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When Cooking Became Too Difficult Because of My Illness

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When you have any kind of chronic condition that gives you incredible fatigue, the things that were automatic actions in your life suddenly need to be well-thought out plans. For me, the everyday task that was made more difficult was cooking. I found that I didn’t have the strength to lift pots, chop things or enough mental focus to really plan putting together anything more complicated than peanut butter toast or microwaving a bag of popcorn. If I ate anything in balance (fruits, veggies and protein all on one plate) it was because my mom made it for me. When it got to the point where I couldn’t lift our lightest pot to make my standard noodles and chicken, we realized that a different solution was needed in order for me to feed myself.

The solution? My mom built a path of least resistance for me throughout the whole kitchen. I’ll explain.

Because the metal pots and pans were too heavy and awkward, my mom went out and found the tiniest, lightest pot and pan from the store she could and put it right at my level so I didn’t need the stool or have to bend down to get it. She also got some lightweight bowls and plates and put them right on top for me to use. So the cooking accessories were now lighter, easy to manage and could get thrown in the dishwasher safely.

For food, we realized that the whole standing and waiting while watching food cook was burning energy I didn’t have. And she worked full-time so it wasn’t like she could constantly make me food or have leftovers. And delivery wasn’t a thing the way it is now. So, we started to look for ways to make cooking faster and easier.

It was really important to us that I didn’t live off of sugar and simple carbs, which is what most processed food is completely filled with. We were looking for convenience in a healthy option and found that the vegetable, deli and frozen section of the grocery store had the best options. Things like already cooked broccoli, chicken and rice that just needed to be microwaved for one to three minutes quickly became a healthy way for me to eat in a balanced way without the work.

A typical grocery store shopping list for me contained: baby carrots, mini tomatoes, microwaveable broccoli and cauliflower, frozen strips of chicken, frozen brown rice, sliced apples, a bag of clementines (tiny oranges that are easy to peel), blueberries, frozen tacos, peppermint and lemon tea, and gluten-free bread.

Even though my pain and fatigue have been greatly reduced, I’m still a very simple cook. Most meals I make, including salads, don’t take more than 10 minutes to make. I keep my food simple and routine so on the days where I’m tired or just don’t feel like eating, it’s a comfortable routine that doesn’t involve a lot of thought.

For instance, every morning I scramble an egg and an egg white in the same pan, on the same burner, with some avocado toast. For lunch, I’ll have a sandwich, salad or pasta with chicken. For dinner I’ll cook with my boyfriend. Because I have a helper for dinner, it’s not overwhelming and I enjoy relaxing with the company at the end of the day when my energy is at its lowest.

If you struggle with fatigue and find yourself always eating out or having food delivered, I recommend you try and find five to 10 meals that you love, know you can cook and are simple enough to do on your worst days. Start cooking at least one meal a day at home for a week and then bump it to two meals a day, slowly increasing the meals you cook on a weekly basis.

Your body will appreciate the better nutrition of eating at home and it’ll feel good knowing that you spent some time on your best interest that day. I can still remember proudly declaring to my mom that “I made myself breakfast!” that first morning after we did all the rearranging in the kitchen. It was that tiny action towards that life of independence I wanted that keep the small fire in my heart alive and was a daily reminder to keep on, keepin’ on. And that my health could get better! Because one day I couldn’t cook for myself and the next I made myself breakfast. You may think, “OK, yes you made yourself scrambled eggs,” but for me it was a small reminder that no matter what happened in my health, there was always a way to adapt and make it work for me.

You don’t know what’s going to inspire or speak to you when you’re in your darkest moments. It could be something as simple as making yourself breakfast or it could be something bigger like getting out of bed even though it’s raining.

Whatever everyday task you’re challenged with right now, I’m here to tell you that’s there’s always a way to the path of least resistance. There’s a way that you can leverage that task in your favor. And once you leverage that one, you’ll find a whole host of other possibilities for all those other tasks that are giving you grief.

Then it just snowballs from there into the world’s best snowman and you wake up one day realizing that something that used to be a huge challenge is back to being an automatic action.

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Getty image by Dziggyfoto

Originally published: February 8, 2018
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