Archive for admin

Committing to Recovery

The hardest thing about getting well is making a total commitment to health.  I just listened to a seminar that said 95% of us have a chronic health problem that we would like to have disappear.  I don’t know how true that will feel for you as readers.  I know that for me, acne, an occasional asthma episode, and a tendency toward constipation didn’t feel like “chronic health problems.”  They were just inconveniences that could be addressed with medication.


My body had to pull out the “big guns” to get my attention.  When I received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, I was finally ready to admit I had a chronic health problem.  For five months I was a model patient for my neurologist.  Then I felt an internal shift and my body said “no” to treatments that “might keep me from getting worse.”  The treatments didn’t even help me feel better.  I wanted to be well.


I looked far and wide for a program that might get me there, trying several in succession.  When I found The Wahls Protocol (TWP), the requirements seemed insurmountable.  No bread, no cheese, no milk, no sugar, no corn . . . How on earth could anyone manage a diet like that?


Doctor Terry Wahls had been diagnosed with an incurable and progressive form of MS.  She was her own test subject while researching components of what would become The Wahls Protocol, identifying and using supplements, real food, exercise and other measures to improve her health.  Since she believed her doctor’s prognosis, she was surprised by significant signs of recovery.  Within months, she got out of her wheel chair and even began riding her bike.


Colleagues encouraged Dr. Wahls to develop a research program examining TWP.  Because it required so many challenging lifestyle changes, first she had to demonstrate that people could actually adopt it.  Only then was she able to begin formal investigations to show that The Protocol improves chronic diseases.


As I learned more about TWP, I began ad
ding supplements, eating more vegetables and avoiding bread.  At first, I saw no improvements; but I didn’t get worse. 


I yearned to do the things I’d done with ease before my diagnosis—like walking the 100 feet to the mailbox or bringing in the trash cans.  I could still shop for groceries because carts were always available.  The pleasure of shopping for clothes was gone.  Not only was it hard to find a cart, taking off and putting on clothes was complicated by lack of control of my legs.  Before I could finish trying on even one outfit, I would be completely exhausted. More than anything, I missed being able to walk outdoors in parks or on nature trails.  Not only did my feet seem to have a mind of their own, the heat of a summer day left me with no strength.  Nature had sustained me before MS, but now it was hard to be outside.


For two years I ate Wahls-consistent food, meditated, and eliminated toxins from my environment. Physical therapy five times a week was the most challenging, though after a year I began to feel stronger and to walk at home without a cane.  This was not the triumph of a giant ballet leap or earning a black belt in martial arts—but I enjoyed improvements and celebrated eight weeks without a fall.


Then I had a visit from a beloved cousin who had developed MS 20 years before I did.  She had undergone weight loss diets and mercury amalgam removal.  Still, every year, she lost more function and could no longer drive or walk.  She had recently been discharged from a care center because she’d stopped making progress in physical therapy.  Double vision made reading impossible, and problems with temperature left her miserable in both warm and cool environments.


I served her a Wahls compliant meal and described my success with the Protocol.  She seemed to like the food, but asked for sugar. I filled my sugar bowl and handed it to her.  With a trembling hand, she put five spoonfuls into her tea then dumped the remainder on her salad and ate it. Then, I watched as she leaned to the left and almost fell out of her chair because she was no longer able to sit upright without support.


In that moment, I made a full commitment to do everything in my power to get well, no matter what.

What would it take for you to make that commitment?

Taking back your Health: Listening to the Body


The United States is a world leader.  Nevertheless, our health is at risk.  Fully half of the population is either diabetic or pre-diabetic, a quarter has one or more autoimmune diseases, and other chronic conditions abound.  These statistics represent only the tip of the iceberg.  Many of us “don’t feel good” and are “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”  We label it “aging”—but is it really?  Looking at the elderly population makes it seem as though poor health is an inevitable part of growing old—but what if one could age without chronic illness?

We believed science could help, but “scientific findings” have supported many of the practices that currently make us sick.  While there is “good science,” published findings generally support marketing over health.  “Healthy” dietetic recommendations have included multiple servings of grain every day, limited the eggs we consume, limited the quality of good fat in our diets, and contributed to the increasing toxicity of our world and food supply.  Meanwhile, food manufacturers have added sugar, bad fats, and other addictive substances to our diets. Years of eating this way have left many of us with both obesity and poor nutrition.

