Category: MS

This week in food and fitness

I’ve cooked too much food over the course of the last two or three months. I blame my Instant Pot. Yes, it’s as wonderful as everyone says it is, but all of the recipes I tried were designed to feed the family. I am but one woman with a husband who refuses to eat the healthy meals I cook because he doesn’t want to take it away from me. My life is weird.

What went wrong

Cooking ahead and freezing seemed like a great idea, but it restricted me to eating the same things over and over. Plus, frozen food looses its appeal after a week or two.

The lentil soup I made was tasty, but it started to look like an unappetizing brown mush. I also discovered that I don’t like whole wheat pasta. It just didn’t work in the Instant Pot mac and cheese recipe I tried. My Instant Pot tortellini dish was good the first night, but it didn’t hold up well after being frozen. I’m ashamed to admit that I threw some food away.

A new approach

This week I’ll try cooking something every couple of evenings. My goal is to have food to take to work, and an option for dinner. I’ll aim to eat the recommended 5 servings of vegetables a day. Adding a serving to breakfast should help with that.

Check out the Nutrition Diva’s tips for getting more veggies in your diet.

Illustration of eggplant with human characteristics.
I’m good for you!

150 minutes a week

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week. I’m aiming for at least 30 minutes each day. Strength training for all the major muscle groups is also a must. The government says to do it twice a week. Exercise is not a problem for me if MS fatigue doesn’t get in the way. If I happen to catch a cold, or the flu, exercise becomes difficult. Gentle stretching and some yoga poses are an option for me then.

I have chiropractor appointments three times a week for the next two weeks. I’ll try and make it to Planet Fitness on the evenings I’m not being adjusted. I’ve been having a lot of fun with Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, and Wii Fit. I want to get back to a more regular yoga practice. And there’s that Tai Chi app I downloaded.

Should I make a workout schedule? Maybe. I could be making better use of that Happy Planner of mine.

Figure exercising on mat.

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Not quite right and doodling

I came down with a cold, or something that resembled a cold, a few weeks ago. I took a Monday off and then worked the rest of the week. I did the same the next week because I thought I was better. I should have taken a few consecutive days off because it seems that sitting at a computer can wear a person out.

When I sat at my desk for too long I got a pretty severe tingling sensation on one side of my body. This is an MS symptom that I’m more likely to experience when I’m sick or when I haven’t had enough sleep. When I get the tingling it’s usually mild. These extreme sensations make me worry that the disease is getting worse. It probably isn’t, but it’s easy to jump to negative conclusions.

I think the tingle is related to my tight neck and shoulder muscles. I need to look into a way to tame the tension in those areas.

My blogging has suffered because I’ve been too tired to sit at the laptop. I get upset with myself for not blogging regularly. I haven’t had the energy for digital scrapbooking either.

I’m mad at my body for betraying me, but that’s fodder for another post.

I managed to do some doodling while lounging on the couch this weekend. This was drawn by hand with a Micron pen and then scanned and processed with Art Card for iPhone.

 

Doodle digitized

The not so common cold

I think I’ve been suffering from a cold for the last week or so. It’s hard to tell with me. When I think I have a cold, I get a little post-nasal drip and congestion behind the eyes. I don’t get the traditional stuffy nose. My energy level is lower than usual, and I need to sleep longer than I usually do. During these more prolonged periods of sleep, my dreams are more intense and involved.

I think that my colds last longer because I have MS.

Do a search on ‘MS and the common cold,’ and you’ll find tips on avoiding a cold like staying away from sick people and washing your hands. Some sources hint that a cold might trigger a relapse. When I see that, I start to wonder if I’m having a relapse. I tell myself that probably isn’t the case and then start Googling.

So much and so little

It seems like there are tons resources for learning about MS. It seems that way, but I keep running into the same info. Maybe I’m looking for something that will apply to me specifically. That’s not going to happen, because MS is different for everyone who has it.

Rest is important

All of the experts emphasize the importance of rest. I was looking for something definitive about overdoing it and having a relapse. I couldn’t find anything, but it seems like it’s a good idea to treat yourself well. Get regular exercise, but don’t push yourself to exhaustion. That’s good advice for all of us.

Here’s a brochure from the National MS Society on managing MS fatigue. It doesn’t have the personalized answer that I’m looking for, but it gives me permission to take a few naps every day. I might just give that a try.

The quote is from Lalah Delia. Learn more about her here.

Instant Comfort

I tried another Instant Pot recipe, Healthy Instant Pot Mac and Cheese from The Girl on the Bloor.

The ”healthy” component of the dish is broccoli. You could add other greens to up your veggie game. The recipe called for regular pasta. I wanted to use whole wheat, but I found none at Walmart. I used the Colby/Monterey Jack cheese I already had in the fridge instead of the white cheddar on the ingredient list.

