FMS | ATR Challenge: Day 4

Is it Day 4 already???!! 

Four days may not seem like much to celebrate, but given my goal of sticktoitiveness, I am super glad that I have stuck to it, i.e. both the meditation/prayer challenge (Day 26) and the Acknowledge the Right Challenge (Day 4).

The happiness is also because, as a person with fibromyalgia, I find myself often in a position where I have to give up the things that I want to do or am doing.  So, any progress made, however small, in showing myself that I can do/have it must be acknowledged.

As to what was right yesterday? Well, many things:

  • I got up (despite the weather, aches and pains, and general lack of sleep)
  • I did my daily meditation/prayer and stretches
  • I went to class and met new people, and feel very upbeat about the courses I am taking
  • I met a new friend and spent a good deal of time talking.
  • I got some reading/writing/work done
  • I spoke with my mother, which is always a good thing.

For today, I thought I would leave you with a link to a great Yoga International article on the benefits of yoga for people with fibromyalgia: “The Art of Surrender: Yoga & Fibromyalgia.”

Happy Wednesday!!

&

Remember that making progress on any path

means putting one foot in front of the other!

Until Next Time,

D.

 

 

FMS | Please, Tell Me What I Can Eat….

Seriously. 😉

If you are like me and have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia as well as other comorbid illnesses, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Reynaud’s syndrome, then your relationship with food might be a complex one–and that probably is an understatement.

Eating the wrong foods or food combinations can mean more inflammation, pain, digestive issues, insomnia, fatigue, hair loss and gain (facial), decreased libido, mood swings, etc. And who wants more of that?

Especially, if you have comorbid diagnoses, you may find that the food recommended for one illness, may be discouraged for another illness. Sometimes it feels like a lose-lose battle.

Still, we must not despair. There is always a path to healthier and active living, if we choose to seek it.

For me, I live be a golden rule when it comes to living in my body.  I think of my body like any vehicle that I would drive. It is my personal vehicle, and so this rule applies:

Food is the Fuel

Exercise is the Engine

As long as the combination of those two factors is balanced, then I feel at peace with my choices. Whereas exercise may be limited to what my body can do at any given time and may not be a daily experience (although I try to make it so), food is something that I ought to consume daily for basic functioning and overall well-being.

However, food, the fuel that our bodies need to sustain us, is one aspect of self-care that can create havoc, for people with fibromyalgia, in our otherwise solid treatment plans.

Over the last six years, I have undertaken the task of discovering what foods my body can tolerate.  Perhaps this task is a leftover from my days as a personal trainer/fitness instructor or maybe it’s just that I want to feel the best I can every day. Whatever the case, I have been experimenting with foods in order to find a FMS+ plan that is nutritionally sound and interesting.

Here is what I’ve discovered about my body:

Foods it Likes

(Tolerates…because I can’t really say that I, personally, enjoy all of these foods):