I believe we can take back our vitality at any age by avoiding sugar and processed foods and listening to our bodies. The body’s job is to keep us healthy and on the right path.  It knows what helps or hinders.  Relying on the body as a guide can lead us to wellness and vibrancy.

Listening to the body, however, is an art.  The same marketing forces that misled us about food and healing have created a false sense of what listening really looks like.  Specifically, we expect immediate feedback from everything we do.  For example, when we take antibiotics, we usually know whether they are working within a day.  When we take stimulants or pain killers, we may see results in only 20 minutes.  By contrast, when we make lifestyle changes ranging from eating to exercise, the response from the body may take weeks. But the difference is notable—sustainable energy and vitality.

My decision to overcome a chronic illness allowed me to gain skills as a body listener.  I can offer the initial strategies to you as a road map.  We are all individuals, so some of my strategies may require adjustment to work for you.

This being said, see your medical doctor without delay if you have a severe physical injury, are bleeding profusely, cannot breathe, have a high fever, horrible pain, or are experiencing a possibly life-threatening emergency.  For these issues, seeing a medical doctor for acute care can save your life; for most other concerns, just listen to your body.

Five early steps of body-listening 

  1. Assume all sensations and emotions are valid communications.
  2. Bodies don’t communicate in your spoken language but with physical and emotional sensations—the body’s vocabulary.  Rather than reaching for drugs to relieve an ache or coffee to reduce fatigue, be curious and wait quietly.  What is the body trying to say?
  3. Place these sensations in context by recognizing when they occurred, how strong they are, how long they last, what you were doing when they started and how they changed as your behavior or situation changed.  Include factors like medications, exercise, food you ate and water you drank.  This will help you understand the message.
  4. Try changing your immediate behavior, watching comedy, or listening to music you love. The body has strong opinions about everything.  Remember the boundless energy of your first infatuation or how tired you felt when you struggled to complete a boring or time- wasting task?  Sometimes sensations are merely your body’s “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.”  If changing your behavior or thinking changes how you feel, you are closer to understanding the body’s message.
  5. When you ask your body if something helps, do not expect an immediate answer.  It takes time before exercise leads to stamina and strength or nutrients lead to discernable differences in the way you look or feel.

This month, I challenge you to experiment with listening to your body as a way to start reclaiming your health.  Use the first two steps.  Before you reach for coffee or a pain medication, recognize it as a communication and stop to ask the body to clarify its message.  Fatigue or pain may be legitimate complaints that suggest a need for behavioral change.  Getting more sleep may be inconvenient—but sleep is when the body heals.

Healing with Food Part 2

Changing Directions

DIET is a four letter word.  Most diets work in the short run.  Nevertheless there’s a huge problem.  Specifically, following any weight-loss diet, within a year, over 93% of people gain back more weight than they lost.  Even a person who experiences significant health improvements from working with something like the Wahls Protocol often returns to their old style of eating, losing their gains.

What does it take to be successful?

Again, it comes down to who we are as eaters.  Success is almost always associated with a major internal change that places us on the right path. In the process, we succeed but we don’t diet.  We align with our core motivation and change our lifestyles and our lives.

I need to speak frankly, even at the risk of being self-serving.  Any change of eating habits is difficult—often so daunting that people give up before they even try.  In the last few weeks several of my associates have confessed that they are “addicted” or they “like dessert too much.”  All they are really saying is, “I can’t do it alone,” or “things (my body, my health) aren’t bad enough yet.”

Some people even look at me like I’m crazy to suggest that change is possible. But anything is possible with the right motivation and support.  I know.  I found my way back from multiple sclerosis, slipping into a healthier looking body than I’d ever imagined. Recovering lost functions, however, is a work in progress.

At first it was hard for me to admit that I needed support.  After all, I’d eaten all my life without help.  Then I attended “Terry Wahls’ Quick Start,” sections 1-3 for diet coaching and I began working with a rehabilitation therapist to regain my walking ability.  I am lucky in that my multiple sclerosis came to me as a core motivation.

