New Year’s Resolution Follow Up

By: Matt Cavallo 

Raise your hand if you have stuck to your New Year’s resolution. Believe it or not, we are a quarter of the way through 2014 and reserving the right to recycle our resolutions for next year. I’ll be the first to throw myself under that bus! Seeing as we are a quarter of the way through the year, I wanted to follow up on some of the goals that I set and challenge myself to recommit to my original 2014 goals.

In January, I wrote that I was carrying about twenty one pounds of extra weight. This extra weight was making my legs weak and numb, my fatigue levels were high, and my clothes were uncomfortable. I resolved to lose twenty one pounds. My thinking was that in addition to my multiple sclerosis, the extra weight was contributing to the weakness in my legs and fatigue. My plan was to eat right, eat less and exercise more.

Eating right is a challenge to me. My line of work has me traveling the country almost every week. Seven out of eight weeks between January and February, I traveled. In fact, I am writing this right now on a flight from St. Louis back home to Phoenix. Between living in hotel rooms and the demands of my job, I didn’t have the strength or energy to get a healthy meal when there was a convenient drive-thru option. These eating decisions were the reason that I was struggling to button my pants!

Despite traveling extensively, I was determined to not have to buy new pants. I made the decision that I was going to lose weight on the road by changing my habits. First, I started with breakfast. The hotels that I stay at always have a breakfast buffet. There is an endless supply of bacon, eggs, toast and pastries. Most mornings I can smell the bacon long before I reach the buffet. As much as it pains me, the first change I made was skipping out of the buffet line and heading right to the yogurt and fruit. This change has been hard for me, and there are some days that I can’t resist a big breakfast, but I find that starting the day on the road with yogurt, fruit and a glass of water can be fulfilling and helps my digestive process.

For lunch, I have also been eating lighter. I work in hospitals, so I generally eat lunch at the cafeteria. The cafeterias generally tempt me with yummy burger, pizza or fried chicken options. Again I hold my nose and walk past temptation to the salad bar. I typically eat a salad and top it with some chicken. In the past, however, I would have smothered my healthy salad with a nice creamy ranch dressing, but lately I have opted for the lighter vinaigrettes. These dressings coat the salad easier, so you use less, and they are typically fewer calories than the creamy dressings I prefer.

These decisions that I make for breakfast and lunch afford me some slack at dinner. While my preference at the end of a long day of work on the road is for a double-stacked greasy drive-thru burger, large fries, and chocolate shake, I have been choosing healthier options. Instead of driving through, I place orders that force me to get out of the car. Instead of greasy, fried goodness, I have also been choosing lighter, grilled options.

The other thing that I am doing is consuming smaller portions. Part of it has to do with the fact that I don’t want to buy new pants, but I have found that once I cut back on my portion size, my body got used to it pretty fast. When I was consistently eating heavy meals, I needed more food. Now that I am eating less, I find that I get fuller faster. I am by nature a fast eater, who in the past would clean my plate before others around me had barely started. I now make a conscious effort to slow down and enjoy the food. By doing this, I don’t always have to clean my plate. Drinking more water throughout the day has also been a daily goal of mine. I found that some of my hunger may have been more related to being dehydrated than actually hungry.

With all of these changes, I have lost eleven pounds, which is halfway to my goal weight. My legs feel lighter, and I am less fatigued. And yes, my pants are now less of a struggle to button!

While I am winning the battle with diet, I am losing with exercise. I have made my annual post-resolution trip to the gym. I worked out, felt great and haven’t been back since! There is a free gym in every hotel where I stay, but I find myself alone in my room catching up TV shows or movies that I can’t watch at home because of the kids. I do tend to take the stairs instead of the elevator and keep true to my daily walks, but I know that I would feel so much better if I could just commit to working out.

