It can be challenging to eat healthily with FA, but for me, it’s worth it

Preparing nutritious meals is complicated by my disability

Jean Walsh avatar

by Jean Walsh |

Share this article:

Share article via email
Main banner for

Almost every morning I wake up intending to eat well. Sometimes I do eat healthily, sometimes not. This sunny May morning I plan to make myself a berry smoothie with lots of healthy stuff in there like flaxseed and Greek yogurt.

A healthy smoothie is one of my go-tos in warm weather. I have a Nutribullet blender that I love. It’s perfect for smoothie making.

I put the Nutribullet away during the winter months, when I rarely drink smoothies because they just add to my coldness. Winter in Massachusetts demands a warm breakfast. I’m in awe of those people who drink iced coffee on a cold January day. I’m sure the fact that poor body temperature regulation is a symptom of Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) contributes to my need for a hot breakfast.

Where I put my blender is the question. I have checked all around in the lower kitchen cabinets, but I can’t find it. I’m a wheelchair user, so I can’t reach the upper ones. Maybe I had my husband put it away somewhere higher. I feel my intention for a healthy breakfast smoothie slipping away. I am alone and there is no one to look for my blender in the upper cabinets.

Right now those yogurt-covered peanuts (which I really shouldn’t have bought and are basically peanut M&M’s) look like a yummy and easy breakfast. Peanuts are protein-packed, I tell myself. But saying the yogurt covering has any nutritional value is a stretch, even for the part of my brain that’s trying to rationalize an unhealthy breakfast.

Recommended Reading
Main banner for

With Friedreich’s ataxia, a small thing can become a big deal

Eating healthily is one way I can control my health

I know I feel best if I eat food high in protein, healthy fat, and complex carbohydrates. I try to focus on what I should eat, but I aim to avoid processed food, especially sugar. My blood sugar is typically at the upper end of the normal range, and I want to avoid that prediabetic category if I can. Diabetes can be another complication of FA.

To manage my overall health, I work out. Lean dietary protein helps maintain the muscle I have worked so hard to create.

I have plenty of reasons not to start my day with yogurt-covered peanuts, but it’s a struggle. FA severely diminishes my motor skills. This makes meal prep slow — triple-the-prep-time-stated-on-a-recipe slow.

The easiest thing to do is pop something in the microwave or straight into my mouth. Food that I can microwave with no prep is often heavily processed, unless it’s leftovers we have prepared. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by having to prepare healthy foods for myself, and so I skip meals altogether.

When I’m doing well with eating right, I’ll do things like prep that smoothie the night before so all I have to do in the morning is blend it.

My bottom line: Eating healthily is worth the effort, but eating yogurt-covered peanuts for breakfast isn’t always evil. I can improve both my diet and my acceptance of my imperfections.

Note: Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Friedreich’s Ataxia News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Friedreich’s ataxia.


Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.