Illness as a Positive

For the month of November, I am taking each day to highlight some element in my life that I want to express my gratitude about. This could be something deeply personal or just a passing appreciation for something more superficial. 


Having a chronic illness is no fun.

I know that’s a bit of a shocker for anyone reading this, especially if you have a chronic illness/disability. That said, having a chronic illness did bring about a positive change in my life: I think it forced me to rethink my life and my health and make important changes.

I am not about to turn this post into inspiration porn (don’t worry, that link is safe for work), but I do want to express gratitude for the wake-up call my MS gave me. I call it my “rock bottom” because it forced me to make some decisions about the direction I wanted to take physically, mentally, and emotionally. I do, however, wish it hadn’t taken a chronic illness diagnosis to make these changes

I would be more than happy to give back my illness and keep all the healthy changes if given a chance. 

Prior to the Diagnosis

To understand why I am grateful for my current health, it’s best to compare it to where I was physically prior to my diagnosis.

I’ve hinted at my state in previous posts throughout the blog, but I never fully discussed my mental and physical state. Partially because it was never necessary to the post, but mostly because I was ashamed of where I was at in life.

I was delusional about my physical health. It’s easy to see that on the other side, but living in the middle of it I thought I was healthy. I would eat vegan, run, do yoga, try to meditate when the time would allow, but essentially go through the motions of what I thought was healthy living.

And then I would wonder why I wasn’t losing weight. I justified it by saying this to myself repeatedly:

Ah, that’s just muscle being put on. Muscle weighs more than fat.

I am just stressed out right now, so once I get beyond this period, I will be fine. I need to eat like this because it’s how I am coping with my stress.

Apparently, my 5’3″ body is meant to be 160 pounds. Since I can’t lose the weight, that must be my natural set point.

I also didn’t feel better, I was just grumpier for waking up earlier and sweating a bunch with little to no payoff.

Let me be clear and say that weight is not the absolute indicator of health: athletes can be considered overweight and be at peak physical fitness. A person can be a normal weight and be coping with an illness of sorts. Weight can be a symptom of a bigger problem and it can also cause other issues, but looking at weight for whether a person is healthy or not shouldn’t be the only factor. It is just one of the factors.

Through most of my adult life, I was carrying around an additional 20-30 pounds. This extra weight played a negative role in my overall activity level, my mood, my energy levels, and my depression. I firmly believe that these factors exacerbated my MS symptoms. There were days where I would come home after teaching and fall asleep for hours until Ash got home, wherein he’d have to make or order us dinner.

It was always a slog to get any important work done for school and professionally speaking.

Prior to my diagnosis, I had very little motivation to make any positive changes in my life. I would do it in spurts, but those would fade out when I didn’t see immediate results. I had nothing truly motivating me beyond “this is what our culture tells me to do.” It wasn’t enough and therefore I couldn’t stay motivated to continue.

I figured I could never get into peak physical and emotional condition because I just couldn’t. No other reason other than that: I just was not able to be healthy.

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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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Final Thoughts for this Week

Today is the final day of my diet reset. Overall it went well and I am feeling better about my eating choices, though it wasn’t an easy process to get through. It got rather boring by the end and I was excited to be eating different types of fruit throughout the day if only for the variety they provided. The food that I made for the reset was delicious, but even delicious can get boring if you are eating the same thing over and over again.

How I am Feeling

I feel much better at the end of the week, a little bit lighter (I lost 2 pounds), and I don’t feel as bloated as I did on Sunday. I think that has a lot to do with the water I’ve been drinking; it certainly helped flush out the extra water weight I retained from high-salt and fatty foods. I also found that I enjoy drinking high-alkaline water, not because I think they do anything specific for my health, but because I like the taste and it’s easier to drink. I learned something new about myself.

I also feel more energized, though I am still feeling fatigue from the last vestiges of my flu. Once I have finally shaken off my flu fatigue, I can already tell that I am  motivated to dive into my running again. I just need the temperature to go up a little bit in the mornings. Running in temperatures lower than 20F are rough. I can do it, but it’s hard to be motivated to get out there when bed is so warm.

Cravings I Encountered

Some cravings I encountered throughout the week: fried foods, eating late, coffee, and bacon.

I was really surprised by the fried foods craving since I haven’t had anything deep fried since October. I think that was a carryover from the flu at the beginning of the week. I have learned that when I am sick, I really love to have fried foods for comfort.

The desire to snack after 7 pm wasn’t entirely surprising: that’s when I do the bulk of my snacking during the day. Once Ash is home and Jai is in bed, Ash and I sit on the couch and will snack while catching up on our shows. The snacks may be healthy in nature, but it’s the quantity that becomes unhealthy. There are nights where I will grab a snack just before going to bed because the idea hit me that I was “hungry.” Through this reset I realized that I was less hungry and doing it out of habit.

The craving for coffee was a surprise to absolutely no one. I went from drinking two cups of Americano a day to nothing. I use coffee as a natural means to boost my energy in the morning and early afternoon. I really love the taste of it, especially during cold winter days. I find it very soothing because of its familiarity and I missed that with the cold snap we’ve been going through. I had a few mild headaches that may have been caffeine withdrawals, but I drank a bunch of water and herbal tea to help minimize the discomfort.

I found that I was craving salty protein some of the time, specifically bacon. I don’t eat a lot of bacon, though when given the option, I will take it. This might also be attributed to the cold weather – looking to derive some pleasure in high-fat foods which is fine in small doses, but hard to moderate in the dead of winter.

