Food & Love

Food has long been considered a language of love.

My mother expressed her love for her family by cooking delicious dishes and passing her knowledge of cooking and baking to me. I plan to pass this love to Jai as he grows up so he will cook and bake for his family.

But before Jai, there was Ash. And before Ash, officially, there was the dating/courtship period of our relationship. At the time we met and started dating I was taking temp jobs, this was during the depths of the economic downturn, and so my resources were limited for what I could do with him for our dates.

Being a gentleman, he offered to pay, but being independent I refused to let him pay for more than one date in a row without us at least splitting the cost. Rather, I offered to make him dinner at his apartment, for him and his roommates, as often as I could. It allowed us to spend time together, watch some movies/shows we had common interests and keep our costs low. Additionally, I could show him something I was good at to impress him.

Getting to Know You

I met Ash at a restaurant for a mutual friend’s birthday party. We chatted for a bit, I was interested but unable to really pursue him at the time. Several months later we reconnected after hanging out at another friend’s house a couple of times and decided that we wanted to be more serious in our relationship.

Ash’s birthday is at the beginning of the year and at that point in our relationship I couldn’t find work, so I had no money to buy a special present for him. We’d been dating for two months at that point and he told me, as he still tells me, that I didn’t have to get him anything special for his birthday. I insisted, so he suggested making him dinner.

Ash has never been one to hide his love for meat. Specifically, red meat.

I found a recipe for grilled steak with herbed butter, potatoes, and green beans. I spent the better part of the day making it for him because I wanted it to be perfect. Up to that point, I had made what I considered safe meals. These were meals I knew I couldn’t screw up but didn’t really show my range. Here was an opportunity to show my abilities. Fortunately, it was a success and to this day he comments about how much he loved that birthday present.

From then on out, I spent more time expanding my culinary skills to impress Ash. I would ask what he wanted to eat, he would buy the ingredients and I would throw something together in his kitchen for him. Most days we shared with his roommates, but some days we kept it for ourselves while we watched anime.

I had one obstacle in my cooking that I wanted to overcome, because don’t all overly ambitious partners want to do this?

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Personal Health Check-In

Today I will be reflecting on my overall health, how I am feeling physically and mentally, and also talking about my MS Symptoms and if I’ve noticed any changes with the lifestyle changes I’ve made.

Physical Health

I am close to peak health right now. I have lost enough weight that I am no longer in the “overweight” BMI range but in the “normal” range.  I haven’t seen this number since before high school.

I have found that I feel lighter and less sluggish, though that may have more to do with my metabolism. Regardless, I wanted to find a natural way to get more energy and I have succeeded.

With the good, comes the bad: I had a couple of days where my stomach hurt after eating and I wasn’t sure what was going on.  After visiting two different doctors, I found out that I have h.pylori. I suspect I picked it up from contaminated water caused by a water main break back in early March. We boiled water and followed the warnings, but the county was slow on placing a boil advisory and probably too quick in lifting it. I am currently on the recommended antibiotic regimen, and I wouldn’t wish those horse pills on anyone.

To balance that out, since I am destroying my gut bacteria, I have upped my probiotic intake via supplements and drinking a lot of kombucha.

I do suspect that I might have a lactose sensitivity in addition to this infection because my stomach would hurt almost every time I had dairy. The source of the pain was inconsistent because it would happen after eating other foods too, but after eating something high in lactose it would inevitably cause some sort of pain.

On the days where I don’t eat any dairy, I feel absolutely normal. Especially during this minor reset: I haven’t had any stomach pain since Wednesday.

As Ash says, I’ve reset my body to the point that I cannot enjoy some of the foods I used to; my body is now a finely tuned machine and I need to be careful what type of fuel I put into it.

This stinks because if I had always wanted to go back to eating dairy products, I really can’t because I don’t like how I feel afterward. I know there are some measures I can take to cheat now and then, but it is clear that my body is treating lactose the same way it treats sugar: beginning to reject the stuff. This isn’t a surprise because I always suspected I had a dairy sensitivity since I was a kid, but like with sugar, I would ignore any symptoms I had in favor of eating cheese.

I am looking at this as a plus: by removing dairy from my diet I am lowering my flare-up chances. Back when I did research for the week I dropped dairy, I found out dairy contains a protein that can increase my chances of a flare-up. Basically, I can’t cheat and have a nibble of dairy whenever I want.