So, a quarter into the year, and I am doing OK with my resolutions. I have lost half of my goal weight by making better eating decisions which included eating healthier and having smaller portion sizes. It was a struggle at first, but I feel better only ninety days into this year than I did last year. While I am doing well with diet, I have not followed through with exercise. Much like diet, once I establish a routine, I’ll be used to it and it will become natural. I am not there yet. However, New Year’s is not the only time for resolutions. You can recommit to feeling healthier anytime during the year. Are you accomplishing your resolutions? What are you going to do to get back on track? Invest in yourself because you are worth it, and be the change you want to be.

*Matt Cavallo was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005. Matt is an MS blogger, author, patient advocate, and motivational speaker. Matt also has his Master’s degree in Public Health Administration. Matt is the proud father of his two sons, loving husband to his wife, Jocelyn, and best friend to his dog, Teddy. Originally from the Boston suburbs, Matt currently resides in Arizona with his family. To learn more about Matt, please visit him at : http://mattcavallo.com/blog/

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Spring into Action

Spring into Action

Well, it’s officially spring… although I know a lot of people up north would disagree with the cold weather… but I thought I would talk about some of things that I do to “Spring into Action” around this time of year.

Since the weather is actually REALLY nice in Texas right now, I’ve been trying to spend a lot of time outside… and for those of you who enjoy the outdoors as much as I do, there are some things we need to take into account. Like… how long should we stay outside? For me, it’s all about reading the signs my body gives me. If I start to feel overheated, I go into shade, or go inside. If I’m REALLY overheated, like I get in the 100+ Degree Weather we have in Texas during the summer, a cold shower always helps!

Now, before it gets TOO hot outside, there are some things you can do that will help you manage the heat later on. Do you have any MS Cooling Packs? If not, I highly recommend checking out MSAA’s Cooling Distribution Program. I’ve come to find that the Cooling Neck & Upper Spine Wrap, from Polar Products, really cools my core temperature. Also, there are those little Wrist Cooling Wraps that help as well. Also, when sitting outside on those hot summer days, I LOVE my Cooling Seat Cushion. Now these are just my personal opinion that I’ve found through trying different types of cooling products that help me out, and that I also don’t have to put on under clothing.

When it comes to any type of cooling product used for Heat Intolerance & MS, I feel like it’s a personal preference. The ones listed above are what I use when I’m just sitting outside, watching the kids play, etc. But when it comes to doing things outside like going on walks, yard work, etc. This is when I would use my Cooling Vest. There are A LOT of different types to choose from, so again, personal preference. By clicking on any of the links above, it will take you to different things offered by Polar Products. But there are other Cooling Product Companies out there; I just listed the ones that I have personally used.

Now, I know that a lot of us made some promises to ourselves for the New Year to become more active, eat healthier, etc. I’ve been doing that… and I have a gym membership… and I can say that the exercise that I can do the easiest is swimming. I did make sure that the gym I got a membership to had an INDOOR pool, because with the way the weather has been lately, you never know what you’re going to get.

I’m not going to say it was REALLY easy beginning exercising regularly again, but I do enjoy it. I think one of the most frustrating things I’ve been dealing with is the fact that I was so used to what I was able to do BEFORE I got MS, when I was in Athletics in school, Swim Team and things like that. But I’ve come to the realization that if I don’t want to overdo and aggravate my MS & MS Symptoms, that I have to make a new routine. It takes time, but I feel like I have more energy now. I don’t go to the gym every day, but I do try and walk a little bit on the days that I don’t.

Now about this whole “eating healthy” thing… let me just say that I am a born & raised Texan, and I love my southern food and Mexican food… so this is a REALLY tough issue! I’m not being REALLY intense with it, but I am watching my portions and things like that. I won’t ever be able to stay away from carbs and all of that yummy stuff that I crave, so I decided I wasn’t going to make a plan that I wasn’t going to fully stick with. But by watching my portions and having small snacks in between meals, it’s pretty easy, for me anyway. Oh, and let me just tell you that I am a VERY picky eater and don’t eat the suggested fruits and vegetable intake that you’re supposed to, but I did find a yummy supplement at a health store that I mix with water in the morning and drink that with my breakfast (it tastes like candy, by the way) and that way, I have had my “suggested daily fruits and veggie intake.”

