I learned a great lesson in what not to eat today. Was fibromyalgia causing my persistent dental pain? Did I have my first-ever cavity? NO! I went to the dentist rather urgently this afternoon, only to find that my teeth are fine, but a popcorn hull was lodged deep within my gums. Embarrassing (I really should floss more thoroughly) and awesome (no cavities!).
Now that I’m doing Whole30, corn of any kind is forbidden, which means the offending hull is from roughly a week ago. Wow. If that’s not inspiration to clean up your diet, then by all means, head for the corn trough, but I’m sticking with Whole30.
Current fibromyalgia symptoms: Right buttock/ low back/ hip pain still hanging on. Stiff neck but better than two days ago. Major brain fog—possibly related to switching to Whole30 from vegan. Tired but not exhausted, and worried I won’t sleep again.
Lunch: Ground beef cooked with onion and tomato; sautéed broccoli; and raw carrots
Snack: Smoothie made with canned coconut milk, ½ frozen banana, ¼ cup frozen blueberries, 2 tablespoon almond butter, and ½ scoop Garden of Life Perfect Food. Between lunch and dinner, I had four small sheets of Sea Snax seaweed.
Dinner: Ground beef sautéed with onion, green pepper, and jalapeno pepper served atop 6 big leaves of buttercrunch lettuce; Wholly Guacamole; and ½ roasted sweet potato.
General Feelings So Far: This is the most radical diet change I’ve ever made so quickly, and I definitely feel weird—like I’m living on a level somewhat removed from reality. Perhaps this is the “carb flu” spoken of in It Starts with Food.
I’m still not morally on board with eating animals, and that’s going to always bother me no matter how this diet change goes. I think it’s definitely a good idea to look for health benefits by cutting out wheat, corn, and processed food. But I’m still unsure about the rest of it.
I didn’t sleep last night and got out of bed at 3:45 a.m. to eat several spoonsful of almond butter. I found out the hard way that it’s easy to accidentally consume too few calories on Whole30. I remedied that today with more sweet potato and avocado, plus a coconut milkshake. I definitely don’t feel like I’ll be hoofing it to the kitchen in the middle of the night tonight. I’m not one to wish life away, but I’m definitely eager to see how I feel in a few days. The second week is supposed to be when more of the positive feelings (and less carb flu) happens.
Day one of Whole30 hasn’t been too bad. I’ll break it down for you.
Current fibromyalgia symptoms: both hips ache, and muscles in right buttock are in spasm just enough to provoke pain down my leg, presumably from the sciatic nerve. Left-sided neck and upper trapezius feel sore and tight. A bit of fatigue, possibly from not sleeping well due to hip pain last night.
Today’s exercise: two-hour walk around the neighborhood. Nothing major, just strolling and enjoying the weather.
Breakfast: 2 organic chicken eggs scrambled with sautéed kale and onions, plus 3 strawberries. I had a slight stomach ache after breakfast, which never happened when I was vegan, but it wasn’t too bad.
Lunch: 90% lean beef (organic, pastured) cooked in organic coconut oil with diced onions and a tomato, served atop a heaping bed of romaine lettuce and topped with a little plain yellow mustard. Sort of like a hamburger without the bun, ketchup, or mayonnaise. I also ate 8 baby carrots.
Snack: After walking for a couple of hours, I had 4 big spoonsful of organic almond butter (fresh from the co-op churn—no sugar or salt added) and 4 organic strawberries.
Dinner: Wild-caught salmon cooked in a little olive oil with oven-roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. YUM. I only wish I’d remembered to buy fresh dill for the salmon.
General Feelings So Far: It sounds crazy to already have a lot of thoughts about Whole30 since it’s only the first day, but my mind is very much on my eating habits. First, I’m still morally uneasy about consuming meat, and only take some comfort in knowing my food was raised and slaughtered by farmers using as humane practices as possible. The grease of the ground beef, even though it was 90% lean, was a little gross, although the beef tasted great. I’m just not used to grease since I’ve been vegan for months. I’m very glad that Whole30 doesn’t allow dairy. Cheese and milk would be too much to stomach at this point, and I truly believe that some of my fibromyalgia symptoms improved once I gave up dairy and became vegan.
