Monthly Archives: October 2015

Get in shape in the gym, lose weight in the kitchen – Paleo and MS

Or how I dropped 25 pounds this year and have kept it off.

The title line of get in shape in the gym and lose weight in the kitchen is attributed to my MS doctor.  That was her response when I explained my success with my weight loss this year.

This will be a lengthy post because the topic always raises many questions in conversations.  Let me start out by saying that I wasn’t fat at all, so 25 lbs is really significant for me.  Like many in our forties, I was just starting to get a little squishy around the middle.  Now I am almost skinny again; the thinnest that I’ve been since high school!

How much does diet affect MS?  Personally, I think that the jury is still out.  Many swear that they have had phenomenal results by focusing on a particular diet.  Yet you can find two people that claim the same success with diets that seem almost opposite.  One might claim that a super low fat vegetarian diet is the key.  The next claims a high fat diet is the key.  I don’t know.  I think that diet is important for your health, the same as it is for anyone, regardless of MS.  I don’t think that changing your diet will magically cure most people’s MS.

My wife and I played around with the Paleo diet with limited success for the last few years.  We had challenges sticking to it for any real period of significance.  Then I found a book on amazon that sounded interesting called “The Perfect Health Diet” by Jaminet.

I can’t say enough good things about this book.  I started following the philosophy of the book at the beginning of the year and have steadily gotten in better shape.  I have not bounced at all.  In fact, I hit a new low this morning, ten months into it; down over 25 lbs.  More importantly, I feel great, am never hungry and have been very healthy this year, apart from my MS.

Don’t think of it as a diet.  Think of it as your new way of eating for life.  The book is a flexible, livable version of Paleo.  The theory behind the Paleo diet is that over time a society becomes optimized for a particular diet through evolution.  It makes sense in a way.  If I can function better on the food that is available, I am more likely to kill you, steal your mate and have offspring.

The Paleolithic period lasted 2.6 million years.  More than long enough for evolution to play it’s part.  Then we learned how to farm and our diets changed dramatically.  Given enough time, eventually human society will be optimized for our current diet, but it just hasn’t been around that long yet.  The book offers a variety of evidence attempting to back up this theory that we are still genetically “programmed” or optimized for the caveman diet.

The book is over 400 pages but can largely be summed up in the sentence “Eat plants and animals”.

What’s different about this book and a lot of other versions of paleo is that you can and should eat some starches.  White potatoes are good.  Sweet potatoes are good.  White rice is ok (interestingly, better for you than brown rice).  This has made it so much more sustainable for me than low carb diets.

You can also eat cheese, provided it’s the real stuff.  Wine and most alcohol in moderation is ok.  Coffee and tea is good.  Fermented foods are good.  Nuts are good but peanuts are bad.  Fish, beef and lamb are great, pork is good, chicken is ok.  Chocolate is ok.  Corn and beans are bad.  You can sit down to a nice steak and vegetables with butter and a glass of wine and enjoy it, knowing that you are actually losing weight on it.

The biggest part of your diet will be vegetables but you will still eat more fat than you think that you should.  The women that I know that have tried this struggle with that.  They just can’t get thier arms around eating a quarter pounder with no bun instead of just a salad if they are trying to loose weight.  The diet is not meant specifically to be gluten free, but it is.

What can’t you eat?  The big one is bread.  Cut it out of your life.  All of it.  No toast, pizza, muffins.  Eat your last one now and then never again.  I’ve done it, you can do it.  I still go to fast food places often.  It’s just that I get my burger protein style, which means wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun.  At Chipotle, I get a bowl instead of a burrito.  McDonalds doesn’t serve protein style so I use the bun to hold the burger but rip it off bite by bite.  Also, all of the soda that I used to drink has been replaced by iced tea.

I’ve got three of my six pack back already and on my way to finding the rest (which has been lost for 20 years).  The only negative is that I need to pay to have all of my suits tailored as they all hang on me like tents now.  For what it’s worth, four of my colleagues are also now following the book with similar success.

If anyone has questions or wants more information on the subject, please feel free to post here or email me through the site.

Best of luck to any of you that get the book and decide to give it a try!  It’s changed my life.

The bed feels sooooo good in the morning with my MS

I’m not sure if any other MS inflicted have experienced this…..

Going to bed at night is sometimes an uncomfortable experience.  For me it’s a combination of two things; my neck and my leg.  Somehow, I developed arthritis in my neck.  It tends to get more sore as the day goes on.  My leg on the other hand, still has the original tingling, in varying intensity.