Some Reflections

The detox/reset went relatively well, but not as well as I would have liked. I ran into some issues following the protocols I had planned by Day Four because life got a little hectic. I wasn’t able to do my morning ritual from that day forward because Jai picked up a really bad cold and needed care as early as 2 am some mornings. Getting up after that to do yoga was really hard despite going to bed around 10 pm.

When experts say to plan detoxes/cleanses around periods of time where it will minimally impact your life, they aren’t kidding. I couldn’t account for Jai’s cold, but considering I just dealt with the flu and he’s in close proximity to me, it wouldn’t be hard to extrapolate that he’d get sick too. So I probably should have delayed given the circumstances.

While this was a good start as far as length is concerned, I think a longer reset would be more effective for me. They say that it can take up to two months for a habit to stick and while I wouldn’t want to spend that amount of time on a reset, perhaps spending at least 9 to 12 days on it would be more ideal. It will help give me more time to break through some of my bad habits and understand my deeper cravings. I believe that the longer I go, the more random and intense the cravings are and I assume those are the really ingrained cravings that I might not normally notice. By bringing them to light, I can decide how to deal with them.

I think that my daily energy and feeling lighter comes from not eating after 7 pm. In fact, I would argue that the best thing I did through this entire reset was not eating after 7 pm. I think I have a lot of psychological energy tied up in my snacking late and this helped show me how dependant I was on it. I think that some of my extra weight comes from eating late and if I go a few more weeks not eating past 7 pm I might see some more weight lost because of it.

I don’t know how this impacted my MS, in fact, I don’t think it impacted it at all. It’s too short of a time for me to notice any appreciable changes in my health, but I did find that focusing on the regimen gave me something to think about and not worry about my MS as much.

Moving Forward

I am going to keep the following things from the reset: no eating after 7 pm and try to be in bed by 10 pm. Even if I don’t fall asleep right away, being in a position of rest helps get me through the next day and feel less tired when Jai wakes up in the middle of the night.

I am, however, going to pick up coffee again. I already have an Americano with my name literally on it waiting for me tomorrow morning. I really can’t go without my caffeine, no matter how healthier it might be for me. I need some vices.

I think I will consider doing some form of a reset every 6 months, almost like a booster shot. I considered doing a 3-day version every 3 months, but I will have to examine I am feeling with my diet at the beginning of March before I make any commitments. Doing it when my motivation is flagging will help keep me going and feeling good.

While I liked this modified version of the Ayurvedic detox, I am interested in examining other types of healthy resets. A juice cleanse, a raw food reset, possibly Keto, or just a very bland diet with nothing special to it. I want to make sure that whatever I try in the future it will be healthy and safe for me. By experimenting with different types, I might find the one that fits best for me or combine a couple into something that works. The whole point is to give my body a rest from all the junk I’ve put into it and feel refreshed by the end of it.

I will be eating a strict plant-based diet (no animal products whatsoever), no gluten, no sugar, and no alcohol. I may need to make a few exceptions here and there, but this will be stricter than I have been since before the holidays. So if I have a day or a meal where I indulge in something, it won’t be continued beyond that.

I want to shoot for June, a full 6 months of eating this way, as that will give my body plenty of time to remove the old stuff from my system, remove bad gut bacteria and allow the good bacteria to flourish. It will also help me determine if I have any allergies or sensitivities I was previously unaware of, like sugar.

2018 Health Goals

I anticipate that during the next 6 months I will reach my ideal body weight for my body type. If I want to be successful in this weight loss, I will need to maintain that ideal weight for at least 2 years. In order to do this, I will want to be more aware of my eating habits and if I re-incorporate anything back into my diet, do so in moderation. Allowing my eating habits to go out of control is what got me to my highest weight originally. I would like to not return to that point again.

When I go to see my neurologist in March, I want him to tell me that I am still doing well and that we don’t need to alter my treatment until I am ready. I already mentioned that I want to go the entire year flare-up free, which I think I can do by eating healthy, being mindful of my stress, and exercising.

I want to get my natural energy levels up to what I perceive is normal for everyone as often as I can. MS makes that difficult to do everyday, but if I can have more days with higher energy levels than not, I will consider that a success. This will be harder to measure, but if I feel that I can go the entire day without needing an actual nap, and just an hour of rest while Jai is sleeping, then it would be considered a low-fatigue day.

I will continue to check-in from time-to-time with how I am doing like before, but I will be shifting my blog focus away from my personal habits and onto healthier living habits overall.

What healthy goals have you made for this year? What are your plans to keep them?


Mindful of the New Year

2017 was a relatively good year for me, though I decided to end it with a touch of the flu. I have issues with fatigue already, so ending the year and starting the new one with fatigue overload can be demotivating. It also means that my diet reset, by the original intentions of Ayurveda, will be imperfect due to taking Tamiflu.

Imperfect because I am technically not supposed to be consuming any form of medication during the detox – no “harsh chemicals.” I am not going to risk my health or ability to take care of Jai, so I will accept that the reset won’t be perfection and move on by continuing the medication. 

Flu or no, I am determined to have a positive start to this New Year.

Yesterday I began the reset and it seemed to go well, though these first two days aren’t as vigorous as the middle two days. It’s more about eliminating certain things from my diet in preparation of the more active phase.


Important before going any further: I highly recommend speaking with a healthcare professional if you want to do a reset like this, particularly if you are on medication that is extremely important to your health. Do not eliminate any medication that might cause harm in its elimination, no matter how temporary the reset. It is less important to get the reset “perfect” and more important that you maintain your physical and mental health. This is less about cleansing your body and more about helping beat bad eating habits. I advise using caution and common sense.


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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.