Here at WH, we love a good transformation story. Whether it’s someone losing 50 kilos or training to achieve their dream body, we’ve seen how exercise and healthy eating can literally change lives. And for Megan Mitchelson, who suffers from the autoimmune disease fibromyalgia, it’s no different.
In chronic pain, Megan was getting by on pain meds, naps and hot baths. But when she started doing barre — a ballet-inspired workout — that all changed…
What exactly is fibromyalgia though?
“I can only explain fibromyalgia as mass body pain throughout your body that feels like it touches your bones. It is constant and feels as though it pulses throughout your body. Waking up is the worst because the pains hit you like a truck. I often have to take a few minutes to breathe and try to control the pains,” says Megan.
According to the Mayo Clinic, besides widespread pain, fibromyalgia also causes fatigue, insomnia and mood issues like depression — all symptoms Megan experiences.
READ MORE: 7 Most Common Fibromyalgia Symptoms In Women
“After going to my doctor about six times in a month complaining of flu pains, she finally diagnosed me with fibromyalgia, saying it often goes hand in hand with depression, [which] made sense as I was diagnosed with depression at 16,” says Megan.
While pain medication can lessen pain, it’s not a permanent — or necessarily healthy — solution. It was only when Megan started training with Katerina (Nina) Lambrakis from Fit by KL that she found something that could improve her life… naturally.
What you eat really does matter
Megan began to notice that what she ate made a huge difference to how she felt. “Processed foods, fatty fried foods, foods high in sugar or salt, gluten and additives all contribute to my condition by triggering symptoms,” explains Megan.
Since teaming up with Katerina, she’s seriously switched up her diet. “I eat a high lean-protein diet, with a low carbohydrate intake and an overall intake of no more than 1 200 to 1 500 calories per day as I’m currently working towards my goal weight,” she says.
Due to the demands of being a teacher running after little ones, Megan enjoys meals that can be prepped ahead of time — she swears by the convenience of smoothies! Ingredients high in antioxidants, almonds, superfoods like chia seeds, flaxseed and miracle seeds [also called black cumin] make the top of her list.
For a sit-down breakfast, an omelette with mushrooms and spinach comes highly recommended. Snacks include berries, nuts, cucumber sticks and hummus. For lunch, Megan preps a leafy salad and adds protein (salmon, tuna or mackerel). Her diet allows for chicken (skinless) or turkey breast, and while she shies away from red meat, she loves fat-free biltong tossed into her salad. Dinner — 80% greens and 20% protein — is the smallest meal of the day. For Megan, the key to healthy eating is summed up like this: “Chew slowly and register fullness.”
Barre made all the difference to her fibromyalgia
“Honestly one of the biggest things training with Nina has done for me is leave me pain-free. I went to the gym after being told working out would reduce my pain, [but] it really did nothing for my body pains,” says Megan.
Besides living life pain-free, Megan is lapping up the newfound endorphins and energy. Exercising leaves her on an emotional high, which makes her excited about each training session. “I never have to drag myself out of the house like I had to when I went to a conventional gym,” she says. “Nina is upbeat, motivational and keeps me feeling great throughout the workout.”
While Megan does a combination of barre, Pilates, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), light strength training and running three to four times a week, her favourite remains barre for its obvious body benefits. “I love the changes I see and the feeling I get, but hate the burn — it’s seriously something else and finally I am seeing myself go from strength to strength.”
The valuable lessons Megan has learnt
Through healthy eating and regular training, Megan has found a way to better manage her fibromyalgia. “I’ve learnt that processed and sugary foods really do make a huge difference to my body pains — I ate a biscuit the other day and I had body pains within five minutes. So I now understand what eating clean can do for my body pains as well as my energy levels,” she explains.
She’s also learnt to find her strength, even when she’s feeling weak. “I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was, my body can handle more than I expected and I’m learning to trust in how far my body can be pushed.”