By Julie Gregory, Chief Health Liaison for Apollo Health

About a year ago, Dr. Bredesen came up with an idea for an advertising slogan: “Be like Julie G.” I was horrified. He was thinking of the “Be like Mike” (Michael Jordan, that is!) campaign from the early 90s that helped to sell Gatorade. While I love the idea of disseminating our approach, I did not like the idea of being held up to a false ideal.

I hate to burst your bubble, but I’m an imperfect role model. When I’m very busy (as I have been with caretaking), I sometimes don’t have time to practice all aspects of the protocol. Even worse, when I’m exhausted, I occasionally make bad choices. That’s the beauty of the protocol; even though I’m far from perfect, I’ve created enough resiliency to still glean lifesaving benefits. 

I share my fallibility with you, not to encourage you to similarly indulge but rather to encourage you not to feel defeated if you are less than perfect. We are all human, and there is room for grace in the protocol. The key is to identify your personal threshold of resiliency. For instance, when I was working to reverse my cognitive decline, I would have been much less likely to skip my daily walk or cheat on my diet by indulging in organic popcorn. On the other hand, now that I’ve been relatively stable for 9 to 10 years, I sometimes indulge and don’t seem to suffer any long-lasting ill effects.

That said, there are short-term consequences to my cheats, and in the long run, I’ve decided that they really aren’t worth it. I always feel disappointed, even a little ashamed, when I make unhealthy choices. For instance, when I skip my daily morning walk, I feel less grounded and notice a little less “pep in my step.” And, when I have popcorn, I feel bogged down afterward and sometimes even get little sores on the inside of my mouth — a clear indication of a food sensitivity! If these were to become regular habits, I recognize that I could get into trouble again with my overall health and cognition. 

I try to use these transgressions as learning opportunities. By examining the circumstances that led up to my poor decision-making, I plan how I can do better in the future.  

For instance, I noticed that I often skip my walk on the days that I’m commuting to care for my mother and uncle. I tell myself that I don’t have time for a walk on these days because of the extra responsibilities on top of my already full schedule. After recognizing this pattern and critically studying my schedule, I determined that I probably could squeeze in a walk if I used my treadmill. Even better, I figured out how to make a shorter workout more effective by increasing the incline on the treadmill so that I can get an equal amount of exercise in a shorter period.

I also recognized that the popcorn “accidents” happened when I felt stressed and exhausted. I’ve learned to anticipate that feeling when my schedule is particularly full, and I now make sure that I have substitutes for popcorn in the house. Some examples include pistachios with sea salt (an excellent source of prebiotics and resistant starch to help optimize my gut microbiome) or baked kale chips — both are crunchy and salty and feel naughty, but they’re not. If I’m just craving a salty, high-carb snack, I sometimes steam riced cauliflower and top it with tamari sauce and EVOO — yum.

Next time you mess up on the protocol, stop beating yourself up. Instead of allowing yourself to feel shame, use that as an opportunity to plan to do better next time. If you find yourself struggling, please consider partnering with a ReCODE 2.0 Certified Health Coach that can help support your journey.    

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