  • Leafy Greens – Bring on the lettuce, cabbage, endive, etc.  I cannot express to you how much I detest endive…but I live in Italy and am a bit lazy with food preparation, so endive is bound to be present in the bagged salads that I buy.  Oh well.
  • Water – Natural. Okay, this may seem a bit strange, but it is my reality.  My body loves water in its most natural state, not effervescent (fizzy). There is little else beyond water that my body can handle as a liquid. It’s simply not on.
  • Fruits – The crunchy kinds.  Any kind of fruit that has a crunch to it, my body seems to appreciate more than fruits that could be considered juicy (or very ripened).  So, that leaves me with pears, nectarines, apples, etc. HOWEVER, I have learned that I can only eat these in moderation or, at least, rotate them out. I can also eat bananas, mangoes, susine gialle (I don’t know the English name), and grapefruits, but even more infrequently.
  • Nuts & Dried Fruits – Don’t get too excited.  I can eat two things from this category fairly often, but still I understand that I need to keep them in moderate amounts: peanuts & dried cranberries. That’s it. Sometimes, I can have almonds, but not as often.
  • Eggs –  Although I am not a fan, I can eat them and do.  I, however, rotate them in my diet, because I am not partial to the taste.
  • Seafood – Yes, I can eat seafood BUT not all. My body, for whatever reason, cannot handle frequent consumption of  certain fish, such as salmon and tuna.  Shellfish, however, gets a green light.
  • Yoghurt – Notice, I didn’t write milk.  I can eat all yoghurt (as far as I know).  I feel best, however, when I eat Greek yoghurt, which I eat frequently and often in combination with my nuts and dried fruits–it’s my little treat.
  • Gelato – Not often, but I can eat gelato.  I don’t know about ice-cream. Also, I have to stick with plain flavours. Ideally, the gelato should be gluten-free (gluten is sometimes used as a thickener).  So, nothing with cereals or candies, etc.
  • Chocolate (dark or white) – Again, not often, but I can eat chocolate every now and again.  Like gelato, should be ideally gluten-free and it cannot contain any kind of cereals and is best without dried fruits (which is often raisins, which I cannot eat).
  • Diet Soda Ideally, caffeine-free. Looking to spice things up liquid-wise?  Well, I can have diet soda fairly regularly, BUT because of my IBS, I understand that I need to limit my consumption.
  • Other vegetables – Mushrooms, olives, cucumbers, zucchini, garlic, onion, leeks, chives, scallions.  All of those get the green light.
  • Oils & other fats – I cook with olive oil. Period.  I do have butter in my refrigerator, but use it infrequently.
  • Seasonings – Well, most, as far as I know.  I tend not to season my foods, except with curry, black pepper, powdered/liquid garlic, rosemary, thyme or pimento.  And even these are used sparingly.
  • Gluten-free Products – WAIT…Please, don’t get excited, I can eat gluten-free cookies/biscuits…but not all, and it’s sort of a game of roulette.  I never know how my body will react to things.  Also, even though I have been able to eat these things, doesn’t mean that I think that it is good for me.  So, only when I am having a particular craving will I make the effort to purchase these.  They can also be great for making the crust of a low-carb/gluten-free cheesecake.
  • Cheeses – Apparently, I can whatever cheeses are available, but in severe moderation. 🙂 I am partial to softer cheeses, such as brie or cream cheese (which I use to make my low-carb/gluten-free cheesecake).
  • Fake Sugars – Yes, I can use them and do to add flavour to my cooking or sometimes to my water.  Fake sugars, however, are tricky and it is important to understand which ones work for you and which don’t.  My body, for example, cannot tolerate sugar alcohols in any form, whether as a sweetener or in the presence of a food (including gum and mint).

Okay, so those are the major (if not complete list of) items that I can eat.

—–

What I Choose Not To Eat…

The list of items that I ought not to eat is very long.  Notice that I write ought not to eat.

This is because I can eat them, but there will be repercussions.  As long as I am willing to accept the repercussions (major IBS symptoms, random/sudden weight gain, increased pain and fatigue, migraines, increased insomnia), then I’m good to go. 😉

So, what I do I choose not to eat?  Well, I’ll give you general categories:

I discovered how bad it was for me just the other day.  Recently, I bought a bag of gluten-free flour, thinking that I would make myself some awesome Jamaican boiled dumplings. Well…the experience left me in misery.  Sure the dumplings tasted good, but I felt almost as awful as I would have if I were to have used regular flour.  Why?

Well, the foundation of most gluten-free flour is grounded rice, potato starch, sugar, and even some finely grounded nuts, such as almonds.  Remember my list of foods that my body likes?  Well, there you go.  Of course, having spent close to 4 Euros on this bag of flour, I intend to use it all, but sparingly (it’s good until next year).

