Eating Well When You’re Too Exhausted to Cook

Eating well when you're exhausted, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos, autoimmune disease, paleo

One of the most challenging aspects of chronic illness – autoimmune disease in particular – is that there are often elements of our illnesses that would be significantly easier on us, if we just had the danged energy to do them. Or, in the best case scenario, they may even be practices that help put us into remission. Two of the hardest, in my opinion, are exercise and eating well.

Eating well when you’re exhausted, is not easy. I don’t have the answers. I’m still struggling through this myself. In the last month, I’ve made some attempts to right the ship in terms of my gut health overall. But it’s hard work. If your autoimmune disease is attacking or destroying your gastrointestinal system, hopefully your docs will give you the right combo of meds so that healing can begin. But I believe strongly that what we put into our bodies, is a critical piece of the healing journey.

I’ve always thought this. I just haven’t always had the ability to do it. What I know for sure is that exactly one month ago, I started getting sick every time I ate. I wasn’t particularly nauseous, though I often struggle with nausea. I couldn’t eat anything but extremely bland food. Anything that was “normal” food – just didn’t work. I was sick for a couple of weeks without being able to figure out what was truly going on. I didn’t have the flu – it went on for too long.

So, I went drastic and removed everything in my house that potentially had gluten cross-contamination, anything with “gums” such as xantham or guar gum, almost all processed foods, etc. I removed all dairy. And while I intended to remove all grains, it was gluten free pasta and rice that I seemed to tolerate without getting sick, so I kept those on hand.

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.

Hippocrates


I’ve settled on Paleo as the type of eating I feel may be safest and healthiest for me. The problem is, for the most part, it requires that you cook nearly all of your food at home. I started reading Danielle Walker’s memoir, as I mentioned here and I bought her second cookbook. After reading through the cookbook and based on what I already knew, I came up with a plan.

I bought locally raised meat (which is pricey for me as a single person – but I will do about once a month), mostly organic herbs, vegetables, and fruit. We live in an area that struggles to get everything we need at times, so there were some fresh vegetables I couldn’t get that week. I bought frozen instead (don’t recommend canned).

The cookbook has a meal plan that includes grocery lists and all. It’s super helpful for organizing. I made some simplifications where I could. For example, in the first week’s meal plan, there are chicken ranch wraps. The recipe calls for homemade wraps. I will get to this eventually. But I just didn’t have the strength to deal with that too. What I did know I could find was “coconut wraps” (which I love). I couldn’t get the wraps from Thrive Market in time – so even better, I went to a sort-of local store that sells specialty, organic, vegan, keto, etc., food. The coconut wraps are straight up, simple food without any junk. They’re coconut, salt, and the Thrive brand also uses coconut oil.

Overall that week I made Danielle Walker’s Crockpot Thai Beef Stew, a shredded pork shoulder dish, baked bacon for my “ranch wraps” and my Mom baked up some of the chicken (breasts & thighs) for me. By far, my favorite recipe was the Thai Beef Stew! The beef, from a local farm, is some of the best I’ve had in ages. The stew (linked above) was filled with goodness – carrots, broccoli, coconut milk, fish sauce, red curry, and more. The stew was served over coconut lime cauliflower rice.

Crockpot Thai Beef Stew, Danielle Walker, Elaina Avalos, Elaina M. Avalos

If you’re on your own, like I am, this is extremely intimidating. And honestly, it feels next to impossible. My mom came over to help me prep. She helped me with washing and cutting some veggies and helped get my kitchen organized beforehand. Using someone else’s system via the cookbook, helped a lot. I made a list of what I would need to do first and in what order. I highly recommend you doing this if you struggle with organization and memory issues like I do.

I was hopeful though – hopeful that after almost two weeks of getting sick after eating, I was on the right track.

