The Melanie Avalon Podcast Episode #55 - Jessica Flanigan
Jessica is a Clinical Nutritionist, Co-founder of the Institute of Spiritual Coaching, and author of the first mind-body book about Autoimmune Disease called The Loving Diet. She has spent the last 9 years of her clinical practice focusing on the Autoimmune Paleo Diet but has since moved on to more advanced gut protocols to help her clients remove restriction from their healing plan and now works with those struggling with disordered eating and Orthorexia in her program Transformational Eating.
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7:30 - Jessica's Story: From suffering to trust and healing
9:20 - The emotional Component to healing: why "Fixes" Don't Work, And the purpose of Illness and suffering
13:40 - Apollo Neuro And the role of Safety in food, diet, illness, and healing
18:35 - What is wholeness? How we shape our identity
22:25 - identifying with the past
24:05 - The problems with Intuitive eating, loyalty viewpoints
25:35 - practically resolving trauma: exhaustion And trying really hard
26:15 - the role of becoming curious and Appreciating what you have done
27:50 - How should we handle emotions? the Fear Of Getting Stuck In An Emotion
31:15 - the role of anger in healing
33:20 - Experiencing fear and Anxiety
36:10 - Reframing Healing And the Language of the heart vs mind
38:55 - what's next? Where you can and can't go with love And finding meaning in Yourself
42:30 - Are fears learned responses?
46:25 - BEAUTYCOUNTER: Non-Toxic Beauty Products Tested For Heavy Metals, Which Support Skin Health And Look Amazing! Shop At Beautycounter.Com/MelanieAvalon For Something Magical! For Exclusive Offers And Discounts, And More On The Science Of Skincare, Get On Melanie's Private Beauty Counter Email List At MelanieAvalon.Com/CleanBeauty! Find Your Perfect Beautycounter Products With Melanie's Quiz: Melanieavalon.Com/Beautycounterquiz
48:20 - Adding Loving
53:00 - Feeling Like It's Not Ok to Experience Or Trust Your Loving
55:10 - Can you get burned out on love?
57:10 - Joy And the Magic fairy wand
58:40 - How Do You experience "negative" conditions, and the role of inciting incidences
1:02:50 - What Is the Loving Diet? The Role Of AIP, FODMAPs, Resistant Starch, And The Microbiome
1:04:50 - Restrictive diets And acting out of lack or Abundance
1:07:50 - Hyper-vigilance Around food
1:09:10 - Breaking Free From Restrictive Diets
1:12:25 - What Diet Should You Follow?
1:14:30 - Genetics, Epigenetics, And Food
1:16:05 - Wim Hof, The Immune System, and Breathwork
1:18:50 - the relationship to what happened to us: Misunderstandings About our goodness
1:20:55 - Trauma and weight loss, resonating with new methods of healing
1:22:40 - Biohacking Reliance
1:23:25 - Meeting With Your Future Self
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1:25:55 - Fear Keeping You Stuck
1:28:10 - Covid Stress And Dealing With Uncertainty
1:31:35 - Overreactive Immune Systems
1:32:25 - Awakening to something new And letting go
1:34:10 - The Role Of And Relationship to Supplements: pre-prebiotics, Prebiotics, Probiotics, And Gut Healing
1:35:35 - Butyrate For Gut Healing
1:37:45 - Digestive Enzymes And HCL, Lack or Abundance
1:38:15 - Ignatia Amara For Grief
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1:43:20 - The Importance Of Forgiveness, And Judging Good Vs Bad
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Melanie Avalon: Hi friends, welcome back to the show. I have been looking forward to this conversation for quite a while ever since I heard this guest actually on another podcast. I heard her on Wealth Ed Women with Noelle Tarr. Listening to that episode was so beautiful, so amazing, because I'm friends with Noelle, the host of that podcast and I was literally texting her being like, “I have to bring her on my show, please introduce me.” So, I'm so grateful that introduction was made and that I am now here with this fabulous human being.
I think for the topic that we're going to talk about I know-- I mean, me included, a lot of my listeners, so many people struggle with chronic health issues, chronic disease, problems in their life, and are often turned to diet to address that, which obviously I am a huge proponent of the role of diet in our health. But at that same time, people often go on these diets, be it paleo, autoimmune, whatever it may be. Oftentimes, they see results in the beginning, but maybe they plateau. Maybe they don't get the final results they want. Maybe they get stuck there and are scared of coming off of the restrictive or the “treatment diet.” If there's a possibility that there's another factor involved, and we're going to talk all about that, I'm just glowing right now, I'm so excited.
So, let me introduce today's guest. I'm here with Jessica Flanigan. She is the author of a book called The Loving Diet: Going Beyond Paleo Into the Heart of What Ails You. This book is so beautiful. I really, really think it taps into what really is the key, I think, for why so many people can't quite tackle their chronic health issues, their autoimmune issues or feel like they're stuck in restrictive diets. Jessica, thank you so much for being here.
Jessica Flanigan: I'm so excited to be here, Melanie. Thank you so much for having me.
Melanie Avalon: Thank you. To start things off, by the way for listeners, Jessica, she is a clinical nutritionist. She's also the cofounder of the Institute of Spiritual Coaching. And like I said, she's the author of The Loving Diet. To start things off, Jessica, would you like to tell listeners a little bit about your personal story and what brought you to this idea of The Loving Diet? I know it's really interesting. Your story doesn't necessarily involve chronic illness personally but does involve something. So, would you like to tell listeners a little bit about that?
Jessica Flanigan: Well, suffering brought me to this path that I'm on. I feel suffering is one of those terms that applies to us in different ways in our life. For me, it was my marriage falling apart and losing everything. Losing my house, losing the life that I had lived, losing everything that was familiar to me, which is a process that a lot of people go through when they get diagnosed with a chronic illness. I also happen to have an identical twin sister who has Hashimoto's and celiac, and I have lots of autoimmune disease in my family. I have my background of being a clinical nutritionist now for over 20 years, but then my own struggle really started when all of the options that I had built up that I thought would save me ended up not saving me when I really needed them, when I entered into suffering that I couldn't turn away from. I couldn't turn away from it because it was so great.
So, I wrote The Loving Diet, because those same principles that I use to help make sense of my suffering, and to learn how to trust myself was really the biggest one, and trust my heart. Turns out that those skills are really applicable for chronic health issues.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, it's so incredible, and it's unique in a way because I feel a lot of the authors that I read, they do often come from having a chronic health issue and that's what inspires them. But I love that you came from, like you said, this concept of suffering and what this emotional component does to our life and then being able to apply that to the people with chronic illness. You talked about your book. I'm sure you still work with patients, right?
Jessica Flanigan: Yes. I have a private practice. I run groups also. Yes, I do. I do that both.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. I just love that you are applying this aspect. I think so many people often brush it aside the emotional component or they don't think that it is playing such a big role in overcoming their health issues. So, that's actually a question to get started with. People with chronic health issues, especially things like autoimmune disease, why do you think it is that some people can follow a diet, follow a protocol, and get better from it or what works for them, and then some people, it doesn't or they plateau or it just doesn't completely work? Is it because they're not doing it right? They're not doing it enough? What is that secret third ingredient that might be playing a factor?
Jessica Flanigan: I think that there's two questions there. One is that not all lifestyles work for the same reason, because many people from a very genuine, open-hearted place want their lifestyles to save them and fix them. In a way, we're more than that. One is that we can't take something like supplements and diet to be a form of the safety that humans are really looking for. That's the first thing, is that everybody will have a ceiling that they will reach.
But the second question to that is, is that what we go through as humans from my perspective is here to awaken us to something, and so that's a different curriculum for each person because every human is here to learn something that's unique and special and a gift for them. An illness is here to help us wake us up to something, as is all suffering. From my perspective, when we look at it from that point of view, it's like all the colors of the rainbow. Every everybody gets to get exactly what they need to help them find what it is. That's the nugget of gold in the bottom of sometimes that crappy pile. That's why, from my perspective, thank goodness, that these lifestyles where we're doing a lot of fixing have a limit, because then we get to go into the beautiful richness of what our hearts are trying to teach us. Maybe I simplified that a little bit, but from my perspective, that's the deeper work and the profound gift that everybody is here looking at.
Melanie Avalon: That is such a profound idea. The idea that it's almost good or thank goodness like you said that they have a limit. If they were the be-all end-all, if there was a dietary protocol or something that fixed everything, I guess we could get stuck in that. We would think that is the goal, and that is the end-all, but because there is a limit-- I'm just like thinking this out, because there is a limit, we have to look beyond that to find the true meaning. You talk in your book a lot about wholeness, for example. Actually, though, I wanted to touch-- you mentioned safety. Have you heard of the Apollo Neuro device, by chance?
