The Check-In

Checking In: My Exercise Routine

It’s been a while since I’ve last posted about my personal progress, so I thought I would spend this week checking in on my exercise, eating habits, and overall health.

I haven’t discussed my exercise habits other than tacking them on as part of my posts and social media updates, so I wanted to spend some time talking about the routines I do throughout the week and my eventual fitness goals.

Exercise and Me

I have always loved yoga and been practicing since 2005 when I took my first class in college. I want to become an instructor and started the certification process several years ago, but I was coping with flare-ups before my diagnosis,  so I had to put that on hold. I still want to get certified and will hopefully pick it up again.

Yoga always appealed to me because of the stretching and mindfulness aspects, but also because it was low cardio impact depending on the practice.

Growing up, I dealt with childhood asthma. I loved being active as a child, but there was always the concern of overdoing it and having an asthma attack. Yoga appealed to the desire to stay active and fit because of all the great breathing techniques and the low-stress it put on my lungs.

Likewise, as a child, I hated to run. I would sprint during games of tag on the playground, but I’d get winded pretty quickly and didn’t like the way I felt if I ran for an extended period of time. I was never a particularly strong or fast runner, either. I just figured it wasn’t for me and turned to yoga as a means to stay active.

My mom started running when I moved to Georgia and because I am super competitive, I was not about to be outdone by her. I started training informally and ran a few 5ks and worked myself up to a half-marathon.

I found that I actually enjoyed running, but I still wasn’t particularly good at it. My stamina was always bad: I would start a race really strong but I could never sustain myself past a certain point and the idea of running up hills always got me to walk.

I can’t specifically remember the reason why I dropped running other than I got busy with work, managing my MS, and life. When Ash and I discussed starting a family I wanted to pick it back up before I got pregnant but that never happened.

After speaking with my health coach around this time last year, I decided to get back into running more seriously. I trained with my mother and we ran a half-marathon back in October 2017. I’ve been noticing a lot of health benefits like mood improvement and more energy, so my two primary forms of exercise became yoga and running.

The Routine – In Theory

If I am having a good week: no bad weather, colds, toddler interferences, or MS fatigue symptoms, this is how my routine looks:

  • Monday: Yoga/Crosstraining
  • Tuesday: 30-minute run
  • Wednesday: Yoga/Crosstraining
  • Thursday: 45-minute run
  • Friday: Yoga/Crosstraining
  • Saturday: Distance run (5+ miles)
  • Sunday: Rest

I get 3 days where I have at least 30-minute intense cardio from the run and then 3 days of cross-training of some sort to help strengthen my legs and improve my breathing.

I use the Galloway method for stamina building and hill running. I officially started running back in August 2017 and couldn’t make it more than 5-minutes down the road and balked at hills. Now I am able to run 20-minutes before taking a break and hills are a piece of cake.

All of this is great, but unfortunately most weeks I am not able to adhere to this schedule as much as I would like.

Because we have to take Jai on the weekday runs, I have to be mindful of the weather and how he is feeling.

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Lifestyle & Blogging

2017: A Reflection

2017 was a good year for me.

Like many years, it was filled with its ups and downs. If I had to weigh it any particularly way, I would say that it was mostly filled with good times. But as the year closes, it’s important to reflect on the ups and downs to see what lessons the year taught me so I can approach 2018 fully prepared.

The Down Points

  • At the beginning of the year I dealt with a lot of stress with my social media intake. I found that the news and posts I was reading caused me a lot of frustration and took time away from Jai because I would get emotionally worked up. I realized that I had an issue with my internet usage, though I haven’t made many strides to correct that, other than blocking social media temporarily as a form of self-care.
  • I had an Optic Neuritis flare-up in July, and while most of these flare-ups are caused by personal stress, I have no clue where it came from.  I was picking up a project again around that time and perhaps the stress of that caused my flare-up, but I still am not 100% sure of what happened.
  • After dropping sugar, I discovered that I have a sensitivity to sugar cane. When I had some simple syrup in a drink several months ago, I found that I got a massive headache, fatigue, and felt nauseous. It’s rather disappointing to discover that I may not be able to consume normal sugar again. But I suppose it’s a good thing.
  • When I fell off track with my eating habits I found that I feel a little bit heavier, emotionally down, and have a lot more fatigue that is probably MS related. I think that once I do a diet reset and stick to my lifestyle changes, I will feel a lot better and resolve the bloat, depression, and fatigue; proof that food is fuel and what I consume impacts how I feel.

The Positive Points

  • After my flare-up in July, I found out that the brain lesions I previously had disappeared. While I am not sure about the status of the lesions on my spine, I do count the fact that my brain healed itself as a massive second chance I had needed in dealing with MS.
  • In March, my insurance provider reached out to me as a new mother with an accountability program to help get me motivated with improving my health. It was from here that the seeds of change started to form in my mind. The coach I worked with helped got me back into the idea of running, pushing me to do the training for the half-marathon back in October.
  • So far, through all my hard work, I have lost a total of 27 pounds since I started my blog. I am lower than I was in high school, something I never thought I would see again. I am still holding onto the big number from my heaviest weight during pregnancy to now. I am hoping I will reach that goal by March 2018 and announce it here.
  • Watching Jai grow has been an amazing experience. I was looking at some pictures from one year ago and it’s so hard to believe that is the same little boy. He’s laughing, starting to talk, figuring things out, walking all over the place… he is no longer a baby, but a full-fledged toddler.
  • I have made some personal strides in managing my personal stress. Ash and I were discussing it today, while I still get stressed over some stuff, I am light years ahead of where I was last year. I am learning to let things go and not let things bother me the same way as before.

