Ep. 183: The Loving Diet

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On today’s episode, I’m chatting with clinical nutritionist, Jessica Flanigan all about her work on developing the Loving Diet, a way of transforming chronic illness from enemy to ally through a heart-body approach to healing.

The Loving Diet

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Episode 183 Links

  • Visit Jessica’s website HERE.
  • To read The Loving Diet click HERE. 

Episode 183 Sponsors and Featured Partners

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Episode 183 Transcription

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Cassy Joy: Welcome back to another episode of the Fed and Fit podcast. I am your host, Cassy Joy Garcia. I’m really excited about today’s guest. We are introducing you to Jessica Flanigan. She has been a clinical nutritionist for over 20 years. She’s also the author of the book, The Loving Diet: Going Beyond Paleo into the Heart of What Ails You. Her busy private practice incorporates advanced functional medicine skills while also working on a spiritual level as a certified Noetic Field practitioner, who helps her clients discover how they can transform illness from enemy to ally.

Oh my goodness. You know, I did practice that, Jessica! {laughs} Transform illness from enemy to ally. She is regularly sought out as a mind-body expert and coach, and has helped thousands of people move away from “fixing through restriction” to healing with love.

I so admire your work. I think it’s so important, and I’m honored and thrilled to welcome you to the show. Thank you for coming on, Jessica!

Jessica Flanigan: Thanks, Cassy. I’m really excited to be here. I’ve been looking forward to it.

Cassy Joy: Oh man, likewise! This is going to be the highlight of my day, for sure. I would love it; could you tell us a little bit more about yourself. Maybe a little bit about your story and how you started doing this important work for the AIP community.

Jessica Flanigan: Well, I have been a nutritionist for a number of years. And I have an identical twin sister. And she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and celiac. And when she was diagnosed, she contacted me and said; wow, this big thing just happened. What do I do?

And when she first got diagnosed, autoimmune paleo didn’t even really exist. It was pre-AIP. AIP was just sort of getting started. So we had followed Datis Kharrazian’s work. Datis Kharrazian, for your listeners who don’t know; he’s a functional neurologist. He just got a PhD. He’s a chiropractor. He’s really a pioneer in the autoimmune movement. So we started following his work. And then AIP came to fruition.

So my sister and I worked together; me, helping and supporting her. To go on the autoimmune paleo diet. Which she got great results with. I went on the autoimmune paleo diet because I had the genetics for it. So I really entered into that world, because there were a lot of people who are interested in trying it out and seeing how they felt.

My practice has shifted over the last 6 years; first starting out being somewhat autoimmune paleo focused to really following the science and the published research, which has come to include a lot about oral tolerance and the microbiome. So I would say the bulk of my practice now is really being a detective for my clients who have been to numerous doctors. A lot of whom have had great success with AIP; some of which have wanting to customize it and find out a little bit more of what’s unique to them and their journey. But then the biggest part is really understanding what are the belief systems that people enter into their journey with chronic illness with; why does it matter how to heal it, so they can start sending different messages to all the cells in their body.

Cassy Joy: I love that. That’s really, really interesting. So that’s a good introduction to the Loving Diet in general. I would love if you could just expand on that a little bit more. Who is this for? If someone is listening, and they’re thinking; I have an autoimmune disease, and one of those diagnoses, it feels you spiral down into this rabbit hole. Where it’s very easy to spiral into a rabbit hole of restriction, restriction, and now I’m limited and I’m confined to this diagnosis. I would love if you could expand a little bit more. Who is this for, and what does it really look like? What are the main differences?

Jessica Flanigan: The book is really for anybody with chronic illness who is feeling hopeless. Because when we get diagnosed with anything, we feel scared, unsure, hopeless, trapped. It puts us into a different kind of set of circumstances where we start reaching into the resources that can help us move out of it.

So the book is really for anybody who is struggling with feeling scared, hopeless, trapped, and needing to be strong. Only the strong survive. They need to fix their illness inside their body. So that’s really who I wrote the book for. Really, because of my own journey, as well. Because like my twin sister, I did not have autoimmune disease. But what I did have was my entire life fell apart, down to losing my house.

So I portrayed myself as someone who; I mean, I meditated. I had energy workers. I went to counseling. I had a spiritual practice. I was kindergarten class president. I was president of a local arts chapter in my community. I was a community organizer. So I did everything on the outside that I thought was going to give me success on the inside. And I’ve noticed that there are parallels between chronic disease and what I had been doing.