Overall, the cooking was quick and easy, and I got a little more comfortable with my Instant Pot.

The flavor wasn’t spectacular, but it tasted good and did feel like comfort food. Switching to a tastier cheese might improve the flavor.

I’m liking the Instant Pot more and more. It’s helping me to make healthier food choices for myself. For me, better eating means less trouble with those everyday MS symptoms like fatigue and the dreaded ”brain fog.”

What tricks do you use to make healthy eating happen?

Keeping your balance when you have MS

Balance problems and difficulty walking are two of my most troublesome MS symptoms. Luckily, there are exercises I can do to reduce the impact these symptoms have on my everyday life. 

Cat walking on a fence

Even if you don’t have a neurological condition it’s a good idea to add balance training to your fitness regimen. Start improving your balance with the help of these articles and videos. Consult your doctor before starting a workout program if you haven’t been active for a while. 

Living with MS: Avoiding Falls

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition that affects a person's brain and spinal cord. Some of the most common symptoms are fatigue, visual disturbances, altered sensation and difficulties with mobility (balance and walking).
This list features articles about improving balance, strength, and mobility.

Free From Falls : National Multiple Sclerosis Society

This eight module program is designed to increase your knowledge about risk factors associated with falls and provide you with strategies to reduce your risk of falling.

Exercises to Improve Balance for People With MS | Everyday Health

Balance problems caused by multiple sclerosis can make walking a challenge, but some simple exercises can help.

MS: Exercises for Better Balance and Coordination

Not only is exercise is a good way to improve some of the physical effects of MS, but it can also help you regain balance and coordination. Here are several moves you can try.

Improve Your Balance : National Multiple Sclerosis Society

In order to improve your balance, you may have to lose your balance! You CAN address balance problems by challenging them. By sticking to a program that is safe, yet pushes you to your limits, your balance can gradually improve.

5

Improve your balance and stability workout | Move more with MS

Improve your balance and stability workout | Move more with MS

Join Dom, Koz and Samia while they demonstrate some simple leg exercises that help teach you how to stabilise your body for better balance.

Balance Exercises For MS: 3 point Toe Touch

This is a great exercise to improve balance while changing directions. Often times, people with MS feel are fearful and non-confident in their body due to fe...

MS Yoga Balance

A short yoga practice that uses a chair for balance.

Body Balance Meditation — Meditation Oasis

A mind/body approach to physical balance.

Fun with imaging

I got my yearly brain and spine MRIs on Monday. I’m fine with being in a confined space for a significant amount of time (the whole thing takes about two hours). You even get music these days. I think they use Pandora. I chose music from the 80s. The 80s and the 90s were my eras for music by the way. I was treated to some Janet Jackson, Dream Academy, John Mellencamp, Duran Duran, Roxette, Chicago, Julien Lennon, and Power Station. There must have been more, but that’s what I can remember. I fell asleep for a little bit.

MRI on screen
Stock image of an MRI in progress

Anyway, the worst thing about the MRI experience is the feeling of nausea and sometimes near vomiting that happens when they inject the contrast. I warned them at the start and had the lab tech bring a receptacle for me just to be sure. She started the contrast and asked how I was feeling. I was okay. Then she said they had begun using a new formulation of the contrast that had fewer side effects. It was like a miracle. I did not feel any nausea. For once, this yearly check on the lesions on my brain and spine caused by MS was a reasonably okay experience. The worst part was having to get there at 8:00 in the morning.

The doctor’s office called on Tuesday to say everything looked stable. I’d say the three Copaxone injections each week are doing the trick. I’m hoping I can get on an MRI every five years schedule. If that’s a thing they do.

Three years until my first colonoscopy! Huzzah!

Thinking about the body

Yesterday

I’m at my local Planet Fitness recovering from my 20-minute treadmill walk and a smattering of strength training. I need this recovery period to get my legs working a little better. I’m uncomfortable crossing the road to get to my car.

Treadmills at Planet Fitness

Today

I’m at home on the couch continuing the post.

I’ve been thinking a lot about body image. I’ve gained weight over the last couple of years and I find myself not liking my body. I’m letting myself get worried about the food I eat. I feel guilty when I consume unnecessary sugar.

I don’t want to be that person.

My body has served me well for 47 years. I can say that even though I have MS. I could berate my body for betraying me, but I’ve gotten past those feelings (mostly).

I know from experience that a good way to improve body image is to use your body and appreciate how that makes you feel.

I sleep better at night on days I’ve worked out. My mood improves. I feel proud because I’m taking care of me.

I think if I focus on taking care of myself, the good feelings will follow. That means not worrying about every gram of sugar I ingest and letting my body rest when it needs to.

