The Big Secret

Thanksgiving couldn't have come at a better time for me this year.

For the first time in my life, I feel good. I feel good every day and after 8+ years of suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, I'd say this time in my health is something to be really thankful for. 

If you've been following my journey, you know I can't stop talking about my progress. I've been losing weight, feeling energized, and I haven't had any MS symptoms in weeks! I've mentioned repeatedly that it has to do with stress management and happiness exercises and you're probably wondering what that means. Today, I'm going to tell you.

When I came back from Peru last year, I felt stressed.
While I was away, I focused on stress management and healing. I practiced being patient with myself and focusing on feeling calm and it was the first time in years that I actually felt physically good. I came back feeling healthier and thinner than I'd ever been and I was afraid to go back to my old routine. That fear turned to worry and worry turned to stress. I turned to my old coping mechanisms, cheating and binge eating, and I panicked that I was losing my self control. 

Here I was, well educated about food and illness, already having lost almost 160 lbs, yet still lingering in the candy aisle of the supermarket. Cheating and binging led to more stress which inevitably led to an MS flare up and a 30 lb increase on the scale. 

It took over a year to bounce back from that flare and I've kept the weight on as well. I struggled to emulate all I could about how I ate and exercised in Peru, but I couldn't figure out what the secret was. Was it that I only ate 3 meals per day without snacks? Was it the low impact cardio all through the day from sightseeing? Was it the fact that I ate mostly vegan? None of it worked and I've been driving myself crazy wondering why the scale wouldn't budge or why my symptoms keep flaring. 

Finally, I decided to go back and read the journal I kept in Peru.
As soon as I opened it, it was like my past self was screaming at me.

I highlighted over and over again how I need to stop stressing.

How I feel better when I'm calm.
How happy I am when my mind isn't racing.
I knew the answer the whole time, I just had to remind myself. 

According to stress.org and the APA, about 48% of Americans lie awake at night because of stress which affects us physiologically, mentally, and emotionally. Chronic stress creates imbalances in the nervous system and has a direct impact on our ability to lose weight, manage symptoms of inflammatory illnesses, and could potentially be the reason why more symptoms are popping up! We're taught that being stressed is just a part of life but most of us haven't learned the tools on how to manage our stress and we're getting sicker and heavier every day. 

I've done the research and a few months ago, I decided to put my hypothesis into action. If I can strengthen my stress management defense physically and mentally, infuse positivity into my routine and use brain training (daily mental exercises) to change my mindset - I should be able to balance my nervous system and regain control of my health and happiness. 

I was right. 

It feels like a dream. Every day, I feel a little better and, especially within the last few weeks, it is clear to me that this is the missing piece to my puzzle. By monitoring my stress levels and patiently taking action steps to prevent myself from getting overwhelmed with stress, I've lost 15 of the 30 lbs I gained and haven't experienced any MS symptoms in the past few weeks! Even though I knew how to eat and exercise, I needed to build the muscle in my brain to more effectively combat stress and I feel confident that I will continue to feel better as long as I continue on this path. 

I'm starting my newsletter and blog now because, in my gut, I know, I have to share what I've learned with people who are suffering. I spent years trying to find the answer and it turns out, slowing down and becoming mindful of my actions was the answer I needed to finally find relief and hope for a happy healthy life. I'm excited to continue writing about my experience, tangible ways to reduce stress in your life, and different facts, features, and stories to help you understand how stress is impacting your health. 

There is hope.

It's time to start feeling better and live your life, without the weight. 

Is Weight Loss Really Your Goal?

I’ve never been this happy. What a shame that I didn’t put the work into myself before.

Think about WHY you want to lose weight, why you need to get healthier, and then work towards that goal. 

I wanted to lose weight because I wanted to be thinner. I wanted to be thinner because I was told it would make me more attractive, more successful, and as a result of that, I would be happier.

See? My goal wasn’t weight loss. It was to feel happy.

Weight loss was simply the vehicle I needed to get me to the goal. Of course, my car takes nutrition and fitness to get it moving but eventually, I find myself stalled out, lost, and feeling desperate. 

