In a few days it will be Thanksgiving and then just around the corner are the Christmas Holidays. So who is thinking about diet and exercising? Well actually what better time, for we need to eat right and to exercise to relieve the holiday stress we all get caught up in.
Until I was diagnosed with MS I was a very active and busy person and always had been. I fell in love with dancing and swimming as a little girl and walked everywhere or road my bike and was out in the fresh air a lot! Stairs were everywhere, in my home and neighborhood and at my huge high school. I loved stairs and had my dog to walk with me on our adventures.
After school I got married and had two children. Life stayed busy, then add in a divorce and my working years. Eventually I remarried and my kids were grown. Life stayed busy and I continued to work. About six years before my diagnosis of MS I started to slow down and had entered middle age. I had started to put on a few pounds too so I took up jazzercise classes and I loved them. But after about two years of that I started to get unbalanced in class, fell once and my left leg would get all numb. So I quit going to classes and quit the sessions at home too. All I had now was work and walking our dog for any type of exercise.
With my increasing fatigue and other weird symptoms and doctors having no clue what was wrong with me my overall health was getting worse. I had always eaten what I wanted and was paying no attention to my diet. I wasn’t fat so thought all was ok. However my blood work showed some problems. My doctor said to watch my diet and get in some real exercise, which I didn’t since I felt so bad. I just didn’t get the connection and thought my doctor didn’t understand.
Fast forward to about 10 years ago and 13 years into my diagnosis. I was now a real mess and had lost 2 inches in height (I have back problems) and was kidding myself about my weight gain. I wasn’t bad but I wasn’t good and started to not look like myself! Then I got the diagnosis of being pre-diabetic WHOA! My doctor right away wanted me on meds for it and I said NO way!! My biological father had died of diabetes so I knew it could creep in there and now it had. Finally after an argument with this doctor he said I will give you 3 months to do it your way and then I want you back in here to do it my way.
I went home, looked up diabetes on the internet and started my plan of attack! Three months later I went back to the doctor and was 30 pounds lighter and feeling a lot better .My bloodwork was now OK. This doctor had a hard time believing that I did this with just diet and exercise but I did. Not only that but I kept the weight off and took off almost another 10 pounds. I might lose another 4 pounds just so I look as good as I can and know I am doing all I can for my health. With MS one does not need to carry around extra weight for it is not helpful or healthy for us.
Diet and exercise are SO important and no matter your age or physical abilities this is one area YOU CAN control! My exercise plan is heavily modified dance aerobics’ to music...about 20 minutes a day 5 days a week and about 12 minutes of stretching at night. It really helps! It does not cost me anything and I don’t need to leave the house and it can be done all year long anywhere, I just need music. The key to an exercise program is do one you like so you will stay with it or like me make up your own.
The keys to losing weight is first eat only nutritious healthy food. Second watch portion size, third take in less calories than you burn, forth when you have lost the weight, balance your calories so they are the same for what you eat and what you burn. In a while your body gets used to all this and cravings go down. That is not to say you will never have a favorite food again, you will but in moderation and not often.
So if you are planning on having some special holiday meals just don’t overdo it and keep what you eat the rest of the day to a minimum and or go light the next day. Also remember there are dietitians and physical therapists to seek help from.
Happy Thanksgiving, Holly
I noticed when I was a small child that I was extremely clumsy. Guess you could say I certainly had “two left feet”. This picture of when I was four years of age shows the wonderful bowed knees I was sporting my childhood.
I would often say, “I get my two left feet and clumsy ways from my Dad”. He would often fall, trip, and stumble around when others wouldn’t have any issues.
Unfortunately my Father passed away a few years ago, so I wasn’t given the opportunity to research if he might have also had MS.
Fast forward approximately 50 years and I’m still that clumsy girl, and then some! I had came to a place in my life, where I was not able to climb rough terrain, or even walk through a mall area without bouncing off every wall encountered. If had been stopped while driving, I would not have been able to pass a sobriety check, with my lack of ability to walk a straight line despite the fact I don’t drink and drive.
I am now rekindling my passions in life of cooking, sewing, and other crafts. Ironically, one of the main issues I deal with is still being extremely clumsy! When I cook, there is a hand towel in my hand, and a mop rag close by:
I find being clumsy is now just a new part of my day. If a day goes by without needing to sweep or mop up a disaster then it is a day for celebration!
As a result of this pitfall of dropping everything I come in contact with I have found new ways of coping. Laughing off today’s spill accident as I say, “of course I just SPILLED that!”
My husband has even said to me, you aren’t clumsy…. You just have MS. He says I have the right to spill…. MS awarded it to me. His acceptance and ability to laugh with me are one of the many reasons I love him so dearly.
So take your spills, clumsy ways and goofs in stride! Don’t stress about the little things in life! Keep the dishtowel nearby, and be prepared to have the cleanest floors in town, due to the constant cleaning.
In terms of dropping items, I have tried the weighted silverware and found any sort of weight or support helps a great deal. You can find heavier silverware and wrist strap on weights to assist in tasks when the days are extremely bad. I also use hand weights to help strengthen my grip. You don’t need to go buy expensive equipment; even using heavier can goods or bottles around the house will suffice. Just start out slow in trying to strengthen or do any weight training, and always talk to your doctor first for their advice.
I have also incorporated using play dough to work my fingers and hands out when sitting watching TV. At some point I hope to use the hand grip equipment, but for now that is too tough for me.
My new best friend is my inherited kitchen timer!
When I am doing any task I found using the timer is helpful. I limit tasks to fewer than 10 minutes and when hearing the “DING”, it is time to take a rest!
