I think I might be a little crazy.
You’re (probably) just meeting me and here I am talking about my weight. Well let me tell you, it’s a tough topic for me like I’m sure it is for 95% of the women out there.
But I also know it is something us women dedicate a lot of emotional time and energy to. So I’ve decided to put aside my personal discomfort in favor of sharing my experience with a Fibromyalgia Diet.
I can tell you right now this is not a “Get Fit Quick” story. Or even a “Get Fit Easy” story. It takes a lot of dedication to change your life, but it is so worth it.
Fibromyalgia and Weight Gain
It started in 2007 when I decided I needed to get in shape. I lovingly carried around the Freshman 15 (plus a few more) for several years. Holy smokes was I tired of it!
At the time, I still thought Fibromyalgia was maybe a mental disorder and running for miles a day was completely do-able. It took a few years, but I dropped about 55-60 pounds and was loving life. Then 2013 came around and Fibromyalgia dumped a load of fatigue, pain, and migraines on me that completely stopped my physical activity. Oh, and ushered me into the deadly territory known as comfort eating.
All my hard work went out the door before I could get up, walk over to it, and stop the exodus.
It didn’t help that I met my (now) husband a few months after getting sick. And we all know what happiness and dinner dates do to the waist-line!
I can genuinely say I haven’t been happy with my weight since then. And my decrease in activity level has been a hard pill to swallow. Especially when I really thrived on being able to hop on my bike and go.
Although I don’t have proof, I’d pretty much promise you that a number of my health issues in the ensuing years can be laid at the feet of the Standard American Diet (SAD) and lack of exercise.
But I digress. Moving on.
Functional Medicine for Fibromyalgia
In 2018, a friend recommended a Functional Medicine Doctor (FMD) to me. It was one of the various treatment options I hadn’t yet explored. Considering I had seen upwards of 20+ doctors at this point, my husband and I both figured it was about time to consider it.
Dr. Scotting, my FMD, was amazingly knowledgeable about my illnesses, my symptoms, my medications, and how they were interacting. With a little blood work, we started down the path of getting my system to settle down – first step: start a supplement regimen.
This was tailored specifically to my needs and was a great way to take care of the ‘low hanging fruit’, so to speak, of my health issues. For example, thanks to a sensitivity to sunlight and heat, I had REALLY LOW Vitamin D levels.
We got a few other issues ironed out and then we moved on to the second step: fix eating habits.
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Diet for Fibromyalgia, Not Weight Loss
“Time to make some changes,” he said. (Or something very similar)
It helped that I knew it was coming. I’d tried diet changes before, but never long term or with any particular success. As a matter of fact, I was strangely excited to give it a shot since I knew I was going into it with his help. There was also the peer pressure factor. He was telling me how to help myself and I didn’t want to roll back into his office a few weeks later and tell him, “Thanks for the advice I paid for, Doc, but I didn’t take any of it.”
One hour later, he handed me a whopping list of gut irritants and inflammatory food, walked me through the process, and sent me out into the world.
Unlike a lot of ‘diets’ I’ve tried throughout my life, this one was aimed at Fibro and not at weight loss. And for me, that was a really important distinction.
I focused on how my diet was making my various illnesses worse instead of how I was overweight.
Honestly, going into this lifestyle change was surprisingly easy. Especially considering how many of my favorites I was going to have to give up for a little while at least, and forever at worst.
I had the support of my husband and FMD, the right mindset, and a trash box of non-compliant foods that I couldn’t even lift. Even though the next few months were going to test my resolve and mental health in ways I wasn’t prepared for, at least I had my mindset straight.
Fibromyalgia Diet Details
The first thing to note is that this was less of a ‘diet’, in the traditional sense, and more of a lifestyle change. Every time I felt like eating something that was out of bounds, I wondered if it would be the thing that brought my migraines back. Or ramped up my IBS symptoms. Or made my legs hurt like the flu on steroids.
I wasn’t counting calories or macros. Instead, I was considering how my decisions would impact how I felt physically and mentally.
It was because of this mindset that I gave up the following food groups for a minimum of 3 months:
- Artificial and processed food
- Any sweeteners or sugars
- High sugar fruits
The adjustment period was tremendous but made easier by the fact that I had decided to go all-in and was excited by the possibility of change. In less than 2 weeks I was down 10 pounds and eating to my hearts content!
Here’s the theory behind this eating method: cut out all inflammatory foods and give your gut and system enough time to rest. Most people remain on the ‘strict compliance’ phase for 2 months minimum, or until they see a dramatic reduction in their symptoms.
Once your symptoms subside, you gradually work food back in, one at a time, monitoring for a reaction. If you react in any way, then do not continue to eat that food. You might choose to wait another 6 months or so before trying to reintroduce it again. Or give it up entirely.
In the end, you have a list of foods that you should avoid or eat sparingly. And best of all, symptoms that have lessened or disappeared entirely!
Expenses And Cooking For Specialized Diets
Full disclosure, it wasn’t always cheap or easy to do this diet.
Organic produce is more expensive. Grass fed meat is more expensive. Sugar free, gluten free, etc is all more expensive.
And more than once I was tired and overwhelmed when it came time to cook for dinner and broke down crying. Bless the Lord for my husband who jumped in with a pan seared chicken breast and AIP approved seasoning to keep me on track and feed me!
I didn’t realize is in those early days, but there is actually a food service that provides compliant meals, sides, and desserts that deliver!
If you’ve never heard of Paleo on the Go, it’s worth looking into. It’s definitely more than just Paleo and the slightly higher price tag is, in my opinion, worth it.
Because honestly, the overwhelm is real when you begin. If I would have known there was something like this available, I would have jumped on it and never looked back!
Also, when you’re dying for something easy or delicious (that you didn’t have to throw together), their AIP bakery is AMAZING! I’ve tried some of their cookies and they are the. best. thing. ever.
Mixed (But Excellent) Results
I won’t be dishonest and say this Fibromyalgia diet fixes everything. And I certainly can’t say that I didn’t spend a lot of time stressed or crying because I was too tired to think about what I could eat, much less cook it. But I’m also able to see some shining moments.
I spent an absolute ton of time Googling “Fibromyalgia diet recipes” or “AIP Recipes” and found some excellent options. I love cooking so it really helps to find ‘real food’ recipes so I don’t get bored. And I nurture my family’s love of asparagus and brussel sprouts to our hearts’ content!
And I weighed myself more than recommended because I’m slightly neurotic about seeing the scale drop. As a matter of fact, it dropped steadily with zero weight loss effort from me. And continues to do so!
Best of all, I had some remarkable wins in the symptom departments:
- 3-5x weekly migraines dropped to 1 every 2 weeks (or so)
- IBS symptoms went almost entirely away
- Pain level decreased and more manageable
- PCOS symptoms disappeared
- I now understand which foods give me problems!!!
On the less positive side:
- I saw less decrease in symptoms than others ( which I try my hardest not to compare to)
- I went through about a month-long period where my hair fell out a little more rapidly. FMD said it was because my hormones were regulating. It did eventually stop.
- Increase in anxiety/spending too much time worrying about eating
Despite these negatives, I would choose to do it all over again. Absolutely some of that enthusiasm is related to dropping weight. I hope to continue doing so. But it’s life-changing to know I have more control over my health.
After all, isn’t that one of the things chronic illness tries to take from us? But this time I fought back and I’m pretty sure I won.
Let me know how diet has helped your chronic illness in the comments! And don’t forget to check out Paleo on the Go if you’re just starting. Honestly, it’s a God-send for the beginner’s overwhelm!
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