Your health challenge might be your motivation, too—or maybe your motivation is something even bigger.  Either way, it’s worth exploring.

Healing with Food: Part 1

Your Personal Contribution

          The Center for Disease Control reported that in 2012, half of all people had one or more chronic diseases.  These illnesses are disabling and largely “incurable,” meaning doctors cannot cure them.  Some people may even feel blamed for becoming sick when doctors challenge their smoking, drinking too much, or not exercising. 


Yet the truth is, even where there is no cure, healing is always possible. 


To heal, good nutrition is essential. The body will fix itself when it has adequate building blocks. However, nutritious food choices are not enough; we can only be nourished by what we digest and assimilate—and that requires attention to our state of mind.  Being excited (eustress) or upset (distress) interferes with assimilation.  All stress shuts down digestive processes, and the nutritional cost may be as high as losing 40% of the nutrients we ingest. Stress has no place at the table.


Thus, the first step in using food for healing is to be able to leave “flight or fight” or excitement behind, leaving the body in “rest and digest mode,” a state of physical and psychological safety.

Strategies to Rest and Digest

1.        Take five to ten deep, slow, diaphragmatic breaths before your first mouthful–becoming conscious of your intention to eat and heal.

2.        Slow your eating.  The body requires at least twenty minutes to recognize that it has eaten at all.

3.        Eat with family or good friends and keep the conversations uplifting.

4.        Make the atmosphere feel good.  Be aware of background sights and sounds.  Music may be preferable to the news.

5.        Avoid multitasking.  Instead, taste and smell your food.  Chew it.  Feel it.  Enjoy it.  Think of pleasure as a nutrient!

“Each Patient Carries his doctor inside him.”   Norman Cousins
Anatomy of an Illness

 

Learning to Walk

Though the MS diagnosis did not come until 2009, walking challenges struck in 2002—probably 10 years into the disease.  Two years later, when my friend told me: “Get a scooter, you need to stop falling,” I knew from experience that each “benefit” related to my handicap cost more than I was willing to pay—and I don’t mean monetarily.  I understood her intentions;  she cared about me and I was barely mobile with a cane. But my life was incomplete.  I’m not finished.   I’m still not done!

In the time between my diagnosis and The Wahls Protocol,  I read about and tried a slew of non-medical treatments including HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen treatment), NAET (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique), the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet, Reiki, Yoga, acupuncture, hippo Therapy (horseback riding), chiropractic adjustments, tapping (EFT and TFT), meditation, psychotherapy and massage.  I read about (and took) a variety of supplements that promised to help.  I even ended relationships with people who didn’t believe in my recovery.  Each activity seemed to help, but my walking ability continued to decline.

By the time The Wahls Protocol was published in 2014, all it took to adapt the diet were to eat more vegetables and stop eating yogurt.  No problem!  On the other hand, I was slow to notice changes.  I’d been doing a lot of things right for a long time.  I added physical exercise to my routine—dance steps to Latin music. I seemed to have more energy and fewer leg cramps, but I still couldn’t walk well.

Later in 2014, I participated in the internet coaching offered by Terry Wahls and Leanne Ely.  Moving to Wahls Paleo and Paleo Plus was easy for me.  Then, during the third set of lectures, I finally understood what Terry had always said; if I wanted to walk, I’d need an expert to help me.

That’s when I found Greg English, a rehabilitation therapist with 30 years’ experience in addressing neurological problems ranging from strokes and traumatic brain injury, to MS and Parkinson’s disease.  His mission to take people from the end of physical therapy to well without charging them more than they can bear opened the doors to hope and inspiration.

Among his MS clients, I was still in good shape.  I could still drive and navigate independently, albeit slowly, into the gym. In our first session, he put me on the treadmill where I walked for almost 2 minutes at .5 mph.  He conveyed confidence that I could achieve my goals—whatever they might be.  Thus began what seems like a never ending process I call “Learning to Walk.”

