The Check-In

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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Food & Recipes

Immune & Energy Booster Turmeric Shots

Several years ago, I participated in a yoga intensive course which required attending classes at a local studio almost daily and first thing in the morning. This was before my diagnosis, but just after I experienced my first flare-up, so fatigue was an issue for me at the time.

I was complaining to another student while we were waiting to step into the studio about how tired I was and how I would love to have a cup of coffee (we were doing a strict detox diet as part of the course at the time). She pulled this small bottle* out of her bag and handed it to me.

Her: “It’s a turmeric shot. These things are great natural energy boosts.”
Me: “Turmeric? As in the spice?”
Her: “Yeah, have you heard about it? It’s got all these great ayurvedic properties, but it’s been found to naturally boost your energy. It’s more potent than caffeine.”
Me: “And it’s safe?”
Her: “Absolutely. It’s all natural. Just try half of it and let me know what you think after class.”

I tried it and she was correct. I felt extremely energized. I was almost shaking to get class started, that’s how powerful it was for me. I will add this note: it was the first of any sort of energy drink I had in weeks. We couldn’t even drink green tea, so the results might have been slightly skewed due to my body just going into overload.

I didn’t get a chance to follow up with the turmeric as an energy booster after that experience. But it stayed in the back of my mind and when I read about the natural benefits of turmeric in the diet for brain health and as an anti-inflammatory, I decided to look back into it as something to add into my daily diet to help manage my MS.

The Health Benefits of Turmeric

What makes Turmeric the wonder spice is the curcumin. Curcumin is believed to be a beneficial supplement to fight Alzheimer’s due to its anti-inflammatory and brain boosting properties. It also is found to have cognitive-boosting abilities, though this needs to be researched further. It can also help prevent certain forms of cancer.

These two things alone: inflammation and cognition are issues a person with MS deals with on a daily basis. I am not advocating forsaking all other forms of MS therapy, I am saying that by adding it to my daily diet will help supplement traditional forms of MS therapy. And as a runner, the anti-inflammatory benefits is extremely helpful to recovery.

But the energy/metabolism and the immune benefits? This becomes a universal appeal for a daily consumption of Turmeric. Even if you don’t have MS, having a natural way to get more energy and boost the immune system will be beneficial to your health. It may not cure a cold or completely prevent getting one, but it will give you that extra boost your body might need.

Making My Own Turmeric Drink

Before removing sugar from my diet, I found it harder to stomach turmeric even in a drink form. The taste was too weird and I needed something sweet to help cover it up because that’s how I handled flavors I didn’t care for in the past: add sugar to make it more palatable.

A few weeks after quitting sugar, I bought several shots of turmeric for an early morning road trip I was making to Tennessee. I took some sips and found that I actually enjoyed the flavor and felt quite the energy boost.

Sugar struck again as a ruiner of flavors. Now that it was out of my system, I was able to enjoy something I previously disliked.

But what took my breath away was the price per bottle. I could drink one bottle per day for the health benefits, but my wallet wasn’t going to be fond of the ~$6.00 per 3 fl oz. I knew I could make it even cheaper.

I found a couple of recipes online, but they didn’t adhere to the vegan diet (I wanted something I could drink once I switched over), or they didn’t have the flavors I was looking for, so I decided to create my own recipe. Below the break, you will find my recipe and some ideas for modifications.

Continue reading “Immune & Energy Booster Turmeric Shots”

Diet Shift

Week 6: Vegan at Last

I am finally dropping all other meats.

I am officially vegan.

I prefer calling it veganism not just because it’s more succinct, but also because there is a level of adopting a more non-harm based lifestyle as an additional approach to my diet shift. If I am more compassionate in my food decisions, I might be more compassionate to myself which will help me through my journey. It’s about making a mindset shift as much as it’s for my health.

The additional health goals is to my lower cholesterol and hopefully gain some more energy on a totally plant-based diet. Since I’ve already reviewed all this stuff before in my other posts, I won’t rehash old information.

The Plan for the Week

  • Really work on taking my multivitamins. I have a regimen to help supplement my diet in case I have an off day, but vitamins are always difficult for me to remember to take.
  • Make protein smoothies that I enjoy as a means to boost my daily protein intake. I have found that after longer runs I crave something high in protein. It will be a good means to replenish what my body needs.
  • Work on compiling snacks to keep in my purse or in Jai’s diaper bag for myself in case I get caught someplace where there are no food options. But also making sure I leave the house feeling full if I am not going someplace where I know they will have something I can eat.

The Social “What if’s”?

  • Eating in a restaurant: Find vegan options and sticking with them. If there aren’t any, find a vegetarian that requires minimal adjustments.
  • No food options in a restaurant or at a friend’s house: Use snack packs I’ve already stashed in my purse or in Jai’s diaper bag as a means to tide me over.
  • “Why aren’t you eating that?”: I am trying to remove inflammatory foods from my diet as a means to help make me feel better.