Jessica Flanigan: No.
Melanie Avalon: It's a device that uses soundwave therapy. I just had them on the podcast and they developed the device because soundwave therapy actually works like the role of human touch to stimulate feelings of safety in the body and he was explaining the role between safety and fear, and how safety was so key for really everything. For healing, honestly, for everything, because when there wasn't a sense of safety, we can't live in the present and we can't be in the moment and we can't make change, and we just get stuck in the state of fear. So that was something that really, really resonated with me.
To that point, I think when people often go on diets to address their health issues, like autoimmune diets-- or we can talk later about your specific, the manifestation of The Loving Diet, practically what it looks like for you, and your patients. It's so complicated because I think we can go to these diets for safety because we think if we follow this diet, we'll be safe. But then at the same time, I think there's so much fear often because we think we have to eat certain foods, otherwise we're not safe, or other foods aren't safe. So, how can one feel safe in their food choices and safe around food?
Jessica Flanigan: Food helps us be practical. And so, that's where if we have a fantastic team of doctors, we have a wonderful anti-inflammatory diet, it's like we can be incredibly present and vigilant to practicality. Practicality is fantastic when we're dealing with how we want to take care of our bodies. But then when we look at the issue of safety, it tends to go a little bit deeper. Many of your listeners who are tuning in right now, let's say they've had some-- think about the most difficult thing that has happened to you. Maybe it might be a spouse dying, maybe it might be the day they got a diagnosis to cancer, or they got a diagnosis to an autoimmune disease. What often happens is the first thing that we do is we feel unsafe.
And then the next question is, is how can I get safe again? Because sometimes we're looking at our mortality, sometimes we're looking at the loss of life as we know it. There might be a lot of grieving involved in that. And so what happens is, is that we're looking to get back into that center place of-- we get born on the planet and we have that wholeness that is intact. But then we go through life and we have lots of hard things happen to us. And it makes us question our loving as a point of safety. Oftentimes, when we have a big thing, what we might consider a personal catastrophe, like our business going bankrupt or getting a diagnosis that we don't know if we're going to survive, the first thing that happens is we go to someplace with our heart, “I'm scared,” “I might have to say goodbye to the people I love.” “How am I going to get through this?” “I just want to be normal.”
Then, when we look at diet and supplements, those things can often be a very important part of the process. But what we're bringing up here is consciousness work, or these deeper questions about humanity, and what our purpose is here. In the simplest way, I work on this with my own clients and my students, is that reference point of safety is inside of our hearts, not outside. So, when we use supplements and diet to stay safe, then we are leaving that center place, our own compassion, our own heart center, and we're moving outside of it to find the safety.
What I suggest is, go do those things, get your plan set, but do it from a practical standpoint. An anti-inflammatory diet is like practical and amazing. But that doesn't keep us safe. Our hearts keep us safe. So, from my perspective, whenever we have a hard thing happen to us, like eating disorders, diseases, personal hardships, versus what is this here to awaken me to and what do I believe about my circumstances that's helping me understand what it's awakened me to.
Melanie Avalon: To that question of wholeness, you speak about something that happens oftentimes. Oftentimes, there’s this inciting incident or some sort of traumatic event that I think often gets tied into our identity surrounding our health condition or whatever we're experiencing. This idea of wholeness, is it like we're born whole and then do we stay whole? Okay, I'm just trying to get a grasp because you talk a lot in the book about how we are always whole and it is always in us. But then also everything is moving us and-- correct me if I'm wrong, but then also everything is moving us towards wholeness. What is this idea of wholeness? Are we always whole but then we lose it and then we're going towards it?
Jessica Flanigan: The answer that makes the most sense to me, that really spoke to me personally, was healing isn't a process of adding. Healing isn't a process of adding, it's a process of undoing. So, that might make people's mind go a little bit wonky. But when you think about that, when we're born, we're born and we don't have to accomplish anything to be whole, because we're already born with everything we need. But see, then we go through life and something happens to us, and we get knocked out of our center, or most likely what happens is, is we have something really difficult happened to us. Let's say just getting diagnosed with cancer. What happens is we have something really scary happen, and we question our own loving as a safety tool because it gets so scary. We have a scary thing happened, it kind of knocks us out like, “Wait, hold on, I have this really big thing happen to me. Am I going to be okay? Am I safe? Who's in charge? What does this mean about my mortality?”
So, we have a hard thing happen. We get knocked out of our center. We question if our hearts actually are here to do the job and can do the job. And then, what happens is we assume a limited viewpoint about ourselves. We do this often to make sense and get through difficulty. For instance, here's a big one that I hear, it isn't safe to love, or I have to work really hard because the harder I work, the farther I'm going to get. I have to not care about certain things, I have to my needs aside in order to reach this bigger goal. These are common things that I hear. I've to try really hard to heal is probably the biggest one. So, these are the things that I hear over and over again. Those are limited viewpoints, but they're very common, and almost all of us go through them.
What happens is when we take on that viewpoint that's actually a limited viewpoint of ourselves, we start holding it as truth. We actually develop a loyalty to it. So then when we start going and finding our anti-inflammatory diet or the lifestyle that's going to help with our disease, then what happens is that we're looking at it through the goggles of that limited viewpoint of it's not safe to love or my needs are important, or I have to work hard to heal. That new viewpoint becomes our new truth and so we start viewing reality from there. Then from that piece, when we start looking at what you and I are talking about, healing is an adding process, it's a fixing process. I need to fix my cancer, I need to fix my autoimmune disease. It becomes really subtle because we develop it as big words that don't seem like fixing, like lifestyle. The key here is, is that when we've taken something practical like lifestyle and we're using it as safety rather than practicality. Does that make sense?
Melanie Avalon: That does. I'm having so many epiphanies and mind-blown moments right now. I love what you're saying about the difference between-- I don't know if you actually said in these words, but this is what I was like seeing in my head. The difference between looking forward and moving forward, compared to looking back because-- when you're a kid, for example, and you maybe get a scraped knee or something, you're unhappy or crying. Most kids are thinking days and days about how they scraped their knee a week ago and thinking about it and having to fix it. If they see maybe a scab, they're not thinking over and over about how they still have to fix this thing that happened to them. Compared to maybe later in life, you get a diagnosis, you develop something like SIBO, people often identify with SIBO. Maybe you get diagnosed with an autoimmune condition. Then all of a sudden, it's such a backward-looking mentality. You feel you constantly have to fix this thing that happened to you, rather than look forward.
For me, personally, I can put a date to it. I say that in 2014, I got food poisoning and then that's what started the SIBO diagnosis and then the GI issues. It's this whole story and it just goes on and on. I feel I'm constantly trying to fix this thing that happened to me rather than look forward. That's really mind-blowing what you said about how we use the word lifestyle to-- Wow, as we do that to be safe rather than look beyond that. I'm just having so many mind-blown moments right now.
Jessica Flanigan: It's a good point, what you're saying too because that loyalty that we start making a habit. The loyalty of our limited viewpoint, it taints how we do it. When we talk about, for instance, intuitive eating, when you have a loyalty to a viewpoint that's limiting about yourself, it's hard to intuitively eat because those limited viewpoints that we become loyal to-- this is so subtle, by the way, is almost programming in our subconscious, as well. And so, then what happens-- I'll give you an example for me.
I had a mom who didn't want to raise me. I had somewhat of a violent father. When I reached adulthood, the way that I saw myself was how am I going to fix my traumatic childhood? Jessica is trying to go out into the world and make sense of the world, and I'm a traumatized person. The past pushes us forward usually instead of the future pulling us forward. What I'm suggesting here is that there's powerful medicine, and being curious about how we shift that because it impacts our entire genetics, all of our genetics, it impacts our immune system, it impacts all of the cells of our body when we become vulnerable enough to consider, “Maybe I'm not all those things that I thought.”
Melanie Avalon: If they've realized that maybe there was this trauma in the past or some sort of identity formed around their current health state, or whatever it may be, how do you reframe that? Do you let go of it? Do you reframe it? How do you practically move forward?
Jessica Flanigan: Everybody comes to a place where what they're doing doesn't work. Or, the place that I tend to work in is, I'm exhausted from trying to be healthy. I'm bone-tired exhausted trying to be healthy. Whenever I have a client come to me and say that, I was like, “Great, because you're exhausted enough, you're so tired that you're willing to give up your viewpoint.” Most people don't even recognize that it's limited. They just recognize they're trying really hard. The first thing is to start a series of questions.