The cravings are insane. I’m not much of a sugar-eater, or at least not in the cupcakes-brownies-cookies sense, but obviously my body is used to refined carbohydrates. Throughout today, I’ve found myself craving banana nut bread, refried pinto beans, sweet cornbread, and pecan waffles. Wow. The “sugar dragon” mentioned in the Whole30 book, It Starts with Food, is no joke.
I also found that I didn’t buy enough food at the grocery store. I’ll have to stop at the co-op again tomorrow for more fresh veggies and meat. One more observation—it’s not easy dealing with special occasions and staying true to Whole30. There’s always a friend’s birthday or a holiday on the horizon, and with those special days come pizza, cake, and alcohol. I’m pretty sure my first test is coming within a week, but since I’m hoping to slay the God-forsaken beast that is fibromyalgia, I’ll stick to my guns and eat my own food, no matter what the occasion. But I might still dream about buttermilk biscuits.
I’ve decided to try the Whole30 diet for a month starting tomorrow. I’ve been vegan for several months now and have noticed improvement in my fibromyalgia symptoms, but there’s still too much pain in my body. I’m going to keep a fairly detailed log of the Whole30 experience in case any of you are interested in trying it, and also so I can chronicle the ups and downs of transitioning to zero processed foods.
For anybody who hasn’t read about Whole30, check out their website. The basic premise is to eat no sugar or sugar substitutes, eat no dairy or grains or legumes, and drink no alcohol. Essentially, balance your plate with a big pile of vegetables and a palm-sized protein source— in other words, eat real food, not crap.
Since I already don’t consume dairy as a vegan, that part won’t be hard. I’m also a minimal drinker, so the lack of alcohol isn’t a big deal (although I’ll miss my occasional beer). I already cook with olive oil and coconut oil and enjoy fresh vegetables, so I’m on board there. What will be challenging for me is the meat consumption and the lack of potato chips.
I love potato chips. They’re a serious vice. I get the slightly healthier kind—organic and seasoned with only salt and pepper—but I can’t have a single chip on Whole30. That one’s going to be rough.
I’m sure the meat and eggs will taste good, but I have major ethical and moral hang-ups about consuming animals. There’s a local farm that uses the most humane slaughtering methods possible, and I vow to only buy from them. But still. Killing is killing, and I’m struggling with this one. I’m certain I’ll predominantly be eating wild-caught fish rather than beef, pork, and chicken. None of it warms my heart, but at least the salmon got to swim freely and enjoy life before landing on my plate.
Tomorrow’s the big day. I’m very much hoping for a major reduction in inflammation, and thereby a major reduction in muscle spasms and pain. My right hip has been keeping me up (I set a new personal sleepless record—84 hours awake), so something’s got to give.
Breakfast will likely be a scramble of eggs, kale, and onions cooked in olive oil. Lunch and dinner, I’m not sure. I shopped for all kinds of fresh organic ingredients at the co-op today, and it was weird to be buying meat again after being vegan. But with the hope that Whole30 can knock down fibromyalgia, I’m going all-out with it tomorrow. You’re not supposed to weigh yourself during Whole30, but I’m going to because I’m already on the low end of healthy and need to make sure I don’t get skeletal. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Caffeine, as I’ve suspected for several months, makes my fibromyalgia symptoms much worse. While that revelation kind of sucks, it’s also always nice when something can be easily controlled, like caffeine intake.
I love coffee. As a vegan, I’ve been enjoying soymilk, coconut milk, and almond milk as creamers. I never add sugar or sugar substitutes to my coffee, which makes me even more certain that it’s the caffeine that, even in very small amounts, massively increases my anxiety and provokes muscle spasms.
I kicked caffeine out of my life for a couple of months, then started drinking less than one cup of coffee per morning last week. Within two days, my neck pain was worse and I felt less hopeful. My running improved. Even hills felt like less effort. But the increasing pain and hopelessness were absolutely not worth it. By day five of drinking less than a cup a day, I was in bad shape.
Going cold turkey wasn’t too hard since I’d only been drinking coffee for six days. It wasn’t great fun, but it wasn’t the worst thing to quit. And, on Sunday, I not only ran eight miles at a decent pace, but I also took my paddle board on a two mile journey.
Fibromyalgia is picky. It demands a lot of sacrifice. But if forgoing caffeine allows me to live a more normal life, then I’ll never touch another cup of coffee again.