I have some exciting updates on Wednesday. I had my annual appointment with my neurologist and my half-marathon results.

The Check-In

Checking In: Dairy-Free

It was a relatively calm week. Missing out on dairy, in addition to the other things I’ve dropped, severely limits what I can eat while I am running around town with Jai. That said, I was able to make do with some alternatives and I am looking into the possibility of doing more smoothies as a meal replacement. I find that those tend to be more filling and can provide me with the opportunity to get my greens, protein, and calcium in easily.

With this in mind, I purchased a high-quality blender and some books to help inspire me with healthy smoothies in the morning. I am hoping for some success in enjoying the concoctions, especially since I have dropped sugar. I never really liked homemade smoothies that were healthy in nature and preferred using the blender to make milkshakes instead.

The issue was I never liked the taste of smoothies, either they were heavy on the healthy taste (greens) or not appealing enough. I like my smoothies to be sweet, like milkshakes. Since dropping sugar, I find that I don’t need things to taste as sweet as I once did. I even appreciate certain flavors I never used to because sugar no longer messes with my tastebuds. Smoothies will be good to increase my protein, greens, and other goodness to boost the immune system

Speaking of eating healthier for my immune system, it’s too little; too late for me by the end of the week. I caught a chest cold between Thursday and Friday and found that while trying to treat it, not being tempted by dairy helped a lot in minimizing some of my symptoms.

I have found that the more dairy I consume when I have a cold and especially a chest cold, the worse I feel. I didn’t feel really good by Saturday regardless, but I know that I wasn’t making it worse by consuming dairy. Instead, when I needed something cold to soothe my throat, I reached for some vegan ice cream I made.

It sucks being sick two weeks in a row. I don’t think it has anything to do with my diet, but because we just went through a seasonal temperature shift and I always get a cold when that happens. Hopefully by the end of this week everything will be back to normal.

Other Diet Shift Updates

Still struggling with not having fried-foods, especially after getting sick at the end of the week. I was hoping my cravings would be diminishing by now, but I still have some work to do to figure out what it is about deep-fried foods that I am so addicted to psychologically.

I had a spurt in weight loss earlier in the week. I was kind of surprised by it: 5 pounds over the course of 2 days considering I did minimal exercise in prep for my half-marathon on Sunday.

I don’t think it was dairy related, but perhaps a boost in my metabolism because of the sugar drop? It was a major confidence boost because it dropped me below an obese BMI. My L’Hermitte’s Sign is completely gone and before I got sick, I am finding that my mood is leveling out so I don’t feel as anxious. I was also noticing a drop in the mental fog, but with a chest/head cold now, it’s hard to notice. Hopefully it’s a trend towards having more mental clarity on a day-to-day basis when I am healthier.

So even if this is a placebo effect, I am finding that I am feeling better than I did when I first started and that is feeding into itself which is what I ultimately wanted.

 

Information Huddle

Dairy, Dairy, Quite Contrary

Dairy has its place in the Western diet. It is a valid way to consume calcium, get vitamin D, and other important vitamins and minerals. The issue is that it causes a lot of problems for a lot of people. Some people are aware that they have a sensitivity to dairy, and some are completely unaware that it might be the source of minor issues.

It may not affect everyone, but there are still some issues with consuming dairy in the recommended quantities.

The biggest problem is how addictive it is, especially in cultural consciousness. If you’ve ever gone dairy-free, considered going dairy-free, or know someone who did – the usual response is: “how will you live without ice cream/cheese/eggs?” and “I could never go without ice cream/cheese/eggs, I love them too much.”

It is possible to go dairy-free with all new options for alternatives out there, but it isn’t the same sometimes. That said, lessening one’s consumption of dairy does a body good.

Continue reading “Dairy, Dairy, Quite Contrary”

Diet Shift

Week 5: Dear Dairy…

Dairy and I have always had a love/hate relationship.

I had issues with it as a baby and have always had mild issues with it as an adult such as mucus, gas, and feeling bloated. Nothing that affected my quality of life, but just a mild annoyance every so often.

My reactions to dairy tells me that I am most likely sensitive to it, but like with sugar, when it’s in your system it’s hard to notice.

Dairy has always been that difficult mountain to cross whenever I went vegan. The thought of going without cheese never appealed to me and vegan alternatives never tasted as good as slightly burnt cheese on a grilled sandwich.

I knew that there was a chance Jai would have issues with dairy. When I was a baby, I had a hard time digesting breastmilk and at the time, mothers were told to consume a bunch of milk when breastfeeding for the baby’s health. It never crossed my pediatrician’s mind that perhaps my mom should drop dairy from her diet to help me feel better. She switched to formula and that was that.