First is become curious. “Oh, gosh, I wonder what my relationship is to my autoimmune disease? What is my relationship to food? What is my relationship to how I develop my own healthcare plans?” So, what happens is, when we become curious, we move ourselves into a more neutral place. When we're neutral, then the universe can provide us with a deeper curriculum. One thing to think about this is that when if we take a perspective that the universe is built on unconditional loving, then it can only support what we have allowed or promoted or created. When, for instance, we decide, “You know what? I'm just going to get maybe curious to see if there's anything more that's not the exhausting path, because I can't do exhaustion anymore." Exhaustion is, again, when we go outside of ourselves to stay safe, like, “Okay, I'm going to look at this more deeply.”
So, the first thing I do with my clients is, I ask them to become curious. I almost admire or appreciate how they have done such a fantastic job working on these things. Then, what happens is as they start discovering what it is that they believe through looking at the relationships that they have to healing or even healing dogma.
Melanie Avalon: Wow. Okay, so now I'm curious. All these different emotions that we might experience surrounding the disease or the diagnosis or the identity or the thought, because you speak in your book about how there aren’t good or bad emotions, there's just all emotions. Say we are looking at our disease and we realize that we have different feelings about it. Anger, fear, worry, sadness, grief, are all of those okay to experience? If so, how do we experience them without them being more exhausting to us?
Jessica Flanigan: Oftentimes, because humans don't easily sit with discomfort, we have to just try it out. For instance, if you feel really anxious or you feel angry, all of those feelings are a very natural part of being with our illness or being with our circumstances. But what we do is we take a different perspective, a broader perspective, which is, those things are healthy and normal, but they aren't defining who I am. Much like I feel anxious, but I'm not an anxious person. But what happens is that when we're working in this fix-it model instead of the everything is here to awake me model, we're scared that if we poke that anxiety bear, that we're going to get stuck there. So, I spent a lot of time being with my clients, helping them understand that feeling those feelings and being with those feelings is incredibly healing and it actually moves you from one place into the next. And that the fear of getting stuck there is just a fear that we tend to not get stuck there. Now, when you're looking at those things through a big lens, which is I'm going to stay curious, we tend to not get stuck.
Sometimes, we do get stuck. For instance, when we do revenge. We were fired sometime and we just want to get revenge on people. Those are the places that we can get really stuck or when we start seeing-- we feel our depression is defining who we are, we can stay more stuck there. Even from that perspective, I see people move through them.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, actually speaking to that, like my own personal experience has been that the emotion of anger, for example, I would always suppress because I thought it was morally wrong to be angry, like you shouldn't be angry, should not be angry. And actually, pretty recently, within the past year, working with my therapist, I came to understand that it's completely okay to experience anger. Now, I'm able to, if I have anger, experience it and let it out, and it's been very profound for me. But emotions like fear or anxiety or worry, which I think so many of us with chronic health issues experience because there's this fear that what you're doing is not helping or what you're doing is hurting or what you're doing is never going to change, that's something that I really, really struggle with and I bet a lot of listeners do too. And it's what you just said. I feel if I'm fearful or anxious, then that's just perpetuating itself, and there's a massive fear of being stuck there. So, that was a huge question I had. Is fear or anxiety the exception to experiencing it?
Jessica Flanigan: I'm glad you just brought up anger because anger is one of the unexpressed emotions that I see, that are one of the biggest setbacks for people in their healing process. Let's look at anger for a second. There's lots of reasons why we get angry. We can be angry because of something that happened to us. A lot of people feel angry at God because they got a diagnosis. But they feel so ashamed of feeling angry-- anger is such a healthy emotion, and it can move us from one place into the next incredibly quickly. But what happens is then we don't just leave it there, we project it. But nobody likes an angry person. Those are the things that we might say to ourselves.
But if I get in touch with this anger, what if I get stuck angry? What if I go into the angry room and I get locked in there and I never get to come out? What if people start thinking I'm an angry person, and then I lose everything? My boss is going to fire me. My relationships are going to fall apart. And then, what about my doctor saying anger will raise my blood pressure? We start doing this thing, which is very normal. Like we start looking at how those things are affecting us.
Melanie Avalon: It's a really nice case study, because like I said, I would only say I'm not an angry person. I actually really felt that and I didn't really experience anger because I think I just would not allow myself to engage with it because I was like anger is-- you shouldn't be angry, and I'm not an angry person. But when I started working on it, I realized there were things that I was angry about that I didn't even realize. And what was interesting was at the beginning, the more I started allowing myself to experience it, it did become stronger. And I had that fear, like you just said, I was like, “Oh, no. What if I become an angry person?” But now that I've been working on it more and more, I've realized that it in and of itself is just an experience and is just an emotion and I can experience it and let it out. I don't feel like I've become a “angry person.” But what about the fear and anxiety because that's what I really struggle with, and I think a lot of us do. Can it also be experienced without self-perpetuating itself?
Jessica Flanigan: I think it can. So, then we have to look at-- let's just use anxiety. “Well, I feel anxious. What do I do about it?” Well, one is you want to be practical. We want to make sure that certain things are taken care of, like maybe you work with your naturopath and you have things that help you with your anxiety and you work on your cortisol levels, and so you want to do practicality.
The other piece though is that-- then the first question I ask my clients is, “Well, what's your relationship to your anxiety? Or what's your relationship to the you that's anxious? How is your anxiety serving you or how is it holding you back?” These are all questions that, again, we tend to start identifying ourselves from and those are those places that can become limiting. Then, we hold them as truths, and we're loyal to them. Anxiety might make me feel like, “I can't hold down a job. I'll be worthless if I can't hold down a job.” So, why would we ever want to, again, poke the bear? We would never want to poke the anxiety bear.
Then also, there's so many messages now, especially in social media world that subtly don't allow us to have these very human traits. So, a lot of people feel up against that. We have to be a certain way, in order to be successful, in order to feel like we're crushing it in the healing world, and so we have this these added pressures now. We're really against healing being messy, and it's very uncomfortable. These things are really uncomfortable. The most uncomfortable thing, Melanie, that I've ever done is be with these hard emotions that-- for me, it was dread. Dread was my feeling of choice. I didn't like it and I tried to fix it my whole life. It wasn't until nothing else worked, and I had no other choice, I finally decided to be with the dread, and that finally helped me.
But see, even when we look at that, when for me was I had to be with the dread, I had to stop bargaining about, “Well, I’ll be with the dread if I know that I'll get a happy relationship or the career that I want at the end of it.” I had to let everything go and really vote for myself. I had to really vote for myself and say, “I'm going to be with this scary, scary thing because I am worth it.” So, we start voting for ourselves in a different way, which is, “I believe, my heart can hold this.”
Melanie Avalon: I pulled out a quote from your book that I just thought was so profound. You said, “Healing is the journey we take to believe we are worth our own fearlessness.” I just keep rereading that over and over. It's just really incredible. But like you said, it can be terrifying to go there and see and experience those emotions. Because I want to clarify a little bit, does this mean that if we didn't have this identity and we were just curious, if we didn't feel unsafe in our diet and our approach, would everybody heal? Are there still other aspects to it? Because in your book, you talk about the three parts, which are the medical, the love, and the food, the three aspects to The Loving Diet. So, I thought we could talk a little bit about that. Is it possible that a person could completely heal just based on mindset alone? Or are the other parts required as well?
Jessica Flanigan: I think that the heart is the superpower, which is, I feel anxious, I feel depressed, I'm going to have hard things happen to me and I'm still safe. And that's the language of the heart. The language of the mind is you need to try harder, everything is broken, you need to go find a plan. So, we want to use the mind to assist but we want to use the heart as the CEO. This is for a lot of people a first dive into considering this. I do see this happen. One thing to consider here though, Melanie, is that the body is not built for perfection. Only our loving is. We don't have to do anything to our loving to make it perfect, it already is. Sometimes, we have to undo a lot of these things that we believe about ourselves that are limited to come to an understanding of experiencing that inside of our body, but our bodies are going to continue to have things happen to them. We can't look to them as perfect places, but the body is the place, it's the bridge between heaven and earth and so it's like our own little laboratory. It's like a living encyclopedia. So, we get to constantly build this wisdom and knowledge by, “Oh, I just went through a heart experience. That's interesting. What did I learn from that?”
Melanie Avalon: Wow. Now I've completely rethought my original question because I was saying, could a person “heal” based on mindset alone, but in a way-- not that there's nothing to heal, but maybe it's not a matter of unhealed and healed because that would be either on or off. Like you said, the body's not built to be perfect or does not exist in a perfect state anyway. So, in a way, none of us are healed and none of us are not healed. We're just experiencing different states of health.