Okay – I hope I didn’t overload you with all that information, but I did want to cover a few of those topics that I know are really popular right now. I hope everyone is outside enjoying the weather- if it’s not too cold, that is.

For more information about Resources for your MS, check out MSWorld’s Resource Center.

Best Wishes!

Ashley Ringstaff – Volunteer for MSWorld.org

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Sticking to My Resolution for Better Health and MS Symptom Management

By: Matt Cavallo

I’ll admit it. The holidays were not good to my waistline. My pants are tight and hard to button, and it is uncomfortable to reach down to put on my socks and shoes. At the end of the summer, I weighed in at 190lbs. I just got off the scale and I was exactly 211 lbs. With the weight gain, my New Year’s resolution was to start exercising more and eating less.

The extra weight is a problem for me and my MS. That 21 pounds has definitely made a difference in the way I feel. At 6’2”tall I don’t look that much heavier, I feel like a completely different person. The extra weight also seems to increase weakness and tingling in my legs. Also, my energy levels have dropped and my fatigue has increased. I find myself waking up later and later to walk my dog and the walks are becoming shorter. It is already halfway through January and I am not making progress on my goals.

I was talking with my wife who told me that it takes 21 days to change a behavior. Often with resolutions, we start with the best of intentions, but don’t stick with it long enough to change our behaviors. This has been the case with my diet and exercise resolution. I started out strong for the first couple of days, but have regressed to my old ways.

However, my old ways are not good enough for me. In living with Multiple Sclerosis, it is important for me to take charge of the areas of my health that I can control, like diet and exercise. If extra weight is going to make my MS symptoms flare up, I need to fight through the fatigue and get control. To do this, I am going to create a Wellness Journal. This journal is going to track my daily exercise routine and food intake. The reason for keeping these journals is to keep myself accountable. If I keep a record of my progress everyday then I will be more likely to stick to my resolution. New Year’s doesn’t have to be the only time of year we reassess life and develop goals.

Successful Goal Setting Tips

  1. Keep goals realistic: Don’t set yourself up for failure by aiming for something that is completely unachievable.  It is best to start with a small goal and work towards bigger goals as you accomplish them.
  2. Create a plan that works for you: Figure out exactly how you can accomplish your goal and write down specific actions that you will take.
  3. Stick to your plan: Since changing a habit takes about 21 days, perform that habit every day to make it a conscious part of your day.
  4. Keep a daily journal: Write down what you do every day to hold you accountable.  This will also help you identify obstacles that may be holding you back.
  5. Don’t give up: Even if you slip up on your journey, forgive yourself and start fresh they next day.

I am also going to post my 21 day journey on my personal blog at www.mattcavallo.com/blog. By making my journey public, I am holding myself accountable to all of my readers, as well. My hope is that my story will also motivate others struggling with sticking to their New Year’s Resolutions or any goals for that matter to get back on track.

 

*Matt Cavallo was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005. Matt is an MS blogger, author, patient advocate, and motivational speaker. Matt also has his Master’s degree in Public Health Administration. Matt is the proud father of his two sons, loving husband to his wife, Jocelyn, and best friend to his dog, Teddy. Originally from the Boston suburbs, Matt currently resides in Arizona with his family. To learn more about Matt, please visit him at : http://mattcavallo.com/blog/

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Happy New Year!

Welcome 2014! Another year has come and gone, and for many 2014 signifies a new beginning and novel changes in the year ahead. It marks a time to make resolutions, changes, and achievements that will signify this year and make it different than ones past. New hopes, wishes and dreams are some of the things that represent this new beginning, as people try to make the best out of a fresh start. Some individuals may set goals while others strive to complete tasks day by day. No matter the method used in bringing about changes in the New Year, hopefully 2014 brings a time of hopefulness and promise.