Funny how things become more clear when you write about them.

“Lighten up on yourself. No one is perfect. Gently accept your humanness.

Walking the walk

I can’t remember exactly when it was that I realized I forgot how to walk correctly. I don’t know that there is necessarily a “correct” way to walk, but a time came for me when walking didn’t feel natural. Now I know this was a symptom of my undiagnosed MS.

I looked for gait training resources on the internet. I picked up pointers from The Gait Guys, and Core Walking with Jonathan FitzGordon. I started to pay attention to the way my feet were striking the ground. I adjusted my posture. I tried to walk with my toes forward instead of turned out like a dancer. I thought about hip flexion, and arm swing, and hip rotation. All of this only served to make me more confused than ever. Trying to make your walk natural is probably the most unnatural thing you can do. It was for me.

The blogger at 2 or 3 years old
When walking was new and natural.

Now that I have an MS diagnosis and I understand why my walk is a little weird, I’m not as worried about it. I still try to be mindful of posture and heel strike. I have a little bit of foot-drop on the left side, so I make an effort to dorsiflex to reduce the risk of tripping and falling. I guess it’s possible that my body and brain have made adjustments to overcome the neural miscommunication that MS causes.

That being said, I still feel self-conscious about the way I walk. I tell myself that people are not watching my walk and judging me on it, but I also feel that people must be watching and judging.

Nothing to do but take life one step at a time.

Shopping blues

I tell people my MS symptoms aren’t that bad. Many people with the disease have it much worse than I do. All that is true, but for me it’s the small inconveniences that get me down.

Shop ’till I drop

Shopping for clothes used to be fun. I can’t count how many hours I spent with my mother in malls and big retail stores. I remember us going around looking for bargains on back-to-school wear. Designer jeans were a must for me in the early 80s. I owned the requisite headbands, neon sweatshirts, and even a pair of parachute pants.

Tangent

The blogger in 1980s attire.

I’m reminded of how much I loved paging through Seventeen Magazine. I thought that having the right clothes would make me feel the way the models looked. Unfortunately, trying to emulate those fashion models only led me to feel too fat and not pretty enough.

Anyway

These days shopping is difficult because MS fatigue makes it so. Things will be fine for the first 15 or 20 minutes of being in the store. If I know exactly what I’m looking for, I can make my purchases and get out without a problem.

Trip to Goodwill

I went to Goodwill the other day. The goal was to buy some jeans. I like shopping for clothes there because it feels like it’s somewhat removed from the sweatshop produced clothing that I might find in one of the popular chain stores.

So, I easily found some jeans (supposedly) in my size. I brought 5 pairs to the dressing room. Two fit and three did not. I was beginning to tire at this point, but I was on a mission.

I found another four pairs and went back to the dressing room. This time all of the selections fit (for the most part).

Now my legs are fairly fatigued and my balance is getting a little wobbly. The hard part was over, but I could use some tops. So now I’m browsing the shirt racks while holding six pairs of jeans. Luckily my husband is there to relieve me of my load while I continue shopping.

Finally, I decide to call it quits. We head to the checkout and stand in line. My walk to the car is slow and careful. Uneven surfaces are not my friend.

Time to go home and sit for about half an hour. I’ll have to rest before taking a shower, because that can take a lot out of me too.

Getting Social

Getting Social: Five people looking at their smartphones

The problem with social media

Let’s face it. Social media can be the worst. It has become a platform where people feel comfortable being awful to other human beings.

I had to get that mini-rant out of the way before talking about how useful social media can be.

It’s not all bad

There are a host of individuals and organizations who share interesting and useful information via social media. If you have a problem or concern, there’s a good chance that someone out there can offer advice or just listen to what you have to say.

I’ve decided to use my information wrangling skills (I have a degree) and put together a list of social media resources that might be useful to people whose lives have been touched by MS. I have the feeling this could turn into a series.

5 MS Related Twitter Accounts

  1. National MS Society nationalmssociety.org– Multiple sclerosis stops people from moving. We exist to make sure it doesn’t
  2. MS Brain Health @MSBrainHealth  – International consensus initiative to improve multiple sclerosis treatment & diagnosis. Time matters. 
  3. MS News Today @MSNewsToday – Multiple Sclerosis News Today is a digital news publication dedicated to offering comprehensive daily news coverage of MS.
  4. Shift.MS @shiftms – The social network for people with multiple sclerosis. Weekend tweets come from someone in the MS community.
  5. Modern Day MS @moderndayms – Stay here, learn about living with a chronic disease and communicate with people experiencing the same confusion, fatigue, and pain that you are.

So follow these tweeters if the mood strikes you. I’ll try and keep these social posts coming.