Diet and Exercise Roadblocks
Over the years since my psoriatic arthritis diagnosis, I’ve tried following many different dietary guidelines each with varying degrees of success. Not only that, but I’ve shared many of those attempts here and benefited from the feedback that many wonderful people in our community have shared about their experiences as well. So I feel it is safe to say that overall, many people have found making some dietary changes beneficial in their PsA management plan. Yet, we often still struggle. We face many diet and exercise roadblocks that make it difficult to make the lifestyle changes that could be beneficial.
Which diets did I try for my psoriatic arthritis?
I’ve tried the autoimmune protocol/elimination diet, carnivore diet, keto, and vegetarian/plant-based smoothie diet. All of which were backed by both clinical and personal experiences/testimonies so I figured with so much still unknown about PsA they were all worth a solid shot.
And I didn’t just try them each for a week or even a month. Nope. AIP (autoimmune protocol) lasted over a year and while it was the most difficult, for me it was also the most successful. Carnivore and veggie (oddly enough) each lasted about 10 weeks with about the same results for pain relief and energy.
What did I discover?
A very clear perpetrator of pain for me is sugar. Which is obviously sad because this lady loves herself some chocolate. But I constantly have to remind myself that I love my kids more. Do I hate the fact that I have to make those choices? Yes! But sometimes, that’s just life. Second for me is gluten and other processed foods. Both of which are difficult to avoid mostly due to convenience. Fatigue makes it very difficult to avoid prepackaged and processed foods because the energy involved in planning and cooking is sometimes just too much.
What does the planning and cooking look like day-to-day?
I do my best to mitigate this by taking as many shortcuts as I can reasonably find. Good days include time spent preparing meals ahead of time and freezing. Bad days usually include random things thrown in the Instapot and hoping for the best. Even though it takes a little more effort than prepackaged meals, I try to remind myself that tomorrow Leanne will be grateful for the choice.
What exercises have worked for me?
Also from personal experience, I’ve been able to learn that for me, if I’m able to do even simple movements then it helps alleviate some of the stiffness and pain in my joints at least 80% of the time. Not to mention a brief boost of energy to combat some of the fatigue. I want to be clear that I’m emphasizing SIMPLE movements. I’m not talking about getting in touch with your inner Jane Fonda (am I showing my age?).
For me, basic forward and side bends, restorative yoga, and short strolls all work to grease my joints. In the long run, it helps at least maintain my range of motion and makes me feel like I have a little more daily control over my PsA.
Why is it so hard to make these lifestyle changes?
So if we “know” that making changes to what we eat and how we move are beneficial to managing our psoriatic arthritis, why does it still feel so difficult? Why do I still experience cycles where I just can’t seem to force myself to make the “right” choices?
How do health professionals add to the problem?
In the interest of full transparency, I’m obviously not a doctor, nor a psychologist, or even a psychiatrist. So if you feel you struggle with deep trauma from your experiences with a medical professional please seek help from a licensed therapist. However, I do know what it feels like to have my pain belittled and written off because I may carry a few extra pounds from years of being on steroids and having children. Would my joints feel better if I weighed less? Yes, obviously. I have lived experience that tells me (that for me) this is true.
Why do doctors focus on weight?
However I also believe that it is important for medical professionals to understand that the pain is PRIMARILY due to the disease and perhaps secondarily due to weight. It isn’t a case of either/or, rather a case of both/and. But even then NOT in equal measure.
Herein lies the problem. Many of us have very real and hurtful experiences having our pain and fatigue written off by medical professionals because of our weight. Which in turn has led not only to delays in diagnosis but sometimes an avoidance of making movement a priority and the necessary dietary changes due to this trauma.
Why is it still so difficult?
When you have to spend years shouting from the rooftops that your pain isn’t caused by your weight, it can make you very reluctant to make dietary changes, even if those changes could help. After all, it is likely true that anyone would benefit from cutting back on sugar and processed foods. So why does it still feel so difficult?
What is your experience? What keeps you from making certain lifestyle changes? How do you overcome those challenges? What keeps your motivated to make good choices?
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