Hi! Thanks for reading. If you haven’t read my first post, “The Journey So Far”, please do.
I mentioned in that first post that regarding my MS, it all comes down to managing symptoms. At that time, I had no idea what that even meant. I’ve since figured that out. It means that every day is going to be a fight. Every day I have to make a choice – to either get up and fight or stay in bed and give up.
MS has no cure. My lesions can’t be surgically repaired. They are unwelcome guests that are here to stay. What it comes down to is fighting each day through diet, exercise, and medication, with hopes that they stay dormant. By the grace of God, I have been in remission going on 18 months and counting.
I am not a health nut. I won’t pretend to be and won’t act like one. What I will tell you though, is that the diet changes that we have made as a family, and regular exercise has helped tremendously. I hated the thought of working out at first, and if it wasn’t for a friend dragging me to get started, I wouldn’t have. Ben, I will be eternally grateful for your persistence, and your friendship.
We started off with the diet changes, and talk about a rude awakening! Kristen has been gluten fee for a few years now, but that only impacted Carter and I at dinner time. I married a fantastic cook, so I didn’t mind at all – dinner is always fantastic, and I could still eat what I wanted for breakfast and lunch. My office has food ALL.THE.TIME, so I could eat all the donuts and pizza that I wanted (even for lunch)! Now imagine my dismay when my Neurologist recommended that I join Kristen in going 100% gluten free! Being an Italian, I live on bread and pasta! I had to decide what was more important, and the thought of another flare up was enough motivation to convince me that food isn’t worth it, not even a still warm maple bacon donut from Duck Donuts ☹!
I was a MAJOR sceptic at first, but Kristen did a ton of research – finding recipes online and finding out what the best gluten free brands were. After a month or two of struggling with weekly food prep and the new food budget, we managed to get into a good groove. It’s no wonder that people don’t eat healthy. With how expensive fresh fruits and vegetables are, on top of all the gluten free stuff, we were in sticker shock at the grocery bill! One plug I will make, is for our Instant Pot. It was a Christmas gift, and it has made our lives SO much easier. It is basically an electric pressure cooker, and it cuts down on cooking time by a ton! If you need some help making dinner prep easier, look in to this!
I’m not 100% sure how much of a difference going gluten free made by itself, but the combination of that and cutting out junk food and soda has been huge. I’ve lost close to 30lbs over the past year or two just by doing those two things. Soda was the real kicker for me. I was a Mt. Dew ADDICT. I mean, usually 2, 20 ouncers a day. And not the fake diet junk either! You want to see a change? Quit drinking soda and energy drinks. If you can get through the withdrawal period, you will feel a TON better. Still, after all that, I knew I had to get to the gym. Muscle loss is coming – there’s no way to stop it, but I can slow it down.
I worked out a little bit in high school, but was never comfortable, and I certainly didn’t see any muscle added to my skinny self. It was my senior year, and I switched from playing soccer to football. Now at the time, I was barely 130 pounds soaking wet. My coach had to list me at 160lbs on the roster, so I wouldn’t get laughed at by other teams! For those of you that didn’t know me back then (circa fall of 2001), it was an absolute ridiculous sight to see me in pads and a helmet. Due to my years playing soccer, the team recruited me to be the place-kicker. Let’s just say that being in the school weight room with a bunch of guys twice my size, and already pushing 200 pounds on the bench press was a little intimidating. I remember doing squats one time, and couldn’t stand back up. Our captain had to come grab me around the waist and get me back standing straight. Talk about being embarrassed! So that was my first experience with weight training. #fail
I was a little anxious about getting back in to a gym. Isn’t it always that way when you are starting something new, or doing something for the first time? I didn’t want to embarrass myself, and I was convinced that my body was physically incapable of building muscle. Regardless, I had to decide. Either get over myself and commit to going, or give up and let those 4 lesions do what they wanted. I chose to fight back.
I’m not going to bore you with workout routines, and proper form and all that mess – because I’m not perfect at it, and I’m not a health nut. All I’m saying is that I made a choice to get myself in better shape through strength training. A couple guys and I meet up at the gym 2-3 times a week for an hour or two. It was REALLY hard at first, and I thought I was going to die because my body hurt so bad. Every step, every cough, I mean I couldn’t even scratch my nose without a muscle somewhere in my body screaming at me. I’m pretty sure I found muscles that I never knew existed. It took a couple of months, but the soreness finally lessened with each time back. That’s one thing about exercise – you have to keep it up! Doing something every other month or two will do you no good, and you will hurt every time. Another tid-bit – results are not instant. I am an impatient person, and I wanted to see results right away! I had to set goals and adjust my expectations so that I wouldn’t get frustrated. Now I’m not quite ready to walk around proudly without a shirt on, but I am making progress! There is a sign in the gym that reads – 4 weeks for you to notice a difference, 8 weeks for your family to notice a difference, and 12 weeks for the rest of the world. I need to remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint!
Now not everyone needs to become a gym rat or wants to look like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (#lifegoal), but ALL of us could use more exercise. This whole post is just my personal experience to tell you that it works! Kristen has mentioned multiple times that my mood swings (MS related) are not nearly as often, and that I just seem to be in a better mood, compared to before. That alone is worth it, as I had some pretty rough moments of flying off the handle – usually directed at Scout when he’d do something stupid. Point being - getting active has more than just physical benefits. It can reduce stress, anxiety, and can just overall improve your mood.
So, the question is, what is your motivation? I didn’t have a choice really. My life literally depended on me making a change. Thankfully, most of you aren’t in that drastic of a situation. You may not have MS, but there are plenty of other health issues that can be caused by being overweight, or not eating healthy. High blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease. If cost is an issue, don’t worry about joining a gym. You can also check with your employer. Many companies now have reimbursement programs for joining a gym. If that still doesn’t work, there are exercises that you can do at home – push-ups, planks, leg raises, step ups, etc. etc. Do a quick Google search for “at home exercises”, there are plenty of ideas for all fitness levels. Spring is coming, so call some friends and go for a walk a few times a week. Map out a mile or two around your neighborhood, take your dogs, and go enjoy the weather (unless you live in Syracuse). The key is to just do something! Get up off your duffs, get your heart rate up, and break a sweat!
We are all busy, I know. I’m telling you though that we can’t afford to not take better care of ourselves. Don’t wait until you have a health issue that forces you into it. Make a conscious decision to make a change. Something small at first – less soda, less junk food, or add more fruit/vegetables to your diet. Baby steps, one thing at a time. Set some reasonable goals for yourself, and make the decision to work toward them! If I can do it, so can you!