My Fibromyalgia Healing Journey - A 3-Pronged Approach

by Karen Lee Richards Patient Advocate

Last month I began telling you about a new journey I set out on to improve my nutrition and fitness - and in the process, hopefully to reduce my fibromyalgia symptoms and improve my overall health. (See "My Fibromyalgia Healing Journey - The First Steps")

When it comes to rebuilding wellness, Sue Ingebretson, my health coach through this journey, strongly believes in a three-pronged approach which she calls the Restoration Trio - nutrition, fitness and emotional wellness. Here's where I am in my journey in these three areas.


One of the first things Sue asked me to do in the nutrition arena was to find out what nutritional type I am. Have you ever wondered why various diet fads seem to work well for some people and not so well for others? It's because we all have different genetic makeup. While some of us do best with a high-protein diet, others fare better with a more vegetarian type of diet.

I learned that people generally fall into one of three nutritional types:

  • Veggie (Carb) Type

  • Protein Type

  • Mixed Type

There are various free tests available online to find your nutritional type or your nutritional ID. I took two of them - just to make sure I got it right. One offered by Dr. Mercola is called a Nutritional Typing Assessment. (Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the button for the test.) The other offered by Depke Wellness is called a Nutritional ID Assessment. (Send them your name and e-mail address and they will send you the assessment as a pdf attachment.)

On both tests, I came out as a protein type, meaning I would do better on a diet that is high in protein. Up to that point, in my mind, protein was synonymous with meat. Since I could only eat so much meat, I set out to find other foods that are also high in protein. That led me to an amazing food I knew nothing about quinoa.

Quinoa (KEEN-wah) - technically a seed but used more like a grain in cooking - has been called a "superfood." It is very high in protein and is a good source of magnesium (important for people with FM), phosphorus, iron and fiber. It is also low in fat and the fat it does contain is the healthy type of fat that is essential in human nutrition.

I was skeptical at first. I tend to be a somewhat picky eater so I was afraid I wouldn't like it. Much to my surprise, I loved it! Cooked with water, it has virtually no taste so it can easily be added to other foods and seasoned to suit any taste you like. My favorite way to make it is with chicken broth. I use a rice cooker and a 3:1 ratio (3 cups chicken broth to 1 cup rinsed white quinoa). Made that way, it is fluffy and delicious by itself as a side dish or added to a chicken salad or casserole.

So far, I've only tried the white quinoa but I understand it comes in red and black versions, too. I'm looking forward to trying those as well.


Fitness is all about getting my body moving more on a regular basis. Sue and I both prefer the word 'fitness' to 'exercise' because the word exercise seems to carry so many negative connotations especially for people with FM.

I've never been a big fan of most traditional forms of exercise. What I do love, though, is dancing. I took ballet from the age of three and taught it for awhile as a young adult. I still love the feeling of moving my body to music. I no longer have any desire to perform in public. I just want to be able to dance around my house by myself. Moving freely to music is so much more fun that counting reps of sit ups. I know I need to start slowly and be careful not to overdo. I don't want to push myself so far that I increase my pain, which would discourage me from continuing. My starting goal is to move for the duration of one song every other day.

Emotional Wellness

When Sue first mentioned emotional wellness, I balked a little bit. While I agree that emotional wellness is extremely important, I felt that at this stage in my life, I was pretty well-balanced emotionally. I also have to admit that after so many years of people trying to prove that fibromyalgia is more of a mental or emotional disorder than a physical one, I tend to be defensive on the subject.

I soon learned, though, that this was not what Sue was talking about. I realized that a lot of things we may not even be aware of can be contributing to our ability to make changes in this case nutrition and fitness changes. Things like stress and emotional trauma--past or present can make it difficult or even impossible to make the positive changes we want to make.

One thing I discovered is that much of they way I eat is kind of a rebellion against the fact that my mother was so strict about what I ate as a child. She had my best interests at heart but because she was so firm about it, I had a negative reaction to it. I vividly remember that she would never allow me to have more than two cookies no matter what. And if it was my favorite cookie Nabisco Pinwheels I could only have one because they were larger than most cookies. When I went to college, one of the first things I did was to buy a box of cookies and eat the whole thing just because I could.

As I look back, I now realize that it has been very important to me to be able to eat whatever I wanted. I've always been resistant to dietary restrictions, which is probably why I've never been able to stick to an eating plan for very long. I now understand that any changes I make to the way I eat have to be choices I freely make because I want to feel better. If I think in terms of what I can't have, I won't succeed. Rather I have to think in terms of what I choose to eat because it will benefit me.

That's my update for this month. Watch next month to see how I'm progressing or perhaps struggling. In the meantime, please let me know if you've found any nutrition, fitness or emotional wellness tips that have helped you.

Image by "Stuart Miles" courtesy of


Karen Lee Richards
Meet Our Writer
Karen Lee Richards

Karen is the co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association. She writes for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Pain Management.