Managing An Overdue Diet Overhaul

Dear Audy,

In three days I have done a pretty good job of cleaning up my diet, if I do say so myself! If you are following my updates on Facebook, you might have noticed this development after my blog post proclaiming my intentions to eat food instead of food-like things:

“It just so happened that I needed diet answers today and my Mum had left a book called The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet here for me to read. It also turns out that the book has a 30 day meal plan included. Basically you eat vegetables and meat and that’s about it. I have shopped and committed to trying 3 days because it was all there planned out for me. Go, other people’s plans!”


Go, other people’s plans, indeed. I have absolutely zero amount of cooking creativity. The idea of making meal plans, shopping and cooking has always felt like a burden to me (rather than the privilege it really is).

Over five years with CRPS, I have encountered many different sources telling me that I can improve my chronic pain condition with diet changes. Cut this food source out, cut that food source out, cut, cut, cut. It’s rather daunting.

Dairy has to go, and that’s less about what anyone has told me that I should do and much more about the blood test that declared me allergic to a protein in cow’s milk. A test I had about seven years ago and whose advice I have always struggled to follow.

Next is the evil wheat grain. Bye bye bread and cakey associates, bye bye all my gluten filled friends. Farewell, cereal.

Agreeing with the need to eliminate gluten has nothing to do with fads and everything to do with the fact that without it, I feel less bloated and digestively disturbed. There is still a lot of misconception about food allergies in society and those strange people that think others who order gluten-free, or soy in their latte, just want to be part of the cool crowd.

I don’t really understand how anybody can be completely convinced that modern processed foods are doing us no damage. Convenience can really drum up a lot of wilful ignorance when it gets into its swing. I have been ignoring my own feelings on the topic for a long time because I just wasn’t in the right place to make these changes before. One does need a certain level of functionality to cook regularly.

Much of the advice that I have read in regards to a “clean” diet leads one toward a vegan path. This has never really felt suited for me. I was a vegetarian for a few years when I was teenager. I ended up feeling crappy all of the time and eventually returned to meat to regain my energy. I knew that were I to attempt to cut meat out of my diet again, it would involve a lot of work to replace those nutrients.

I guess that not feeling as though I could go the full nine yards, all the way to veganism, has stopped me from doing a diet overhaul at all. Mostly, this was just a silly, perfectionism driven, mental block.

The Paleo Solution appears like it might actually be the change of eating lifestyle that I have been looking for. Not only does it cut out the food groups that make me feel bloated and off-colour, dairy and grains, but it replaces them with healthy foods that are simple to prepare. Best of all, I could start following the meal plan as I started reading the book, as the text pointed out in the first chapter. We don’t actually need to understand the whys to change what we put in our mouths for the purposes of seeing what happens.

Not that the whys don’t make sense to me. Humans survived on a diet free of grains and processed foods for much longer than we have been living on the foods that are common today. Also common today are strange, not quite explainable, human body malfunctions including chronic pain, IBS and Depression.

Sure, maybe diet has nothing to do with it, maybe all these chemicals that we surround ourselves with have nothing to do with it…but that’s just not what logic happens to say to me. In my mind, logic wants to give this sensible plan a go and discover for myself if I feel better.

It’s easier to change one’s diet when following a plan. The book has made shopping and planning meals simple and easy, and easy is important when I am trying to make these changes and manage my chronic pain.

The strangest thing about implementing these changes is how eager I have felt! I might not have any cooking creativity, but I have found some cooking motivation. I have also been able to physically handle all of the extra work that I need to do to shop and cook. They’re simple meals, but preparing three meals a day is still a big change to my lifestyle. I really wasn’t sure I could cope, but so far, so good.

I am still going for a walk every day. I basically have to do nothing but rest and relax in order to maintain my diet and my walk, but that’s really OK for now. I know what it’s like to have to do nothing and still not be able to maintain any exercise or food preparation, so it’s actually much more than OK!

I’m living in an in-betweeny house with most of my things in boxes and a good month of little to do ahead of me. This is the perfect time to really focus on my health and improve my CRPS using everything that I have learnt about pain management.

I’ve always known that one day I would need to manage my life without so much input from doctors and physiotherapists, CRPS or not, but it’s weird the way that it really just sort of happened with circumstance. I could have crumbled without my regular Feldenkrais appointments, or Osteopath appointments, and I have in the past. But this time is different.

