If you have a chronic illness you know exactly how the woman in the photo above feels. Some days you can’t get out of bed and there are many more days when, well you could but the prospect is daunting to say the least.
And while following along this past spring with “The Granny Plan” you may have felt that “This is all very well and good for people in good health, but I can’t possibly keep up.” I hear ya … if you’re already ill you’re probably super motivated to change your diet and start reaping the benefits but are frustrated by the two steps forward, one step back dance of learning something new while sick. Heck I think everyone experiences this to one degree or another but it can feel a lot worse if you’re already sick.
You know that it’s urgent to make the changes and that you likely won’t see improvement until you’ve been able to keep it up for a while, yet so many difficult days just happen, days where not much gets done and when you look back over your day you just feel like you’ve lost ground rather than gained it.
With a few changes to the plan to accommodate bad days and an ever-present awareness of limits you can make more headway than you think!
How Many Spoons Do You Have Today?
Have you read But You Don’t Look Sick’s Spoon Theory post? If you haven’t you should hop over and check it out. Christine has lupus and gives us a great way to visualize the ebb and flow of energy for those that are chronically ill. She calls it the “Spoon Theory”. In a nutshell if you have a chronic illness you start out each day with a limited amount of energy. That energy is represented as a number of spoons you have to spend that day. The number of spoons you have on any given day is influenced by the choices you’ve made in prior days and weeks. Good nutrition will increase your future supply of spoons.But the effort involved in getting good nutrition will cost you spoons today. You want to increase your future supply of spoons without overwhelming your ability to cope today. So it’s all about balance and striking that balance on a day-to-day basis.
Practical Steps to Increase Your Spoons
Following The Granny Plan on a week to week basis isn’t really workable for those who are chronically ill. You can’t predict your energy levels and The Granny Plan depends on your ability to take on a slightly increased workload every week. It’s a plan to help build habits slowly and surely. If you’re chronically ill you’ll still need to build the habits but you’ll need to be very flexible about taking on an ever-increasing workload.
Instead of planning on an incremental increases weekly you may find it productive to think about bad days vs. good days. On a good day you have the max amount of spoons you would ever be likely to have. On these days you’ll want to strive to take on a little more. You’ll also want to use a little of that energy to plan for bad days, so that on those days you don’t lose as much ground. For example, on a good day you might make up a large crockpot of broth or soup, eat a good dinner and then freeze the leftovers in individual servings. Then on bad days when you are really too sick to cook you’ll have something nourishing prepared to eat that will just take a few minutes to heat on the stove.
Shoot for making the best use of good days that you can, nourishment wise. Stock up on easy to prepare very nutrient dense foods. If you do this then bad days won’t be as big a setback as they used to be. Having nourishing meals more often leads to a larger spoon supply and less low spoon days. With more good days you can plan ahead a bit more, slowly taking on more tasks from “The Granny Plan” on those high-spoon days. Babystep by babystep you gain ground.
The Negativity of Judgement
Anyone who is sick and following a new improved diet to support their healing will meet with some criticism from skeptics. There are many popular diets for different illnesses and if they mesh well with the USDA’s guidelines people following them can expect to meet with support, particularly if they are following a doctors recommendation. Or if your chosen diet is popularized in the media, like heavy juicing for instance, you’ll find more support. If not, well let’s just say you’re likely to find less support for your decision. Some may even feel that your choices are aggravating your illness. If you’re already sick this lack of support might be hard to bear. Remember that you are the one who knows your body best, no matter what! Pay close attention to what nourishes your body and gives you more spoons. Also pay attention to what takes away your spoons and act accordingly.
Many people really don’t understand what it is like to operate in a world of limited energy. Where you put your energy really needs to line up with what is making you better and not what other people believe will make you better. If you find a particular food is draining you then you’re better off skipping it. If it’s a nutrient dense food perhaps in the future you’ll find you can eat it in health again.
In old books there are many references to special diets for the very ill. These diets often include lots of broth and in some cases raw milk. The goal is to make the food as nutrient dense and as easily digested as possible. If you find that within full spectrum of healthy food choices there are some that don’t work for you don’t sweat it too much, just eat as much as possible from the nutrient dense choices that agree with you. As your health builds you may find you can eat those foods again.