I set a goal to exercise and eat more vegetables…what is one of your goals?

All the best for 2014!

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Staying Active with MS

My exercising pursuits probably started at age one and a half when my foiled gymnastics routine failed to propel me out of the crib. Already I showed signs of being active and rambunctious and my “antics” did not stop despite stitches from my failed attempt. At age six my mother watched in horror as someone pointed to a young girl, her daughter, about to jump from the high diving board. Finally, at age eight she enrolled me in PAL (Police Athletic League), in an effort to allow me to channel my excess energy constructively.

I continued an active life style throughout my life, until I was diagnosed with MS.

In August of 2009 I was training for my first half marathon when I was diagnosed with RRMS. The diagnosis came as a shock to me because I was not only fit but maintained a healthy lifestyle.  The news, was a shock to me and I wasn’t sure how to cope.

After the diagnosis I shut everyone and everything from my life, including running and working out. I could not envision going for a run and collapsing from an MS episode. I truly had no idea what to expect but I had anticipated the worst of what could happen.  I couldn’t go to the gym and have my ego remind me of what I could no longer do.

As I struggled with the disease I became increasingly depressed. In the past, running would always assuage any crisis I had to face; I no longer had that outlet to release my depression and frustrations.  It was a catch 22 – if I went out for a run I could collapse (in my mind) and if I didn’t I would sink further into an abyss that I had created.

It took months for me to realize that I had hit a wall built not out of mortar but fear and indecision. MS had already proven to me that I would not have the same life that I had enjoyed in the past. So, why could I think that I could easily go back to my “old” form of exercising?   Reluctantly I had to give up starting off at the high diving board and had to wade into the kiddy pool instead.

And so as my frame of mind changed so did my temperament and condition. I started jogging slowly, almost at a walk, and much less distance than I was accustomed to. I had no delusions of grandeur, only of building up my courage and stamina at whatever pace I could manage at the time.

I also changed to a gym that had a pool.  Swimming was an activity that I had not done since I was a kid.  I wasn’t strong but I just wanted to get into the pool and swim a few laps at a time. The warmth of the water me gave me the impetus to stay in longer and achieve a little more each time. There was a familiar and safe emotional sensation that would flood my senses as the memories that I had as a kid, swimming in Puerto Rico and the JCC (Jewish Community Center), would come to the surface.

My legs finally started getting stronger and my attitude shifted to one of jubilance. I became more positive about the future and my life with MS. I realized how much I missed exercising. It had always been such an important part of my life. But more so, the endorphins that were released while I worked out had a positive impact on how I felt.

I also realized that it didn’t take much for me to fulfill the joy that exercising once brought me. It was as simple as exercising with light weights, going for a walk, or aerobic swimming.

I didn’t have to try to set out to break any type of record. I needed to listen to my body when it was telling me that it was as important to exercise my body muscles as it was the brain muscles. If I didn’t use them they would atrophy, as they were already doing. And, when my body was tired I needed to heed and do less.

My “baby step” routine continued until I was finally able to run my first half marathon last year and four months later completed an 817 mile hike through the Arizona Trail.

We all have different compositional make ups. Our MS symptoms are different and so we need to tailor our activities according to our capabilities. Any form of exercise, at our own pace, is instrumental to our physical and emotional and well being.

Please note: If you are looking to start any new exercise routine you should first consult with your physician.

 

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Self-Awareness

So we’ve again encountered the infamous month of January, a time well known for resolutions and changes that people promise and strive to achieve to mark the beginning of a new year. Individuals find themselves embarking on new exercise regimens, dietary guidelines and lifestyle changes that they hope to keep for the duration of the year. With these changes comes a responsibility of self-awareness; to know and understand one’s limitations and to remain accountable for self-care. It is difficult at times to try and keep track of your activities and the goals you set for yourself. Perhaps for this new year you can keep track of these things in a notebook or journal to help stay in tune with the plans you made for yourself for the upcoming year…

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Aquatics and MS

As we begin the new year, many of us will make a pledge to get more fit this year. As we heard from our PT specialist anyone with MS needs enter into an exercise routine with the supervision of a trained professional. With that said I would like to share my experience this summer with adapted aquatics.

