Why me? Amanda’s health woe shows her power of a good diet
Published on: 02 May 2016
JUST six months after opening Carpe Diem Therapy Centre in Staple Hill, Amanda Staples was diagnosed with ME, or, to give it its proper name, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
“I wasn’t feeling particularly well, got a virus and just couldn’t shift it,” she said.
“I could hardly get myself out of bed and couldn’t walk without feeling giddy and sick. I was unsteady on my feet and had a fever. As the virus progressed I got lots of leg and foot pain and became hyper sensitive to touch. Even the duvet on my legs would hurt. I walked with a stick because I kept falling over.”
Amanda, who lives in Staple Hill with husband Danny, underwent lots of blood tests and through a process of elimination, she was told she had ME.
As a busy hypnotherapist, massage therapist and Pilates teacher, the condition couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“I panicked thinking I’ve just gone fully self-employed and won’t get paid sick days or holidays. What happens now?!”
In the hope of relieving her symptoms, Amanda worked her way through every therapy on offer at Carpe Diem, which she runs with business partner Liz Phillips.
But it was talking to a nutritional therapist at the centre which inspired her to look at her diet, especially as she had developed food intolerances as a result of the condition.
“I was fairly healthy but as a means of trying to manage the fatigue I was eating chocolate and carbohydrates to give me energy but I just ended up feeling worse,” she said.
“A lot of people who eat carbs get a high and then a slump but I just went straight to the slump. I didn’t recognise that though, so to give myself energy I just kept eating more of the same carbs.”
The turning point for Amanda was when she attended a conscious eating retreat at Littleton Mill, Wiltshire in 2011 which focused on ‘clean’ foods.
“I’d changed part of my diet but hadn’t taken all the advice of the nutritional therapist. The retreat confirmed what I’d been fighting against, which was that I needed to change everything I was eating completely.
“I learnt very, very quickly that what I ate had a massive effect on what I could and couldn’t do and discovered what foods were better to create energy and what foods took less digestion because you waste energy by digesting. Previously when I had prepared meals I was too tired to eat them but the conscious eating retreat showed me how to make meals which were quick but nutritious.”
Miraculously, it took Amanda just weeks to see a change.
“I kept tweaking my diet and experimenting for years but throughout that time I kept seeing more and more improvements in my symptoms,” she said.
Several years later Amanda is a changed woman, although it would be unfair to claim she is symptom-free.
She can now take her two dogs, Oscar and Charlie, on hour-long walks and is able to teach six Pilates classes a week, something she is passionate about.
“At one point I thought I would have to be pushed around in a wheelchair but now I can walk my dogs for up to an hour, play tennis for a short while, swim and do aqua-fit.
“Most people look at me now and say there’s nothing wrong with me because I used to look very pale and quite dreadful. However there is still a lot of weakness in my legs and I can’t cycle, run or participate in an hour-long cardio-vascular fitness class. If I over do it my leg and foot pain and flu-like symptoms come back. I now class myself as a ‘recovering fatiguer’.”
It was through her therapy work at Carpe Diem that Amanda had the idea to write a book.
“Even though I don’t practice nutrition, I seem to come across lots of people who see me with lots of random conditions. I was then getting into a conversation about food and would offer to email them recipes or give them ideas about what to get in for their food cupboard.
“I thought why don’t I put everything in a book and then I can tell them to read it.”
And this is exactly what Amanda did. Eating for Energy, which came out on April 13, is packed full of recipes which are tasty, quick and nutritious. There are no plates of boiled kale (although Kale Crisps are featured, which Amanda says are delicious) but amongst the offerings are Cheesy Sweet Potato Mash, Upbeet Roasties, Coconutty Choc Granola and Smoking Hotpot.
The first 16 pages are devoted to interesting advice about nutrition and diet including a revealing section on ‘proper’ chocolate.
The book can help a wide range of people, not just those with ME or food intolerances. In fact, one of Amanda’s relatives came to her for help when her daughter decided to become a vegetarian.
“When I go to friends’ houses or get invited to parties I notice people ask me to bring my courgette bread or my wheat-free tart or chocolate and orange tart. They all love it and can’t believe it’s wheat and sugar-free. People love the fact that these are simple recipes which will keep for a few days, are easy to make and contain ingredients you can buy at a supermarket or health food shop.”
Amanda loves the new lease of lease her diet has given her, finding time to write short stories (she has won two competitions) and her first novel.
“With ME you can get very depressed and focus on what you can’t do and I spent several years being angry and saying ‘Why me?’ Now I’m much more positive. I have so much more energy and use it correctly. I feel tons better!”
Eating for Energy is available from Amazon at the price of £10.99 but can be purchased for £9.99 directly from Carpe Diem and Health Scents, both in Broad Street, Staple Hill.