How I've Learned to Eat Healthy With Fibromyalgia
Anyone with a chronic illness knows how difficult it can be to rouse yourself to make a home-cooked meal. Chronic pain and fatigue can make it hard to care what you eat, let alone spend time making up meals. Before I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I often lived on microwave meals and pasta – easy to make, little mess to clean up – but I knew that couldn’t continue.
As treatment started, I began to look carefully at my diet. What could I change to make it healthier? Luckily, both my partner and I love to cook, and we can come up with some delicious recipes between us. We sat down one weekend and thought about what we liked to make. A colleague had told me her recipe for spicy potato wedges, and we decided to recreate it ourselves.
The trick for me is to prepare my meals in advance. Although some weekends I just want to spend curled up on the sofa, I try to push through and make sure I have some lunches to take to work. On Sundays, we cook up big batches of curry, quesadillas, spicy chicken – all served with a generous helping of vegetables. As a kid, I always thought salads were boring, and I’ve never liked any of the dressings I’ve come across, but these days we like to grab a cooked chicken from the supermarket, some fresh bread, and cut up cucumber, peppers, red onion, and lettuce. It’s such a simple meal, but delicious, and healthier than a microwave lasagne.
The best part about cooking is you’re in control. You can take as many shortcuts as you like – use shop-bought pastry, buy a tub of icing – or prepare in advance, like chopping vegetables the night before, or marinating the meat in a shop-bought sauce (we love homemade Nandos!). Cooking on the weekend is one of those “hacks” that really makes a difference. By Wednesday, I’m about ready to drop by 7:00 p.m., but if I’ve got leftovers to eat, I’m less likely to grab a microwave meal, or have a bowl of cereal, or skip dinner altogether!
One thing I’ve always loved to do is bake. While a student at university, I’d spend the evenings baking cakes with my housemate, enjoying them with a cup of tea in front of Downton Abbey or Mr. Selfridge. Just before I was diagnosed, and during the worst period of my illness, a friend wanted to come over and see our new house. Based on her dietary requirements, I decided to bake a gluten- and dairy-free lemon drizzle cake – from scratch.
Unfortunately, there’s no one diet that’s proven to help fibromyalgia. Some swear off gluten, others decide to become vegetarian, but the truth is it’s a very individual illness, and the current advice is just to be as healthy as possible.
I share all my recipes on my blog, and often get great feedback from readers who try them out. Some recipes are healthier than others – we’re big cheese lovers in our house! – but they’re all fresh, all homemade and pretty much all allow for shortcuts. From Indian style potato wedges to chicken and leek pie to coffee and walnut cake, there’s something for every week, and we rarely get bored with our food.
And for those times when the flare is unbearable? Well, there’s always a microwave meal, I suppose.
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Thinkstock photo via vadimguzhva.