We are all so different! Our bone structure, body make up and genetic predisposition is unique to us. Some women have such difficulty losing those extra pounds and others are challenged by the fact that they need to put on weight. I do find it fascinating! We all do have one thing in common though, we are all looking to find our perfect weight and stay there. Luckily, this is one of the great side effects of the MS Diet!
Finding The Perfect Weight For You
The good news is that when we are eating this way, our bodies will start functioning at their optimum level and will also naturally gravitate towards a weight that is healthy and maintainable. As we should all know by now, this is not a restrictive diet. It is actually not about weight loss at all. It is certainly not about counting calories or restricting portions. This is not a 'diet' , it is a lifestyle. Shedding some weight is just a bonus side effect. Our bodies start working so much better when we get rid of the junk and introduce foods that nourish and heal. Our cells become stronger and more efficient at getting rid of toxins and unhealthy fats that are not needed. In effect, the food we eat begins to clean our bodies and this allows for an increase in healing and reconstructive processes.
I started the diet with no expectations of weight loss. My only goal was to get rid of foods that were hurting my body so that I could recover naturally from my MS. I was probably around five to seven pounds heavier than I wanted to be but it actually wasn't bothering me too much. I was far more concerned about getting healthy. Looking back, this was a good mind set to have because it meant that I didn't focus any of my valuable energy on restricting myself. I allowed myself to have as many fruits, vegetables, rice cakes and nuts as I felt I needed and wanted. I did, however, have to learn to listen more carefully to my body.
When you are eating like this, it is so much easier to lend an ear to what your body is saying and stop eating when you are full and satisfied. Because these foods are not addictive, like all the sugary refined foods, your body only requests as much as it needs and you tend not to overeat at all. This is one of the reasons why you lose weight. You are only eating as much as your body actually needs. When you start to focus on your health, your weight naturally comes right. This is the weight that is right for your bone structure, height and a host of other factors.
Noticing The Change
I started noticing the difference in the way I looked about a month into eating this way. It really took me by surprise actually! My jeans just started to look a bit better on me and I generally felt more comfortable in my clothes. People also started remarking about how good I was looking which was a lovely self confidence boost! I knew, without a doubt, that my body was responding beautifully to the food I was eating. It was thanking me for finally ditching the foods that were making it feel lethargic and unproductive. It was quite a revelation!
Since then, my weight has been pretty stable. I haven't weighed myself too often because it can become a bit obsessive and I want to focus far more on staying healthy than remaining at that perfect weight. I don't need the scale to tell me. I am in touch with my body and can tell almost immediately if I have gained or lost a little. I don't let small changes like that bother me. I trust that my body is achieving the balance it needs to with the foods I am giving it.
Re-Educating Yourself One Food At A Time
It is not only your body that needs a complete overhaul but your mind also needs a reset of sorts. We need to start thinking differently about foods and how they affect us. Most of what we have been taught about foods is not right and is actually doing us harm. I'm still a bit shocked when I hear of dieticians recommending low fat margarine spreads and sugar free sodas. If educated people are recommending these harmful foods then how is the average person supposed to know what is healthy to not? I am going to briefly explore a few food fallacies and try to correct them.
We have been told for so long that in order to lose weight, we need to cut out fat. Fat = fat! However, we need to understand that our body desperately needs the 'right' fats to keep us healthy. We do need to stop eating saturated animal fats and dairy products but getting enough healthy fats is essential. Omega 3s are of the utmost importance for a heathy hormonal system which is the control centre for body weight and appetite. They can also make a huge difference to our symptoms.
'I need some chocolate to give me energy!'. Sound familiar? This is another fallacy that needs to be rooted out. Refined sugar actually makes us more tired and encourages the body to store fat. An increase in blood sugar levels causes more insulin to be produced. Insulin has the important job of keeping blood sugar levels stable and reduces blood sugar levels by sending any excess sugar to be stored as fat. A piece of fruit or a smoothie will stabilise blood sugar levels, leaving you with far more energy than sweets and chocolates will. I am often surprised how a bunch of grapes can curb any sweet cravings I am having and give me the 'pick me up' I need to keep going.
