Today we are excited to share this guest post from Courtney Carver, author of the blog Be More with Less. Courtney’s story is inspiring and has helped us to realize the importance of not taking our health for granted. We are sure you will enjoy her perspective.
In 2004 I moved across the country in search of deeper snow and steeper trails. I moved to start a new life with my daughter and the love of my life.
In 2005, I married my great love and dreamed about our active, adventurous future.
In 2006, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a progressively, debilitating disease that can result in double vision, paralysis and cognitive decline. A disease with no known cause or cure.
When I was diagnosed, I didn’t know enough to take action. I only knew enough to be really scared. And then I remembered that I knew more than that. I knew that the healthier I was, the stronger my fight against MS would be. Once I gave myself permission to really take care, good health became my mission.
My health plan formed over time. Each change informed the next. 6 years later I’m happy to share the actions that have stopped MS progression in my body, made me a nicer person and encouraged me to live life with hope, joy and gratitude each day. With each change listed below, I’ll tell you how I made the change and suggest a simple shift for you. These are big changes, but they all started with a simple shift; a lean into change.
Prior to my diagnosis, I ate a typical high sugar, carb laden, meaty American diet. After extensive research in my search for health, I experimented with a 30 day raw diet, and slowly transitioned my diet to 100% vegetarian, low dairy diet and am working to cut all dairy and animal products out of my diet. Slow and deliberate change will last longer than radical decisions.
Simple Shift: Eliminate meat 1 day per week. After a month, try 2 days a week.
Health Care Team
I’ve always had regular physicals and precautionary tests, but I hadn’t intentionally formed a medical team. My first neurologist told me that diet and exercise weren’t a factor for MS patients. She told me that all MS patients declined. I went home and cried, and then, I fired her and hired a team of doctors and health care practitioners that partner with me to find the best treatments for me and achieve the best overall health possible. They are the experts in their fields, but I am the expert of my body. I am more invested in the outcome than they are, and remember that as we work together.
Simple Shift: Bring a list of questions to your next appointment and interview your doctor to be sure they are a good fit for you. When you intentionally hire your doctor, you can begin to take control of your health care.
I start every morning with a glass of water to slowly wake my digestive system and begin the day with good health in mind. 98% of what I drink every day is water. You can eliminate empty calories, artificial colors and sweeteners and other unpronounceable ingredients by choosing water over sodas and other drinks.
Simple Shift: Choose water instead of juice, soda or other beverages with meals.
Eat Colors not Calories
You can typically create a plate full of colorful fruits and veggies without worrying about overeating or gaining weight. If you choose them in season, they will taste better than anything arriving in a can or bag at your local grocery store. While there are many nutrients in each, most colors stand out for certain health benefits. See this simple color chart to start eating your way towards better health and more energy.
Simple Shift: Add a colorful vegetable to your next meal. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
We all have stress, but too much makes us sick. Stress causes disease. Stress exacerbates disease. Stress makes us mean, sad and worried. Overextending myself physically, emotionally and financially was killing me. I eliminated many of the things that cause stress in a normal day.
Simple Shift: Make a list of everything that is stressful for you in a regular day. Awareness is the first step.
Debt and money caused the most stress in my life. I got into debt before I turned 20 and feeling defeated, kept spending and incurring debt. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t have credit cards, student loan payments and car payments in my life. After listening to stories of other people that were living debt free after years of overspending, I knew I could do it too.
Simple Shift: Organize your debt and expenses on paper. Identify one monthly expense you can cut and add the difference to your smallest monthly debt payment. When the smallest debt is paid, move on to the next.
Do Good Work
I used to be really busy and really tired from working a job that I didn’t like. Instead of sticking with it in fear of not making money, I built my own business. Now instead of doing busy work, I do good work.
Simple Shift: If you don’t like your job, or your job wears you down, consider a new career. Make a list of things you love, and things you could teach other people. Next, do a Google search to see if other people are doing something similar. Ask them how they did it.
Move every day within your ability. Find activities you like to do. I am not inspired in a gym, but love to walk my dog, hike with my husband and leave all my worries on a yoga mat through a vigorous or sometimes gentle practice. Start small, moving a few minutes a day and add on every week. You don’t need a trainer, workout plan or expensive equipment to get started. Just move your body.
Simple Shift: Start with 5. After you brush your teeth in the morning, do 5 sit ups and 5 push ups. Just 5. After the first week, add just 1 more of each for the next week. If add 1 each week, by the end of the year, you’ll be doing 56 push ups and sit ups each morning.
Physical and emotional clutter was weighing me down and that affected my mood and overall health. I didn’t feel good walking into a messy home or spending weekends cleaning. Instead of organizing or hiring someone to handle it, I let it go. We got rid of more than 50% of our stuff and continue to donate things that we don’t need. Shopping is no longer a recreational activity and we find joy in spending time together and doing things we love, instead of measuring ourselves by what we own.
Simple Shift: Place an empty box near a door. Add things to it during the week that you don’t use with a goal of filling the box by the end of the week. When the box is full, tape it up and drop it off at a local charity.
Each of the changes I made unfolded a life I didn’t know was possible. I am open to opportunity, have the clarity to notice the beauty in my everyday life, and the time and attention to be grateful for it.
Simple Shift: Notice and say thank you for 5 things that happened each day before you go to sleep. Write them down. If you can’t think of anything on a day, be grateful that you wrote down 5 things the day before.
The changes I made are not specific to MS, or any disease. Each of them or a combination will lead to a healthier body and mind.
My life didn’t end when I was diagnosed with MS. That is when it really began. Don’t wait for a life changing diagnosis to take charge of your health. Fortify your body. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself so you have the strength and desire to take care of people you love.
Make these changes your own. Research, experiment and dismiss perfection as you learn what makes you feel good. If you try a 30 day raw diet and bail after 10 days because you miss hot soup, move on and try something else. This journey towards better health is not about being perfect and doing things right. It’s about learning what is best for you and your body. Be vigilant about your health and grateful for the opportunity to change.
With health, you can have everything you deserve.
What changes have you made to become healthier?