Wednesday 10 August 2016

Healthy Eating and Chronic Illness

When I saw the Rheumatologist last September, one of things he told me I needed to do was improve my nutrition. This was not a shocking thing to hear, nor was it the first time I've heard it. Practically everyone I know has, at one point or many, told me I need to improve my diet. *I* know I need to improve my diet. 

The problem comes when you add chronic illness into the mix. Because chronic illness makes lots of the things you need to do to eat healthily hard. Like chopping fruit and veg, or standing and cooking for longer than 5 minutes, or washing the 5 pans, 6 knives, 2 chopping boards and a sieve that making your meal required. Fortunately for me, I live back at home now and my mum has made a steadfast effort to improve the healthiness of our evening meals. They all contain some form of protein (NGL, it's nearly always chicken. I am somewhat fussy and my brother is the rest of the way fussy and chicken is pretty much the only meat we agree on) and veg and are made fresh and are, thankfully, well delicious. She has been diligently testing out new recipes and adding extra veg where extra veg can be added (all so my brother can pick it back out of his portion) and I appreciate it so much.

Because the time I spent in London was not a time of healthy-eating. It was a time of takeaways. And food bought in train stations on the way home. And ready meals. I was famous in my department for how long I could make 1 large Dominos pizza last (4/5 days if I also had a side order) and I ate more of Tesco's Macaroni Cheese than any person reasonably should. I tried to counter-balance my unhealthy dinners by having a healthy lunch, but being unable to prepare these in advance meant they came from Pret or Eat or Itsu which was a financial drain. The only times I really ate anything healthy at home was when my boyfriend was visiting and he could do the chopping/stirring/washing up but that was 2 weekends a month. 

Home-cooked dinners aside, it's still hard for me to embrace healthy eating. It does not come naturally to me. I was the fussiest of fussy eaters as a child (think nothing touching on the plate, nothing that wasn't plain chicken, plain potatoes, plain bread...etc) and while I've embraced a large amount of foods since then I'm still fussier than the average. I've spent my whole life getting by on crisps and chocolate and pizza so having an apple instead is completely counter-intuitive. 

But I'm trying. Over the weekend I went to my boyfriend's house for a marathon TV binge and instead of ordering Dominos like we often do, we made homemade salsa. 10 tomatoes, 1 onion, 2 chillies, juice of 2 limes and 2 bunches of coriander (don't take the coriander away from me, I googled it and it has health benefits okay?) did 2 of us 2 meals and is chock-full of goodness (if you forget about the salty tortilla chips we ate the whole thing with). Healthy AND delicious. But it took ages to chop everything fine enough and I could only do a couple of the tomatoes, 1 bunch of coriander and the chillies (I ended up with wicked chilli burn on my fingers too) while sat on a stool and even then I was exhausted by the end. You may remember me admitting to eating only Krispy Kremes for breakfast for a little I'm mostly eating nuts and dried mango instead. So I really am trying.

The thing about chronic illness that you feel ill. Chronically. And there's something about not feeling good that makes you want to eat things that will make you feel better. And by that I don't mean spinach, I mean pizza. Feeling ill constantly just makes you want to eat tasty, preservative-filled junk food. Fizzy drinks full of sugar to help with the fatigue, chocolate as a mood-booster. And while I know that long-term, in order for me to get a bit better I need to eat better, chronic illness makes focusing on the long-term hard. Because you just want some kind, any kind, of short-term relief constantly, even if that relief comes in the form of a Krispy Kreme doughnut for breakfast.

Do you have any tips for easy healthy eating?


  1. I feel you! Eating healthy takes a ton of money and a ton of physical effort. Props to you for making an effort. Do you notice a difference in the way you feel when you eat healthier?

  2. Actually, eating healthy doesn't take a tone of effort or money. We keep it simple around our house. Dinner is usually meat on the grill (put it on the grill, sit down for 5 minutes, stand up and flip it, then sit down for another 5 minutes) with a salad (prechopped lettuce, etc from the store). If we are feeling really snazzy we might chop up a tomato or cucumber to go on top. I do juice daily (when I'm feeling lazy I buy it from the local juice store or whole foods), for that I buy about once a week, wash all the fruits and veggies (by dropping them in the sink for a half hour with with water and a bit of vinegar), rinse them off. Put the spinach in a keeper, chop the end off the bunch of celery before I wash it, then put it in a keeper. Then I let the rest of it dry and put it away when I feel like it. It wasn't easy at first, but the increased energy that I received in exchange for changing my diet has made everything so much easier that it's more than worth any extra effort to juice.

  3. One of my biggest problems is that a lot of healthy foods are so hard on my stomach because they have so much fiber. I like to buy ready chopped veggies when possible. This week I baked a bunch of sweet potatoes in advance so I have had a healthy lunch every day and it was just as easy as baking a single sweet potato.

  4. I love your honesty, I think we are all guilty of this. Great read Love Ness xxx

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  6. i so much appreciate the last paragraph of this post. it is so reasurring to read that i am not alone in using food to cope with my chronic migraine. thank you!