Happy New Year! Do you have any resolutions? I do. First, I resolve to not only stay vegan, but also to try a month of being gluten-free to see if more of my fibromyalgia symptoms resolve. Second, I resolve to make a serious attempt at practicing yoga, and to incorporate more stretching into my workout routines. Third, I resolve to stop slipping into hopelessness so easily.
Chronic pain makes it so easy to throw in the towel, but I don’t want to feel hopeless. The day I stop fighting is the day I die. I may smell like a medicine cabinet and walk like an elderly person, but I resolve to never stop working out and fighting fibromyalgia.
My dietary transformation is complete. I’ve been vegan for a while now, and I’m a believer. I assume that the lack of dairy and meat in my diet is reducing inflammation in my body, but whatever’s happening, I feel better than I have in years. My life is mine again. My mind is clear (well, mostly—I’m always a little scattered!), my body is getting stronger, and my gym routine is getting more vigorous.
I’m not taking any prescriptions, and I didn’t even get Botox in my neck last time I went to the doctor. I still have stiffness and aches, but between the vegan diet and the hot tub, I’m alive again. I can’t say that being vegan cures fibromyalgia, but mine is certainly massively improved.
Fibromyalgia is a bit like a monster under the bed at this point. It’s there, and it reminds me of my presence fairly constantly. But it’s more under the bed now that I’m vegan, whereas just a few months ago, I thought my life was soon to be over. The pain, spasms, and debilitation were crushing.
I ran six miles today, a distance I hadn’t been able to cover in months, and I did it with very little pain. Afterwards, I got in the hot tub, then ate a huge bowl of vegan organic potato, kale, and lentil soup. As of this evening—a time of day that I used to dread—I’m stiff and uncomfortable, but I’m not in the familiar agony that plagued me for so long.
I’ve undertaken a new project to chronicle what feels like my new life—a life filled with activity and vegan food. Check it out here if you’re interested.
Thanksgiving was better than I hoped it would be… except for the tofu turkey. It tasted so bad! I didn’t baste it like the directions said to, but I did baste it once at the beginning with olive oil. It came out of the oven and felt (and tasted) like a perfectly round rubber band. The wild rice stuffing on the inside was good, but I’d already made my own vegan stuffing, so I wasn’t excited. The holiday was overall a success, though. I was able to play with my little cousins a lot, and even got on the tennis court with the older boy. I could pick up the younger one without sending my back into fits, and I only felt extremely sore at night after a full day of playing with them. Fibromyalgia is definitely unpredictable, but it allowed me a bit of a reprieve this holiday, and for that, I am thankful.
This will be my first vegan Thanksgiving, and I’m excited. I bought a Tofurkey, and my hopes are high. I truly believe that adhering to a vegan diet is improving my fibromyalgia symptoms, even when I have major setbacks sometimes. It’ll be hard to say no to mashed potatoes and gravy, so I’m also going to attempt to make vegan mashed potatoes with almond milk! Here’s hoping for a healthy, pain-free Thanksgiving!
I’m so, so ready to have a more normal, active life. My lower back has been tied up in spasms for almost two weeks, and every time they seem to abate, they quickly return with more force. Sometime in the midst of the back spasms, I got sick with cold/flu-like crap, and the coughing has made my lower back feel like it might explode. I’ve been on oral steroids for four days and have had tons of cough syrup, ibuprofen, and chiropractic treatments. I was finally able to walk a few blocks very slowly last night after barely making it out of bed for days. I hate fibromyalgia.
After exhausting what I consider the final physical cure frontier—changing to a vegan diet—I feel stuck in a C-list movie about how much the body can make life suck. I’m still a big advocate for veganism. Despite living in hell at this moment with excruciating back spasms and flu-like symptoms, the vegan diet’s benefits are still obvious. My skin looks better than it has in years. My sweat doesn’t stink much when I exercise (although I haven’t exercised in awhile). I have regular bathroom habits. My neck has improved, and I’m sleeping regularly. From a nutritional standpoint, I feel like a million dollars.
I’m not sure what the end game is with fibromyalgia. No soccer? Dammit, but ok. No tennis, another dammit, but ok. But the modifications and concessions keep coming, and it feels like I’m down to almost nothing that I actually can do.
Since my low back went to hell, I’ve found my true breaking point. I thought I’d found it before, but I guess that’s the thing about fibromyalgia—it breaks you down so many times that it’s hard to tell when you really hit bottom.