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

Chocolate Power Protein N’ice Cream

Whether you have a picky eater or an under-eater, it is sometimes important for your child to pack on some weight. That’s when we, as parents, turn to supplemental nutritional drinks and foods that are high in calories that will help them gain weight faster.

Jai recently had a nasty cold which suppressed his appetite and caused him to lose about one pound. At his age, this weight loss was less concerning, but he was already on the low end for his age range, thus causing him to be underweight. During the cold, he was only consuming liquids like breastmilk and water, so I wasn’t worried about him being dehydrated, but I wanted to make sure he was getting all the important nutrients he needed and his daily caloric requirements. I also wanted to help him quickly add that pound back on and maybe an extra one for good measure.

I went out and bought a name-brand nutritional drink for toddlers. I looked at the label and was not happy with how much sugar the product contained. He hadn’t had that much sugar up to this point in his life, but I was concerned about his needing to gain weight so I bought the stuff.

He seemed to like it at first, but after a few sips he rejected drinking more. I suspect it was too sweet for him. I couldn’t try it myself, but even Ash was unimpressed with the flavor.

We put him to bed several hours later. I had thought the drink had left his system, but  the sugar and chemicals caused him to be a light sleeper and he woke up around 1am and screamed uncontrollably for about an hour (we tried to console him as much as we could). The only thing different about his eating habits that day was this drink.

We vowed never to do that again.

That didn’t solve my concern regarding his weight and need for nutrients and calories. I decided to experiment with what I had in the house.

I came up with a dense ice “cream” that uses fruit and maple syrup to sweeten it, but has avocados and peanut butter as a means to heft up the calories and protein.

Because it doesn’t contain any dairy, this will be okay for your little one while they have a cold, the frozen nature of the treat will soothe throats but not increase mucus production. It is also a tasty snack, so it shouldn’t be hard to get them to eat it if you have a picky eater. You can find the recipe after the cut.

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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.

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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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The Check-In

Checking In: Veganism and Me

One week of the vegan diet down and going strong.  It’s difficult to tell if there’s a difference in my energy level while I am still fighting this chest cold; but I do feel like my mood is relatively calm and mellow. That may be because I am too tired to care about stuff, or underneath the cold, my mood and outlook is better because I have removed more inflammatory meals that might cause mood spikes.

I am anticipating that once I start feeling better that I will notice a spike in my energy levels. After my first flare-up, but before my diagnosis, I went vegan for a few months and found it as a natural energy booster while I wasn’t consuming caffeine. I expect the same results because I am eating similar to before, if not better because I am not eating sugar or junk foods.

I am finding that I am craving meats and STILL craving fried foods. While I am not craving beef or pork, I am craving chicken and salmon, particularly fried chicken and fries. I still haven’t indulged in my fried food cravings, but I am really surprised at how much harder it’s been to drop those foods. I expected sugar to be the hardest for me to remove from my diet with the cravings and it hasn’t been.

I occasionally feel sorry that I can’t indulge in sweet treats, especially in the fall, but what I wouldn’t give to have some salty fries right now. Or onion rings. Or mozzarella. Or some sort of fried chicken skin…

I found some puffed veggie “fries” that work as a snack and I’ve been making homemade microwave popcorn for idle snacking at night.  I am going to try baking some fries or a vegan version of twice baked potatoes. I think either of those might help satisfy my cravings.

Next week is the penultimate food removal and going to be the most difficult with functioning in the real world: gluten.

Overall Health Update

Getting on the scale this morning, I have officially lost 12 pounds from when I first started this journey. It was never about weight loss, but to see that this morning was a huge confidence booster. Hopefully more of it will melt off as I eat healthier and healthier and keep running. Once I finally hit a bottom with the weight loss, I will reveal official numbers.

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.