But really what happened was when my life completely fell apart, I realized I had sort of built my life on a house of cards. And that I was trying really hard, but I was neglecting all the places inside of myself that I felt like wasn’t deserving of my own loving. So when my life fell apart, much like my sister’s, she had her life fall apart somewhat in a physical sense. My life fell apart in an emotional sense. But the pain and suffering that we feel as humans tends to be the same.

So what I did was I started to stop trying so hard to make my life seem perfect so I felt perfect. And I actually went in; because nothing else was working. I actually went in and started really being kind, and compassionate, and loving to myself. And so the Loving Diet was really a book that teaches people how to take the first steps to start to do that. Because that is one way that we can reframe hopelessness, feeling trapped, feeling really scared. Either because our life falls apart in some regard; like we declare bankruptcy. We lose our job, our partner leaves us, someone dies. Or we get diagnosed with a chronic illness.

Cassy Joy: Oh my goodness, this is fascinating. And you’ve talked about in the past how mindset is different than the concept of loving. Can you tell us a little bit more of about how you differentiate between these two?

Jessica Flanigan: Yeah, it’s a great question. Because we have this idea that we have to change the way our mind thinks in order to get our body to do something different. And what I have found is that the greatest heavy lifter that we have in our life is actually the power of our hearts. So when we start tapping into using our heart, instead of our mind, that we can actually get further and better. Because loving is what most major religions are founded upon in the world. It’s the glue of the universe, really. Mother’s loving their children, the love of our family.

Loving one another, developing compassion practice will include the mind, but it is not an orientation of the mind. The mind follows what the heart tells it to do. So what I’ve started to do was actually just focus on all of the places that I wasn’t loving myself, and staying in that place a couple of minutes each day. And what I found was that my mind stopped being so busy with telling me how everything was wrong and I needed to fix everything.

Cassy Joy: So interesting. Ok, man. Every time you say something I have 40 more questions for you {laughs}. I’ll pick one. {laughs} So, tell me a little bit more about this heart-body connection in the process of healing one’s body. I’m very fascinated by this. I was raised in a house that is very much; and I’m probably going to use some verbiage that’s nails on a chalkboard for you, because I’m sure there are some very, rightfully so, and purposefully so, strategic verbiage that needs to exist around this kind of a conversation. But one of the things that you can believe things into existence. So I’m really curious; can you overview from your professional perspective this heart-body connection, and what that actually looks like.

Jessica Flanigan: So the mainstays of a heart-body connection would be that we identify with our wholeness instead of identifying with our lack. So that kind of comes into play with believing things into existence, like you are saying. Because the loving that our hearts are able to do is a discernment from a deeper place that’s never distorted.

So that would be the first thing. That identifying what is whole about our effectiveness to love the parts that hurt actually moves us completely out of a fixing model, and into a loving model. So a lot of times, we’re told, “you just have to be strong. You have to gain the courage and strength to eat a diet so you reduce your inflammation, and you heal your disease.” So that would be sort of like a mind aspect.

What my resolution when I work with clients is what’s a relationship that you have with a part of yourself that feels like something’s actually broken? I got diagnosed with this really scary disease, and a part of you feels like it’s now broken. So what I do with my clients is we actually work through what it is that they believe so that they can very clearly place their own loving and compassion for those parts. So the very basis of all of this is that what we think is broken in our life no matter what it is doesn’t need to be fixed. It’s actually calling out for our loving.

And when we are really fully with the part of ourselves; for instance, that feels like it’s unlovable because we got put up for adoption. Or a part of ourselves that feels like it’s unlovable because disease is present in our body. What it does is when we fully just have compassion and we just pull that part forward and we’re with ourselves in a loving way, we just make room for it. Then that is a belief system that works from wholeness rather than lack.

Which is everything that we have in our hearts right now is the tool kit needed to do all the heavy lifting. It’s already there. So as long as we have the ability to love; love our friends, love our family. Sometimes it’s almost recognizing those places first. Wow, I have a child, and I love that child so much. And when we think about a child going out and skinning their knee, we don’t go out and say to that child after they skin their knee; go fix your knee. We have the practical pieces, is we put a Band-Aid on our skinned knee. But the part that resonates with children the most is; oh, sweetie! You just fell! That’s really hard. Let me hold you on my lap and give you a hug.

That kind of simplistic approach, I actually see people make the biggest strides in their health care when they do that.

Cassy Joy: OH, that’s so beautiful. I just want to hear you talk all day long. {laughs} That’s so beautifully put.

