so yesterday, i had my transfer student orientation!
i am thrilled to be back in school after my frustrating last year or so, but it was a really challenging day, actually. if all had gone "according to plan," i would technically be graduating this december...
i know obviously my life was not meant to follow the "plan" of the typical american teenager, and i would never trade the experience and lessons i've gotten from not following the plan. i know this for sure, don't get me wrong... but it was still a challenge to not be a little disappointed, or maybe frustrated is a better word?
instead of starting as a second semester senior, i was transferred in as a second semester freshman. gotta love transferring from private, christian schools, yeah?
but you know what? that's ok. i'm excited to be back at it. i really am. and in hind sight - i am not the same person i was the first time i was a freshman. everything is going to be totally new and different, and that's exciting!
you know how sometimes, you have one of those situations where you smack your forehead and lament, "oh, i wish i knew then what i knew now!" well, i basically get the chance to "go back in time" and redo that now.
...venting session now over :)
more important things now, yes? in the past week or so, i've actually gotten quite a few emails on how and what to eat if you are dealing with a chronic disease/Fibromyalgia/nerve pain/cancer recovery. i thought i would elaborate, because unfortunately, i think everyone knows someone who struggles with one of these.
part of why chronic pain is so tricky is: 1.) the doctors aren't sure how and why it happens, medically speaking, 2.) they aren't sure of how to cure or treat it, and 3.) everyone is different, and responds to treatment differently!
ok, well, you know i find it frustrating, obviously, but if the doctors don't have any answers, what can we do about it?
diet always matters.
it's true. i don't care who you are - young, healthy, sick, old, overweight, underweight, an untra-marathoner - we all are humans, so food effects all of us.
unfortunately, if you are effected by chronic pain, be it from a car accident, Fibromyalgia, or rheumatoid arthritis, you don't have that "freedom" to pretend you are invincible. you can't pretend your diet doesn't effect you until you're 40 - you see the effects today.
this is good and bad. it's good because food does effects everyone, so you are more likely to take it seriously TODAY because you see how it effects you. being healthy is crucial. you cannot deny how important it is, and you don't believe in the saying, "ignorance is bliss." for you, there is no bliss in stupidity.
it's bad, though, because you can't be as carefree as your friends - when they just want to be young and eat like crap because they can, you can't, or you pay for it physically. it doesn't matter how much i want that ice cream cone, i CANNOT let myself eat it, or i won't be able to get out of bed the next day. period.
and trust me, i've tested it many, many times. you just can't cheat reality.
if the doctors don't have any solid, medical answers, though, how should we eat?
here's where i wish i had an easy, clear answer for you. the truth is, i don't, and neither does anyone else.
but through a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, i do have some recommendations for you to try.
it's really the same advice i'd give for everybody, but unfortunately, most people don't want to take diet seriously until something life-changing happens.
tips for managing chronic pain through food.
1. for lack of a better term, just man up.
there's just no easy way to attack this... i'm gonna sound a little mean here, ok? honestly, you just have to bite the bullet, and start being accountable for your habits. you're dealing with big kid problems now, so time to act like a big kid.
if you eat junk, you will feel like junk. if you already feel like junk because of your disease, you will feel even junk-ier if you eat junk. yeah, it's a word... haha.
this is your responsibility, not your doctors. if you don't do ANYTHING else to help yourself, please realize what you eat can make a HUGE difference in how you feel. whatever your excuse to not eat better is - too busy, too expensive, doesn't taste good, don't like to cook, crappy grocery stores, etc. - it just isn't good enough anymore. you are fighting new challenges, so you have to adapt accordingly.
unless you want to live every second of every day with the reminder that you are sick, you MUST eat as healthfully as possible. i don't mean freak yourself out about it, and i don't mean you can't ever have a cookie... but the FOCUS of your diet should be clean, natural foods.
the good news? it's what you do eat that's more important than what you don't eat. aim for foods that are simple: fruit, veggies, nuts, whole grains, lots of water, organic dairy, eggs, and meat when possible. make it easy for yourself, ok?
eating like this won't cure you, but it will give your body the basics it needs to fight for itself. there are so many things about chronic diseases you can't control, but this is one area you can help yourself immensely!