Jessica Flanigan: That's amazing how you said that. When I came to what you're saying, and then I was like, “Okay, well then, what's next?” The other thing was, now I understand that there's nowhere my loving can't go inside of myself. There isn't anywhere I can't be where my own heart, my own compassion, and my own loving can't keep me safe. No matter what it looks like on the outside. No matter what diagnosis I get. If I do get one, it's what is it here to help me understand, how is it here to uplift me?
I'll give you an example of this, another one, a personal one that has happened since my book. I had an experience when-- my twin sister has fibroids. So, I decided to go get a pelvic ultrasound because my period started getting really irregular. I was doing all the practical things and looking at my hormones and acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Anyway, I got an ultrasound and they called me, they're like, “Yeah, we found something irregular on your ovary.” Okay, nobody wants something irregular on their ovary. [laughs] I was like, “Okay.” The first thing I did was spiritual people don't have bad things happen to them, first thing. And this is after me being a student of this. That was the first thing. Second thing was--
Melanie Avalon: Like that was the thought you had?
Jessica Flanigan: Yeah, that was the thought I had. “I'm doing something wrong. God is punishing me.” And then, I let myself spin out and I let myself collapse and I didn't judge myself. And then, I had to go through the whole process of getting an ultrasound again, and what does this mean? Do I have ovarian cancer? Because that's sometimes what happens. So, what happened was when I was told, I decided no matter what, I'm going to be with myself in a loving way and I'm going to fully cooperate with what's present. I'm going to see what this means, what's here for me. Well, the end stage of this was that the ultrasound came back normal, but it took like three months for me to figure that out. For three months, it was a nail-biter. But during those three months, I let myself unravel, and I trusted being with myself and all of those crazy states of emotion, the crying, the confusion, the why me, the what's happening, am I being punished?
But then I did something else. I stayed in a cooperative state to what was happening, and I realized that this health scare will actually help me uncover a deeper question, which was, I didn't know if I had true meaning in my life. And I touched the part of myself that held meaning, like deep spiritual meaning. I was 47 years old, and I hadn't done that yet. After doing all the spiritual work I've done, after writing my book, after being a student of all of this, it was like I had to go-- I had a very challenging event. But what I knew was that there wasn't any place I couldn't go and be with myself loving. And then I was going to really be open to discovering how this was going to help me and awaken me to something.
I had a profound spiritual event, which was I was able to connect to the part of myself-- while being scared, while being anxious, I was able to connect with a part of myself that held deep meaning for my life, and I'd never had that experience before. And I did it through something going wrong with my body.
Melanie Avalon: Wow. Okay. I have a question actually to that specifically, and it ties into something I had a question about. I hope I can articulate it. For example, I was talking with a friend recently and similar to you, a lot of people often go to the worst-case scenario when they hear the idea of something that might be bad. For example, with your situation, sorry, you said it was on your ovary?
Jessica Flanigan: They called it a lesion on my ovary.
Melanie Avalon: For that example, you might have gone to the worst-case scenario. A lot of people, if they have that diagnosis, they might go to the worst-case scenario. They might be thinking about all the things that it could be. But basically, I was talking with a friend the other day, and we were talking about, because she's been getting a lot of health tests. She's having some health issues, so she's trying to figure out what's going on. She talks about how whenever she gets a result or basically when any data comes in regarding the health condition, she jumps to the worst-case scenario, immediately.
For me, I do experience “chronic health issues” and I'm not like her in that respect. When I get more data, I don't typically jump to the worst-case scenario and even if it comes back and I don't like the results, I'm kind of like, “Well, what else can we try now?” But on the flip side, and this is not health-related, but if I for example-- and this may seem silly, but if I see a missed call or like an email or somebody needs to talk to me, it's a marker of something, I don't know what the answer is, I actually tend to jump to the worst-case scenario. I think, “Oh, I must have done something wrong,” or, “Oh, this is them telling--”. I think when somebody is going to tell me something about something in life or a relationship, I jump to the worst-case scenario.
My question with all of this is, when people have a tendency to get scared and jump to a worst-case scenario about receiving some information where the answer is not yet known, does it require something having happened in your past that causes your brain to have that fear? Because it seems it would be a learned response. Because if it had never happened before, would you be scared about it? Do you think with your situation, was there something in your past that would make you have more fear surrounding it?
Jessica Flanigan: Yeah, I think you're describing the perfect scenario of two people are on a plane and the plane goes down and they both survive, and one person gets PTSD and the other person walks away and they're fine. Yeah, I do. I think that we're primed for these learned behaviors from childhood. I'm definitely a worst-case scenario person, and it probably has a lot to do with these learned behaviors that I had from my childhood. Now, what I do is I'm honest with it. I just talk to it and I don't judge myself. Like, “Okay, I'm a worst-case scenario person.” I've lots of friends. We do our worst-case scenario together. We don't try to build it but I'm just wired that way. I don't judge it. I still fully cooperate. I start looking about where are the gifts, where are the gifts here for me.
Melanie Avalon: It's wonderful that the brain that we can rewire it. I shouldn't even say I wish I could rewire, but I would love to have my brain rewired. If you automatically just had like a humor response to everything like, “Oh, isn't that funny or interesting?" Because you were talking about how we can be curious about everything, I often think, well, if I could just reframe everything to that's funny, then nothing would scare me.
Jessica Flanigan: Well, you bring up another thing too, which is how do we navigate this world? And so, one thing is to get bigger than your trauma. And the only thing that I know that can do that is our hearts. When we join our own loving with a trauma and a judgment, then healing happens.
Melanie Avalon: For listeners, in The Loving Diet, there's a lot of meditations and practices. I think it can be hard sometimes to say, “Okay, what does that practically look like? How do I do that?” One of the meditations in your book, I don't know if you still practice it with clients or talk about it, but it was the one where-- I was talking about how to reframe-- I don’t know if it was reframing an experience but it is basically how to attach love to something that you don't love or you're fearful about. You were talking about how you remember something that made you feel love, and then you transfer it to your disease. Do you know what I'm talking about? Can you tell listeners a little bit about-- I thought I was like, “Wow, this is a good one. I've got to do this one.”
Jessica Flanigan: I teach it in a probably more simplified version that I can tell everybody how to do this now. So, if everybody is listening to this right now and you just put both of your hands out in front of you. Think about something that's bugging you or an issue. It could be about your health or it could be about worst-case scenario, whatever it might be. Whatever the issue is, you close your eyes and you just imagine that sitting in one of your hands. You use your imagination to just feel a weight of it. How much it plagues you, how much you think about it, how much you might ruminate on it, just the weight of how much it might occupy your life. You just spend a second just developing it and feeling it. Then in your other hand-- don't do anything with the hand where the issue is, just let it hang out, and now focus on your other hand.
In your other hand, I want you to imagine the best-case scenario. Sometimes, I think of it is, the ultimate health, abundance, happiness. A lot of times I'll just see myself dancing or singing and just complete joy. So, you really want to see that in your other hand. Sometimes, I think of it as a grain of sand that has loving in it that grows to about the size of a basketball. You might think about the person you love the most in the world, something that you dearly treasure, and just think about that feeling growing in your hand and so it gets to about the size of a basketball. And then, once you have both of those, I want you to notice the first hand where the issue is and I want you to notice the second hand where the loving is, the best-case scenario. And then, notice what you feel in your body.
When I do this with my clients, what has happened every time so far, is that they feel a difference in their body. They feel a lightness. You'll notice that we didn't do anything to fix, surgically remove, cure, heal the first issue that was the problem. But in the other hand, we just added loving and you can get a different response when you start playing around with that.
Melanie Avalon: While you're doing it, I have a feeling of all the energy of what was in the hand with like focusing on chronic Illness, that feeling really heavy and just wanting to drop it. And then, the feeling of, like you were saying lightness. It's so profound how when you let go of things that you realize that you don't even realize you're holding on to and then you let them go, I do experience that I always get this feeling of that peace and love are the foundation, like they were always there. They were always there. I didn’t have to add them in, they were always there. I just had to let go of all these other things.
Jessica Flanigan: We get born with a toolkit that is complete in our heart. So, we don't need to add to it, nothing. It doesn't get taken away. It is a complete toolkit. But what happens is that then we start having these experiences where, again, we start thinking, “Oh, maybe I can't trust my loving, maybe it's not safe to trust my loving, maybe that's not a dependable resource.” Then, we start pulling away from. I love how you're saying that, because you're saying that this idea that healing is more about undoing than adding. It's about undoing those limited things that we thought that we needed to believe because hard things happen to us. And that has a profound effect on her physical body.