This past summer I was able to experience a unique opportunity of an adapted aquatics class at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA. As Swim for MS is a major part of MSAA’s work to enhance the quality of life of everyone affected by MS, and adapted aquatics is often a go-to complimentary wellness option for individuals those living with the MS, I was asked to take part in a local adapted aquatics class at Shepherd Center. Throughout my career, I’ve often recommended aquatic exercise for anyone looking for an exercise or social activity, but ironically I had never taken part in it myself. So on a weekday morning in mid-August, I jumped into the pool with five MS patients and got to work on some really fun and useful exercise techniques.

The class I participated in was for those considered “ambulatory patients” while a separate class for non-ambulatory patients was offered afterward. With adapted aquatics, everyone gets an opportunity in the pool!

The class began with standard stretching, and then leg strides from one end of the pool to the other, on the shallow end of course. During these initial exercises, I was able to get to know some of my fellow classmates and learn a little bit about how they were diagnosed and just what their day–to-day experiences with MS are like.

The class then picked up as we began to use underwater step-stools to exercise our leg muscles, while also utilizing balance techniques, this last exercise was one of the more challenging! . This was the point where I struggled the most. Finally, in the third portion of the class, we used water weights to exercise both our triceps and biceps. It was neat to see how water actually creates greater tension when using the weights than the fairly weightless pieces of equipment create on their own. All the while, I was making great friends of my classmates, talking to them about MSAA and some of our services and helping encourage them at any point of struggle. The look of sheer accomplishment on each class member’s face when they were able to get through an exercise they felt difficult was really inspiring!

In all, this was quite the eye opening experience. The value of these kinds of resources are incalculable. If you happen to live near an area with an MS-specific aquatic exercise class, please make sure you take advantage of it! Beyond just the wellness quotient, you get a chance to make some really good friendships as well!

For more information about aquatic exercise in your area, call contact our Client Services Department at(800)-532-7667, extension 154 or email: msquestions@mymsaa.org.

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Happy New Year

We are once again encountering the start of a new year, signaling change and new beginnings for time that lies ahead. For many people this time of year brings promises, expectations, and resolutions for change to make the new year ahead a hopeful one. Whether it’s modifying your daily routine or making a promise to set aside more quality time with loved ones, the start of 2013 brings with it the possibility of change and hope in a world full of the unexpected. Making changes that will impact life for the better is a resolution for this new year. Wishing only the best for all in 2013!

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Exercise, Part II

“Jogging is very beneficial. It’s good for your legs and your feet. It’s also very good for the ground. It makes it feel needed.”

~ Charles M. Schulz

”Never eat more than you can lift.”

~ Miss Piggy

Resolutions. Most of us have made them, and they commonly include some type of exercise plan. They usually occur in celebration of the start of a new year, to help mark new beginnings and make meaningful changes. Though we all know that resolutions may start off strong with promises, schedules and routines, they do not always last with the same enthusiastic energy. Compared to any other time of year, (Halloween resolutions are not that common), New Year’s is the identified time that marks the declaration of these resolutions, but who says they have to be created only when the clock strikes midnight?

As summer is slowly coming to a close, we are ready to embark on yet another season change. The fall brings relief from the heat but not the bitterness of winter, the start of a new school year for some, and another “beginning” for people to make changes. So as the weather gets cooler, perhaps it is time for those exercise resolutions to be resurrected, or made for the first time. Take advantage of the cooler weather by exercising outside, or enjoying outdoor activities without the overwhelming heat. What can we do so that exercise does not remain a forgotten resolution?

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