I know despite how I might want to continue pressing forward with the task at hand, it is better to take a short rest, and continue a little later on. By breaking my working time into smaller increments, I am lowering the risk of fatigue from taking over.
Finding tools that help in the kitchen or our daily life, improvising with items we all have around, and watching our fatigue levels, can help us to enjoy each and every day to the fullest!
Hoping for a great upcoming holiday season for everyone, and be sure to take those breaks! Sit down, enjoy a nice cup of tea…. And take a little rest.
When I was diagnosed 23yrs ago with MS. My neurologist told me there was no cure at that time, no MS drugs to take (but they were in works) and not to take flu shots.
A couple years later the first MS drug had come out and I went to my first seminar about the new drug. The representative passed out the brochure’s and began the meeting. She told us what the drug would not do, what it would do and about the side effects. Plus it was very expensive and so we should check with our insurance carrier to see if it was covered. Depending on the person it would not be for everyone. One had to discuss this with one’s doctor and get a prescription. If you could not afford the cost and you met the requirements the drug manufacture may be able to help.
Then she opened the floor for questions and there were lots. I learned a lot as did everyone else. At my next MS support meeting that was the topic all evening. As time went by people starting taking the drug and would share with others how it was going and how they managed it all.
Well the years went by and many other MS drugs became available to the point they are today with many choices. Still no cure or how we get it but now we have more help with it. Also there is more medical help available for symptoms of the disease. Some years back the MS Society gave the go ahead to get the flu shots for people with MS. This really helped me since each year I got so ill with the flu and now I don’t.
Bottom line, become very knowledgeable about all MS medications you take. Every person with MS is unique so what works for one may not work for someone else. Remember to treat your body with utmost care and respect for it will help with your MS journey a lot!
I keep waiting for my love affair with indoor rowing to come to an end. I've been in the ExPD (Exercise for Persons with Disabilities) program at Spaulding Rehabilitation for just under two years now. At first, I was reluctant to push too hard for fear of bringing on an exacerbation. Slowly, slowly, slowly, I began to increase my total rowing time from 6 minutes to 45 minutes each session. I row an average of three days a week for a total of 3.5 miles a week. I have been seeing my neurologist every four months and honestly the news is rarely all that positive. There is so little that the medical community can do for people who have secondary progressive MS.
I was feeling a little frustrated about six months ago and just went all out and exercised to complete fatigue. I am glad that I did. I have grown tired of worrying about what tomorrow will bring. I exercise hard, get plenty of rest, and follow a well-balanced diet. I have greater endurance and increased upper-body strength for having followed this regiment.
My rowing buddies, as I have come to refer to them as, have MS, are spinal cord injured, or have other conditions that make exercising in a regular gym setting challenging. My friend Troy who is in the program, was kind enough to let me video him. Troy has a spinal cord injury and has been rowing for over two years. Take a look at the following video and let me know what you think about the program!
The people I exercise with continue to inspire and motivate me.
Here's to finding your inspiration,
Yoga is for everyone. With so many types, you can find a type that resonates with you. For me, it’s Kundalini Yoga. I am in need of physical, emotional and spiritual healing, and practicing Kundalini Yoga provides that for me.
In the West, when we hear the word “Yoga,” we often think of physical postures. Lots of stretching and sweating. If you have never really enjoyed an exercise routine, the mind instantly decides, “Yoga, that’s not for me. That’s for flexible types.” And sure, many yoga classes in the U.S. are comprised of thin, spandex-clad people who are tackling yoga like they may tackle the rest of their day, with a go hard or go home mentality. This is so prevalent that now there are classes and DVDs labeled “Yoga for the Rest of Us,” as if Bikram is the standard and the rest of us need to somehow dumb down yoga so that our inflexible and out-of-shape bodies can perform it. So not true! Again, it is worth repeating, Yoga is for all of us. We just have to find the Yoga that makes us feel like we are coming home.
For the last month my Multiple Sclerosis fatigue has not allowed me to do much physical yoga. If I over-stretch or do a repetitive motion one-too-many-times, I don’t recover for a week. So, instead I have taken on a half hour meditation to do daily, one that was emotionally too draining for me to do a year ago. Now, I may be weaker physically but I am strong enough emotionally to do this aspect of yoga. I can also do long breathing exercises, which helps me with my stress response. I do the few simple physical movements I can do. And I feel so much better after I have done them! I make sure to include deep relaxation because that is just as important as the exercise component of Yoga. And on those days where I am so exhausted that I can’t get to any of it? I VISUALIZE. The Mind Body Connection is a real and powerful thing. Try it. If you are unable to complete any stretch or pose that you would like to be able to do, but that your body won’t allow or you know it’s best not to do at this time, visualize and your muscles will still fire. You will still be using the neuronal pathways to perform this function even if it looks like to the outsider that you are doing nothing.
Bring Yoga into your life any way you can. Get some DVDS and books at the library. You can find Kundalini Yoga exercise sets (Kriyas) and meditations all over the internet. Here are a few of my favorite sites:
Joining a Yoga community was an invaluable step for me. So when you have the physical strength to get yourself to a studio, do it. Even if you spend the whole class laying down and visualizing, you are being held in a sacred space by people who instantly care for you. And many studios, such as Kundalini Yoga Boston, offer discounts to clients with Multiple Sclerosis. Furthermore, the National MS Society will reimburse $50 a year towards fitness and wellness classes. It may not be much but it will get you into the door and may be the very excuse you need to come home to yourself.
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