I get frustrated but stay the course. Shoving food and exercise down into the gas tank but since I don’t realize that I’m not going to weight loss land and if I don’t know that I need to end up at happiness city, how will I ever know how to get there?

So if you have the fuel, the ability, and you’re still feeling stuck, look at the big picture. Are you stressed? Are you angry? Are you depressed? Your feelings are the speed bumps, pot holes, and road blocks to life and if you can’t get through them, you’ll never be able to reach your final destination.

I want you to reach your true destination like I have. Stop making weight loss your goal and let it simply be your ride.

Sharing My Birthday (Tomorrow!) with World MS Day

World MS Day falls on my birthday this year. May 25th, 2016.

May 25th has always been a strange day for me. It felt like this "no rules, no consequences" day where I could allow myself to eat whatever I wanted, guilt free. A get out of jail free card, if you will.

I would "save up" cravings and plan my birthday around the food I wanted to eat. I needed to get in my favorites, the foods I always had to give up when starting a diet: Ice cream, pad thai, cafe con leche with toast (born and raised in Miami, dale!)... The pressure was on to get it all in. I made it a point to gorge myself because I didn't know when I'd eat them again, May 26th has always been my restart day.

I've shared 6 birthdays with my diagnosis and this year, it falls on World MS Day. When I think back to each birthday, I can see my illness progressing. The first year, my 21st birthday, I had muscle spasms and stiffness. This was also when I was at my biggest weight and still ate whatever I wanted that day.

Me on my 21st birthday, crown and all!

Me on my 21st birthday, crown and all!

Each year, the symptoms were worse. On May 25th, 2012, my 22nd birthday, I suffered the worst flare I've ever had to date. It began at 3am and lasted for 19 hours. My party was cancelled and I spent the day in severe pain and drugged by the pharmacy in my nightstand. That was the first birthday where I simply didn't eat at all.

I'll gloss over the next few years, highlighting mobility loss, chronic pain, optic neuritis, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, fatigue, numbness, sensory dysfunction and more.

I've spent every single birthday fighting a smile through symptoms because, well, I had MS and this was all "normal", according to my neurologist.

It seems fitting that this birthday, my 27th, shares its celebration with World MS Day because after 6 miserable birthdays, I fought back and took control of my life.

I made myself my first priority and implemented the Overcoming MS (OMS) diet plan. I diligently took up meditating, exercise, positive thinking exercises, supplements, healthy relationships, and stress relief techniques.

Now, with my 7th birthday with this diagnosis I am happy to report that I have lost over 155 lbs and have lessened or eliminated most of my symptoms. I felt well enough this year that I even quit my job to travel, hiking mountains in Peru and meditating on Lake Titicaca.

I am proud to share my birthday this year with World MS Day because they are both well worth celebrating. This year, I'll definitely be eating whatever I want on my birthday, but these days my favorites look a little different... and I now I get 365 days of guilt free eating as opposed to one.

My birthday cake in 2015 - Made entirely of fruit. 

My birthday cake in 2015 - Made entirely of fruit. 

Happy birthday to me and happy World MS day to us all. I'll be celebrating big for both this year because I can, and that means more to me than I could ever explain.
 

Binge Eating and Sugar Addiction

Photo from: Prevention.com

Photo from: Prevention.com

This week, I cheated on my diet after barely cheating for the past two years. I had a friend in town from high school and even though I know it isn't an excuse, I just wanted to feel normal again with her. So we ate pizza, chocolate, ice cream, and chips. 

I didn't even realize how bad it was until I just typed it out. Yikes!

That being said, I did the deed and I'm fessing up, but after all that time of eating perfectly clean, it's good to see how eating poorly can affect my body. 

First of all, some symptoms are flaring, mostly a burning sensation on the bottom of my feet. It's a pain I don't feel often anymore but I remember it well. Not pleasant. My fatigue is back as well and I feel bloated and physically irritated. Theres clearly a correlation between what I eat and how I feel but I'm always surprised for some reason when my MS reacts so quickly!

