Friday, 3 November 2017

The challenges of losing weight with Multiple Sclerosis

I'm on a mission. A mission to lose weight.

Since being diagnosed in 2001, the weight has crept up until I can no longer ignore it. I feel bloated, uncomfortable and miserable, and I have finally tipped into the bracket of having a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30, which is considered obese.

But enough is enough. If I'm not careful, I'm going to continue putting weight on and on, and continue to normalise it by just buying bigger clothes and laughing it off. I know deep down though that I won't be happy that way. And I should say now that it's not a vanity thing. I've gotten used to my curves, and quite like them, but no, the reason I want to lose weight is purely for practical reasons. I know that if I am lighter it will make things easier. I'll have more energy and it will undoubtedly make things easier with the kids. I've reached the point where getting up off the floor is becoming difficult, which is never a good look. Picture if you will, a tortoise trying to get up after it's been rolled over. That's me. Okay okay....I'm exaggerating. After all I'm not THAT big. But it's the psychological boundaries that are the hard thing. I'm starting to feel self-conscious.

So what to do?
To lose weight you just eat less calories and do more exercise, right?
But that's the hard thing. What if doing more exercise is challenging? And how many calories should I be eating anyway?


Let's start with calories. The first thing I did on this quest to lose weight, was find out how many calories I should actually be having a day. I used a BMR calculator, which calculates your Basal Metabolic Rate. The interesting thing about the BMR is that, going on your age, weight and height, it shows you how many calories you burn if you were just resting over 24 hours (ideal for someone with MS).
This is a useful thing to know because we're always told that the recommended calorie intake is 2000 for women and 2500 for men. But if like me, you aren't burning many, you're bound to put on weight if you stick the recommended amount of calories.

For example, my BMR came out about 1500 calories a day (using the FitnessPal calculator, found here), which is all I should be consuming on a rest day when I'm unable to get any exercise. Needless to say I haven't been doing that, so it's no wonder the weight has crept on!

So I figured that as a basic starting point now I know my BMR is 1500, I should always try to stick to that as a maximum, then any exercise I manage to do or fewer calories I consume, is going to be a good thing. I've been using the FitnessPal app to enter in what I've been eating to keep track of my calories which has been a great help (though I confess that at first it was a bit of a gets easier though).


So how to increase the exercise when I'm not feeling good. I have to manage my fatigue, so if I decided to do some walking for example, I need to weigh up how much energy I'm going to be left with. My solution was trying to build up my exercise in late afternoon or evening. I started by making sure I try and walk the dog every afternoon, and have found that with each day and as my strength builds up, I can manage a bit more every week. I've even manage to work my way up to climbing some hills which is a real achievement! I know that if I walk the dog in the evening and come back tired, I don't have long until it's bedtime anyway, so it's manageable.
I've also learnt that doing a little bit can go further than you think, so don't feel like you will never be able to do enough. Just do what you can and don't stress about it.

I've realised that losing weight with a condition like MS is all about the long-term. There are no quick fixes here. A manic exercise regime coupled with a fad diet just isn't going to work in this case, so it's best to set yourself some realistic goals. I've given myself a year to lose weight and get as close as I can to the 'normal' BMI bracket for my height, which is about 10 and a half stone. That means a year to lose 2 stone, or 28 pounds. If I try to even lose a pound a week, I'll be on track, so I'm definitely celebrating the small victories. A pound a week for some might be disheartening, but for me it's all heading in the right direction.

So far I've lost half a stone, and I've just started following the Blood Sugar Diet to kick start my healthy eating, and curb my love of sugar. It's about cutting back on carbohydrates and obvious sugars, and increasing the amount of protein you eat - as well as following a more 'Mediterranean diet' (more fish, meat, healthy oils and veg). I'm averaging a pound or two loss a week now, and I do feel better in myself already. I've promised myself that even if the weight doesn't fully come off, I'll carry on eating this way.

So to recap how to tackle weight loss with MS I recommend trying these few tips out:

- Set yourself a realistic long term goal to strive for.
- Work out your Basal Metabolic Rate so you know your personal recommended amount of calories. Try to use that as a maximum for calorie intake.
- Use an app or website like FitnessPal to keep track of your calories for the day. If this isn't possible, at the very least keep an honest food diary. Writing things down might make you think twice about picking up that chocolate certainly did with me!
- Try changing to a Mediterranean diet and start cutting back the carbs and filling up on protein and veg instead.
- Don't beat yourself up about having a bad diet day. The way I see it I have a year long goal so the odd bad day isn't going to hurt...and it's good for the soul occasionally!

