I always say that the MS Diet is not a fad diet or a temporary eating plan. It is, through and through, a lifestyle. A change like this cannot and will not take place overnight. It takes months of making the right food choices, choosing to avoid stress, saying no when you need to and building up your strength through exercise. Habits are eventually formed and without you even realising it, the MS Diet becomes a way of life. It takes take conscious, daily effort and good choices to get you to that point though! It is a difficult road and some days are going to be a lot harder than others but you need to remember that, with each wise decision, you are investing into your future health. In this post, I will be sharing a little of my everyday MS diet lifestyle with you.
Sharing The Lifestyle
Last week I was honoured to be asked to speak a group of people with MS about the importance of diet. It was the first time I had done anything like this so I was a tad nervous! What an amazing experience it turned out to be. The group had been on a course for managing fatigue. The MS nurse heading it up thought it would be beneficial to get some input on how the right food can help manage fatigue. I just shared a little of my story and the basics of the MS diet. It went smoother than I thought it would. Phew! I was humbled at how open they all were to this new and scary information.
Many people are immediately threatened when told that they need to give up, pretty much, all their favourite foods on the MS diet. Walls go up and they find any excuse to avoid the change. These people, however, listened intently and asked some great questions. What a lovely experience to be able to chat, face to face, with other people, bravely coping with their MS. A huge thank you to the Kingston and Richmond MS nurses for giving me such a lovely opportunity. I hope to be back soon!
There has been quite a lot happening in our household over the past month. We always seem to be hurrying and scurrying all over the place! I do feel like I have had more stressful days than calm and collected days. I can really feel the difference in my mind and body. I'm not as disciplined with my eating and my stiff hand gets stiffer. I'm more tired and I seriously lack motivation. This is what stress does. It turns our dial from 'thriving mode' into 'survival mode'. In survival mode, nothing you do is really done well. You just do the bare minimum to get by and survive! 'I'm just trying to keep my head above water!', I often tell my husband. Sound familiar?
We had a family photo shoot done a couple of weeks ago. Photo shoots are always a bit stressful, aren't they? Luckily, our photographer came to our home which really helped. He brought a full truckload of equipment: lights, backdrop, camera stands. He took quite a while to set it up and by that time the kids, who were pretty happy before, were getting cranky. Not what you really want at the start of the photo shoot. So, we gave them ice-cream lollies to cheer them up and get them happy again. The lollies were dripping on the white backdrop which just added to the stress. We did manage to get some nice shots out of it but it definitely came at a price. I thought photo shoots were supposed to be fun! Not quite.
The following weekend we went away on a much anticipated family weekend getaway! Well, in the midst of such beauty, both children suddenly got horribly ill. Rachel developed a very high temperature and Jordan was just downright miserable. What is it with young children and holidays? It's almost as if they purposefully wait to get sick until you are far away from the comforts of home and the family doctor! Needless to say, our lovely holiday was stress filled and not in the least relaxing. We all just wanted to get home in the end. My husband and I have both promised each other that we will not be going on a weekend getaway for a while! We ended up having a good laugh about it all which was a great stress reliever!
As we have discussed before, stress is probably the number one factor in more frequent relapses and disease progression. If we can keep our stress under control then we have a much better chance of staying well and stable for longer. But how do we control the uncontrollable? We don't and we have to realise that we can't. The only thing we can control is our reaction to stressful events. If we are fit, rested, eating healthily, feeding our souls regularly and doing things we enjoy (all great stress relievers) then we are far more likely to stand strong and stay calm in the storm.
However, if the opposite is true and if we haven't been looking after ourselves properly then the stressful situation is likely make us react badly and negatively. These reactions evoke the physical stress response in our bodies which alters the immune system response and can give rise to autoimmune attacks and symptoms. I would say that nearly all my 'episodes' have been in response to my unhealthy reaction to a stressful situation. Here are some of the immediate things I do when faced with a stressful situation:
1. Keep myself calm by sitting down and taking a few slow breaths (preferably in a quiet room where there are no screaming children around).
2. Take a short walk. I find that walking gives me perspective. It gets me out of the house/work situation and gives me a fresh canvas on which to lay my muddled thoughts. I often really enjoy just putting the children into the double pram and stepping out for a quick walk in the nearby common. While the kids are silently eating their snacks, I enjoy the quiet, space and more ordered thinking.
3. Do my best not to get overwhelmed and think through the problem rationally, calmly and in bite size chunks. A temporary if not permanent solution usually presents itself
4. Let the tears come: This relieves that feeling of tightness and pent up emotion almost instantly. It is totally fine to cry!
5. Focus on something that gives you pleasure such as playing with your children, reading a book or taking a bath!
Foods I Have Been Loving
My absolute favourite foods at the moment are sweet potatoes, wild rice, baby spinach and olives. I could have these foods at almost every meal. Sweet potatoes are super for stabilising blood sugar levels and they are just so versatile. I would eat one by itself, in a salad, on top of rice, with pasta ... and the list goes on!
Wild rice is another of my recent discoveries. It is black and quite hard compared to normal rice. Wild rice adds texture and flavour to any dish and is a great source of roughage. Brilliant combined with butternut and pecan pieces.
Baby spinach is amazingly nutritious and so easy to eat. I buy a large bag of organic baby spinach each week and try and have a handful at lunch and dinner. It is a simple way to add a raw component to any cooked meal. Raw food is a the best source of nutrients and makes you feel clean and alive! Your cells just love it!
Olives are a great snack and add flavour to any, otherwise bland, meal. The black ones are more easily digested because they are fully ripe so I eat those most often. I also don't like the ones that have already been pitted. They taste processed. The flavour of the unpitted ones is so much better. Having said that, I still enjoy green olives from time to time.
My Current MS Symptoms
Thankfully, my symptoms are still very stable. I have had no new symptoms in two and a half years. Every six months or so, I feel my old symptoms acting up a bit but this usually disappears within a few weeks. I also find that if I'm coming down with a cold, I get temporary numbness or strange hot/cold sensations. I know that it is caused by whatever virus I have, activating the immune system and some kind of auto-immune activity must be taking place. Does anyone else experience this? It doesn't bother me too much though and when I'm feeling better, the symptoms clear up.
This Lifestyle Works
I credit my minimal symptoms to the amazing and nutritious food I am eating, my positive mindset and my wonderful family who help and support me in this. I fully believe that managing MS is not just about eating the right food but about keeping everything else in balance too. Going to bed a a reasonable time and actually getting enough sleep is an important factor. Laughing and having fun with the important people in your life is another. Getting regular exercise and doing activities that nourish and grow you are also an exceptionally important part of this lifestyle puzzle. I know we can't get it right all the time but if we strive to each day, we will get that much closer.
I also want to say a huge thank you to all of you amazing ladies who inspire and encourage me to keep persevering on this journey.
If you need help and support to take the next step with your lifestyle, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.
Love and nutrients,