Melanie Avalon: Actually, to that point, this is a question I was going to ask you, and it relates to that, the fear of experiencing the love. For example, growing up, I always identified as an optimistic, glass half full. The things I would always say was like, “It's all good” and I really believed that and I was always excited really about pretty much everything. Even if I was “suffering,” I sort of love suffering because it was an emotion to experience, so it was exciting. For example, I had like a sad quote book of sad quotes, because what better to do than linger over feelings of sadness just because it was exciting in a way or something enlightening to experience. Whereas today, I probably have equal emotions but experienced in fear and anxiety and I would not have anxiety quote book because just to show how perspective can change.
Coming back to the point, for the longest time I would really love experiencing feelings that probably were love based. I remember I used to think, “Oh, I love experiencing all this. This is so amazing. I just want to experience it every moment of my life.” My motto in life was, I live vicariously through myself, which I was like, "That's the mindset to have!" I would have this little fear that I was like, "It can't always be like this. Life can't always be great. What if something happens?" And I didn't think that would happen, but then I did sort of get chronic health conditions.
Now on the flip side, that came true that idea of, “Oh, it can't last forever loving, every moment,” or there are hard things that won't maybe go away. Now when I experience love, and this is what I constantly I'm working on reframing, it's like you just said, there's this fear that it won't last or that it won't go away. And then, I have a fear-- I don't know if you've experienced this with people, there are things we can do that make us feel good that did not last or they might even have comedown effects. Alcohol, caffeine, other types of addictions. How is love different from that? Because sometimes now I will feel so amazing and I'll have these moments of experiencing the love, but can it keep going or can you get burned out on love? Is it possible to just exist in a state of love or will you get burned out from that?
Jessica Flanigan: Well, love is incredibly active and the self-compassion love that I'm talking about draws upon a well that never runs dry. So, it involves the parts of being in love with other people, and it involves the love that we have for humanity and the world. It also is the resource that lasts forever that we can apply to touch to the parts inside of ourselves that hold misunderstandings or hurt. It also can go out as a light into the world because love has a specific kind of vibration. We can both hold it inside of ourselves and broadcast it out. I would say that it is something that is an experience inside of ourselves, it comes from a place that doesn't run out, and it grows in richness as we let it teach us. It does not have an expiration date in any way.
When I work on this inside of myself, I reach one level and then I move into another one, and I keep doing a different kind of curriculum. I notice that I keep being presented-- my life loves me so much, I keep getting presented with different and more places where I can place my own loving to clear up any misunderstandings about my divinity or my holiness. From my perspective, that's a curriculum that I'm dedicated to.
Melanie Avalon: It sounds a little bit-- because you talk in your book about the role of joy. And you're talking about how we might get upset if we realize all these places that we lost joy or we were blocking joy, when really we could reframe it as, “Wow, there are so many places that we could be experiencing joy.”
Jessica Flanigan: You have a magic fairy wand and it is a direct dial and has a direct connection to your heart. With our magic fairy wand, we can touch anywhere in our life with that. It doesn't mean that our bodies are going to change because oftentimes there's a deeper curriculum that's helping to build wisdom and awareness. But we still have our own personal magic fairy wand, which is I'm going to love myself no matter what. I have the ability to love myself, no matter what news I have, no matter what falls apart, no matter what disappears. We all get born with that magic fairy wand.
I feel health issues and especially issues with eating are some of the most rich places that lead us into, “Well, what is it for you? What is it for Melanie? Because Melanie has her own unique thing she's doing.” And I have mine and my clients have theirs. Then, we get to be curious about what's the beautiful thing that sometimes is hard to do because it might involve suffering. What is it the beautiful thing that each person gets to do?
Melanie Avalon: Practically applying that, for example-- I'm trying to think of what would reach the most broad audience, but I guess, audience, you can think about whatever health condition you might be experiencing. For example, a lot of people suffer with, let's say, food sensitivities or food reactions, or IBS, SIBO, things like that. With that, what would you say to yourself to re-experience that as-- do we experience it as neutral? Do we experience it as something good that's happening to you? What would somebody literally say? I would say in your head, but I'm actually a big fan of saying things out loud. Maybe even say out loud to reframe that.
Jessica Flanigan: Shall we use the example of you just got a diagnosis with IBS?
Melanie Avalon: Sure, yeah.
Jessica Flanigan: Maybe we can even use yours because you said that you had food poisoning and then it opened the gates to these other issues like SIBO because I see that a lot. I see one-off food poisonings have big consequences for a lot of people in my own practice.
Melanie Avalon: I see it in people I know. People talk about it all the time on podcasts. And there is option idea that there is an inciting incident with the gut microbiome that happened. That's what can't ever or does not ever fix itself.
Jessica Flanigan: Well, if we looked at big picture, you had that experience, how many years ago was it?
Melanie Avalon: 2014, so six years ago.
Jessica Flanigan: I have one client who ate a burger in Mexico and whenever we talk, she calls it the Burger Incident. Melanie, you had this one event and it was incredibly painful, and it was probably confusing and scary. It felt you were being pushed down a mountain into an avalanche and you didn't know what the end result was going to be. Things started just being plucked from your life possibly in the form of, I can't digest food, everything hurts. I'm very confused. What do I eat? There's the practical piece, which is let's do testing and see what we're actually looking at. Let's look at the microbiome. Let's put you on foods that are gentle to your system. Let's get rid of parasites, let's deal with the gut barrier, those kinds of things. But then, there's this other thing, which is, Melanie, maybe if your inside spiritual fan club, when we got to listen in, and it said, “Melanie, you're going to have this really big event and I'm so sorry it's going be so disruptive. But just you wait. How you're going to serve the things, the ways, you're going to touch people's hearts with how this event is going to open you up to, you're going to be amazed.”
Melanie Avalon: That's actually honestly truly how I think about it now because there was that “inciting incident” and then lot of other things since then. Hypothyroidism, mercury poisoning, diagnosis of Lyme disease, whether or not that was true, I don't know, lots of things, anemia. I honestly, though, would not have the show or the audience or the community that is so beautiful and so profound if that hadn't all happened, because basically it just made me obsessed in researching and trying to find the answer for all these different things, and really led me to now what I think is honestly most important, is the whole mindset aspect of it. Honestly, I think, 2014, it probably could have just happened, and I hadn't brought in an anxiety and a fear and an obsession and a try-to-fix-it mentality. The effects might not have stayed, but at the same time, I can still be grateful because with each new thing came new obsessions and new research, and I've learned so much more and I'm just so grateful for where it has led, which I never would have realized, although I still feel I'm in the journey.
Actually, to that point, though, bringing it to the actual diet and the food because for listeners, we've talked a lot about the emotional aspect of all of this and the mindset, but there actually is a diet in The Loving Diet. I think now listeners can probably understand the mindset surrounding how to implement it. But before I go into it, do you still pretty much prescribe the same thing, it's your version of the AIP, plus low-FODMAP plus getting rid of resistant starch temporarily?
Jessica Flanigan: Not often, because since my book has come out, research has given us so much information about the microbiome. I do put people on it, but I only do it for a very short periods of time only when all the other options are exhausted. I don't often put actually people on autoimmune paleo anymore because there's so much testing that we can do that will help them not have to restrict it so much. So, autoimmune paleo was a really great guess, but now we don't have to guess as much. I do use it, and The Loving Diet is a mixture of autoimmune paleo and also with a low-FODMAPS. I do it in three different sections, as far as how low-FODMAP we want to go.
It's incredibly effective for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. It works great in conjunction with looking at your gut microbiome, so getting a real great snapshot of what's going on with your digestive markers and your diversity. I recommend not doing it for very long because what we have found out is that sometimes restrictive diets inadvertently will start lowering diversity in the gut and we need diversity in the gut to have good tolerant immune systems. I tend to use this for very short periods of time because longer than that, it will start adversely affecting how tolerant people's immune systems are.
Melanie Avalon: What do you feel if a person is on a more restricted diet by choice, and they're happy with that diet? I guess there's a fine line between knowing if you're happy because you're just happy or because you're happy because it makes you feel safe and you're scared to change it. Say a person goes on some sort of diet to address their health issues and they feel good on it, do they need to--
Jessica Flanigan: Some do.
Melanie Avalon: Some do stay on it?
Jessica Flanigan: Yeah. You're saying such a fantastic, important point, which is it's really an individual thing and some people do absolutely amazing on keto, or intermittent fasting, or on the Wahls Protocol or even autoimmune paleo, some people do fantastic, and I get asked this question so often. What I say to my clients when they asked me that is how do I know if this is okay? If I feel happy on it, am I, is it? The question to that is that you get to lean in and look and sense and experience, do I feel lack or do I feel abundance when I'm on this eating plan? And then trust it.
