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Spondylitis Cooking 102: Cooking & Eating With Fatigue

Cooking used to be a breeze. Chopping--no problem, stacks of dishes--get scrubbing, waiting hours for the perfect result--why not? And then my body went into a diabolical revolt. My stiff hands couldn't always hold a knife to chop. Sometimes my neatly chopped food flew across the room without warning. My sore hands and feet couldn't go the distance with the dishes. Pain and stiffness are never fun, but fatigue is the worst.

Fatigue has the capacity to limit or damage anything we want or need to do, especially complex tasks like cooking and eating. They're the combination of shopping, putting away the purchases, using items before they spoil, cutting, stirring, doing something with heat for just the right amount of time, getting something onto a plate or bowl and to our mouths, cleaning up, and storing the leftovers. Normally, a sentence like this is deleted, but it's important to point out all the things people do without much thought when they have enough energy. Most of these actions are bottlenecks. That's why fatigue presents a serious disruption to cooking and eating.

Evaluate your situation

How is it going? How often does your fresh food spoil before being used? How often are you able to cook, eat, and clean-up without concerns about fatigue?

Prioritize your weakest areas

Are you as bad at breakfast as I am?

I wake up a foggy, grumpy, stiff handed grouch. This isn't compatible with making breakfast, so I go with leftovers, sandwiches, meal replacement bars, trail mix, baked potatoes, or shakes. Your leftovers could become nachos, hash, or loaded baked potatoes.

Do you struggle to follow through on eating meals?

I have a hard time with the monotonous routine of daily cooking and cleaning up. It takes up too much time and energy. Of course, I also have food allergies, so cooking will always be part of my life unless I win the lottery. Without some structure, I can end up randomly eating things out of my fridge on higher fatigue days. Cooking and freezing my food means that there's always something to go onto my sheet pan or into the microwave, no matter how poorly I feel.

Decide on your rescue meals

Rescue meals should be safe for you to eat, low barriers to consumption, able to stay fresh for awhile in your freezer or fridge, and consistent with your dietary goals.

Gather your stash

My grocery list includes:

  • Frenched green beans
  • Cauliflower rice
  • Cauliflower gnocchi
  • Cooked greens or slaw
  • Squash cubes
  • Cooked proteins
  • Wild rice

I generally avoid putting raw meat in the freezer. Defrosting and clean-up represent a substantial investment of time and energy.

How I manage cooking with ankylosing spondylitis

My favorite sheet pan dinner combos:

  • Cauliflower gnocchi, green beans, and meatballs
  • Squash cubes, cauliflower rice, and fully cooked sausage or meatballs
  • Cooked wild rice dressed in gluten-free soy sauce and ginger, sweet potato chunks, and cooked chicken from my freezer
  • Corn-free tortilla chips, shredded chicken, hummus, cheese, olives, and tomato-free sauce make dreamy nachos

What do you like to make?

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