2. check your foundation.
if you haven't already, have you doctor do a blood test to check for vitamin/nutrient deficiencies. if you have a chronic illness, chances are, even with a flawless diet, your body will be lacking in some areas because it can't properly absorb all your nutrients. if you do find you have a deficiency, you will be amazed how much better you feel just from correcting that one, simple problem.
i hate to push supplements, but a very good idea is to look for a natural, balanced, plant-based multi-vitamin. you need more help covering your bases than the average chick does - it's not overkill. an omega-3 supplement wouldn't hurt, either. and your skin and hair will look fabulous :)
do some research on the internet, or check your local health food store. look for vitamins made from whole foods, not chemicals, if you can help it. if you need a supplement, you can get a bottle of that particular nutrient from whole foods for cheaper than a pair of pants! pretty good deal if it gives you your life back, right?
3. get checked for food allergies, if you are suspicious.
food allergies don't necessarily cause your issues, but they can make you feel much, much worse. you don't need one more thing to deal with!
if your allergist does find something, be kind to your body and respect it. i know it's not easy (i have many!), but in the long run, you will feel so much better.
everyone's body behaves differently. for example, i have a few foods that i just need to be careful with - i can eat them, but not very often. i also have some things i NEVER eat, because the reaction is so unpleasant. honor your body. test it. play around with your foods and see what makes you feel good, and what gives you trouble. this is a learning process, so give yourself some time to figure it out.
also consider: yeast/gluten, dairy, and nightshade plants: tomatoes, chili and bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplant. gluten and dairy are pretty common allergens (for those with a disease or not), and nightshades have been known to cause migraines/inflammation, so definitely worth looking at.
4. check your vices.
the little things we do and don't think about can make such a huge impact on us! one of those areas is our "guilty pleasure foods," which we allow ourselves thinking they aren't that big of a deal. unfortunately, they do effect us even if we don't notice, and if you have chronic pain, the reaction is exponentally amplified.... not cool.
foods to free yourself of today: artificial sweeteners (splenda, sweet n' low, sugar-free products/gum), chemical food additives (nitrites, preservatives, MSG), and too much caffeine (more than 1-2 8 oz. cups coffee per day). if you eat a natural diet, though, you won't have to worry! score.
also, don't forget about pesticides on produce and animal products. when you can, buy organic (when it counts!).
really sucky, but really important: please watch your added sugars. yes, even "healthy sugars," like brown rice syrup, agave, honey, etc. i know it's a crazy-hard habit to break, but sugar makes everything hurt worse.
while chronic pain patients especially should avoid chemicals, caffeine, and sugar, everyone would benefit from staying away. they aren't natural, are questionably safe at best, and are proven to increase pain sensitivity... if you can help it, avoid them like the plague.
and caffeine isn't bad in itself, but it can cause cycles of fatigue if you rely on it too much. i believe in the powers of coffee (amen?), but try as i may, it cannot replace sleep (a common practice if you're hurting and can't rest). try to keep your coffee/tea in small amounts, and before lunch so you can catch those much needed ZZZs.
most important? chill.
i know what you're thinking... "don't stress?!? i have a chronic illness and you just gave me a checklist 50 miles long!"
i'm really sorry about both. truly, i am. although eating healthy is important to feeling your best, freaking out about every little bite you put in your mouth will undo all the potential benefits! as much as possible, please don't worry... i promise you will become excellent at managing your disease, and eating for it will begin to feel natural. you should put a good effort into it, yes, but the whole point is to help you, not create more stress!
i know it feels overwhelming right now, but you can do this! you will learn so much on how to cope, and about yourself. you will meet amazing people who will support you, and you'll learn HUGE life lessons.
just don't give up when it gets hard. please, don't.
tips to share?
advice on how to manage healthy eating?
EDIT - check out melissa's amazing cookbook giveaway!