I ended up getting sick that very night. I am not going to lie, I was heartbroken all day Monday. I was also exhausted from shopping for the food (though most of it was just pre-ordered and picked up), and then cooking. I felt defeated the next day. I won’t lie – I have been on a roller coaster ever since. I’ve gotten sick a few times since then. When it happens, I revert back to very bland food for a couple of days and then go right back to eating my delish food.

I did roll back my decision to not eat any processed food or grains. With getting sick so much and feeling so exhausted by it all, I added in some comfort food – like corn tortillas, as an example. They’re gluten free and there’s no junk in them. But my system will probably eventually need a total break from the grains like rice and corn. For now, it is what it is.

If you have to backslide a little, especially if your autoimmune disease isn’t under control, don’t beat yourself up. Do the best you can. I’m a snacker for instance. This new way of eating cuts out my absolute favorite thing to much on – tortilla chips! Last grocery order, I went half way and ordered a blue corn organic chip that had no junk – whatsoever. This order, I don’t have any munchies. Do what you can, when you can. At least that’s what I’m telling myself right now.

Here are a couple of other things I’ve bought or am doing:

– Coconut yogurt from So Delicious (I was so hungry last night before bed and had vanilla coconut yogurt, blueberries, and a tiny smidge of raw honey).
– Smoothies for breakfast

healthy smoothies, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

So much of the almond milk out there has junk in it. But you guys – I’m just not at a place where I can make it like I probably should. So for now, I’ll buy the cleanest brands I can (most have the gums in them). While I have tons of fruit, including some that are great for your gut like pineapple or are anti-inflammatory like cherries – this week, I’ve enjoyed the smoothie above:

– 1 Cup of almond milk
– 1 (or 2) Tablespoons of almond butter
– Banana (frozen banana would probably be better)
– I used 1 scoop Ancient Nutrition Chocolate Bone Broth powder
– Any protein or collagen powder would be great
– Avocado is also a great addition – You can find cubed, frozen avocado at Wal Mart too.
– If you don’t have a collagen or protein powder that has a natural sweetener, a teaspoon of raw honey is great. If your bananas are very ripe, you probably don’t need any additional sweetener.
– Add all ingredients to blender and blend until combined.

Tomorrow (a day off work), I’ll be making a beef and pork roast to save for meals throughout the next week or two. I still have chicken from the previous cooking marathon! Next weekend, I’ll order from the local farm again. If you don’t cook your meals after prepping, you can place all ingredients, including the raw meat, in plastic bags and freeze. And then, for those recipes that are crockpot friendly, you’d place in your crockpot before leaving for work for the day.

If you cook and freeze, wait until the food has cooled and divide into freezer bags or glass or plastic containers, to stack in the freezer. The goal is to spend 1-2 days cooking vs requiring the energy to do it each day.

This makes eating well when you’re struggling with exhaustion, just a smidge easier. It made a huge difference over the last couple of weeks to know that I could grab something healthy and homemade from the freezer, without having to think too much. If you’re like me and have to work full time (that’s a whole other post), the last thing you want when you come home exhausted, is to worry about cooking food that’s good for you.

Making a transition like this is not easy. To be honest, I’ve been plenty discouraged. But find time savers where you can. If you can’t make everything from scratch just yet, find specific ways you can make adjustments and go for it. For instance, make 2-3 meat-based dishes that can be used for lunches and dinner and maybe use convenience foods like frozen bags of cauliflower rice (versus trying to make it from scratch), to eat with your main dishes. Find healthy “wraps” for sandwiches or divide up salad mixes into individual containers and add your meat dishes for salads throughout the week.

This is going to be a process. It’s not easy. I’m a foodie. I love cooking and the whole process of deciding on food, wine, or even cocktails to go with meals. I love cooking over the holidays. I mean, I adore it. Finding yourself in a position where you can’t eat what you love, stings. Being so fatigued that simple life tasks are excruciating, doesn’t help.

But if I can do it, with a stressful job, and challenges all around me – you can too. What are some ways you’ve made meal prep or healthy eating a priority or easier on yourself? I would love to hear!

Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs

Dr. Rick Hanson, Being Well, Wellness, Elaina Avalos, Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs

If you’re pursuing wellness, particularly wellness as it pertains to your mental health, this is a great podcast to check out. While I don’t agree with everything I hear on the podcast (some doesn’t fit certain areas of my faith), I have found that much of what Dr. Hanson (and his son Forrest) discuss on the podcast, is immensely helpful. What I think is most helpful is what I have come to see as Dr. Hanson’s emphasis on our ability to control and impact our well-being, thinking, and ultimately emotions. This is a great episode. Click HERE to check it out. This podcast is one of my favorite things.

Hope, Faith, & Ho’oponopono

viktor frankl, stimulus quote, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

When I posted on Monday, I was a little down in the dumps. My heart is a little beat up and on top of it all, Tuesday morning, I took an early morning phone call, while getting ready for work. A former colleague has passed away. I felt like a zombie all day Tuesday. I made stupid mistakes, I was all over the place. Tuesday afternoon, I took the dog to the vet. She’s got some powerful meds to help get her through an infection and some inflammation. I hope this will put her on the right track. But she’s “old” and I worry about losing her. By last night, I just wasn’t okay. It has been one thing after another, you know?

The thing about this former colleague is that it not only broke my heart – but it drove home – how short our time on earth, actually is. It is just a mere blip. I just saw this person a few weeks ago at work. Initially, I felt a weight in the grief of it all. I had a good long cry last night. But as this loss settles in, I think it’s a far more powerful tribute to the impact this person made in my professional community, to doggedly live this wild life I know is waiting for me. Maybe the word, wild throws you off. I’ll have to write about that someday. But one of the things I mean by that is that I want to live counter to a culture that celebrates things and titles and live in the moment tasting and experiencing life and all it offers us. There’s a richness and beauty to life, but it’s often lost in the pursuit of everything else. But it’s not just that! I think we often lose out on the life we are meant to live – the life we want to live – as these painful moments rear their head, because we won’t face them.

The temptation for me & I’m sure for many others, is to shrink back in our moments of loss, pain, grief, etc. But I’ve decided this is exactly when I need to turn the dial up on my commitment to myself to chase dreams and live fully – each day. What I’m now learning (and leaning to accept) is that I can’t get there without facing the losses, pain, and grief. My words for 2021 were hope & faith. In these moments when I most want to pull the cover over my head and escape the sadness of it all, I’d rather choose hope and faith. I love joy. I love the simple things in life. In the weight of loss, it’s easy to lose track of that. I’m choosing hope & faith – against appearances. But I can’t get there without first facing the other stuff, head on.

In a slightly related and possibly also unrelated note (I’m sure that makes perfect sense to everyone), I read an article yesterday, on Elephant Journal, about the concept of HO’OPONOPONO. The article on Elephant Journal doesn’t do the concept justice – in my opinion. But I’m so glad I saw it. That article led me to do some more reading and then I found this article & video. I found it far more helpful. It’s essentially an ancient Hawaiian practice used to resolve conflicts within family units. But was used later by a therapist Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len and others.

The thing about HO’OPONOPONO, in what I’ve read so far, is that I think its beauty and the healing concepts, come – as you choose acceptance for what is – for wrong done to you or that you’ve done, for that matter. You’re not focusing on changing the person who has hurt you, or who you need to forgive, or the situation, for that matter. You are, however, working on your perception of the situation. The result is forgiveness, love, and comfort, too. This is all a lot to add to this post. Especially when I just read about it for the first time yesterday. But the way it ties together for me, is that my perception of what’s happening, is often what is pulling me out into the current – further from hope & faith. The balance that is gained (or I guess I should say regained) can open the door to that restoration of your hope and faith – because you’re no longer tied down by unforgiveness and the painful emotions.

I’m rambling now. The bottom line is that I’m learning all around me – from people like Brene (in this post), my therapist, and in unlikely places too – that facing the stuff head on is actually the route to hope, healing, and light in the dark places. So in this season of loss, added to the season before it, I’ve made that commitment to myself this evening. I’ll keep facing it. And through that, I’m certain I’ll get closer and closer to living this dream I’ve been chasing so long.