Do date, I’ve stayed with him for 16 months watching people come and go.  Recovery requires dedication and consistency—things that are difficult for people with neurological problems. I didn’t think about those qualities much before I saw people stop progressing because they stopped showing up.  I’ve wondered why I could hang in there along with a handful of extraordinary people who, guided by vision and determination, are willing to pursue “impossible goals.”  What I brought to this effort is a recognition that anything worth pursuing does not come easily, coupled with the awareness that hard work can overcome limitations.

I’ve already achieved two “impossible goals”—a hike up Mt. Rubidoux last April and a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving—both with the help of walking sticks and encouragement of a friend.   Additionally, I obtained certification as an Eating Coach from the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and am studying to be a Wahls coach.

Presently, I am in training for the third “impossible goal”—walking the Carlsbad 5000 in April 2016 without sticks.  The 5K is not my real goal—but a context for what I really want—to walk and teach others how to choose and stay on a path that leads to vitality.   More than anything, I want to inspire others to keep showing up to their challenges.  For that, I’m learning to walk.

The wall at Greg's gym

The wall at Greg’s gym

RECOVERING FUNCTIONING

RECOVERING FUNCTION

Recently, a friend said “You look so much better. When you’re well, you can show others the way.”

I almost said–no one is interested. And what can one person offer, really?

Then, I realized everything has changed.  Healing is always possible.  I am an example.

2013-01-08_20-54-45_775

 

 

Me with sons at our Christmas function 2011.  The tired look was all I could manage–ever.

 

 

Nevertheless, wellness and vitality were goals I hadn’t realized since 2002. From 2009 (my official diagnosis) to 2014, I tried yoga, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, the GAPS diet, Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET), chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, Reiki, hippo therapy (horse-back riding), tapping–EFT, and TFT.  I researched supplements, and took every one that I believed would help.  My efforts recovered some energy and slowed my decline.

In December 2013, I saw Terry Wahls, MD 2011 TED-X talk about recovering from MS–secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. She was in a reclining wheelchair when she started her road to recovery.

For Christmas, my younger son gave me the Jawbone “Up” so that I could monitor my sleep and steps. I started with five hours of sleep and 2000 salsa steps–I couldn’t do real ones.

Then, a miracle: I discovered that Dr. Wahls published The Wahls Protocol. She also has a website: terrywahls.com. Kindles are wonderful. I had her book within 7 minutes, and read it through in a day and a half.

I suspected that more than food was involved to get her out of the wheelchair. I’m grateful she explained her history in detail, including exercise, stress reduction, e-stim and more–purpose and direction.

I started the Wahls protocol on March 31, 2014.

The Wahl’s protocol is challenging. I used “The Quick Start Program” to get fully on board.  My vegetable consumption, generous for a Standard American Diet, tripled. I focused strongly on increasing quality of food.  Once I thought food would replace supplements–but that has not been entirely true.  By the end of the level three quick start, I was using Wahls Paleo Plus, the most intensive part of the diet.

I began rehabilitation therapy directed toward my walking in September of 2014.  On a treadmill, I managed 5 minutes of real steps at .5 mph. Regular exercise enhanced my sleep.  The transformed lifestyle is working for me. I want to tell everyone to do Wahls–but I recognize that many will not choose it. It takes time for it to show effects, and stopping means losing the gains made.

From the day I was diagnosed with MS, one thought has carried me:

I’m not done yet! 

 

Wahls Warrior since 3/31/14

Hiked 1.5 miles up and down Mt. Rubidoux in Riverside, 4/10/15.

Received a certificate from the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, 10/4/15.

IMG_0554

 

 

Here I am with Marc David, the founder and head of the Institute.

 

 

 

 

Began Wahls Coaching Training Program in October 2015

Participated in a 5K, a turkey trot on Thanksgiving 2015.

Currently establishing business as an Eating Psychology Coach.

IMG_1198

Welcome to my blog

This blog started as I discovered that a diagnosis of MS  was not a one-way downhill course.  During my struggle to regain physical functionality, I discovered that by eating right, I could recover vibrancy, vitality, hope, and perspective.

My mission is to share what I learned and show by example that healing is always possible.

 

April Wursten–“Wahls Warrior” since March 31, 2014.