MS//Mommy

I think the biggest change for me this year is having this blog. While I had the accountability coach, I made this my ultimate accountability buddy. If I said I was going to do something here, I made sure to stick with it. If I faltered, I made sure to own up to it as well.

I am grateful for my friend, Lady, for making the suggestion that I create a blog to track my changes. I have always wanted to be a writer, but never really had the confidence in my abilities. This blog provides me with the cathartic outlet to write how I want to with no restrictions. It also appeals to my love of research and compilation.

I am hoping to see this blog grow into something greater, though I am not sure what that will look like yet.

What I’ve Learned

The number one takeaway from 2017 is to “let it all go.” There are plenty of things that do require my worry and concern, but I am realizing that there are plenty of other things that aren’t as important. My priority is my family and my health, and everything else is just extra. Recognizing the difference between the two allows me to let the correct stuff go.

All of this seems cliche, but sometimes it really does take a low-point or a second chance  to get the important moments of self-reflection and accept what they say to us. I didn’t think I could do anything to help manage my disease without medication because I “attempted” to do so in the past.

“Attempted” meaning I didn’t really try very hard. I said I would eat healthy, but I wasn’t actually motivated to make the necessary changes.

But once I realized that I wanted to teach Jai how to be healthy and that I wanted to be around for him (in an active capacity) when he’s older, I decided that I needed to push myself to make the deep, psychological and physiological changes I had wanted to do for so long. Let everything go: mental baggage, physical baggage, emotional baggage.

I feel the healthiest I’ve ever been going into a new year.

Where I Would Like to Be in 2018

  • I want to figure out what foods serve me best and which ones I should avoid indefinitely (or consume on special occasions). I have my suspicions, but I am hoping after spending 6 months away from perceived troublemakers will help provide me with insight of what I should and should not consume. The month of June will be spent testing foods out and seeing how I react to them.
  • I would like to see the entire year without a single flare-up while I am still off of medication. Unless Jai self-weans in 2018, I don’t anticipate starting up Tecfidera just yet. If I can make it the whole year without a flare-up and feeling better without additional medication (amantadine for energy, Ritalin for energy/focus), then I will feel like I have temporarily seized control over my health.
  • Even more relaxed and not stressed out over things. Maintaining the “let it go” attitude, but also beginning to allow myself to feel more comfortable with myself. I haven’t been comfortable being myself for a long time, and since I am taking all these strides to feel better physically, I need to feel better mentally and emotionally. Stop trying to hide my true self in order to please others.
  • Reconsider my internet usage. Working on MS//Mommy is important, but I feel I spend way too much time on my phone outside of that. I’ve already started using the Forest App as a means to keep me off of my phone when Jai is up and about. I will need to consider going on a phone fast at some point during the year to break some bad habits.
  • While I never anticipated losing weight when I started all of this, I now have a weight goal in mind and that’s solidly in the healthy BMI range (+/- some pounds to account for fluctuation). I am just outside the actual range and it’ll be a few pounds more to get me where I want to be. This is low-level goal – so in order to maintain my sanity I am not going to focus as heavily on it.

2018 as a Teaching Opportunity

I think 2018’s motto should be “keep letting it go, no distractions, and push forward.” 2018 is going to bring a lot for me to handle, like any year, but I need to stay focused on not stressing out on stuff but keep moving forward even when the going is tough.

I anticipate hitting numerous walls, which is the norm for any sort of self-reflective/lifestyle change. I need to not let it get to me and keep going even when I feel down. Down days are okay, but what I do with them makes all the difference.

Here’s to a new year.

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope it’s a good one.

The Check-In

Confession Time…

It’s the holiday season and that makes it very difficult to maintain any form of stick-to-it-tiv-ness when it comes to healthy habits. Exercising is harder with the colder weather and my running buddy is taking a slight break because of the holidays. It’s very hard to push yourself to get out of bed at 6am to go run in the cold.

Regarding my diet drops, I will admit I have lapsed. On a lot of things. Almost everything. Except sugar and fried foods. Sugar gives me such massive headaches that I can’t function for the rest of the day depending on how much I have and I think I have finally kicked the fried-food monkey. I don’t want to go through the psychological withdrawal again because of how difficult it was to get over.

I don’t consider any of this backsliding to be a failure. In fact, I consider it self-care. While I shouldn’t excuse myself for not meeting my personal goals, if I use this as a reminder that I can’t expect perfection and to be gentle with myself if I miss certain personal benchmarks, I won’t get discouraged.

Discouragement because of not meeting personal goals can spell the end of what is overall a positive and beneficial experience. I just need to maintain the mantra: tomorrow is another day and I can refocus once this “rough” period is over.

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Lifestyle & Blogging

Running and Neurology

Running Down a Half Marathon

Since August, I have been training for a half marathon.

I have been so focused on shifting my diet, that I haven’t talked about this training in my blogging because there hasn’t been anything to report. I got the idea in my head back in July after meeting with a health coach through our insurance company. She suggested that I come up with an exercise goal as a means of getting healthier in the long term. Before getting pregnant with Jai I used to run, and I made sure to get a running stroller so I could eventually get back into it while pushing him around.

And by run, I use the term extremely liberally. I am more of a jogger, and with my short legs you could make the argument that I am a fast walker. I get my heart rate up and that’s all that matters to the experts.

Regardless of my personal speed, I had done a half marathon before my diagnosis and knew that it would be the perfect goal to push for intense training. It wasn’t long after I settled on a half marathon at the end of October that I received the good news about my MRI and made the decision to alter my eating habits as well.

It was one of those moments where everything came together and it made the health coach even happier to hear that I was exercising AND eating better.

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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.