Paralysis Nutrition: Life Hacks from the Woman who Knows
RRemember the woman from the country song who could "bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan?" With a quadriplegic husband and two children in diapers, Fatimah Fakhoury is a W.O.M.A.N. with great experience, insight and power. I'm not sure if bacon is what we should be eating, but as the creator of Paralysis Nutrition, Fatimah knows…and she will tell us. Fatimah holds a Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition, is a registered dietitian, and has a wealth of knowledge on how to stay healthy while living with paralysis.
Harness the power of food to take charge of health
"The number one thing people ask me is how to get rid of quad-belly," Fatimah says with authority. Since her husband is a C-6/7 quad, I can't think of a better expert on the subject. "But it really isn't just about losing weight, it is about being healthy. When you eat right, the weight loss will happen gradually, and it will be sustainable. The "quad belly" will decrease when you eat and eliminate your bowels efficiently."
This rings true for me, because I discovered Fatimah on her Facebook page. I was just scanning, then realized I'd been reading her page for 45 minutes. In SCI support groups, it seems that all we do some days is talk about pooping hacks, and I'd found the answer woman—WITH a degree and living with a quadriplegic! I had to learn more.
Fatimah and Ray met 10 years after he was paralyzed in an auto accident. "He was living independently; I was a grad student in nutrition. Even in grad school, or when I interned at the hospital, people with paralysis were never mentioned! They don't teach you about nutrition for SCI. After we met, I knew I needed to look into proper nutrition for him."
Luckily for us, she did look into it. "There is a lot of research on SCI, but not too much is out there in terms of nutrition guidelines after rehab. For people living with paralysis, there are specific considerations, and most dietitians don't know anything about paralysis."
Fatimah began with one-on-one virtual nutrition counseling sessions, then launched a group program, as the interest in her methods skyrocketed. "My clients do really well in a group setting—they learn from each other and it's an awesome experience. When you join Weight Watchers, or some other weight loss program, you're probably the only one who uses a wheelchair. That's not how my program is!" Most recently, she wrote a cookbook in order to inspire people living with paralysis to take control of their everyday meals.
"I created the Paralysis Nutrition Cookbook because my group coaching program was full, and I just couldn't take on more clients at the time. Also, I was a children's book editor for 6 years prior to becoming a dietitian. I have always wanted to do a book. So that, combined with wanting to help more people and you've got my do-it-yourself cookbook of 101 recipes. I made them as simple as I could. No one likes a fussy recipe!" Fatimah tells me that her recipes are carb conscious, high in good protein and fiber, and that she even includes a 30-day sample meal plan, with desserts. "Yes," Fatimah says with a smile, "the dietitian does eat dessert!"
"From my education, I know the science behind nutrition, and as a wife of a quadriplegic, I know that there are a lot of health things that pop up. Many of them, like bladder and kidneys, may get to a point where they can't be reversed or helped without medical intervention. With your weight and bowels, those are things you can improve. Not everything can be improved by nutrition, but a lot can. It's so empowering to take charge of your health and be proactive with your diet."
Paralysis Nutrition workshop featured at Abilities Virtual Experience
I ask the creator of Paralysis Nutrition what we can expect in her booth at the Abilities Expo Virtual Experience on March 26-27, and in her workshop on Friday morning of the virtual show.
"First of all, it will be fun. In my group coaching program, we have multiple Zoom calls per week, a private FB discussion group, and an online course with video modules only available to people in the program, so I'm used to sharing information with many people at once. I love that Abilities Expo is free. So, I'll reach a lot of new people, which is exciting."
"At the Virtual Expo we'll discuss what a healthy diet is for people living with paralysis, ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a bigger picture that includes things like mindful eating, emotional eating, nutrition for pressure sores, things like that. We won't be able to cover everything in my booth, but people will get an idea of what they can do to eat better. My mission is to inspire people with paralysis to take control of their weight and bowels using the power of food. And if they want to learn more, they can join my program or buy the cookbook."
Since I looked at Fatimah's Facebook page last week, this was posted:
I am SO thrilled to share this positive testimonial from my client. When we started working together, he said he didn't know what to eat—he had a pressure sore and wanted to heal it. He spent 2-3 hours on the toilet every 3-4 day. He thought nutrition was confusing. After only 6 weeks of working with me, making dietary and lifestyle changes, he saw the following positive changes:
- Pooping more frequently—and it now takes 45 min! It used to take 2-3 HOURS!
- Wound has healed more in the last month than it has in the past 1 year
- Knows what foods to eat to meet his protein needs
This client says prior to working with me, he felt confused about his diet. He felt hopeless about his skin issues and bowel health. Now he feels empowered and motivated to do even more. I am beyond thrilled to help him. I feel lucky to have worked with him and am so proud of his accomplishments. He is a role model for other people living with paralysis; he took control of his diet and is seeing RESULTS. My heart is full!
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