  • Nightshade vegetables & fruits As much as I love them.  I have said goodbye to tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, eggplant (mostly), peppers, and most berries (cranberry exception).  They cause/increase inflammation and possibly insomnia, so it’s just not on.
  • Citrus Fruits – High sugar content, acidic, and too much vitamin C.  Well, all of these things I can do without. I already take a daily supplement of vitamin C, so I can live without them. Of course, as mentioned above, every now and again, I can eat a grapefruit. 🙂
  • Caffeine-heavy products – So, that basically wipes out tea, coffee, sodas, and even chocolate. 🙂  Of course, anything can be consumed in moderate amounts.  Still, I do not drink coffee, and rarely tea or soda. Of course, I mentioned chocolate before.
  • Meats – Like grains. It’s simply not on.
  • Milk – I always find it strange that I can eat yoghurt, but not drink milk. Well, that’s the reality. I can, however, use heavy cream for cooking.
  • Nuts & dried fruits – Too much sugar, too challenging for the body to process. 
  • Alcohol – I’ve never been partial to drinking alcohol. That being stated, alcohol simply presents a challenge for many with FMS. Want to feel more tired? More nauseous? Less restful sleep? Then, drink alcohol. I’m good without it though.

—-

Other things of consumption to think about?

Well, if you smoke, STOP. Smoking increases pain severity.

Chewing gum? Pause. Check the sugar content. Your sugar intake may be having an adverse impact on your health.

Of course, the research on what foods actually help or hinder us is limited.  Each person is different. So, each of us must take responsibility for what we put into our bodies.  Don’t just read this blog or something else and say “Aha! Now I know what to eat!”

Don’t be lazy!

Instead, take this information and use it for your own research. As I mentioned before, it has taken me 6 years to sort this out for myself AND it is still an ongoing process, especially as my body grows older (as a woman, this presents certain nutritional and hormonal issues).

What I’ve come to understand is that, no matter what, I must love my body.

It’s become a mantra…

I must love my body, even when it isn’t doing what I want it to do, even when it isn’t looking the way I want it to look, even when it feels like a stranger to me.  I must love and care for it the best way that I can.

I must shut out the emotional voice of my body that sometimes longs for foods that are unwise for me to eat, and listen carefully to the wise voice of my body that reveals to me the foods that will help me heal and maintain balance.

Food is fuel for our bodies, not a crutch for our self-esteems.

The Take-Away?  Well, I try to follow two basic rules when shopping, especially when I am thinking to buy something new:

  • If the food can live on a shelf longer than one to two weeks, then I don’t buy it.
  • If the food is in a can, bottle, plastic package, then I hestitate to buy it and refer to the first rule.

 

Well, I’m off to the grocery store! Happy Sunday!

P.S. If weight is an issue for you and you are looking for a place to begin, or you are needing inspiration on your journey, then check out fitness motivation speaker and certified women’s fitness, weightloss, and nutrition trainer Erika Nicole Kendall‘s blog:  A Black Girl’s Guide To Weightloss.  Kendall’s blog covers a variety of topics, including fitness, body image, sex, culture, food recipes, and beauty.

FMS | Article: Aerobic Exercise ‘Most Effective Weapon’ for Fibromyalgia

It’s a bright sunny morning here in Rome and, thankfully, not too terribly hot.  Over the last month, I’ve been engaging in a renewed program of incorporating daily walks as a part of my self-care management.

Now, I don’t mean just taking a walk down the road to the neighbourhood grocery store.  I mean taking a proper walk of between 1-3 hours (dependent upon weather and time).

Back in 2008 when I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia, my body was in its most unhealthy state.  I had gained a tremendous amount of weight as I could barely get up due to my fatigue and the pain was unbearable. I simply didn’t see how I could get my body to move and to go about life as usual.  Not only that, the drastic changes in both my weight and overall health had been devastating to my self-concept and self-esteem.

You see, just prior to beginning my journey to becoming a therapist, I worked as a personal trainer and fitness instructor.  I prided myself on my level of strength and stamina.  I prided myself on my little need for sleep (of course, I was in my twenties) and was content with the way my body functioned.

Enter fibromyalgia…and the pictured changed.  I was in misery.  It took me almost a year after my diagnosis (2009) to figure out a strategy to get my body and life back together.

I didn’t want to be a walking pharmacy anymore, dragging around a heavy frame that was only becoming heavier and making my symptoms worse.

I decided that I would walk…even if it was the last thing I wanted to do.  I knew that I would be in misery if I attempted to join an exercise program and I don’t believe in dieting.

Most importantly, I knew that walking was still something I could do. It hadn’t been taken away from me.