What alarmed me more than the symptoms was my mental reaction. After my friend left, I knew I needed to get my head on straight, but I couldn't stop obsessing over food. I kept fantasizing about chips, cookies, soda, and chocolate, to the point where I found myself in the parking lot of a supermarket trying to return a movie but needing to give myself a quick pep talk before going in. 

"You don't need anything from here. Go in, return the movie, and leave. It's simple."

It's not simple. 

I returned the movie but I also roamed the aisles for the next 30 minutes. Knowing that I wanted something but unsure of what that something was. My mind was begging me to leave the store and my body clearly doesn't want to eat this way so why was I having such a struggle? 

I found this video to better understand it: 

In the end, I was strong and didn't buy anything. Still, the idea that indulging for a couple of nights can take such a toll on my physical and mental state makes me realize how addictive and detrimental these foods are. 

So how can we overcome the addiction? 

Here are some tips that I use to crush the cravings, try them and let me know if they work for you!

1. Cut out sugar. I know, it sucks. I love the taste of sugar too, but the truth is, it's killing us and making us crazy. Processed foods, sugar substitutes, and carbs that breakdown into simple sugars are included. 

2. Eat fresh fruit. Have you ever realized how sweet fruit is? I hadn't until I stopped getting so much sugar from other sources.

3. Stay hydrated. I know my cravings are worse when I don't drink enough water. It's so simple, yet an incredibly powerful tool! 

4.  Focus on why you're doing this. Mindset is key. Create a mantra that empowers you and repeat it to yourself as many times as you need. I like to use "Why not you?"... people do incredible things daily, why not you? 

5. Remember the 3 day rule. Sugar cravings are tough and a lot of people go through withdrawal symptoms (makes sense, check out that video above). Luckily, most people report withdrawal relief after 3 days. 

So, I'm ready to jump back on the horse. Seeing the effects of from these past couple of days has made me realize how bad that food makes me feel - physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

Who's with me? 

Xoxo,

Carolyn Rachel

Hello, New Friend!

If you're reading this, you've probably had your fair of ups and downs.

Perhaps its been a struggle with weight loss, a never ending rotation of spikes and losses. 

Maybe you're here because you have a chronic illness and you've had it all the way up to HERE with the medications. You need something more but you don't know where to find it. 

Maybe you're struggling with both. 

I've been there. I understand. I sat in line at taco bell, gorging my life away on deliciously spiced mystery meat, I would go weeks without exercising, and I simply didn't want to stop snacking on Doritos and Diet Coke. I wanted to feel healthy and eat like crap but it just wasn't working. I was getting sicker by the minute and doing more damage to my body than I could even comprehend. 

By my 22nd birthday, I weighed close to 360 lbs and my body broke down. My Multiple Sclerosis had flared so intensely, I lost the ability to walk, I lost feeling on my entire right side, and I lost the strength in my dominant hand. That was the relapse where everything changed. 

I said NO to that life. NO to obesity. NO to chronic pain. 

Through years of experience, research, advocating, and speaking, I've figured out that you can absolutely change your situation. I've dedicated my life to healing myself and now that I've come so far, I feel very passionate about helping others feel better too!

My proof is in my past:

I went from not being able to walk to hiking the Andes in Peru.

I lost over 155 lbs.

I paused progression of my disease for the first time in almost 7 years.  

I'm excited that you're here and looking to improve your life! Never let anyone tell you that "This is what it is." You have the ability to choose your fate and together, we'll take baby steps geared towards helping you feel a little better every day.

This isn't a diet plan, it isn't a temporary fix, and I am not claiming that I can heal your illness. I am simply here to present you with the opportunities, it's up to you how strictly you want to embrace them. 

Together we will focus on balance. Healing through nutrition options, fun fitness plans, positive thinking, and alternative therapies. Everyone is different so lets focus on finding what works for YOU.

I look forward to working together and can't wait for you to join me on this incredible journey to health!

Happily yours,

Carolyn Rachel