the resources that you have provided have given me an understanding of the importance of this mind set. I have been sharing my transformation with so many, and the first thing I do is recommend that they start with your blog. There are so many unwell people out there who simply aren’t getting the answers they need from conventional medicine.
Thank you for your work. Please thank your family for sticking by you. Thank your assistants for keeping an eye on things for you. Just thank you.

I´ve just read this post of yours…thank you for being so honest about your journey not only with all your ups but also with all your downs. I´ve been almost crying, because you help so many people and (I´ve just listended to all your podcasts in the past), I didn´t hear, how bad you were doing…you are so strong and motivating…and a great role model for many many people…and a reminder, with having MS and FINALLY getting slowly better, I should take the help and shortcuts I am allowed to do to get my psychology diploma I am working on at the moment…because, I know, I can do it without any help or so, but this could mean, that my progress will be gone, when I am done…sooo everything comes at the right time…so your so honest blog post about how the stress affected you, so this is a reminder, that my health goes first…and then the rest….so, thank you for being the way you are and how honest you are…I wish you all the best!

Thank you so much for your honesty. I really mean that. I know what it’s like to be a physical therapist who advises people on fitness… and not look very fit myself. I know what it’s like to be a skin care consultant who teaches people how to have beautiful skin…and always have at least 2 breakouts on my face when I’m talking to them. But bottom line, we all have issues and struggles, because we live this crazy life where reality sometimes overcomes our intellect. Good for you to have sorted through it all and have chosen to share your journey with the rest of us humans, so we all now know that progress and change is not a straight and level path. Keep on keepin on, Sarah, and always know you can take a break from us now and then, and we will understand!

Bravo!!! Bravissima!!!! I am so proud of you I want to cry. What courage you have to tell the full truth!!. You took a risk and there are those who will judge incorrectly. There will always be those. BUT you also know that there are thousands upon thousands of us who credit your tireless, life giving work for improving our lives– our health and OUR LIVES– in ways that NO ONE ELSE was able to help us with. And there are those of us who are with you on your journey as you are with us on ours, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. We are with you, we are for you, we are all shiny hope and persevering effort. We keep on keepin’ on, because we have a worthy purpose. This is who you are, and who we are too. You have shown us your true self, your struggles and your glories. That is life. It would not be beautiful with only successes. You have to have the losses and the struggles to really get the beauty part. And you know the truth is that without the struggles there are no places for the opportunities to show themselves. So I give thanks to you Sarah and know that we are there with you. We are with you :-)

I have so much respect and appreciation for you on so many levels. You may be “only human” but a wonderful leading example for so many of us! Your book has been a difficult (but doable) turning point for me, and so much of what you write hits home. Your uncompromising ethics allow me to recommend you as a resource without hesitation.

Thank you for writing this!
I’m not a scientist, author, blogger, or social media celebrity, but I understand the pressure to appear to have my [expletive deleted] together at all times. I don’t succumb to the pressure *most* of the time.
It’s refreshing that you’re not hiding the fact that you struggle at times just like the rest of the human race.
Several thoughts came to mind while reading about the health issues/symptoms you encountered. I wondered about the possibility of estrogen dominance, ebstein barr virus, cytomegalovirus, and bartonella infection. I wonder if there’s a connection between any of these and autoimmune dysfunction.
Anyway, you’re better now and you’re aware of how to heal your body and that’s what’s important!
Thanks again for sharing.

Don’t be so hard on yourself, yes, you are human and it’s great to discover this at your age. None of us is perfect, and none of us achieves perfection. Your A-type personality drives you, and with it you have achieved so much. I too have Hashimoto’s, and have had a dreadful few years trying to get the correct treatment and finding a good Doctor. May I suggest you consider low dose Naltrexone, it has been my life-saver, finally giving me energy and balance, along with my natural thyroid capsules.
Also, if I may offer more advice, get into nature – walk, appreciate, and let the natural world help heal you. Too often in this frantic world we forget to stop and appreciate – a beach, the bush, a forest, a river, whatever you have close to you – get out and get back to basics. Put your bare feet into the sea or river and’ remember’ -we, as a species were never supposed to live, in cars, traffic, offices, staring at screens – our psyche needs nature, it is healing, it reminds us who were are and where we are – just a species living on a tiny planet in a small solar system, in a huge galaxy in an unbelievably huge universe. Put things into perspective and take your time, the next book will wait for you and so will we – your health and that of your family relationships are the most important things in the world. All we grandmas know this, it is love – the purest caring and sharing that is important. All else passes away…
Do take care of yourself, and don’t listen to the people who think you owe them – you don’t. You owe your family your time and love – all else will fall in place, relax, breathe, and hug lots.
Thanks for your sharing and caring.
Hugs from New Zealand.

Your papers the past couple years saved my daughter’s life. She`s 8 now, happy and healthy. She`s ANA positive, and 3 years ago was skinny, weak, and not thriving. I needed the autoimmune science, the autoimmune mindset. She’s strict AIP now, understands leaky gut well enough to describe it to others, and thriving. I didn’t realize how much grains were killing her. She’s still undiagnosed, but that’s ok. Seattle Children’s Dr. Kennedy told us personally that medicine is just on the verge of understanding how food interacts with children and disease. My daughter even drew them pictures of faces to illustrate her consistent level 4 pain level. They said they can’t do anything until there is actual joint damage. Thank you thank you! We don’t have to wait.for that, and her pain has reduced dramatically. Thank you!!! May you always be bleessed.

Sarah, Very grateful to have found your website as I’m doing the AIP Paleo protocol for my newly diagnosed RA and it’s really tough but I see I’m not so alone after all. Merely a month into this diet and I’m feeling a little better each week so I will stay this path although it’s quite hard without support and the cooking is quite a burden in itself. Even with my ALCAT results I’m still experiencing reactions to foods that were supposedly on my “safe” list. SO challenging!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!

You have my respect. I’d rather read and follow someone who is HONEST than someone who tries to hide the difficulties. I also think people need to be understanding enough to know that life has hard times even when you are doing things right. You’ve done the science and research (boy have you!) and so while this is a great great book and plan, it can not possibly make everything perfect because life just isn’t. So, kudos to you, for all the work you put into this, all the people you’re helping, AND for being real and honest and sharing.

If you weren’t already married, I’d SO marry you! :-) Aside from being beautiful, you’re brilliant, funny, and generally amazing. (And gorgeous.)


thank you for sharing such difficult things about your journey. I totally understand how difficult it was to write a book as I wrote one albeit in a much longer period of time, and I feel I am under that kind of stress when I teach undergraduates during the academic year. And now instead of taking time off I have to prepare new courses.
What caught my eye was your mention of joint pain and tendonitis. I suffer from those once or twice the hip, a few times the ribs, now the tendon in the foot, and I thought it might be autoimmune. Is it? Is it worth starting the AIP only for them? Could it be just stress?

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