But when more information came out over the last few decades that dairy causes issues, particularly through breast milk, we put two-and-two together. So when it came time to breastfeed Jai, I watched my dairy intake.

I did notice that when I had a dairy-heavy meal, Jai was more uncomfortable that evening. When we started putting him on solids, if he had something that had a lot of dairy, he wouldn’t stay asleep due to discomfort.

That informed me that while correlation does not mean causation, it was something to pay attention to when deciding what to feed him. It’s easier to supplement his calcium needs with fortified foods outside of breastmilk. I am not against him having dairy once in awhile, nor am I against him drinking milk. But with all possible sensitivities, we will be doing it with care because I don’t want him to have unnecessary discomfort.

Ash reminded me recently that he had stomach issues growing up, issues with really painful gas. He wasn’t able to point to anything in particular, but he suspected that it was food related. Because there’s a possible genetic factor at play for Jai, we’re going to keep a really close eye on his reactions to certain foods.

I am dropping dairy not just for personal comfort, but because this is the last of the foods I am dropping for my cholesterol. I think there were some secondary benefits for my MS when I dropped dairy because dairy is inflammatory. I will be doing more research regarding that this week.

The Plan for the Week

  • I tend to reach for snacks that have dairy when I want to mindlessly eat. Having some carrots and hummus will be a good alternative.
  • Ash bought me N’ice Cream as a means to treat myself after my half-marathon on Sunday. I bought myself a nicer blender with some smoothie books, so when I am craving something with dairy, I will grab some “ice cream” or make a smoothie as a means to help with that craving. I made a banana ice cream the other day and it’s creamy enough to satisfy that specific craving.
  • I have found that sprinkling nutritional yeast over snacks helps a lot with cheese flavor. It’s not perfect, but it reminds me of parmesan. I can air pop some popcorn and throw the nutritional yeast on top if I want to taste something dairy-like.

The Social “What if’s”?

  • Eating in a restaurant: I am not going to stress over perfection, but opt for dishes that don’t have dairy or ask for the dairy removed. With salads, chose an oil and vinegar dressing. Still gotta avoid that fried stuff…
  • I am given something with dairy to eat/try: Defer if I can and if not, save it for later to give to Ash to try.
  • “Why aren’t you eating that?”: Trying to see if I feel better by going without dairy for a period of time. I have also noticed Jai getting more gassy when I’ve had dairy and I want to see if this will alleviate that symptom.
  • “Won’t you miss ice cream/cheese/eggs?”: Yes. I definitely will miss all those things, but current alternatives are better than ever and after a while you forget the difference.

For Wednesday, I will be examining how dairy can affect the body and see if what I have is a sensitivity or an allergy. Obviously, getting tested is the best way to confirm this, but sometimes that’s just not feasible for insurance. I think it will be helpful to see what dairy does to the body and see if that affects my MS as well.

 

Information Huddle

Bad Fats and Good Health

National news programs, both morning and night, love to talk about obesity in America. Obesity affects us all in some way: either we will know someone who is obese or we will be/are obese. I will flat out admit this: according to my BMI, I am obese (30.6). It’s not something I am proud of and getting on the scale at the doctor’s office is a blow to my ego. But I’ve accepted that while I hate the numbers, there is some truth to the matter: I need to make some changes to my lifestyle to move that number between 18.5-24.9 and be considered medically healthy.

By shifting my BMI into the non-obese range means that I could be adding years to my life. While I can’t guarantee those additional years will be good years due to the MS, I can make sure the good ones are filled with quality due to good physical and mental health.

The main culprit in the obesity epidemic in America is high-fat foods, specifically deep fried foods. As mentioned in my last post, it’s very hard to walk into any restaurant and not find multiple fried foods on the menu. The Western Diet is large portions, high-calories, high-fat, and high-sugar. I am being reductive, but anecdotally it is easy to see how pervasive the high-fat diet culture is in media and day-to-day life.

Making the necessary changes in my diet tend to be rather hard for me. There are several things I’ve said to myself when I have chosen unhealthy options over the healthy ones:  it’s affordable, it’s fast and easy, it’s portable, and I deserve this. On the Internet I have read multiple times how much cheaper it is to eat fast and fried food versus the healthier options. Having gone through a starvation via poverty period myself in adulthood, I can agree: it is cheaper to eat higher calorie meals that helped sustain me for the entire day.

Let’s be honest, the healthier options do take more work: either to prepare or to mentally prepare yourself for being “good” and not indulging on the more sinful delectable.

Being healthy in America is doable, but it’s hard when there is so much temptation out there. And once you’ve had a taste of that golden goodness, it’s hard to not want to go back again and again.

I’ve previously blogged about how foods affect our microbiomes. Today’s post is going to expand upon that concept by focusing on one type of food that affects our gut bacteria: high-fat foods and how that might affect weight, emotional health, and physical health.

Continue reading “Bad Fats and Good Health”