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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mission 2011: The Most Dangerous Room in the House

A fitted kitchenImage via WikipediaWelcome to another edition of my Mission 2011 posts.

This Month's Focus

January is the month I am taking a closer look at my body mechanics and assessing my progress in turning everyday tasks into more fibro-friendly activities. That means I modify tasks to make them more doable, less tiring and less taxing on my body. It is a concept I was first introduced to by a wonderfully helpful occupational therapist when I attended the Cedars-Sinai Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia Program back in 2006.

My Most Dangerous Room

Today I want to talk about "the most dangerous room in the house." I know that statistically for most people that room is the bathroom. However, it seems that my efforts to make this room more fibro-friendly were quite easy. Using a shower bench to sit when I bathe and sitting on the closed toilet seat when I get out of the shower to dry off were two simple changes that had a big impact on making the bathroom a friendlier place.

So for me, the room that is "the most dangerous room in the house" is actually my kitchen.

In the Kitchen = On My Feet

This week I have really gotten back in touch with how much standing is part of normal activities in the kitchen and my huge need to minimize the time I spend standing, because standing is one activity that can really wipe me out in a few short minutes.

This probably explains why, for the first several years after developing fibromyalgia and chronic pain, I cut way back on cooking. Problem is, eating out, using meal services and buying prepared meals and produce from the grocery store are very expensive alternatives to making meals at home. After a hard look at our budget, I knew I had to figure out how to get back into the kitchen to save money and make healthier food choices.

Problem-solving: Meal Prep

In the kitchen, I tried using a stool to sit next to the countertop, but found that the construction of the countertops in my kitchen didn't lend themselves to sitting very comfortably. My body and arms where just too far away from the the work surface, so I wound up stretching and reaching away from my body and causing more pain. This modification seems to work better if I pulled the cutting board out and use it as a work surface, but this didn't provide a very large work area.

In the end, I resorted to taking my work to the dining room table in the adjacent room. It works better, but now I find myself walking back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room, transporting food and prep utensils. Which makes me think I need to do some additional brainstorming to streamline this process.

Problem-solving: Cooking Methods

It also became abundantly clear that stove-top cooking wasn't going to work if I needed to be seated in the kitchen.

Fortunately, I had discovered the wonderful world of crockpot slow cooking prior to my diagnosis of fibromyalgia. With a substantial library of slow cooker cookbooks at hand, as well as hundreds of recipes available free online, it was easy to get started making budget-conscious and great-tasting meals again. Plus this method of cooking lends itself to tackling cooking in easy steps and taking breaks in-between. For example: I can prep the ingredients early in the day, assemble everything in the crockpot for cooking a few hours later, serve the meal several hours after that and be left with an easy clean up before bed.

Another preferred cooking method is the oven. Since it is just me and my husband, we invested in a small Breville countertop oven than can cook a 13" pizza, roast a chicken, bake cookies and bake, roast, toast and broil pretty much everything else in between. A countertop oven means no bending over to get things in or out, which is another troublesome activity I talked about last week.

My Dream Kitchen

So I've come to conclusion that a remodel of my circa 1949 kitchen is the ultimate solution to my problems. Including things like pull out work surfaces that accommodate sitting for prep, lower countertops and wall ovens that minimize bending would be part of my fibro-friendly redesign. Now if I only had the money...

Until then, it's clear to me I need to keep experimenting with different ways to make the kitchen more fibro-friendly. You can help by taking a moment to share some of the kitchen and cooking tips you've discovered with me too.



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5 comments

Jamee @ A New Kind of Normal said...

This is a great post Selena! The crock pot has become one of my best friends in the kitchen! I'm just having to relearn some recipes now that I'm gluten-free!

Migrainista said...

I second that about the crock pot.

ashpauls said...

I love this post bc if I had worse memory issues than I do already... I would've sworn this was me writing it lol. My problem was the bathroom too. Comfy shower chair, pillow for baths, and a nice hand grip... putting on my moisturizer sitting on the toilet seat problem good as it's going to get.

My biggest hurdle is the kitchen now. Got a bar stool bc I faint standing, but the blood still pools too quickly with my legs not being bent up near my chest. And like you, reaching, getting up and down, walking to and from the dining room to use the table is just too much! I need a wide stool that I can cross my legs indian style on, and with wheels so I can pushing it around the kitchen! hehe or a really tall wheel chair basically lol. My grams just bought me a crock pot too and tons of recipe books. Comes with a smaller one for tinier meals as well since there's only me here.

I am moving soon as well to a place with more space to add a tiny table in the kitchen, so I want to get a little rolling trolley I can put all the prep stuff on, roll it to the table and work from there.

Felicia Fibro said...

I look forward to hearing new techniques you come up with! I'm not sure if you're able to do any structural modifications, but I have countertop height stools that fit under a cut out in my cabinets. (like you're sitting at a table).

You asked us to share our tips as well - I've written 2 posts about Tips & Tools for Working in the Kitchen. Come by my site and lemme know what you think!

anng27 said...

Remodeling the kitchen was on our to-do list before I got sick (heck, before we made an offer on the house). We think a single 6'4" man remodeled it in the 80s. I'm barely 5'2". I can hardly function in the super tall kitchen without help. Portable dishwasher is too heavy for me to push to the sink, most things are too high to reach even with a step stool, stand mixer doesn't fit under the cabinets so we can't open one. The worse I get, the more I need a new kitchen, but the less realistic actually doing it becomes. We've had such bad experiences with contractors that we want to do it ourselves (like the plumbing that came out great!). Meanwhile, I keep moving the little Ikea cabinet cutouts around on the Ikea floor plan and dreaming of a flour drawer like the one in this kitchen - http://www.thebakingbeauties.com/2010/04/this-baking-beauty-gets-new-kitchen.html - to keep the 27 different gluten free flours close at hand. :-)