I enjoy looking back on my MS diet journey to see how far I've come. I still haven't got this whole healing lifestyle perfectly waxed. Not by any means! There are still days when I have utterly weak moments and pay for them later. It's a balancing act between the right food, enough sleep, exercise, dealing effectively with stress and, of course, the organisation to make all that happen! Over the years I have learned what works and what doesn't and slowly but surely this way of life has become the 'new normal'.
Almost six years in, and I can't imagine ever eating certain foods like gluten-filled bread or a juicy steak again. I have absolutely no desire to eat these because of the many wonderful MS diet meal options. After quite a few years of a steep learning curve and uphill battle, I have realised that the angle I'm walking at is not so much 45 degrees anymore. It's more like 10-20 degrees! I know that I still have a huge amount to learn and I want to keep discovering new ways of doing things for the rest of my life.
Looking back on my journey with MS, I can pin point a few game changing periods of time that I'm going to call milestones. These are times where I learned something specific or a lot of things that completely changed what I was doing. I would like to share four of these periods of enlightenment or milestones with you.
The Realisation That I Was In Control
I remember the day of my diagnosis very clearly. I had been called in by my GP who had been faxed (so old school) my MRI result. She was lovely and nurturing but by the serious tone in her voice I knew that she had something serious to share with me. I honestly thought she was going to tell me I had cancer. Nope, surprise, surprise you have Multiple Sclerosis! My life seemed to have suddenly fast forwarded to the end. I felt that I had lost control of my own body. It was doing something I didn't want it to do, attack itself.
When I started the MS diet six months later and saw a huge positive change in my symptoms, I began to realise that by eating this way, I was taking back control of my body. I had made a decision to cut out certain foods and eat more of others and this had put me right back in the driver's seat. Kim was back! This realisation was cemented as I delved more and more into the world of healthy eating and living. My body responded so beautifully to what I was doing. I had energy, clarity of mind and my last relapse was a distant memory. The fact that I stopped experiencing regular symptoms was also a reminder that the power was back in my hands.
This was certainly an empowering milestone to reach!
The Breaking Point
My second earth shattering realisation was that I could still do anything I wanted to do but that there were certain limits that needed to be adhered to and respected. I had a breaking point that could be reached by taking on too much. I had to realise, the hard way, that reaching my breaking point could possibly destabilise everything that I had worked so hard for.
I realised that I had to be careful not to stretch myself too thin. I needed to rest for least one third of the day for starters. For instance, I couldn't have a busy morning and afternoon and then go out in the evening. I've always been a person that strives to live life to full which I believed involved cramming activities into every available time slot. I had to accept that this wasn't going to promote healing and that I needed to create space and times of rest in my life in order to actually get the most out of life. Now I know that if I'm going out in the evening, I need to have a very relaxed afternoon, Or, if my day is choc-a-block, I need to have nothing planned in the evening.
I still believe that I can do anything with my life but I that I need to respect the breaking point!
A Purpose In My MS
I had the privilege of starting MS diet for Women a year and a half after I was diagnosed. It has been running for just over four years now. I wanted to create a platform that I could use to share what had worked for me in my journey with MS. I also hoped that I would be able to connect with other women with MS. Up until that point I had met very few people with the condition. Amazingly, the blog opened wide this incredible channel of communication to people with MS all over the world. I was overjoyed whenever I received an email from someone sharing their journey with me (I still am). I was humbled and felt so honoured.
About two years into MS diet for Women, I had a moment of epiphany. MS had given me a highly meaningful purpose in life. This was important for many reasons but the best one was that it changed the way I viewed and felt about my illness. From feeling intensely negative towards MS in the beginning, I now viewed it in a positive light. It had opened up a whole new world of healthy eating which I don't think I would have ever fully embraced had I not been diagnosed with a serious condition. It had also connected me to many inspiring people around the world. I felt like I was now connected to a huge community which was an absolutely wonderful feeling for me.
Up until then, I had also been quite secretive about my MS with people in my immediate, everyday community. Only my close friends knew my story. I didn't want people feeling sorry for me or thinking that I wasn't capable enough to do something. I had experienced a few of these comments and they had really angered me.
This all changed, during my realisation of purpose and I began to share my story more freely which was highly liberating. I knew that I had something to proudly share with the world and that no one could take this away from me. I feel like I am living the life I was meant to live because of MS.
Learning is Lifelong
I suppose there were a few points in my journey where I arrogantly felt that I knew everything there was to know about managing MS naturally. I knew exactly which foods not to eat, and those that would promote healing. I had read all the books, done all the research, acquired all the supplements. Yes, there were times where completely rested on my laurels and felt confident that I was doing everything I could to keep myself well. I became too comfortable and stopped learning.
I reached this particular milestone halfway through 2015 when I started to feel that what I was doing wasn't enough anymore. I didn't have a dramatic resurgence of symptoms but I just get a certain staleness creeping in. I knew that I needed to change things up a bit.
One of the first things I started doing and researching was intermittent and partial fasting. Fasting is huge for promoting healing but it's so incredibly difficult! Even just fasting for three days is a tall order, let alone a whole week! I discovered that I could actually include fasting in my daily routine and that this took my feeling of well-bing to a whole new level. I tried to stop eating at around 3pm and didn't eat anything else until my smoothie at around 10am the next morning. This would give my body a 20 hour period of fasting which sounds like a long time but it was actually very manageable.
I would eat a big meal at 2:30/3pm which would see me though until around 6pm at which point I would have a raw juice. I also enjoyed a mug of herbal tea with a little honey in the evening which calmed any hunger pangs. I was actually happy if I went to bed with a hungry feeling in my tummy. This meant that it was completely empty and that my body could focus on healing and reconstruction while I as sleeping instead of the hugely draining task of digestion.
I noticed that I slept so much more deeply and woke up feeling refreshed. Whilst going about my morning routine, I enjoyed my green juice, BarleyLife and then after school drop off I was ready for my delicious and nutrient-filled smoothie. This was the official break of my fasting period but then, of course it all started again a few hours later at 3pm.
I felt that I could consistently do this five days a week and was often a little more lenient on the weekend. However, I still never eat past 7pm. I've actually written a whole post on eating while the sun shines!
There were other new ways of doing things that I discovered during this period of time and I realised that I always wanted to keep tweaking my existing methods and discovering brand new ones. This is an exciting way to live and I love thinking that my next big discovery is just around the corner.
Summing it up
The MS diet way of life is not a cure or quick fix for MS. It's not just about food but about a way of living and thriving. It's about creating long lasting quality of life for yourself and knowing that you are in control. Every step on this journey has been an important learning opportunity for me. It hasn't been easy and I've had to learn the hard way many times. Through it all, I have learned a huge amount about myself and how to effectively manage my illness. I'm keen to know what your game changing realisations and milestones have been. Let's all learn from each other!