This time I feel like I am in control and have actual influence over my pain level. I must admit, independence feels pretty bloody spectacular.

Love & Veges,

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  • 6 thoughts on “Managing An Overdue Diet Overhaul

    1. Vandien

      Hi Caf. I’ve been reading your blog posts for a few months now.

      I have a chronic pain condition that greatly affects my ability to walk and sit down. I started eating low carb paleo style over a year ago. It didn’t help my chronic pain (though it has helped others), but there were numerous other health benefits. It cured my heartburn and acne, I lost excess body fat, I rarely get tired, and I haven’t been sick since starting the diet, despite all of the pain and anxiety.

      Sometimes it’s difficult to prepare meals because of my condition, but I can make my meals as simple as getting steak and veggies out of the freezer and throwing them in the frying pan. And I usually have plenty of leftovers.

      I definitely think paleo is the way to go. Some vegan programs are good because they also eliminate grains, sugar and vegetable oils, but the more research I do on nutrition, the more I realise how important it is to have animal products in the diet.

      I eat plenty of coconut oil, meat, veggies, eggs and animal fat, some berries or other fruit and sweet potato occasionally, and I use butter sometimes. I either eat liver or supplement with vit b, have bone broth or supplement with calcium and magnesium, and take cod liver oil and vit c.

      I order my meat online in bulk from these guys (for the Melbourne area) and store it in my freezer:

      My mum buys veggies and fruit for me because I’m not healthy enough to go to the supermarket or farmers market anymore.

      Some good paleo websites include:

      Good luck with your paleo nutrition and chronic pain.

      1. Hayley Cafarella Post author

        Thanks very much for the resources and support! It is a huge change, but I have kept at it and I am already feeling better and less bloated in the gut. I very much like the association between following the Paleo diet and reducing inflammation – which is a huge factor in CRPS. I don’t expect it to be cure, but hopefully it will help me to keep up the progress that I’ve been making using physical pain management techniques. Do you mind if I ask where you buy coconut oil? It’s something that I haven’t been able to find so far :)

    2. Maria

      Good for you for making some changes! But it is completely false that we need animal products in our diets for soooooo many reasons. The first being that they are acidic no matter what their source. Acidity in the body creates disease and allows for calcium to be pulled from the bones and teeth to neutralize the acidity. We also get way too much protein in our diets. We only need 20-35 grams and not even all the amino acids at once. There are plant sources that are complete proteins, though. We don’t have the amount of hydrochloric acid in our stomachs needed to digest meat like meat eating mammals do. Therefore, it is left in our digestive systems to rot. The list goes on. It’s ok to eat some meat if you really can’t live without it, but to say it is necessary in the diet is a complete fallacy fed to us by the industries that profit from animal product consumption. Eating a thought out plant diet supplementing with b12 and vitamin D will get you all the nutrients you need. The more raw plant foods you eat, the more energy you will have.

      Good luck on your diet overhaul!

      1. Hayley Cafarella Post author

        Thanks very much for your input! I have read as much information supporting the eating of meat as rejecting it. Some sources claim our digestive systems don’t break down meat, others claim they don’t break down carbohydrates. I have heard it suggested before that meat “rots” in the stomach, however I have also read studies that suggest this is complete fallacy. I am still learning about digestion so that I can make a more informed decision for myself. The arguments against carbs and sugar seem to make a lot more sense to me than arguments against eating meat, mostly because not eating grains makes me feel a whole lot better, but not eating meat leaves me lethargic. I honestly think that the only thing we can do is try out these things for ourselves and find out what actually makes us feel better. If I try Paleo and don’t find it beneficial, then the first adjustment I’d make is probably to cut back on the meat and up the veggies. I am definitely noticing the benefits of avoiding grains already, are they are part of a raw vegan diet?

    3. Vandien

      Yep, everyone needs to decide what makes sense to them and make their own decisions. But if you want to know more about the topic, this is a good video from the paleo perspective:

      You should be able to get coconut oil at a nearby health food store. I’ve only ordered it online from two places:

      Banaban was ok, but I think Aclara is higher quality. There could be a better deal I haven’t found as well. Also it’s a good idea to get a small amount of a particular brand first to see if you like it before buying large amounts.

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