Weight Loss for MS

Why I Eat Healthy and Lost Weight for My MS

I debated for a long time whether or not to share this, but as it turns out, I am super proud and excited about my hard work. Last year, after seeing a picture of myself on my birthday, I was so disappointed with my weight. I decided it was time to start working on my overall health because not only would I look and feel better, but it would be better for managing and maintaining my multiple sclerosis. There hasn’t been enough testing to prove that diet impacts someone’s MS health, but they believe that a healthy diet can have important effects on the immune system, help decrease the risk of relapses, and lower cardiovascular risk factors. Not only is it important for my autoimmune disease, but it is important so I have energy for my kids. It was definitely time for me to step it up and start fueling my body with better food sources.

When I was first diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I had so many opinions from people on what diet I should be doing. I had several recommendations to do the Wahls protocol, which is essentially a more intense version of the Paleo diet. You are allowed to eat meat and leafy green vegetables, fruit, and some fat. You are not allowed to eat dairy, eggs, sugar, nightshade vegetables, legumes, and grains. This to me sounded way too intense and I knew I would fail. Plus, my neurologist did not seem to think this was the most important thing for me to do. He did suggest a Mediterranean diet, and I am not quite following that as well as I should be, but I would like to say my diet is incredibly balanced and I am working on overall healthy options. Truthfully, I could eat more fish, but it is expensive and I just prefer chicken, ground turkey, or on occasion beef.

The more research I did, the more it became clear that the most important thing for my MS was to be at a healthy weight and maintain a balanced diet. When I first started to lose weight I started by tracking my macros. This means focusing on a specific balance of protein, fat, and carbs. This worked for a while, but I hit a plateau. I decided to switch things up and I started Weight Watchers. This worked great for a longer period of time. It was a bit more restrictive, but it really set me up to eat more whole foods and healthier foods. I started eating more fruits and vegetables, more eggs, and limiting dairy and fats. I actually hit a standstill with Weight Watchers when they changed up their method on me in November. I was on vacation and between vacation, their new plan, and the holidays I actually gained a couple of pounds back. I was irritated, but what I have learned is weight loss is not always a linear process. Plus, the goal is to stay healthy long-term.

After debating what to do next and a lot of research and discussions with Mitchell, I decided proper macro counting was and is a better long-term fit for me. I can choose to eat foods that I actually want to eat! For example, Weight Watchers would give you 0 points on things like nonfat plain greek yogurt. Meaning, technically you were allowed to eat as much nonfat plain greek yogurt as you wanted in a day. But, nonfat plain greek yogurt kind of tastes like a bowl of sour cream. Not exactly enjoyable. So, now, I eat low-fat, low-sugar flavored yogurt. Did you know that yogurts are packed full of sugar? Super disappointing, but that is why they taste so good. I am really learning a lot about added sugars, and how hard sugar is on our body. My diet mainly consists of eggs, egg whites, veggies, fruit, avocado, nut butter, yogurt, chicken, ground turkey, sometimes beef, and most importantly whole grain or whole wheat bread, pasta, rice. I try to eat very few processed foods and/or white grains. I have really been working on cutting back on sugar and dairy too. However, I still eat them. They are important sources of calcium, vitamins, and proteins, well dairy anyway. I think we really can set ourselves up for trouble when we don’t allow ourselves to eat or enjoy certain things (unless of course we are allergic or become very sick if we eat them). Moderation is key.

Weight and our diets can be such a taboo topic. It’s weird because we seem to ignore when people are too thin and don’t eat enough, and we also are starting to celebrate and embrace being overweight. In fact, I told one doctor last year I was concerned about being a bit overweight and that I was struggling to lose it. She shrugged her shoulders and said she wasn’t worried. She did a blood panel for me anyway to make sure my thyroid was fine, but she basically told me to embrace the weight. 

My issue was, I knew it wasn’t a weight I wanted to sit at forever. This was a personal preference. Between two pregnancies, breastfeeding, and some painful losses, I was eating a lot. When you are pregnant you burn about 300 extra calories and breastfeeding can burn anywhere from 500-1000 or so extra calories. I somehow got into a habit of overeating. It was comforting and I lost track of how much I should actually eat. We should be able to get more support and resources to lose weight in a healthy manner and to properly eat to fuel our bodies. And, expectations for dropping weight at any time, but especially post-pregnancy should be stopped. Everyone assumes breastfeeding and having the baby makes you drop all the extra weight in no time. Not true. Hormones and other factors can make it extremely hard.

Not to mention, weight loss, true long-term weight loss, and staying at a healthy weight while eating the right amount of calories is hard!

The next step for me this next year is figuring out a maintenance calorie level where I can stay at a consistent weight and make sure I am eating healthy foods. I am not sure what to expect, but hopefully, I can continue my healthy eating habits and indulge when I can, like on my birthday.  Don’t worry, I am enjoying some treats on my birthday! 

Oh, and even though I lost 30 lbs, my stomach by no means looks like it did several years ago. I still have stretch marks and extra skin from those beautiful babies I grew inside my body. I also have a “warrior” wound from my Copaxone injections. I always knew there was a risk of them causing indentations and as I started losing weight, I really started noticing a spot on my stomach. Oh well! Here is to hoping for another healthy year!