There is one very important bonus to writing this blog and living in the virtual world for a time. It gives me the opportunity to push both my fibro and depression to one side for a few minutes and think and talk about something else. It’s just as well because they are both beating the crap out of me at the moment but that’s a depressing story for another day. Actually if I have the energy I might write about them tomorrow, as tomorrow is Budget Day in Ireland and everyone, if we believe the various leaks, is going to feel decidedly worse and probably won’t even notice my circumstances as they try to calculate how they’ll make it through Christmas and into the New Year.
I thought it was about time I wrote to you about one of my favourite subjects, oh yes it is food time. Anyone who has met me in person will know that since I stopped training as much as I used to, I’ve gained a few kilo’s. As I like to say ‘I’m not afraid of my dinner’, or breakfast, or brunch, or lunch or snack-time, you get the picture. For the first few months after my training dropped off I continued to eat as I had done before. I would have had a very healthy diet but I was consuming a lot of calories as I was able to train them off. So when I continued to eat at the same level with virtually no exercise, my weight unsurprisingly went up.
There are two disclaimers that I just want to put out there before I go any further. First of all there are no specific diets that work for fibro or arthritis or that definitely will cause flare-ups for people. Secondly what I’m going to write about below are my own experiences, some in consultation with a dietitian and are not here as advice or guidelines. It is vital to only make dietary changes on consultation with a professional in that area. Now that I’ve covered my own back I’ll get on with it!
As I indicated above I continued to eat like an athlete long after I had stopped even walking. My portion sizes were too big and I was eating food to provide energy that I didn’t need as I couldn’t train. Therefore this time last year I ‘wintered well’ and added some nice layers of insulation. It was brought home to me when I went to my sleep disorders doctor and she referred to me as being in the obese category. Weight is not my issue with sleep apnoea, for me it is caused by neurological factors. Nevertheless I didn’t enjoy being referred to as obese and decided it was time to make some changes.
I began to keep a diary of the food I was consuming and the little bits of exercise I was taking. Very quickly I cut out a lot of carbohydrates, as I didn’t need the energy from it. I don’t eat any white bread, pasta, race, potatoes etc. I only eat whole grain brown bread and if I’m out in a restaurant I’ll search for the healthiest option I can find. Cutting out the carbs left room on my plate so I substituted in more vegetables and proteins. Hopefully the protein in time will do its’ job of helping to grow and repair my muscles.
Keeping the diary was the first step I took in becoming a successful self-manager of my condition. I would have a very strict at home. Porridge for breakfast, fruit, vegetables, lean meat, no processed sauces, as few preservatives as possible, I make my own bread so I know exactly what is in it and I only drink water or milk while at home. It’s a fairly strict diet but what it enables me to do is to be a little more lenient with myself when I’m in someone else’s house or in a restaurant. I can control everything in my own home and I am learning how the little bit of exercise I can now do also helps.
As a result, when I returned to my sleep doctor last week, she complimented me instantly on the weight I had visibly lost and which was confirmed on her scales. I’ll put my hands up and admit to being a very vain individual so to not only see the loss myself but to have it recognised by both my doctor and the scales themselves show I’m on the right road and gave me something to celebrate. Again I’ll emphasise that this has been through some personal choices and some discussion with a dietitian.
Last weekend found me at home on Saturday evening, not feeling great at all and certainly not in the mood of cooking. This is unusual for me but even on those occasions I would normally have a dinner I had made previously in the freezer. Unfortunately when I checked, that cupboard was also bare. For about 2 seconds I thought about no dinner but my hunger won out very quickly. As I say, I’m normally very strict with my diet at home so I decided as both a treat and a rarity a takeaway would be my best bet.
So I got on the phone to my local chinese takeaway and piping hot food, and lots of it, was at my door inside a half hour. If you’re going to do something wrong, you should do it right so I had ordered myself a starter as well as a main course. I tucked into it feeling a cross between a prisoner savouring their last meal and a teenager on the hop from school eating cereal from the box lying on the couch in a dressing gown. It tasted so good and I think that was because it was a rarity and a treat to myself.
Then Sunday morning came.
I hadn’t realised until Sunday that there is actually a wrong side of the bed that you can get up from. From top to toe I ached, I was exhausted and it was all I could do to crawl from the bed to my couch. I couldn’t figure it out, Saturday evening I had treated myself to a takeaway, I had a relaxing evening and I slept like a baby thanks to my sleep apnoea machine, why was I in so much pain and discomfort?
It turns out my older sister is the older sibling for a reason, sometimes she is just so wisdomous! (yes I know it should be wise) While visiting me on Sunday afternoon I was telling her how I was feeling and that I couldn’t work it out. She suggested, and I strongly believe she is right, that it was my dinner on Saturday that caused the problem. I have been so successful in re-programming my body to my new diet that a chinese takeaway was a bolt from the blue to it. The takeaway contained MSG, processed sauces, fat, large portions and everything else I’ve tried to cut out of my diet.
So while it did taste lovely at the time, I don’t think I’ll be putting my body through that again anytime soon. What was my takeaway from the weekend then? No it wasn’t the chinese, my takeaway from the weekend is that my food diary and limited exercise programme is working and I’m becoming a better self-manager of my condition. It is more boring than a chinese takeaway for dinner but it will be vital for me in the future.