About a year and a half ago I started eliminating all animal products from my diet. I had been a vegetarian for about a year prior, but I decided to stop eating all dairy products and eggs as well. Not because I thought it would do something for my MS, but because I started paying attention to the way we were getting these foods and the way the animals we were getting these foods from were being treated. I read Kathy Freston’s book Veganist and I felt compelled to follow a vegan diet. (I do enjoy local honey though, so I am not a “real” vegan.) It only took two days to start feeling like something was going on with my body, I started feeling taller. I know that sounds odd, but that is the only way I can explain how different my body was feeling! Then I realized that some of the feeling in my legs had returned, they weren’t quite as numb! I had days of increased energy, my balance was a little more stable and my overall mood was better. I was convinced that I was going to “cure” all of my MS symptoms and wondered why no one had told me that this could help! Time went by and I continued with my vegan diet but I got a little lazy about it. Oreo’s are vegan. There are great meat substitutes that are vegan, they are easy and they are yummy, but they are packed with wheat gluten and I started to think that maybe I was becoming sensitive to it, so I started eliminating gluten from my diet as well. It is not easy and certainly not cheap to eat a vegan and gluten free diet. I had an awful time finding bread that was gluten free and egg free and I had really come to rely on a good old peanut butter sandwich as a standby when all else fails. For the first time I was finding it hard to stay true to my vegan ways. It was tough, I felt like my digestive system wanted me to stop eating wheat and it was really just an ethical thing to stay away from animal products. For some reason, I had lost sight of how good the vegan diet had made me feel, it might have had something to do with all of those oreos and PB&Js! I had started to have sluggish days again and eventually I ended up having a significant MS relapse that I talked about in a previous post. While going through the steroid treatment to treat the relapse, I foolishly indulged in a few slices of cake, which some how led to a few slices of cheese pizza and I’m talking a large few! I felt sorry for myself and I thought that this was a good way to “treat” the self-pity. It was NOT! Now that the MS relapse had subsided I could feel that what I was experiencing in my body was from the large amounts of sugar and the dairy that I had re-introduced. The sugar made me feel super speedy and then made me crash big time. Knowing that I had done that to myself felt awful! The cheese tasted great but the knot that it put in my stomach for days and the headaches and the crankiness and the blah didn’t come close to being worth it. Most awful was that I certainly wasn’t feeling taller anymore, and my skin looked terrible! My daughters even started to show some concern, like this was going to lead to something even more devastating! I don’t know for sure what happened first, did I get lazy and loose my passion for cruelty-free eating and thus ended up eating more convenient, less expensive foods that contributed to my MS relapse? Or did the relapse slowly build causing me to lose the will and the energy to prepare healthier foods? Either way, I am grateful for the whole experience because of the intense difference in the way that my body was feeling from day to day and really paying close attention to how it felt after I ate certain foods has made me realize that this is a big deal! This food thing isn’t just for us MS’ers, this is universal! Why is it so much cheaper and way more convenient to eat like shit?! And where did this idea come from that eating crappy foods was comforting?! Now I am yelling and getting a little stirred up about this. The simple truth is, I just want everyone who is feeling anything close to that lack of control I have felt over the past 5 years since being diagnosed with MS that you can do something. I want anyone experiencing that powerless urge to “treat yourself” to something because your disease has no cure, has an unknown origin and is unpredictable that you can do something. You can reward yourself with healthy, real food that isn’t overly processed. You can pay close attention to everything that you willingly put into your body. Maybe you will feel like you have a little more control. Maybe you won’t. But I bet if you try it for a short amount of time, even a week, you will feel a difference. Maybe you’ll feel a little taller too.