I am one of those people that, even if I can handle it, I tend to not want to do anything that could inconvenience myself. It’s just easier to avoid dairy and sugar than deal with the consequences of how I feel afterward. I may try lactaid if I absolutely want to eat something with lactose, otherwise avoiding the matter altogether is easier for my well-being.

Mental & Emotional Health

These physical changes have helped with my mental health.;

I am feeling better mentally, with the occasional down moment, but overall I am doing well. Keeping busy with the blog and feeling productive has helped improve my mood. I think by feeling productive, I don’t feel like my MS is bothering me as much as it does.

 

I am finding that I am working very hard to be more compassionate and self-compassionate. That has helped lower my intense emotions significantly. I am finding things don’t bother me as much as they used to which has been really helpful in getting through the day. I feel that I’ve been providing Jai with a good example because of it.

MS Health

Overall, I don’t really notice a huge difference in my symptoms since my last check-in. I find that by removing certain things from my diet helps give me a minor energy boost because I am not feeling bogged down. But the difference tends to be negligible.

I still have issues with fatigue and mental fog, but my L’Hermittes Sign and MS Hug haven’t made a reappearance since February for which I am grateful.

I have an appointment with my neurologist later this month, but without an MRI, so I will be updating with his assessment of my overall condition. I count not needing an MRI as a personal win: I don’t hate getting them, but it means my neurologist believes my condition is stable enough that an MRI is unnecessary.

I talked about restarting my drug-therapy once Jai weans from breastfeeding, but I am finding it hard because of how good I’ve been feeling without it. Not going back on Tecfidera means that I will be putting my long-term health at risk of progressing into SPMS, so there is a lot of important things to consider if I do decide to hold off a while longer.

The Takeaway

That’s how I am feeling overall and I would say that I am feeling pretty good. It’s been a lot of work to get here, but I would have to say taking it a little bit at a time has helped. Remembering not to put too much pressure has helped keep me going on the lower-motivation days.


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Checking In: Adapting Eating Habits

One of the primary goals of this blog was to track my eating and exercise habits and see how it would help me manage my MS. I have found that some of the adjustments were easier to make, but there were other adjustments that were harder to maintain because of temptation or certain physical needs not being met.

I am still struggling with certain aspects of my diet, but after doing some research, I realized that it is more important to listen to my needs in a modified way than deny my body something it needs to refuel or heal from training.

Original Eating Intentions & What Worked

My overall intention was to drop all meats, dairy, gluten, sugar, and alcohol while maintaining a clean eating diet. The hope was it would manage my MS symptoms until I restarted my medication within the next year.

I started off strong, finding I had no problem dropping each food group week-by-week. I found that my weight would also drop because I was making healthier choices, and I was feeling somewhat better overall. MS symptoms abated and my neurologist was happy with the changes.

What worked best was dropping sugar, dairy (milk), and gluten; I found that I have issues whenever one of those items sneaks into my diet, intentionally or not. If I have cane sugar, my neck seizes up and I get a massive headache for the duration of the day; if I have milk/cheese, I find that I feel bloated and get a stiff neck; and if I have gluten, I find that my joints pop more and another stiff neck.

Clearly, my body does not like these food groups and so continuing to keep them out of my diet is to my benefit. I don’t know if it is an allergy per se, but there is a definite sensitivity correlation.

I am also happy to keep fried foods out of my diet as well, but this is mostly because of health reasons. I am still concerned about keeping high-cholesterol foods out of my diet and fried foods are unnecessary. I want to walk into my yearly physical with a low blood cholesterol level this year.

What Didn’t Work & Adaptations

I am in desperate need of protein.

I liked the idea of being plant-based for ethical and health reasons, but it was easier to maintain a vegan diet before Jai. When I was younger, I could spend a lot of time preparing high-protein foods that checked off all my nutritional needs, but between chasing Jai around the house and coping with fatigue, I really don’t have the time or energy to spend hours in the kitchen.

I found that I was sneaking meat-based proteins into my diet and when I “cheated” I didn’t cheat with “good” foods. It would be a high-fat beef dish or chicken that was smothered in salt/ high-calorie sauces.

