5-tips-for-changing-diet

Changing my diet and giving up food attachments has been a big step in improving my life with fibromyalgia. I’ll be completely honest with you and say it’s something that I was reluctant to do for a long time. I kept coming up with excuses as to why it was not the right time to do it. Sometimes I tentatively made changes. However, I continued to push myself and inevitable ended up feeling rubbish. The conclusion I always came to was that the diet changes were not helping. Logical, right? As a side note, you need to reduce physical and mental stress too. Lifestyle changes are just as important if you are serious about improving your fibro.

I have spoken to many people with fibro thanks to social media and here’s what I have learned. Every single person who told me that they had seen improvements with their symptoms had one thing in common; they had all changed their diet to one extent or another. Wheat, dairy and refined-sugar were all avoided. Before I did it for myself I felt like I would be giving up so much! The truth is, it really wasn’t that difficult and how I eat now is not about deprivation. It’s not a diet as such but rather a new way of life. It’s about nourishing my body with the right foods; foods that help to create a healing environment within my body and give it the best chance to feel well. And it’s about avoiding the foods that cause inflammation and pain.

Breaking old habits and creating new ones can be tough in the initial stages but with time it becomes easier and soon it becomes second-nature. Once you start to feel better because of it, you don’t look back. You don’t miss the things you thought you would. You may begin to allow yourself very occasional indulgences (we all need those after all) but you won’t feel the urge to return to your previous diet. I’m not going to get into details of foods that may be problematic in this post. I have previously talked about the foods I avoid. Today, I simply want to share with you 5 tips that have helped me to successfully change my diet. They seem simple and that is because they are. However, they were all important in helping me to make this transition.

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1. Plan Your Meals

Sit down each week and figure out exactly what you are going to eat: breakfast, AM snack, lunch, PM snack and dinner. Planning it out is really important in the early stages because it is so easy to fall back into what you are already comfortable with. If you find yourself hungry, you will gravitate towards foods you know if you don’t know what you should be eating. My husband and I sit down each Sunday and figure out our meals for the week ahead and exactly what we need to buy in our weekly shop. Tip: Plan meals that include some of the same ingredients to keep the costs down and prevent waste.

2. Keep A Food Journal

I have a notepad and in it I write down absolutely everything I eat each day. I’ll also briefly jot down how I am feeling. This helps to keep me on track as I am naturally quite competitive with myself and I don’t want to write down any foods that I am not supposed to eat. It has worked as I haven’t ‘cheated’! Even if you do eat something you were trying to avoid, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t beat yourself up about it but do include it in your food journal. Pay attention to how you feel over the coming days and what impact eating that food has on you.

3. Don’t Buy Food You Shouldn’t Eat

Remove all temptation if possible. If you can’t due to other family members, at least keep them out of sight. I am incredibly lucky in that my husband has supported me 100% and has joined me in my healthy eating (and is feeling a lot better for it). This previously meant that we simply did not have food in the house that I am avoiding. I am three months in now and finding it much easier so he has some treats for himself in the house now because I have no desire to eat them anyway!

4. Buy Lots Of Food You Can Snack On

I found myself struggling with cravings in the initial stages of changing my diet and I was snacking constantly because of this. It is so important to have lots of good food in the house to snack on. Nuts, seeds, fruit (both fresh and dried), vegetables with houmous, popcorn, corn chips with guacamole and my favourite- dates with almond butter. It might not be exactly what you want but if you fill yourself up with the good stuff, you soon become less bothered about the bad stuff. If you are really struggling with your sweet tooth then you can bake some clean eating goodies- cakes, cookies, ice cream, fudge… it is possible to make all of these without dairy, wheat and refined sugar. Just don’t go crazy with them as they still contain natural sugars and you want to keep all sugars to a minimum when you have chronic illness.

5. Change Your Mindset

This one I saved for last because it has been the most important for me. It’s so easy to want to go and grab processed foods. You need to train your brain into realising why you shouldn’t do this. I started to associate processed foods and foods containing refined-sugar, wheat and dairy with pain and fatigue. I thought of all the good foods as being nourishing for my body and envisioned them helping my body to heal. This helped me to make the correct choices. When you start to feel better this becomes a lot easier because you then know it is true. Plus, chances are if you do eat some food you have been avoiding you will end up feeling pretty lousy, which again reinforces your thoughts.

Have you found improvements through changing your diet and do you have any tips that have helped you? Share your story in the comments below.

Author

Hello, I'm Donna. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2013 and started this blog shortly after. After my health declined significantly the following year, I decided to become my own advocate and searched for answers. It took two years but, in 2016, I finally discovered I had Lyme Disease. On February Stars, I share my personal journey back to better health; discussing what has helped me and the mistakes I've made along the way. I also cover topics on self-improvement, managing symptoms and living life to the fullest with chronic illness.