If you have any comments or tips yourself, do put them below. When it comes to weight loss, we're all in this together. We can do it! :)

Me after managing to get up the hill!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Self-Induced Relapse

Ah, the havoc kids parties can create. Not only is the house a tip afterwards, but they shake me right to the core. Lib was 6 the other day, and we had not one, but two parties for her - a family one, and a friends one. I remember last year saying I would never do two again, but low and behold I did not heed my own words this year.

I love them, I really do, but the planning, executing and aftermath takes it toll. I did a hell of a lot of baking (which again, I love) but that ultimately means a lot of standing in one place. Not good for the MS! Or in other words - strike 1. Then there’s the running around at the actual parties - strike 2 for the MS.
Strike 3 comes from the bipolar. Running on adrenaline and manically planning things means I tend to become too high because my body can’t regulate things properly. And what comes up, must come down, so after everything was done, I crashed on an epic scale and ended up in bed for nearly 3 days. I became tingly and fatigued, and was suffering from exhaustion and depression. So yeah, another example of how everything takes it’s toll.

It wasn’t a serious relapse, so I didn’t get in touch with the MS team and I knew what it all stemmed from, but in my mind it was what I like to think of as a minor-relapse. One that will ultimately get better after a few days of rest. And it did, so everything is fine. But it did get me thinking about how fragile life with MS can be. Just a simple thing like organising a birthday can derail things on an epic scale. But how am I meant to cope with life as a Mum of two kids and still maintain an even keel on my MS? Life with kids is hectic, and not exactly predictable. I guess the answer is help. Asking for it, which I confess I’m really bad at doing, and accepting it when it’s offered. Plus, and perhaps more importantly, I need to accept that perhaps I can’t do what ‘normal’ Mum’s can do. Working around this is going to be tricky for me, mainly because it means that at 6, Lib is now old enough to take on board things that are explained to her. So is it finally time to have a ‘conversation’ with her, or do I just carry on casually mentioning my MS in passing in the hope that it sinks in? It’s a tricky one for sure.

Cake cake cake

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Autumn has arrived...

Great British Bake Off on? Check.
Considering putting on the heating? Check.
Raided the jumper box under the bed? Check.

Yep...Autumn is officially here.
My favourite season!
My body literally gives a sign of relief when it gets cooler. But great things have occurred this year..after all I've managed to go through Spring and Summer without having another relapse!
Tysabri must be working wonders. It's such a nice feeling to think that I'm on some drugs that are actually helping now. They do tire me out after I've had had the infusion, but that's a small price to pay for a drug this good. My one fear is that one day I'll be positive for the JC virus though. If you remember, the JC virus is a dormant virus that, when it becomes active, greatly increases my chances of getting PML (a brain infection). Because of the way Tysabri works, the body can't fight the infection and so PML can lead to severe disability or death. Often people remain on Tysabri even though they become positive for the JC virus, because the chances of getting PML are still 1 in 1000. But as it's 1 in 10000 at the moment, that's quite a leap, and one I'm not sure I'd be willing to take by carrying on with Tysabri. I guess it's not worth thinking about now, after all it may never happen, but I confess it has been in the back of my mind recently.

Back to the hear and now though, and I'm glad that we're starting to get back into a routine as a family too. Lib has started back at school (as Year One!) and Ed is still enjoying nursery, thank goodness, so things are ticking along nicely. This Saturday we managed a day trip to Bath to go the Egg Theatre to see Sarah and Duck. There was much walking and a bit of standing around, namely on the train, but I managed it. That being said though, I was in bed the following day, and limping the day after that. I guess it's still swings and roundabouts at the moment. It was nice to get out and have a family day together though. We just need to find that balance between having a nice day out, but one that doesn't tire me out too much :)

Oooh....I've had another guest blog post published on the MS-UK website. They have asked me to contribute once a month, which has really perked me up because I've had complete writers block recently. Even writing this has been a challenge.
The link to the blog post is here: Summer Holiday Musings
I shall persevere though. I've been writing children's books too, and as I'm getting better with each one, I'm hoping that one day I'll be able to be published. That's the dream anyway. It just seems like a bit of an uphill struggle at the moment. Onwards and upwards though!

Ed loved his first train journey!!