Melanie Avalon: Wow. That's really profound.
Jessica Flanigan: But a lot of people on autoimmune paleo feel lack even if they're not in touch with it. So, then we have to look at this other piece which is, “I'm fine. Everything's fine. Everything is great. I put my disease into remission.” But yet, when you look more deeply, there is lack places, which is as long as I maintain this diet 100%, I'm safe. But if I cheat, then I must not have what it takes to really handle my disease. I must have a weakness." So, that comes from a lack place. The simple thing is everybody now can say, “Is it from a lack place or an abundance place?” And then when we can look at the different layers, because oftentimes, there are places that we do diets out of lack.
And this is very normal. I mean all humans do, and some people excel. I tell my girlfriends, everybody has a friend who can do a 30-day juice fast and crush it. Then there's other people who are dreaming about food, complaining that they can't eat, their joints hurt. It's like why some people could do juice fast and why can't other people do juice fast? A lot of it is bio-individuality and genetics and inflammatory markers. Those practical things and then some of it is, how we're wired for joy, how we're wired for nourishment, and looking at those things.
But I work in the world of hypervigilance, so the thing that I see the very most in autoimmune disease is hypervigilance around food and actually becoming afraid of food, because any wrong move could kill you, put you back in a wheelchair, flare you and take away your life, as you know it. I'm being a little extreme, but that's how hyper-vigilance and fear of food works when we look into the darker side of restrictive diets.
That's why I developed my transformational eating class, is because I see so many people with disordered eating on restrictive diets. Again, not everybody, but a certain amount of people feel incredibly emotionally dysregulated on how to take care of themselves with a chronic illness and eat in a way that will sustain them. The transformational eating is, again, harnessing the power and the safety of our loving as a healing tool. We make food practical and then we start looking at how have I made food a safety measure for myself instead of keeping it practical. That's where I see disordered eating and that hypervigilance very much a massive, massive factor in restrictive diet movements.
Melanie Avalon: In that transformational program, because I assume people coming to it probably have varied histories, if they're on a restrictive diet, how long they've been on it, do you implement still some sort of restrictive diet for like a set period of time and then work on reintroducing things? How do you get out of the restrictive or the fearful mindset when it seems like when you do bring in something else, then you feel bad? How do you move beyond that?
Jessica Flanigan: It's individual for each person, but often the first thing-- let's just take an example, hypervigilance will keep me safe. If I'm hypervigilant about the foods that I eat, I'm not going to relapse, I'm not going to do damage to my body, and I am going to show that I really care about being invested in healing my disease. I see this so much. And people wear hypervigilance as a badge of honor, but it is exhausting. It is so exhausting.
So, when people come to me, the first thing we do is we look at how is hypervigilance serving you. I actually use forgiveness statements and meditation and show people how to create a structure of self-compassion, to help handle these things. It might be, I forgive myself for believing that hypervigilance is going to keep me safe. I forgive myself for judging myself for believing that my hypervigilance is going to prevent me from flaring. Those are the things that we look at and I help people develop a curriculum inside of themselves, that works for them and their spiritual orientation or just their emotional orientation, but their belief system that really works on these very deeper things that tend to come forward because remember, the relationship that we have to food can lead us to places where we can touch our own loving to the parts that hurt. I see that as a fantastic gateway for people who are willing and vulnerable enough to take a closer look.
I do this with eating. I have so much fun. There are small groups, it's only five people. We meet online for six weeks. We do what we're doing here, Melanie. We start talking about these things and doing meditations. I'm doing another class called Being With Your Illness because there's a lot of doing. There's a lot of doing out in the health world. I'm going to go do this diet. I'm going to go do this. Doing is a form of fixing but then the other pieces is how can we be with our circumstances? How can we be with ourselves hurting? I'm finding that when we start working on these things, hypervigilance isn't needed anymore, because hypervigilance was the pin that held everything together to keep the safety structure going. But when people start tapping into their own heart, then hypervigilance isn't needed. It just becomes part of the curriculum of, “Oh my goodness, now I have a deeper experience in my body of using my loving to keep me safe rather than my hypervigilance.”
Melanie Avalon: So incredible. With the classes and everything, you do these conversations, this meditation, this work, this reframing. Then, is there also practices that you use when you're actually eating? Is it reframing just in general the idea of eating or are there specific things that people implement when they're actually eating? Or is that almost a problem because that could be its own tool to stay safe rather than experiencing the loving?
Jessica Flanigan: It varies from person to person, but in the groups that I run, some people are on Wahls Protocol, some people do low-FODMAPS for their IBD, some people just developed an eating disorder from going from diet to diet to diet. It varies from person to person. What it means is that we develop a structure inside of yourself that will follow you no matter how you decide to eat. And so then we just remain curious. Maybe someone says, “Oh, I do feel like I want to do a juice fast.” You check in, am I doing it from lack or abundance? You keep checking in and staying curious in that student mind, and you gather information and then you try it out. So, then what happens is people feel more of a freedom where, "Oh actually, it matters less about what diet I'm doing. What matters more to me is me loving myself no matter what I'm doing."
Melanie Avalon: Basically, everything is okay. It's okay to do these different diets if they're coming from a place of love and abundance and not fear and lack?
Jessica Flanigan: Yeah. Not only are you okay, but your personal divinity has always been intact and no matter what diagnosis, what diet, what trauma, what experience you have, it never is in question.
Melanie Avalon: Do you think the body on a cellular level, genetically, epigenetically holds on to responses to food though, and if so, do you think it can change? How fast could it change? Can it change?
Jessica Flanigan: Are you talking about like, I have a sensitivity to eggs?
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I guess I should be more specific. Yeah, because there's a lot of layers and levels of sensitivities.
Jessica Flanigan: No, it does change. I would say 80% of all my clients are women who have been diagnosed with something and they are down to 15 foods. My immediate goal is to help them with the exhaustion. I mean exhaustion that they're feeling to maintain eating 15 foods, the sorrow and the grief from feeling like they can't go socialize, that they thought that over time why did I lose so many foods while I was trying to fix my illness, feeling scared and confused and a little bit betrayed often by their diet. Yes, they do get more foods. I find that when we start working on things, for instance, like food is scary or food-- there's good, bad foods or I need to be hypervigilant. When we work on those things, absolutely they tolerate more foods. That was the reason why I started doing this work was because nothing else was working. I can only go so far with the microbiome restoration.
Melanie Avalon: To that point, are you familiar with the work of Wim Hof?
Jessica Flanigan: Yes.
Melanie Avalon: For listeners, he's actually coming on the podcast soon. I'm so excited. He does a lot of work with cold therapy and meditation, for everything like health, mindset. But one of the most fascinating studies that just sticks with me to this day was-- I'm going to say this, the people who understand what I'm saying, you're my people. I often say that the bane of my existence is LPS, lipopolysaccharides, which is the endotoxins created from bacteria. Basically, our body registers it as very toxic, that's why people get sepsis, for example, in general, like a “normal body” responds to LPS as a toxin and not a good thing. They’ve done work with his breathwork and his cold exposure and his meditation techniques and they actually found, and participants, they infuse them with LPS, with this very toxic signal. The people who are practicing his work, their body's stress response was actually-- I can put a link in the show notes to both the study and the blog post I did about it, but basically the body's response to it-- because either way the body had a response to get rid of it and attack it, but the people practicing his method, it was marked by less inflammatory biomarkers. This is reacting to an actual toxin in the body. Basically, they were able to not have an inflammatory health detrimental response, they just dealt with it in “a healthy way.”
The reason I bring all that up is I feel, especially with autoimmune conditions, there's this idea-- or with food sensitivities that we're taking in something which oftentimes isn't even a toxin like LPS would be, but one person, their body has an autoimmune-type response or a negative reaction, another person doesn't, we could say, “Oh, that's in our genes, we're destined to that.” But I think just with his work, for example, clearly, our mindset can actually change how our body responds on a cellular level to these things. I just loved reading that because that was a scientific exploration of mindset and how it affects our body's response to, like I said, in that case, an actual toxin, but I feel like you can apply to food as well.
Jessica Flanigan: Well, doing breathwork is amazing because we're very present when we do breathwork. Wim Hof’s work is amazing because it also helps us do this deeper thing, which is it's not what happened to us, it's the relationship that we have. And breathwork helps bring that to the surface, so that we can examine it.
