Parenthood + Fibromyalgia + Diet = A GREAT BIG MESSY CHALLENGE! by Jean Marie Keenan-Johnston

As I sit here typing away, I have in front of me the second of two pieces from the family-size chocolate chip cookie that we ordered from Papa John’s tonight.  I’ve been dreadfully sick all day, a combination of fibromyalgia flare, migraine, and whatever virus I have going on that’s making my chest painfully tight and my throat swollen, so I’ve been confined to the couch all day in and out of consciousness.  It’s been a rough, painful, exhausting day where I’ve been more asleep than awake, and after a tough day on his own with the kids, Hubby decided we needed to order pizza.  Despite my attempts to stop ordering out so much (the only way we could find to feed everybody dinner on the nights I’m unable to be on my feet long enough to cook thanks to fibromyalgia) because of the financial issues that are coming at us full force from the chronic health issues we’re both dealing with and my disability these past seven years, my response was, “You get NO argument from me.”  I’ve tried to be very dedicated to reducing our spending and increasing my attempts at saving as year after year we have a tougher and tougher time making ends meet because of how expensive it is to live life as parents with chronic pain and other health conditions.  So you know if I agreed to ordering dinner tonight I must be feeling pretty terrible!

Now I’m feeling a different kind of awful as well…the kind of awful a person trying to change her eating habits feels when she knows she shouldn’t have treated herself quite as much as she just did.  That may sound like I’m being a bit hard on myself, eating only two little triangles of chocolate chip cookie after pizza for dinner when the only thing I ate all day was a pack of granola bars (just to be clear, not because I’m starving myself but because I was asleep too much to really be able to eat anything).  But this comes from the fears within me about whether or not I can make this change happen when there is so much against me because of all the restrictions fibromyalgia throws at me.  

How did I get where I am now?  I never lost the baby weight I gained from my two pregnancies.  Morning sickness was handled quite well with added carbs and the fibromyalgia symptoms started so early in the first pregnancy (even though nobody knew that’s what it was at the time) that it wasn’t possible for me to be one of those expecting moms who worked out well into her last trimester.  I was also on bed rest a good part of both pregnancies.  And I’m a stress eater with a huge sweet tooth, someone who has unfortunately learned to eat her way out of stress and worry with sweets.   So when you add all that together, you have a pretty tricky equation that may or may not result in weight loss.  And I’m sure there are many moms out there who can relate to how hard it is to lose weight with children in the pictures – all the wrong foods constantly presenting temptation all day long, a day that’s so busy it’s tough to fit in time to add exercise, not having the childcare needed to leave the children to go and do your own thing.  That equation is looking more and more stacked against me…now let’s see how even higher the stakes possibly are against me…as a mom over the age of 40.  Is my dwindling metabolism yet another diet demon I need to conquer?

These are all the kinds of dieting obstacles many mothers face when trying to lose weight.  But for me there’s an additional spin…fibromyalgia.  I haven’t stepped foot in a gym since the months before my wedding.  Before I married, I was a loyal gym rat.  The only reason I didn’t work out up to the day before my wedding was because of a stubborn case of bronchitis that kept me from overdoing it.  That and planning a wedding.  Years before, when I found myself facing a different unwelcome weight gain, I was excited to lose over fifty pounds applying the rules of Weight Watchers to my eating (without the meetings) and working out religiously.  Dieting is not any newer to me than weight gain is, but sadly the gym has become quite foreign territory in my life.  Now my reasons for avoiding the gym are quite different from those weeks before my wedding…now I’m under doctor’s orders to only work out in water.  Any exercise on dry land can create an even higher level of pain than just any other daily increased activity level will cause.  Even if I didn’t have the added fatigue from fibromyalgia to contend with, it wouldn’t be smart for me to just jump into a workout regimen again.  Such a setup would land me right into a flare so severe it could take days, possibly over a week, to recover from before I would be able to get off my couch and into the full swing of life as a parent and housewife again. (Well, as “full a swing” as I’ve been able to manage so far.)

Why am I sharing all this?  I think the greatest reason is the need for support.  Every little step that meets with success…the few efforts at juicing this week, the recent trip to the community pool with my children I “survived”, the increase in fruits and vegetables I’ve been able to include in the family’s diet lately, even if it’s only a few more servings so far …gives me hope that I can find a way to battle the obstacles fibromyalgia puts in my way.  There HAS to be a way to manage my pain in a way that will allow me to exercise more to help my weight loss along!  I’m certain a healthier diet will not only help me lose this extra weight but may very well help me beat fibromyalgia altogether!  What gets me down this whole time is days like today…the recovery from pushing myself so hard lands me on the couch for a day or more at a time.  When that happens, the extra fruits and vegetables go to waste in the fridge, the chores go undone and my already “behind” situation puts me even further behind, making extra responsibilities like working out and extra planning for dinners cooked from scratch even more difficult than they are on an easy day.  I’ve felt for more than seven years like the odds have been stacked against me on so many levels.  Parenthood, housework, being a wife, managing my own health…so many aspects of my life have challenges greater than anyone unfamiliar with chronic pain could even imagine.  Dieting takes a GREAT deal of will, drive and commitment.  It’s hard not to feel the same tension about losing weight as every other challenge that presents itself in my life because of my disability.  I just keep telling myself living with fibromyalgia, surviving all these years trying to manage life against those odds, requires those same qualities.  Rather than looking at diet and weight loss as an additional challenge, I’m hoping to trick myself into believing it’s just a small part of that greater challenge. Will I succeed?  I guess only the scale will be able to tell in the coming weeks.  Wish me luck!