*The Viktor Frankl quote above was given to me today, by my therapist. It’s perfect.

And honestly, it’s kind of freeing, in my opinion.*

Self-Care Sunday

self care sunday, elaina m. avalos, elaina avalos, self compassion

I’m not sure how often I’ll make time for these posts on Sundays, but I’m working on some new aspects of self-care right now. And when I discover something that’s useful, I will share. First, I am in therapy. I think there’s goodness in therapy for many. For some reason, many of us are uncomfortable with admitting or talking about this, however. But what could be better than talking to someone about things in our lives we want to change, learn, or heal from? Both of the things I’m sharing today were suggested by my therapist. Second, when I first tried the mediation practice below, a number of months ago, I wasn’t into it. In fact, I could barely go a minute without being totally distracted. I don’t think I truly heard enough to really know whether it was a useful tool or not. So, all that to say that if you’ve wondered how meditation could help you with anxiety or anything else for that matter – give it a shot and if it doesn’t quite feel right, give it time and try again. Or maybe search for a different one.

Self-Compassion:
The concept of self-compassion honestly felt weird to me. I didn’t really get it. And the first time I tried this, I don’t think I was at a place where I understood it or even would have accepted it. But in recent weeks, some things have changed for me and for the first time, this concept of self-compassion makes sense. It doesn’t just make sense though, I feel it in my heart. I’ve seen where in my life I have been “at war” with myself and have allowed messages of unworthiness to be reiterated over and over again – but in my own thought processes – which then in turn repeats in circumstances in my life. If you find yourself noticing in your thought life that you’re super hard on yourself, expecting perfection or warring with yourself over things you can and can’t control, you may feel some release from this practice of self-compassion.

A quick note – if you are someone that is uncomfortable with meditation because your Christian worldview has led you to believe it’s not okay – I get it. But, I would say that what I’ve come to over the years is that God does use many things around us to teach, heal, and open our eyes. Where meditation or yoga or whatever, feels uncomfortable, it’s very easy to replace terms or foundations with Biblical truth. This idea of self-compassion should truly be seen from the perspective of how God views us as His children. This meditation allows us to connect with the person we truly are, absent of the constantly repeating messages of our own unworthiness. Which also means that we are seeing ourselves in our identity in Him. If you find that you’re repeating negative thought patterns that are impacting you in the day to day, give this a shot. I am honestly blown away by not only the emotion I felt through this practice, but in how at peace I felt as I acknowledged how I’m feeling about myself and then practiced a little of the compassion and grace I need (that, oh by the way, God offers me so freely).

Podcasts:

I’ve been adding podcasts to my weekly lists of to-dos. I love learning, experiencing life through other’s views, and finding ways to grow as a person. But honestly, for a long time, I’ve kind of shut off this curiosity in me. National Public Radio has always met this need for me and as I’ve been listening again to some of my favorites, it has gotten me into the habit of seeking out podcasts that meet this curiosity and desire for growth. Below are a few of the podcasts I’m listening to on a rotating basis. But for today, I wanted to share Untangle. I subscribe through my Apple podcast app – but you can find it at the link, too.

If you’re looking for some understanding about relationships, I highly recommend the February 16th episode, called “Navigating Love and Relationships Anytime” with Daphne Rose Kingma (see link for one of her many books on relationships – this one called Coming Apart: How to Heal Your Broken Heart). While I could see myself listening to this again, one of the things I took from this was being at peace with what a relationship brings to your life – even when it doesn’t last. Additionally, I learned a little about accepting a man’s ability or inability to be expressive of emotion. Good stuff.

Here are a few others I am listening to:
This American Life
The Bible Recap
Being Well
The Moth

Do you have any favorite podcasts {in the self-care or self-help genre}? What is something you have to do each week {or every day} for your own self-care?