Gluten is another product that us MS'ers should be avoiding. We are told that wholewheat bread is great for roughage and overall health. However, the gluten in it has actually been shown to interfere with the functioning of the endocrine system. Mary Ann Shearer, a well known nutritionist shares that if she eats even just one slice of organic whole wheat bread for five days in a row, she gains 5 pounds. This is an extreme example of gluten intolerance but most of us would also see the benefits of removing gluten from our diets. The first things you will notice are less bloating and improvements in your skin and bowel movements.
Diet Sodas are the worst culprits. Even though they contain no sugar, they are full of artificial sweeteners which slow down the metabolism and increase appetite. This is obviously the opposite effect of what they intend to do and causes more weight gain. Steer clear of artificial sweeteners as they have also been shown to make MS symptoms worse.
If your cells are not getting what they need to function properly, they will keep sending messages to the brain telling it to send more food their way. Has that ever happened to you? You have been eating junk pretty much the whole day yet you still feel that empty, unsatisfied feeling. That feeling is your body screaming at you 'Please feed me something nutritious!'. Supplements alone will not curb this feeling, by the way. You need to be eating live vitamins and minerals that are in the perfect form for your body to absorb.
Excess Weight: The Truth
Being overweight will exacerbate your symptoms and speed up your disease progression. That is the cold hard truth whether we are willing to accept it or not. Excess weight decreases the efficiency of our bodies, making it harder for them to do run of the mill tasks that keep us alive. The strain that this causes affects every system in our bodies and will definitely have a negative effect on our MS. A heavier body is more difficult to move around and will do things at a slower pace than a fit and trimmer body.
It has also been found that the more body fat we have, the more toxins are stored within the excess fat cells in our body. These toxins are all around us and come from exhaust fumes, plastics and even non-stick cookware. Certain types of toxins have been found to increase how much Multiple Sclerosis can attack and cause damage to our nerves throughout our bodies.
These toxins are sometimes called neurotoxins, because of their effect on the nerves. Moving towards a more ideal weight will help to reduce the amount of toxins that are stored. We also need to be aware of the sources of possible toxins so that we can eliminate them. More on that in another post!
Help, I Actually Need To Gain Weight!
On the other end of the spectrum, many women have problems gaining weight and often find that cutting out all the unhealthy foods causes them to start losing weight. Gaining weight is often far more difficult to achieve than losing it. There is no reason to lose hope. On this way of eating you are very likely to lose a bit of weight but it will eventually stabilise at a healthy place. This is because your body is in the process of breaking down unhealthy tissues. This process can take anywhere between 2 weeks and a year before your body weight stabilises and begins rebuilding. It is no use trying to increase your portion sizes in order to gain weight. Eating large quantities at every meal will only place your body under strain, making it unable to break down the food efficiently. This results in poor absorption of nutrients and further weight loss. Becoming a grazer and eating smaller portions more frequently is a better option. Here are some other things you can try:
- Increase the proportion of high energy food in your diet. These are foods such as avocados, nuts, bananas, sweet potatoes and potatoes. They contain a high calorie content.
- Use more healthy oils on your meals once they have been cooked. Many of you will know that my favourite thing to do is to drizzle extra virgin olive oil over my salads, cooked vegetables, fish and potatoes. Pretty much anything is great covered with this nutritious and anti-inflammatory golden liquid. You can also use flaxseed oil which is super rich in omega 3s. Cold pressed oils increase the energy content of any meal.
- Increase the quantity of fruit in your diet. This will stabilise your blood sugar levels and your weight. Say no to refined sugar products as these will only exacerbate your weight instability.
- Get rid of caffeine and artificial sweeteners as these can actually speed up your metabolism if you are underweight.
Summing It Up
Whether you need to lose weight or gain some, this way of eating will help you towards your goal. Do your best to stick to the program, give it some time and your patience will be rewarded. Your body will start responding to the absence of junk and presence of nutrients and your weight will become what it should be. Try not to weigh yourself too often. Focus on getting your health back and enjoy the benefits!
(Photo attribution 1, attribution 2)
Love and nutrients,