Person cooking in their kitchen

Learning to Cook Gave Me Hope

The garlic and onions were sauteing in a pan as I chopped tomatoes from my parents' garden. The aroma was already heavenly. I had never made marinara sauce before, but it seemed to be coming along perfectly. After adding the tomatoes, I added plenty of Thyme, Basil, and a splash of the cooking wine my mum always cooked with while I was growing up.

Doing something good for my body

It was my first meal after learning my bone density had significantly decreased after years of dealing with inflammation from juvenile psoriatic arthritis. I realized that I needed to focus on getting more vitamins and calcium than I normally do. A pasta dinner with homemade sauce sounded just right. My sauce contained lots of vitamins and very little sodium. Topping the pasta with parmesan cheese brought a good serving of calcium.

It was delicious, and I felt encouraged that I had done something good for my body. None of these foods are my trigger foods, and all of them were very nutritious.

Diet can help

I've had a love-hate relationship with food for years. Since I was a kid with juvenile-onset psoriatic arthritis, I've heard from TV and magazines that diets can cure arthritis. It put an awful taste in my mouth, especially when others questioned why I wasn't 'curing' myself with kale, cherries, and Tumeric. Sometimes, I felt like the diets' popularity made it so others underestimated how severe inflammatory arthritis is.

But as I got older and stopped being quite so stubborn, I realized diet does influence our health. Sometimes, following certain meal plans can help reduce our pain, especially when they eliminate triggers. And just keeping a healthy diet benefits us in so many other ways.

I've gone through a few arthritis diets that cut out inflammatory. Sometimes, these diets were just a random experiment. But most times, I was going through awful times and had no more options: dietary changes felt like my only hope. I've felt better anytime I started eating fresher and eliminating certain food groups. Even when I didn't feel relief, I hoped that every ingredient I added would help me in the long run. And learning to cook with these new, healthy ingredients further encouraged me that fuelling my body properly can be delicious.

The recipe that gave me hope

There are a couple of dishes I'm very good at cooking. So many of these dishes got me through tough elimination diets, or even just made me feel better while I was eating clean.

Honey sesame chicken brings me back to both painful yet sweet times. I was on a prescribed elimination diet at the time and was pulling out my hair, trying to find any recipes that weren't overly complicated. At the time, I had just started dating my current boyfriend and was desperate to find something to impress him with when I cooked for him on date nights. Somehow, I came across a sesame chicken recipe that was allowed.

It was delicious and quickly became both his and my favorite meal. Every time I make it now, I think about the lovely evening when we first had that good recipe, laughter, and put away the struggles I was going through. And I always look back and think about how after a while, I finally got a little relief from my symptoms.

Always find a reason to be optimistic

Of course, I don't always have the spoons to cook everything fresh and from scratch. Everyone has those days, or weeks, or even months when your flaring. Or when the pain and fatigue leave you not wanting to eat.

But it's during trying times when I try to feel most optimistic. Maybe I didn't have the energy to bake fresh Brussel sprouts, but the frozen ones you can steam in the microwave are just as nutritious. And tasty if you season them properly! Or I didn't have much of an appetite, but I still choose a healthy snack.

Having a disease like PsA, you need to have reasons to hold onto hope. Sometimes, treatments don't work fast enough for us or in the ways we want, and it's discouraging. For me, knowing I'm always trying my best to take care of my body helps me feel encouraged to keep going.

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