Living with Chronic Pain
Supporting Healthy Eating for Loved Ones With Chronic Pain
Consuming a healthy diet is important for everyone, but it is especially critical for individuals with chronic pain. Healthy eating can reduce inflammation, improve function of the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems, and help individuals reach or maintain a healthy weight. Other benefits include reduced pain, improved mood, decreased stress, higher ability to fight infections, and greater energy levels.
Providing support for healthy eating
It is beneficial to provide support for a loved one who is dealing with chronic pain, which includes supporting their healthy eating. Four ways to support a loved one in eating healthy includes the following:
- Learn which foods are beneficial for those with chronic pain. For example, if inflammation in the body contributes to pain, research and purchase foods that decrease inflammation and incorporate them into meals. Learn which foods to avoid, such as sugar or overly-processed foods, and limit these foods.
- Participate in healthy eating. If a loved one with chronic pain is trying to prioritize healthy eating, filling the home with unhealthy foods or suggesting a restaurant where food is deep-fried will not help them make progress. Better choices are eating healthy foods with the individual, trying new recipes that incorporate healthy foods, (e.g., vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats), or going to a healthy restaurant together.
- Avoid overkill. Even though it usually comes from a place of kindness, extreme encouragement of healthy eating can cause more harm than good. Overanalyzing every food choice, removing all unhealthy foods from the home, or sending excessive articles about the benefits of healthy eating can make the person less likely to participate in eating healthy. Consistent encouragement is best.
- Focus on the positives instead of the negatives. It is better to cheer on the loved one when they eat something healthy than to criticize them if they eat something unhealthy. Praising them for setting goals and making progress toward those goals, even if there are setbacks, can provide the additional encouragement they need to prioritize healthy eating.
Additional source: International Association for the Study of Pain