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Cassy Joy: Ok. So what if we bring it down to choose patient X. Or client X, depending on how you term in your practice. They come in, and you’re explaining this loving from the inside out versus being strong from the outside in and to muscle through some of these things.

If we’re talking with somebody who is maybe middle-aged, and this is an entirely foreign concept. Really struggling to grasp what you’re trying to encourage. How do you instruct them from the ground up practically how to get started in thinking and believing this way? Do you start really small? How do you choose those one or two things to love on a couple of minutes a day and how do they do that? If someone is really having a hard time seeing what you’re explaining.

Jessica Flanigan: One of the first steps that I have my clients do is first I listen very closely and I honor their path. The first orientation is me as a practitioner, because I believe all my clients are whole, and I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with them. At the very deepest level. So the first thing is I create the container to work with them, that I unconditionally love them no matter what. So that’s the first thing.

But when I’m actually interacting with my clients, then I use a lot of self-forgiveness. So we go through and because everybody’s journey is different, we’ll go through things that they really know about. For instance, I got diagnosed with MS, and I felt like I was a failure. I felt like my body had failed me. And I actually just use self-forgiveness with my clients.

So let’s say they’re middle-aged and they got diagnosed with MS. We just start from the very beginning, which is; “I felt like I was a failure when I got diagnosed with MS. I thought something was broken inside of me when I got diagnosed with MS.” And I actually just have them forgive themselves for believing that. So I have them say; ok, I forgive myself for believing that I’m a failure and something is broken inside of me because I got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

And then I have them take a deep breath, and I ask them what they’re noticing or experiencing in their body. So that’s the very first place I start in almost all my appointments. Just listening to their story, have them lead me into the juicy places. Because a lot of people really know firsthand the parts that feel painful, and I have them do that. So that’s the first thing.

Cassy Joy: OH my gosh. That’s probably groundbreaking for a lot of folks, to put the brakes on something that they’re mentally spinning on really quickly.

Jessica Flanigan: Yeah. Because there’s the idea that when we acknowledge that scary place inside of our self that, remember, just needs loving. Doesn’t need fixing. It’s going to take over our life, or that if we even acknowledge that there’s a part of us that feels scared, alone, hopeless, broken, that it’s going to take over and it’s going to start being the center point of our life. But what happens is that loving is so effective on its own that when we just acknowledge those places that hurt inside of us, just like pulling up the child with the skinned knee and saying; I’m so sorry that happened! That they recover from it more quickly and then they can go out and start playing.

When we actually do that to ourselves, that we can reframe what’s happened from enemy to ally. Like; oh, yes. I’m a person who is having an experience with MS. MS is not the center point of my life. And it’s not what’s defining me. My ability to love myself while I’m having MS becomes the center point. And that’s how we change it from enemy to ally. I am a very loving person. I’m having an experience with something that I’m finding incredibly challenging. And I’m going to love myself, and develop a skillset to love myself while I’m having a very challenging experience in my life.

Cassy Joy: That’s beautiful. And I think that’s one of those key moments. When you’re talking to anybody who has a truly inspiring story. And I would argue everybody has that in them, depending on where they are in their perspective. But if you’re speaking with anybody that has an inspiring take on their life, or their experiences, they look back on them and they’re thankful for the struggles. And it’s interesting, because that is exactly it. If I think back on my own struggles in life; the thing that allowed me to truly heal from them was showing gratitude for them and for the lessons I’ve learned and how it shaped me as a human. Because I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t been for them, in so many different ways.

That’s the only way I can boil it down in what’s relevant in my living what I’ve experienced personally. But that’s really beautiful.

Jessica Flanigan: Yeah. So when you did that, Cassy, did you notice you didn’t have to go outside of yourself. That was sort of a built-in toolset that you already had present.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm. Absolutely.

Jessica Flanigan: It was a muscle that you might have had to flex a little just to kind of get used to gratitude. But everything we need to do this work is already here, inside of us. It’s already built inside of the structure of our heart. And that’s the part that I love about this work. You don’t need to go outside of yourself to garner the toolset. We all got born with it. So for me, I was like; oh my god, it’s so much less exhausting to think all I have to do is practice using the toolset that I already have, rather than going out and getting a whole new tool bag. Because I thought maybe I was born with the wrong one because these hard things happened to me.

Cassy Joy: Absolutely. That’s exactly it. And that is, to your point, really the most freeing part of one of those self-discoveries. That the way to heal from it is realizing that you don’t have to develop that skill. It’s not something you have to learn or work on. You just have to let it out of the box, so to speak. And it is. If I just rewind the clock to something that’s trivial, compared to what most folks listening to this that are really hopefully taking home some great thoughts is suffering from; going through a breakup in college. A really heart-wrenching breakup.