I'll give you one example of a client that I worked with who has longstanding SIBO. SIBO that isn't being touched by much, and she's been trying to work on her SIBO for a long time and has disordered eating. I worked with her for a while. It came down to-- she thought that her goodness was up for grabs. She didn't believe she was a good person when everything was said and done, and that she had to prove her goodness because of what had happened in her upbringing. When she came to understand that her goodness was intact, and nothing had ever happened to it and she didn't have to try to fix her goodness, her SIBO drastically improved, drastically. And as did her disordered eating.
Melanie Avalon: That's incredible.
Jessica Flanigan: Yeah, that's how this stuff works. But who would have thought, goodness, SIBO? For one person, it might be goodness, and for another person, it might be trust. It's not safe to trust. We can't say that when we start going after these things that there's one thing, but what it is it's where there's a misunderstanding about who we are and our inherent goodness in some way where we hold those misunderstandings helps bring us back into center, lines us up energetically, breathwork does that too, but helps us when we are brave and fearless to look at these things in a loving way and be with them and not judge ourselves, then it heals. And that's that whole I'm going to touch my own loving with the trauma and the judgment and then healing happens. So, that woman with the SIBO is an example of that.
Melanie Avalon: I feel there are often stories about people who can't lose weight and then they find some trauma or something they didn't realize was playing a role and then all of a sudden, they lose weight. I don’t know, have you seen that personally with anybody you've worked with?
Jessica Flanigan: Absolutely. I've seen that quite a bit. Or it might come to when they start doing this kind of work, where they start looking, poking the bear-- sorry, we've used that a couple of times. But when they start doing that, then it might come as weight loss or a dramatic healing, but it might also come from because their reference point changes and their consciousness expands around that curriculum, it comes in as this new modality that they'd never heard of. I talk about that in the book a little bit of, like, “Oh my gosh, my friend just told me about bioresonance healing,” or what you're mentioning with that sound or vibrational healing, that, “Oh, I had never heard of that before. I think I'm going to try it. It kind of resonates with me.” And then they do and it works. That's why I also tell my students and clients, is be open to how the world shows up differently because once you let go of the way you think it should be, and you're vulnerable to it being better than you could possibly imagine, the universe matches you with that thinking. Once you believe it can be better than you ever thought possible, that means you got to let go of what it's going to look like. And then, you let the universe come in and help.
Melanie Avalon: Actually, to that point, we were talking about the soundwave therapy. I have all these different “biohacking” things that I use to enhance my life, red light therapy, sauna, blue light blocking glasses, the soundwave therapy, meditation, all these different things. Part of me often wonders, “Oh, does that mean that I require these?” I guess it's the mindset of, “Oh, I have to have these to be okay.” Whereas if I could have a completely different mindset where these things just bring further goodness and further good things to my life, then they are okay. I guess I see my future self where I have all the things and I'm just excited about them and I don't feel I need them at the same time. It's just something I struggle with.
Jessica Flanigan: That's amazing. I actually do the meeting your future self with my students because there's a resonance on our timeline. There is a part of ourselves that already has this all worked out, and we can start connecting with that place and start experiencing what it feels in our bodies to connect with the part of ourselves that hasn't already worked out.
Melanie Avalon: That's one of the biggest things I think about and struggle with, is sometimes I feel it's all actually fine. Everything is all worked out, and so the fact that I still feel like I need to be working it out, must mean it is clearly me keeping me here, which I guess it is. Which seems that's the biggest obstacle. If the answer were outside of me, and we're all of these things, it would be working. The fact that it's not or not moving as fast as I would like it to be or I feel I have setbacks, reiterates this idea that I am fearful of that just shows that clearly it's me that is not allowing change to happen or not accepting the fact that there actually maybe isn't anything to change. I don't know if other people experience that as well. But how would you reframe the fear of it’s your doing that's keeping you in this state?
Jessica Flanigan: You can have a constant check-in with yourself to see am I deciding this because of a place of lack? But for you, as you were talking, there's a part of it, which is-- I think you said like working this out where there's a draw-- Melanie's curriculum, I mean we could say spiritual curriculum, but your life curriculum, there's an engagement that your circumstances are keeping you astute to. Part of it might be that the way that your message gets broadcast and touches people's hearts. The world's not done with you doing that yet. We look at as, “Oh, if I were only healed, it would look like this.” But then, there's this other piece which is, your contributions to the world are shifting a viewpoint that's ready to be shifted. So, by me having these little cleanup things in my body, that keeps you engaged and doing that curriculum and serving that, serving a shift of a vast viewpoint that's ready to get shifted. Does that make sense?
Melanie Avalon: It does. It was also making me think-- because we're experiencing the whole coronavirus situation right now and the pandemic and everything. I remember when it first started-- it has not created any fear in me, and I don't take it lightly. I do the mask. I think it's a very drastic, not good situation. I don't take it lightly, but it actually doesn't scare me at all. I think that's because I've been living for so long in a place of anxiety and uncertainty surrounding health, for example, that something like that doesn't even faze me. I was interviewing Dr. Will Cole who wrote Ketotarian, but his most recent book is The Inflammation Spectrum, all about autoimmune disease. And he was saying that with his patients, it made me so happy to hear this, I was like, “Oh, it's not just me,” because he also works primarily with people with autoimmune diseases. He was saying that when coronavirus started, it didn't faze most of them. They weren't any more scared by it because we've been when you've been dealing with the uncertainty of things like that, you are-- I think that's what I'm grateful for is I've become so equipped with all these tools that I talk about on this podcast all the time. Meditation and immune-boosting support and all these different things when something like that happens-- people are like, “What should I do?” “How should I support my immune system?” I'm just like, “Just keep doing all the things I've been talking about this whole time, nothing really changes.”
One of the things I'm grateful for, and I can't say it right now that is true, because I do still experience fear and anxiety surrounding my personal health problems. But I am so grateful in advance for when I have-- I don't want to say lost but don't have that identity of fear and anxiety surrounding it because I promise you, I can say from the bottom of my heart, I don't think I will ever be scared of anything ever again. Maybe that seems like hyperbole, but I think there's something for people who are struggling with fear and anxiety surrounding their health, their diet, whatever it may be. One of the reframes I do is, it has made other things that could have bothered me, they don't bother me anymore, in comparison. So, I'm excited to reach this state where I can just experience everything and I don't want to say not be bothered, but I think it's possible. Putting it out there.
Jessica Flanigan: In that idea of we don't need to add anything to ourselves for the healing and to discover these things as well, we're going through a big process right now on the planet to do that. For some people, it's going to be in different areas. I had my COVID supplement box done by mid-February. Because for me, it was like I feel good, I feel less anxious when I know that if I get sick, that I have my supplements that I'm going to take, so things like that, where I just started to get behind what works for me and not feel like I needed to make excuses for it. I feel that's a really important step that we can take and it's going to look different for everybody.
Melanie Avalon: The first thing I said to-- because my family was texting about coronavirus when it first happened. One of the first things I thought was, it actually made me grateful for my immune system because I think a lot of people who identify with autoimmune conditions, they feel their body is just reacting to everything all the time and just freaking out, and it's like, “Can we just please calm down?" But I was thinking, I actually feel I have a pretty robust immune system, it's just a little bit overreactive. I'm grateful for it. With things like viruses and things we might encounter, I actually feel trustful of my immune system to be ready for it, even if it means in a process it's reacting to other things.
Jessica Flanigan: When it comes back to that, everything is here to awaken us to something. Our own illnesses, this illness that's on the planet, the viruses that we naturally have in our body, everything is here to awaken us to something. What is it? It's different for each person, it's a different curriculum, but when we stay open-hearted and non-judgmental about what is here to awaken us-- it doesn't mean it's going to be roses and rainbows because when we get awoken to something, oftentimes it's a grueling process to let go of what we thought was true, to let go of the identity that we held as true that we've outgrown. But that kind of questioning is this very first thing that I did when COVID hit, I was like, “Wow, I wonder what this is awakening humanity to?" There's a lot of disagreement about COVID on the planet, but the one thing I think everybody can agree on is there's a lot that's happened since it hit the airwaves of humanity. It's different for everybody but that's a fruitful yield to keep asking that.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. I know so many people are saying, when are things going to go back to normal or go back to the way they were, when I think it's a really, really valuable opportunity for humanity right now to evaluate what wasn't working and what is important to you, and what you do appreciate. It's a huge opportunity to come out of the pandemic much more stronger and full of gratitude and appreciation and so many good things than we were before.
Do you mind if I ask you some really quick just rapid-fire questions that are super random because I know we're running on time? I'm just dying to know because in your book, you talk about certain supplements and things that are often particularly healing for people with gut issues and things like that. When it comes to a healing diet, the dream version of me is like, “I just want to eat real food and never have to take a supplement again.” Is it okay to use supplements and are they sometimes required for moving forward towards wholeness?