I started out with small goals, solicited some friends to join me, and began a 10 minute walk program.  That’s right.  Ten whole minutes.  Early in the morning, a couple of times per week, we would meet up and walk together for 10 whole minutes.  Eventually, we increased the time and frequency, and even (gasp) began a jog/walk program. 😉

Fast-forward five years and here I am, walking for hours.  My body has benefited tremendously from the small decision I made back in 2009.  The simple decision to walk. I take one medication for my illness as opposed to several that I had been taking back in 2008.

You see, we can spend our time trying to find the right medication(s). We can go from doctor to doctor.  We can bemoan our circumstances and ask ‘why me?’ forever or, at least, until our last breath.  None of that really will change anything in the end if we don’t look at how we can take control over our bodies ourselves and lives.

Don’t just leave it up to the latest pill you can pop.  Don’t just give up and say ‘what’s done is done’.  Don’t just decide that you are unlucky or fated to living your life in a way that is displeasing to you.

Decide that you can change it. Decide that you can control it.  It’s your body and your illness.  Decide how you want to live with it…happily.

There is always a path to be found…

Until Next Time,

D. 

Click on the link below for the article!

Aerobic Exercise ‘Most Effective Weapon’ for Fibromyalgia (Excerpt below)

“There is no magic drug against fibromyalgia and, in my opinion, there will never be. Psychotherapists don’t work miracles, but psychotherapy can help and, in a few cases, turn people with fibromyalgia into nonpatients. Drugs may help, but patients don’t like them,” said investigator Winfried Häuser, MD, from Technische Universität München in Germany, who has published widely on fibromyalgia.

“Aerobic exercise is the most effective weapon we have; healthy people profit from continuous physical exercise, and so do patients with fibromyalgia,” he explained.

Dr. Häuser presented an overview of research on fibromyalgia treatment here at the European League Against Rheumatism Congress 2014.

FMS | The 3 Ds: Disappointments, Decisions, and Determination

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”― Lao Tzu

I’ve begun writing another chapter in my life.  Perhaps this chapter ought to be called Sticktoitiveness”.  Why? Well, I like the sound of the word, it makes me smile, and…

Sticktoitiveness is defined as a “dogged perseverance; resolute tenacity“, which has reemerged as a theme/personal quality in my recent life.

It’s one of those many things that you may have had to cast aside, in one way or another, as you learned how to live with a chronic illness, such as fibromyalgia.   It’s also something that, in my opinion, you should never cast aside when you are living with a chronic illness, such as fibromyalgia.

——-

The 3 Ds

Living with a chronic illness, means living with constant internal and external changes.  The changes you undergo will create havoc in self-perception/self-image, in relationships, in goal-setting, in employment, in pacing achievements, and in even cooking pasta (I threw that in just to make sure that you were still paying attention). 😉

In other words, having a chronic illness can mean taking life moment by moment and doing your best to prepare for whatever shifts occur–it’s not an easy task.

I’ve done my share of explaining and lamenting the challenges of having fibromyalgia, so that’s not what this post is about.  If you’re interested in learning the depths of the difficulties, however, you can look in my archives.

This post is about why you, both people who are living with a chronic illness and those who are a part of their lives, must accept and live by the 3 Ds.

What are the 3 Ds?  No, this isn’t about multiple third dimension.  This is about accepting: disappointments, decisions, and determination.

—–

Disappointments, Decisions & Determination

The reality is that, when you are living with a chronic illness, you will face setbacks more often than not.  They are a part of the package.  They are also the first D, i.e., disappointments.

You will experience disappointments like never before… Seriously.

Especially, if you attained the status of ‘responsible adult’, then disappointments (particularly in yourself) will begin to take on a whole new meaning, because others may be dependent upon your well-being for their survival.

Decisions are an everyday part of life, and are the second D.

Decisions, when you have a chronic illness, can no longer be a straightforward and static process. Why? Because decisions can never really be wholly independent from your (unknowable) physical status.

This leaves the third D, and the most important, determination,

If nothing else, I have come to understand that you must remain determined in seeing your goals through to the end, whatever they are and regardless of your chronic illness.  

Yes, having a chronic illness can drag you down, cause you to despair, and generally make living feel less than worthwhile I am not denying that. Certainly, too, there are goals that may need to be altered or even utterly discarded.