So to stop this trend of making unhealthy choices, I’ve decided to reincorporate certain types of fish, chicken, and egg dishes back into my diet. Salmon is high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids which is good for brain health and chicken/eggs for running proteins.

I have decided not to re-incorporate any red meats, beef or otherwise. I will have the occasional “cheat” day, but by removing red meat from my diet I am eliminating a major inflammatory source that could affect my MS exacerbations.

Future Eating Habits

My diet will still be mostly plant-based, but once a week I will incorporate some sort of meat-based protein that will help satisfy any nutritional cravings I am feeling and prevent me from lapsing into unhealthy choices.

I have also hit a bit of a weight plateau and I suspect not being kind to myself with my eating habits is a source of sabotage. While I am a normal weight by BMI standards, I want to lose a little more to be solidly within the normal BMI range. By being more honest and adapting my diet to my individual needs I should start seeing my weight starting to drop again to a satisfactory number.

So while I had grand intentions to be gluten-free, sugar-free vegan, I am at this point a clean eating pescapollotarian that is gluten, dairy, and sugar-free.

I definitely recommend trying the diet shift, especially going slow through it so it isn’t a complete shock, but I am finding that it didn’t work as well for me at this point in time. I think once Jai is a little older I may have more time to focus solely on a plant-based diet again.

I don’t consider this giving up or losing – I consider this a win because I am accepting myself in this moment of time and doing what works best for my current needs.


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Love after Baby

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today’s post is about how Ash and my love evolved since having Jai. While we never made sweeping romantic gestures before, how we overtly express our love has changed since adding Jai to our family.

It has been an adjustment that we are still working through because that’s how relationships work.

The small gestures…the simple ways to express our love for each other has always been important. That hasn’t really changed because they are easy to do. When Ash sings a made up song to me or buys my favorite candy (back when I ate sugar), it makes me feel special. He loves it when I scratch his back without being asked or bring him his favorite custom drink after a run.

I find that we count on the simple stuff more as gestures of: “I recognize how you enjoy this and want to do it for you because it makes you happy” moments.

While it isn’t necessary to go overboard with our overtures of love, it is important that we don’t get complacent with our actions. Complacency leads to taking each other for granted, something neither of us want to do. How we express and strengthen our love will change as Jai gets older and as we age, so anything we come up with will evolve as time goes on.

Maintaining flexibility and understanding that our time is more precious has helped us have compassion for ourselves and each other.

Making Time

It takes the fun out of romantic spontaneity, but Ash and I have had to schedule our time together.

It doesn’t have to be time for that, but just spending time together.

We fell into a schedule of spending time on the couch after putting Jai to bed by chance. I am sure most relationship experts would say that the time we spend on the couch watching our shows or playing games on our phone is not quality time, but Ash and I would argue that it is quality time.

Our relationship has always been one of being near each other. We don’t have to talk about anything – we don’t have to be doing the same thing, but we find contentment in being near one another. Being able to reach over and touch the other’s arm when we need contact is worth more to us than an hour-long discussion about our day.

That isn’t to say that we don’t talk to each other, we do. But all our time spent together does not need to be at full engagement.

Prior to having Jai, we’d do more active things together: we’d go out, have friends come over, and other things couples without children do. That has had to change, obviously, and we’ve become more homebodies because of it.

This wasn’t a hard adjustment for Ash – he will proudly tell you that he’s a misanthrope and he likes that we stay in more. I am the more social one of the two of us, so when there’s an opportunity to go out with friends I tend to take it while Ash stays at home with Jai.

He loves the opportunity to spend alone time with Jai since he works all day. I just appreciate the break.

That said, we do try to schedule at least one day/evening a month away from Jai. My parents are gracious enough to watch Jai while Ash and I go do something fun: dinner, movie, play, or just walking around downtown. Those moments, because they are more infrequent, are savored because it allows us a few hours to be a couple again.

We still rush home to Jai because we love spending time with the little guy, but we also feel re-engaged with our relationship after a few hours alone. It gives us a chance to show how much we appreciate spending time together when there’s some effort involved.

Listening to Each Other

The other thing that changed a lot for us is that we listen more.

We talked, compromised, worked through our issues prior to Jai, but it has become more imperative that we take the time to listen.