15 Comments

  1. Good advice Donna. I was doing very well avoiding gluten, lactose and refined sugar until winter. I’ve noticed thought that it’s the gluten that I really should avoid. Hopefully I can get back on it with the refined sugar soon!
    Emma Xx

    http://www.emmaslookingglass.com

    • Thanks Emma. It can be hard to keep on track but well done on what you have achieved. Winter is always hard as I think we want to gravitate more towards comfort foods at this time of year. Plus with Christmas etc, it makes it tougher. I believe even if people cannot commit to 100% right away, making any steps in a positive direction is a good thing 🙂

  2. fibrodazeblog Reply

    Great tips. Changing my diet has made a big difference in my fibro symptoms. I still slip now and then, but I make sure that 95% of the time I only eat healthy food. I have started to think of processed food and refined sugar as poison.

    • Thank you. I’m so glad you have found changing your diet to be helpful. I think the same as you because I know that eating those foods will make me feel a million times worse.

  3. Alison Wade Reply

    Like you, I have made a few tentative attempts to change my diet, but soon drift back to the usual gluten/sugar/quick processed stuff. I know I need to properly plan out a week in advance and make sure that I have lots of healthy snacks. My pain/fatigue have been a lot worse since Xmas. Next week I will make a big effort to take a step towards hopefully improving my health. Ali x

    • Good luck Ali, I have noticed a big difference from sticking to the diet changes. I’ve got pain under control, just need to beat fatigue & I’d be feeling pretty well!

  4. I have questions regarding the dairy. I currently drink Lactose free milk with no BHT/BHA. I also like Almond milk and Almond ice cream, do these count as dairy. I guess I just do not understand what aspect of dairy and why it should be avoided. Thank you for your assistance and this great article encouraging me to give changing my diet another chance. M

    • Hello, I count dairy as milk/butter/cheese products and their derivatives that come from an animal source, such as a cow or goat. Almond milk and other plant based milks are considered dairy replacements. It is my experience, and that of many others I have spoken to, that digestive problems are a big part of fibromyalgia. The aim should be to try to aid and heal digestion to help alleviate symptoms. As adults, many people struggle to digest dairy products. To me, this makes sense. What other animal naturally continues to drink milk past weaning? Let alone the milk of a completely different species altogether? Food intolerances are common with Fibro and dairy is a likely problem so my advice would be to try and cut it out for a couple of months and use replacements such as almond milk and see how you feel. Sometimes it can be the protein rather than the sugar (lactose) that people are intolerant to. Some people continue to eat natural yogurt but I avoid it completely. I have had an intolerance test where I reacted to dairy protein. Food intolerances are very complex though, and can be ever changing. Dairy & wheat are the 2 most common intolerances and a good place to start. Hope this makes sense to you

      • Marie Lynn Reply

        Yes and thank you for explaining this so thoroughly. Since I like almond milk I will stick to it the next few months rather than using both. I really appreciate you taking the time to help me understand. Also the great article above. I have bookmarked your page and look forward to reading more. I am so tired of feeling like this. M

        • You’re welcome Marie. Good luck! I hope that the diet changes help you. For me they have been part of my fibro puzzle. I have found that diet changes along with taking herbal therapies (vital plan restore program) has made a big difference to me and my pain is very manageable now but I am still trying to beat the fatigue.

  5. Hi Donna, Thanks for the great blog. Just a quick question – how long after you made changes to your diet did you see a difference. I have been following a vegan gluten-free diet (which also cuts out processed foods and sugar) for a couple of weeks but my fibro symptoms seem to be getting worse. It’s all a bit frustrating but I am encouraged by your blog to continue. L x

    • Hi Lowna! Thanks for your kind comments about my blog, really appreciate it. I’ll be honest with you and say that I felt worse for the first 2-4 weeks before I started to get better. I kind of went all out and started taking herbal therapies at the same time as changing my diet. You could argue that because of that I experienced a herx reaction. However, while that is probably true, I do think I also had horrible sugar withdrawals too! I wrote about my first month here (just in case you haven’t read that post). I found drinking homemade ginger tea helped me a lot. However, I would also say that diet alone wasn’t enough for me personally (I know it is for some) and that the herbal therapies have played a big role in helping me. I previously tried nutritional therapy (you can read about that here). I didn’t really feel any benefit from that (actually felt worse!), though I do wonder if the high doses of vitamins and minerals were what disagreed with me rather than the diet as the diet is pretty much the same as what I am doing now. I’m also learning that food intolerances are very complex and can change. I didn’t think I had an issue with nuts for example, until I cut them out completely. Now I can eat almonds without any reactions but I tried to eat cashews and hazelnuts once and came out in a rash with both of those. I am following Dr Rawl’s (who wrote Suffered Long Enough) protocol for clean eating. If you want more info on that, drop me an email to: donna@fibrogeek.co.uk. Happy to help 🙂 It does get easier and your new way of eating becomes second nature. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to eat foods containing gluten/dairy etc ever again but rather these things become the occasional treat when your body is strong enough.

      • It is difficult saying no. I imagine this is made so much harder being a mum and a grandmother! I’m glad you are starting to put your own needs first too 🙂 I hope you are as well as possible

  6. As some one with a chronic illness, I am acutely aware of the need for a good well-balanced diet.
    I am gluten and dairy free, although I do slip occasionally.
    I think the biggest change, for me, has been avoiding processed food.

    • Hi Stephen, it’s good to hear you’ve found benefit from a good diet. I am with you on avoiding processed food, I don’t think it’s good for us at all.

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