Jessica Flanigan: Yes. I think for each person, it's different. Some people are on 30 or 40 supplements when they come see me, and I try to pare it down. But, yes, I feel there's so many amazing things that have come out, especially in the last five or six years, that have really, really helped with the gut mucosa and also with increasing the secretory IgA of the gut mucosa. I tend to use what I call pre-pre-prebiotics and also prebiotics and probiotics, as well.
Melanie Avalon: What are pre-prebiotics?
Jessica Flanigan: Pre-prebiotics are people, for instance with SIBO, who need diversity but can't tolerate prebiotics and tends to be a group of polyphenols that I use, like food substances that are rich in polyphenols that I use to help kind of start-- it's like easy compost. I call it easy compost for the microbiome garden. So, mostly polyphenols.
Melanie Avalon: Are you fan of butyrate? I'm just curious because I keep seeing that popping up.
Jessica Flanigan: Yeah. I do like butyrate. Butyrate enemas are really good too.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, I'm so glad you said that. TMI. I do practice enemas, and I have butyrate right now. So, this is a really exciting idea [laughs] Oh, actually, I like one of the supplements I was thinking of that I think actually is a good example of a materialization of the idea we were talking about the beginning about engaging in a diet out of fear rather than abundance, I think digestive enzymes. For example-- they're so helpful for me, as is like HCl, but I do struggle with a mindset of feeling like, “Oh, I can't digest without them" in a way. That's something I struggle with and I think a lot of listeners might struggle with.
Jessica Flanigan: I love Houston Enzymes. I think that they have a really great line. And thank you for saying that too about the fear or the abundance because think about when everybody takes their supplements. So, listeners who do that every day, when you take your supplements, caretaking for your body, are you caretaking out of a lack place or an abundance place? Or maybe a little bit of both? But that, “Oh, that's interesting. I never thought of that before. Let me be curious. Where is my lack? Or where is my abundance?" Because supplements, from my perspective, work better when you look at that. When you're doing your health care plan from abundance, they work better.
Melanie Avalon: Oh my goodness, the epiphanies I am having right now. Okay, because I go through my laundry list of supplements that I take and I can tell you for each one, whether it's coming from a place of abundance or fear, hands down, abundance or lack. I think I want to keep a lot of them, but I think I could change the mindset surrounding them. If I'm taking all of them for whatever reason may be, there’s no reason I couldn't have a mindset of abundance for each one of them. A specific example, like the ones that are coming from a place of abundance, not lack, are things like [unintelligible [01:27:07] and some polyphenols and vitamin K and vitamin D. Glutamine, I'm on the fence about, that's on the in between. But things like digestive enzymes, HCl, few other ones, I feel like that's actually coming from a place of lack because I feel I have to take it, otherwise things are just going to go sour.
Okay, when I eat next time, I'm going to be thinking about this and how I can reframe it. Really, really random, specific one, because you mentioned ignatia. I don't know how to say it, ignatia.
Jessica Flanigan: Yeah, ignatia.
Melanie Avalon: I had never heard of it. It was a very specific-- you have a section on it. What is it? Do you still like it?
Jessica Flanigan: Ignatia is a classic homeopathic remedy for grief. For me, it was really instrumental in helping me integrate grief in my physical body. It works really well for people who it's appropriate for. What I would say is, if you're experiencing grief somewhere in your health journey and you feel it might be thwarting or slowing you down, talk to your alternative doctor. You only need to take it once. I only took it once, and it was really profound for me helping to energetically align with grief so that I could keep going.
Melanie Avalon: Wow, okay. Yeah, I wanted to ask you about it. I had not ever heard of it and it seemed to really have a powerful effect. You experienced a lot with it and you said in your patients, so I had to ask you about it. And then, one more last random question. For example, I developed an iTunes app. It's actually a top iTunes app in the food and drink category. It looks at over 300 foods, and it has their general levels of 11 potentially problematic compounds for people. So, it has FODMAPS, lectins, gluten oxalates, nightshades. I mean it has 11 different things. I created it as a tool for myself because-- I probably definitely created it out of a place of fear, but just in frustration and exhaustion of always having to look up a food like-- creating cross-references and what food is low in this and is it high in this and all these things. Admittedly, I probably created it not out of a sense of abundance, but having it now as a tool, it does help me a lot though and it helps a lot of people who have it. Using that, for example, how would you approach that from a place of abundance and not lack? Is it okay to use tools like that, like guides, like looking up a food to see what compounds it may be [unintelligible [01:29:51]?
Jessica Flanigan: Well, first, it's so cool that you created that. What you're sitting, you're describing it, and it's like, I'm going to recommend it to this client.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, nobody had done it yet. And I was shocked. I was like, “Why is all this information not in one place?”
Jessica Flanigan: Absolutely. Tools are fantastic, practical. We embrace the practicality of using those tools to help make our life easier to streamline things, to help us get from one place to the next in our healing journey. It helps take the rigors of that deep thinking and having to research. Those are all really amazing practical steps that we can take that I fully embrace with myself and all my clients. It's one of those things too, where each time we take a step, we want to ask ourselves, is it practical or am I doing it to stay safe? Or if I am doing it, because I know that when I eat nightshades, I really don't feel well. That's a step of practicality. So, I'm not going to eat nightshades because it makes my joints hurt. That's amazing practicality. Stay engaged, stay present. And then, use the safety piece for the part of yourself that's made for it. That's custom made, that's fully prepared, that's never disconnected, that draws on the well that never runs out, which is the loving in your heart.
Melanie Avalon: I love that. For listeners, it's called Food Sense Guide. It's at melanieavalon.com/foodsenseguide. I would say it's funny, but people will often post in my groups or ask me questions about these different diets, and I'm like, “Well, I created this app that has all the information in it.” I just feel it's ironic, every time I recommend it, I almost feel bad because I'm like, “Oh, I hope this isn't perpetuating a restrictive behavior or fear mindset.” It's meant to be a tool, but I do worry that it might be perpetuating that in some people.
Jessica Flanigan: I still have food sensitivities. I'm still deeply engaged with my foods. I was overzealous, and I tried to heal my Candida, and I got the worst case of gastritis that I'm still repairing. So, there's the humanness of our journey is one that keeps us engaged and there's no endpoint, we never reach a destination. I'm always trying to learn and grow. From that perspective, I'm thankful that you created something that makes people's lives easier in that regard.
Melanie Avalon: Wow. I guess it really speaks to- I'm just thinking again, now why it makes so much sense why forgiveness is such a big part-- because, for example, in your situation with trying to get rid of the Candida and then the gastritis, it's like we get fearful that we're making it worse or that we did something wrong to ourselves. I can see now why forgiveness is so important because I don't think you could move beyond that until you forgive yourself.
Jessica Flanigan: My teacher told me something about 17 years ago which has served me well, which is anytime that we have judged something good or judge something bad, we've moved away from God. For me, it's like, “Oh, I'm going to be a good nutritionist. I'm going to be a good person, eat a good diet.” That's a path of exhaustion.
Melanie Avalon: I'm just loving that thinking. I'm just thinking about that. Well, this has been absolutely incredible. The last question I actually ask every single guest on this show, and it's just because like I said, I have realized how important mindset is for everything. What is something that you're grateful for?
Jessica Flanigan: I am really grateful that I was able to pay attention to the places that hurt enough so that I could love them.
Melanie Avalon: I love that. Thank you so much, Jessica. I am so grateful for your work. I don't want to use this word because it sounds cheesy, but I really think it's a game-changer for so many things. It's just profound. The book I read Loving Diet was incredible. How can listeners best follow your work if they want to take the classes that you were speaking of, what links and such would you like to put out there?
Jessica Flanigan: Well, I have my website. my website's jessicaflanigan.com. I'm on Instagram as @thelovingdiet. That's a great resource. You can message me there or through my website. I also run a really cool private Facebook group called Beyond AIP that's really active and full of resources and support for people who do autoimmune paleo, but kind of want a bigger version of life. I think those are the best ways to contact me. They can always contact me through email too, that's firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melanie Avalon: That is wonderful. For listeners, I'll put all that information, all the links in the show notes. Again, the show notes will be at melanieavalon.com/lovingdiet.
Thank you again, Jessica. This was so incredible. I want to air it tomorrow. I can't wait for everybody to listen. Thank you.
Jessica Flanigan: Thank you for the work that you're doing. Thank you for the voice that you have for being so generous and kind. I had a great time and I loved being here, so thank you.
Melanie Avalon: I do, too. Thank you.