Adding the two together means that some nights, I am laying in bed trying to fall asleep while my neck is in pain and my thigh feels like micro fireworks are going off in it.  Not the most conducive to drifting away into dreamland.

The morning though is an entirely different story.  By then, my neck feels good.  And oddly, the tingling is very gentle and slight.  It actually feels good.  Really good.  Kind of like the sensation you feel when stretching or even getting massaged.

I’ve always been bad about repeatedly hitting the snooze button.  This isn’t making that habit any easier to break.  Luckily the little ones ensure that I don’t get to enjoy it for too long in the mornings.  What will I do to get up when they become teenagers though?

Riding a bike with MS – Easier than walking!

One big positive that has come out of having multiple sclerosis is learning to appreciate so many things that I used to take for granted.  When I went for my last run, I really appreciated the fact that I could still do it, knowing that it wouldn’t be long before I couldn’t anymore.

I hadn’t ridden a bicycle for years and kind of thought that I wouldn’t be able to, given my balance issues with my MS.  When my son got a new bike from santa claus, my wife encouraged me to get one as well so that we could go riding together.  I was skeptical.  We went to a local REI store and I was shocked at how much a decent new bicycle costs.  It seemed a bit risky to spend so much on something that I might bring home and immediately realize that I can’t use.

However, just like with the running issue, I decided that I had to give it a try.  If I assumed that I couldn’t, and later found out that I could have been riding with my kids for years but just didn’t try, I would be very upset.  So I anted up and brought home the overpriced but very fancy bike.

I am so glad that I did.  It turns out that I don’t really have an issue with balance at all.  Just with walking.  The MS causes weakness and reduced coordination in my leg that effectively causes balance issues.  But in reality, my sense of balance is fine.  The problem is just in my leg’s ability to follow directions from the brain that is the problem.

When you ride a bike, at least recreationally around the block with your son, your legs don’t really get involved much in keeping it balanced.  It’s mostly your arms and shifting your upper body.  Both of which are mostly unaffected by my MS.  To my surprise, while I have a hard time standing and walking without wobbling like a drunk, I have no problem with balancing on a bicycle at all.  What a wonderful discovery!

Yet one more thing that I appreciate being able to do, ten times as much as I would have pre-diagnosis.

I’m back. A bit more wobbly. But back.

It’s been more than six months since my last post.  I’ve just been really busy.  But it’s time to dust off the keyboard again.

What’s happened in the last six months?  Not a lot new with my MS, actually.  Just a little more progression with the disability.  The focus has really been on my family and my job.

My MS is still a secret to all but my closest family.  But that secret is getting harder to keep.  I now wobble and stumble quite a bit more.  I am sure that to some onlookers, I must look like I am drunk.  When walking a short distance, such as across the room, I can still hide it ok if I concentrate.  For longer distances, it becomes a little more difficult.  It starts to become obvious that I am not walking in a straight line.  Steps have also gotten a lot harder.  Again, if it’s going up five steps to enter into a building, no problem.  But if it’s hiking up a few flights, it is difficult.  Not impossible.  Just difficult.

I have had a few instances of colleagues commenting on my limp.  I have handled it by lying, claiming an injury.

The disability is not consistent.  There are days that I hop out of bed and feel pretty good.  There are other times where I am dragging my leg behind me like a log.  Fatigue is the biggest factor in how well I walk, by far.  Oddly, standing in place such as in a line, is more fatiguing and affects my walking more than walking itself does.  My theory is that to stand balanced requires many tiny correcting signals from the brain.  When you have MS and the transmission of the signals is challanged, I imagine that the number of corrective signals goes up considerably.  Exhausting.

I am still on Gilenya and tolerating it well.  It is super easy to just pop a pill each morning.  I’m not sure that it is helping, but it is easy.  The next wonder drug on the horizon that my doctor is already mentioning is Ocrelizumab.  The exciting news with this drug is that it’s phase III trials look promising for primary progressive MS, a version of the disease where there is currently no existing approved drug treatment.  They plan on applying for FDA approval early next year.

I adopted a version of the Paleo diet.  The jury is still out, in my opinion, of just how much diet can help you with MS (beyond being healthy in general), but I did shed 23 lbs on it and feel great.  That warrants a post of it’s own.

My plan is the same.  I hope to keep working as long as I can.  Hopefully forever.  As before, that means there is little reason to bring up my affliction with coworkers.  They will pick up on it soon enough.  I work in something of a shark tank.  I don’t need any of the other sharks questioning if I am all there from a cognitive perspective.

I promise not to take another six months to post.  I have a few topics stored in my head to write about so please stand by.