And in the moment, you’re thinking; this is it. I’m unlovable. {laughs} I mean, years of my life, and just gone. And I saw all this potential, and all of these things, and just being a puddle of tears and feeling very hopeless. And it wasn’t that I pulled myself up from the bootstraps, and I’m going to get some courage and I’m going to go face the day, and I’m going to go to class. I’m going to go do all of these things. It was more so at the end of the day what allowed me to take a deep breath was realizing and remembering that this can be used, and will be used, for good. And this is all good, and it’s not a symptom of who I am. It’s just something that I’ve experienced.

Jessica Flanigan: Yeah. It sounds like you moved away from that disturbance. Like, it’s an “I am disturbed” versus “I’m aware that I’m disturbed.” So often, when a hard thing happens, “I am unlovable” versus “I am aware that there’s a part of me that feels unlovable.”

Cassy Joy: Yes. That’s exactly it.

Jessica Flanigan: Yeah. That’s the difference between the mind and the heart. The mind says “I’m unlovable.” The heart says, “I’m aware that there are parts of me that believes I’m unlovable.” So that’s that whole getting back into the mindset versus the heart set. Because Grace lives in the heart; the Law lives in the mind. And the Law is like an eye for an eye. Grace through the heart, through the power of our own loving, is you get set free already.

Cassy Joy: Oh, that’s beautiful. That’s so beautiful. I love this work. What is one thing; and I’m being 2% as eloquent as you are. {laughs} I’m just being a good cohost for you right now. What is one thing you wish everyone knew that was maybe struggling with chronic and autoimmune illness. You’ve already touched on a lot of this. But if you could just succinctly put into; what is one thing you want people to remember, if they’re listening to this show, that’s struggling with chronic or autoimmune disease.

Jessica Flanigan: It actually almost makes me tear up to say this, because I believe this so deeply. Every single person who is listening to this right now; I know in my heart, 100%, that they have everything they need to go through this experience. They already have all of the tools necessary to do it. There’s no question. Because everybody’s heart is already built with it. That’s what I would say to everybody.

The hopelessness, the trapped feeling, the disappointment, the frustration. We have all of those things; all of those things are true for everybody. And they are also a moment in time. And the power of the loving that they all have right now goes past that. Goes past that, and around that, and through that. It’s the great transformer. So the tools that they are really looking for are already existing. And it’s stronger than what they think is broken.

Cassy Joy: That’s beautiful. Thank you so much. Thank you for sharing that. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, and your words, and your work with the world. It is an honor to share the internet spaces with you, Jessica.

Jessica Flanigan: Oh, thank you Cassy! Thank you. It was a pleasure to be here.

Cassy Joy: I loved it. I feel like I’m stepping out of a spa. {laughs} If you all would like; Jessica, would you mind telling folks where they can find more of your work, whether it’s on social media, website, or of course, the book, The Loving Diet?

Jessica Flanigan: Sure. So my book, The Loving Diet, is on Amazon. I’ve also just launched the Institute of Spiritual Coaching, which is a 6-month coaching program for people who want to take a deeper inquiry. I cofounder that with my friend, Dr. Charmayne Kilcup. So I have the Institute of Spiritual Coaching. That’s on Facebook. And then I also have the Beyond AIP Facebook page. It’s a private group that’s fantastic and supportive. I’m also the Loving Diet on Instagram.

Cassy Joy: Beautiful! We will go ahead and link to everything, as usual, in the show notes. So if you’re driving and you’re having a hard time remembering all of this, don’t worry we’ll have it on the website. So you can just go right there, and click, and be connected to Jessica’s wonderful work. Jessica, thank you again for everything you do. And thank you for making the time to come onto the show and sharing your thoughts with our audience.

Jessica Flanigan: Thank you, Cassy. I had a great time.

Cassy Joy: I did too. Everybody, thank you for bearing with me and my ineloquence today. {laughs} I’m so glad Jessica was here to share all of these wonderful thoughts. I’m excited to watch your career and everything expand. I will be cheering you on. As always, you all can find a full transcript over on the show notes on the website. And we’ll be back again next week.


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Cassy Joy Garcia

HOWDY! I’m Cassy Joy and I am just so happy you’re here. I’m the founder, Editor-in-Chief, and Nutrition Consultant here at Fed and Fit. What started as a food blog back in 2011 has evolved now into so much more.
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