If I’ve had a particularly stressful day, I preface anything that I need to discuss with: “now, I am not mad at you, but I may need to raise my voice in your general direction. Do not think I am yelling at you.” He understands that in that moment I need to vent about something and it needs to be heard by an adult and not just one of the cats. He will sit, listen, and then ask if I want advice or input.

Some days I want input, most days I am just venting, and I already have a solution worked out.

Likewise, when Ash needs me to listen to him, I try to hear him out. I do feel like our relationship is a bit lopsided because almost nothing bothers Ash. When he needs me to listen – I try to be there for him. Most of the time he has a great idea on how we can parent Jai and so I try to incorporate it into my routine.

Little One Makes 3

We’ve had to incorporate Jai in how we express our love for one another: in the moments that all three of us are sitting together reading a book or playing a game Jai has invented, I feel more connected to Ash. It may be biological, but when I watch him care for our child – I can’t help but feel a deeper connection to him.

And in those moments, I try to let him know how much I love him by giving him a quick peck on the cheek, a simple touch on his arm, or a hug (which Jai loves to join in). Growing up my parents would make a “Debbie sandwich” where they would hug each other while holding me between them. Those were always my favorite because as a child – I could feel both my parents love for me and their love for each other in that moment.

We try to show our love for each other in front of Jai because it’s healthy for him to see a loving adult relationship. We want to model healthy love so when he grows up, he will foster a similar relationship with his partner and feel comfortable coming to us for advice.

The Takeaway

For Ash and me, we have come to a place where we appreciate the time spent together and don’t rely so much on how it is spent together. Being physically close to one another is so much more important to us than anything else, which is why going out on frequent dates isn’t as much of a priority.

If there was ever a moment where one of us was unhappy with the situation (bored with another night in, needing to do something different, etc.), we make sure to talk and be open to listening. We may have to compromise because going out takes more logistical work with Jai, but at least we feel heard and a solution is at hand. Sometimes the simple act of talking is enough to soothe any needs.

It hasn’t been easy – most relationships, romantic or otherwise, are difficult to some degree. But knowing that I get to spend the evening with my best friend and go to bed beside him always warms my heart and makes me feel full. I am very fortunate to have found a person who appreciates the same things I do, has similar needs and desires, and wanted to share their life with me. And helps make cute babies.

And since I know he’s reading this: Ash, I love you. Happy Valentine’s Day.


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Wine and scotch with an Iron tumbler

Checking In: No More Alcohol

One week (kinda) down, seven more to go.

Well, it’s not completely over – I still have to go through the weekend (and a wedding!). But so far; so good. This week went by relatively well, but admittedly there were times where the idea of pouring a glass of red wine was extremely appealing. I didn’t go out for dinner or meet up with friends at night (when I am more likely to have a glass of something), so temptation was relatively low for me.

I do have a wedding that I am going to today and I know that there will be alcohol served. The idea of having a mimosa or glass of wine will be tempting, but I think I can handle it. I don’t feel the absolute need to drink in social situations, it’s more of a “well, it’s offered, so why not?”

But in the moments where I did feel like pulling out that glass of wine I thought about while I was desiring to have a glass. Was it because I absolutely needed the alcohol? Was it because I, like many Americans, associate it with relaxing after a particularly stressful day? Or was it because I couldn’t have it and so I wanted something that I couldn’t have?

I think a good chunk of it was because of self-denial, but I think I also like it as a concept to relax. So with that in mind, I tried to find other ways to unwind. I’ve been running, so I did push myself a little harder (endorphins are relaxing plus the accomplishment). I have house guests coming into town next weekend for Jai’s first birthday party, so tidying up the house also makes me feel more relaxed and accomplished.

Asking Ash for a foot rub, sitting on the couch and vegging out after Jai is in bed, cuddling, all were great ways to relax instead of having that glass of wine. I think that as each week goes by it will be even easier. It will still be harder when invited to events where drinking might be present, but I can easily say no and have a cup of water. Because in the end that’s cheaper.

Like I said in my first post this week – this isn’t going to be as permanent omission like my other ones: this is just to help give my body a little less to process (and limited distraction). I may bring it back in at the end of the full eight weeks for a glass here and there of wine or something non-sugar based.

Now next week…that’s going to be the ultimate challenge. Giving up sugar. Pray for Ash.