Still, I am stating that if you focus on your goals with “dogged perseverance” or “resolute tenacity”, in other words sticktoitiveness, then your goals can serve as a way out of the darker aspects of having a chronic illness.

No matter what, stick to accomplishing whatever goals make your life have meaning, make you happy, and make you feel sane when everything else about you feels less than so.

Until Next Time,

D.

 

[Reblog] About.Com: Hair Loss & Fibromyalgia

[Reblog] About.Com: Hair Loss & Fibromyalgia

“Before I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I was sure I had lupus. The symptoms are extremely similar, and one of them that really had me convinced was hair loss. Every time I washed my hair, the tub was covered in it. Still, when I have flares, I leave more hair behind than my husband, who’s thinning a bit. (Good think he’s a saint so he won’t mind that I mentioned it!)

Eventually, I found out that hair loss actually is a fibromyalgia symptom – it’s just not one that typically makes the brief symptom lists you come across when you’re frantically scouring the Internet to figure out what’s wrong.”

I was glad to have found this article, because I experienced a very strange occurence this past week:  my hair began to shed like crazy.  A part of me was terrified.  Another part of me was amused.  Still, there was another part of me that said, “Oh, whatever.”  Still, the excessive hair shedding remained on my mind.

Anyone who has known me for a long time, knows that I have taken care of my hair since age 18.  I kept my hair natural, wearing loc’s for 14 years. Even since cutting and undoing my loc’s, I have continued to keep my hair in its natural state and have begun using natural products to take care of it.  In other words, I am very particular about my hair.

Of course, when I noticed my hair shedding, my mind went to the fact that hair loss (alopecia) is common for Black women. Still, that did not seem to be the correct answer.  Then I began to think about my levels of stress over the recent time period and I recognised that I had been highly stress (and still am).  Then I thought about my fibromyalgia, and came across the linked article.

I had no idea that hair loss was among the symptoms that one could experience, thus I am grateful for having found this article.

Until Next Time,

Diedré

[Reblog] WebMD Fibromyalgia Community: Short-Term Memory Problems

WebMD Fibromyalgia Community: Short-Term Memory Problems

“One of the biggest challenges facing many people with fibromyalgia is — wait — what was I going to say?

Short-term memory problems can be embarrassing, frightening, and even dangerous for people with fibromyalgia. One community member asks for help as she’s noticed her memory deteriorating. “I have had two experiences in the last week where I couldn’t remember what the inside of my house looks like!” she laments.

A chorus of replies quickly tells her that she’s not alone…”

“The Buddha said…”

“The Buddha said that we are never separated from enlightenment. Even at the times we feel most stuck, we are never alienated from the awakened state. This is a revolutionary assertion. Even ordinary people like us with hang-ups and confusion have this mind of enlightenment called bodhichitta. The openness and warmth of bodhichitta is in fact our true nature and condition. Even when our neurosis feels far more basic than our wisdom, even when we’re feeling most confused and hopeless, bodhichitta—like the open sky—is always here, undiminished by the clouds that temporarily cover it.” – Pema Chödrön, from The Pocket Pema Chödrön

This quote by Pema Chödrön resonated with me today and I hope it will do the same for you.

Also, I wanted to share with you links to the two books that are most dear to me and they are both by Pema Chödrön:  When Things Fall Apart and The Places That Scare YouBoth of these books remind me of my place in the universe and how to take each step forward even when my path is seemingly covered by impenetrable darkness.

There are, have been, and will be moments in our lives when it seems that nothing is going as we had hoped, when we feel our hands are bound by some unknown and unseen force, when we despair of our existence and our present feels profoundly heavier than both our past and imagined future.  Even in these moments, we must maintain our faith in the concept of limitless possibilities and probabilities, in our ability to shift our thinking and thereby shift our emotional space.

In essence, we can change our reality…one step at a time.  After all, no matter the duration of our winter, there will always be a spring.

So, let’s keep our chins up and eyes forward while trusting in our abilities to make it through every single day until we arrive to the places, in which we aspire to be.

Until Next Time,

Diedré