Wellness at Work

My job requires me to be at my desk all day. I am grateful that my workplace values wellness and has equipped every office with desks that raise to standing height, so I spend much of my day standing.

I found a way to keep myself entertained at work while trying to stay active. I grabbed  four of reams of copy paper and stacked them two up, side-by-side. I am using them for calf raises and for step ups.


It could be a tad higher for step ups but I risk the paper shifting and me falling down, which would likely be frowned upon by HR in the instance of a workplace injury. I’ve decided I need to purchase a fitness stepper for my office. I have purchased some resistance bands that I intend on using, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Over the next two months I am going to really try to improve the strength in my legs and my cardio capacity for a hiking trip that I have planned in August. I am looking forward to climbing the tallest mountain in Maine, something I have always wanted to do. Once I got my MS diagnosis I knew I needed to make it a priority, while I am doing fine now, the uncertainty of this condition is always at the back of my minds.



Whatever it is, it is working

Today I met with my neurologist to go over my MRI results from a couple of weeks ago. The exam was brief, he poked me in the face with a broken tongue depressor like he normally does, yep still numb, he took some vitals and then we reviewed my scans, which I requested a copy of and I am excited for them to come in.

I truly think the human body and health technology is fascinating. I think about how someone could have discovered the use of a magnet to look at the insides of things and what they were doing when they discovered it, was it by accident, were they trying to do something else, like so many interventions and medicines that have been developed. I’ll have to look it up to satisfy my thirst for knowledge.

The absolutely wonderful news is that my MS has not progressed. The MRI of my brain revealed that there are no new lesions and no worsening lesions. The MRI of my cervical and thoracic spine indicated no lesions still. Part of the report reads that the small subtle lesion seen in the right cerebellar hemisphere is seen, but does seem to be less conspicuous. What does that mean, does it mean that it is healing? Well, maybe or maybe not. It is possible that the lesion was active during my last MRI and is now calm.

Either way, I am happy. I believe that the combination of my healthy eating, exercise and my disease modifying drug, Copaxone is working for me. I am one of the few women who did not have a post-natal flare and I do not need to see my neurologist for another year, unless something changes.


Are we over-medicalized? 

I wanted to share this interesting TED talk I watched for my Healthcare Economics class.

In the talk Ivan Oransky, a health reporter for Reuters Health discusses the culture of our healthcare in which we are medicalizing every aspect of our lives. He points out that there is a “pre” condition for everything right down to pre-acne and we are spending trillions of dollars on healthcare, and people are dying. People are dying as a result of the treatments, not always the condition.

I have to agree with this. I think that we as a culture have this “fix-it’ mentality. We go to the doctor with something that is not right and we want it fixed. We want a pill or a treatment or something to do the job that sometimes a simple lifestyle change can fix. We are a society of quick fixes. Take a pill and be done with it.

We end up taking one medication to offset the side-effects of another medication, until we’re on a cocktail of medications for one or two issues.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-medication at all. I believe that it has a place and is important in many situations; however, If we want to be healthier and reduce overall healthcare costs, we need to focus on lifestyle.



Not drinking enough…water


I am not drinking enough water and I am irritated with myself for it. I have no excuse good excuse for not drinking enough, in fact my excuse is pretty lame. Typically I will buy a 2.5 gallon container of water for my office, which I consume all in one week. For some reason I just can’t seem to remember to buy the water. Instead I have been getting my water from the kitchen at work. The problem with that is that I am a bit of a water snob and it doesn’t taste well, also it involves having to refill often, since I drink a lot, which means interrupting whatever I am doing on to go get water. This should be a good thing right, I should be getting up from my desk and moving. Still, I want my water more accessible.

I have found myself having only 3 or 4 cups a day, which is so much less that I am used to and what I think my body needs. I know there is that old guideline out there that says drink eight 8oz glasses of water a day. I don’t think that is universal for everyone, just my opinion. Some people need more, some people need less. I know I need more. I can tell when I am not drinking enough water. I start to get a headache, my skin feels dry and itchy and I actually feel lethargic.

Water has so many crucial benefits, if it is not already a priority in your life it should be. Drinking enough water helps the body maintain its fluid balance, which helps transport nutrients, regulate body temperature, digest food, stave off hunger and flush toxins from the body. It’s also important when hitting the gym because muscles lose water when they are worked, which causes them to become tired. Drinking plenty can help keep up the desired intensity of the workouts.



Bodybuilding and de-loading

De-loading is a term that I’ve read a lot about in various bodybuilding and fitness magazines. De-loading is a planned reduction in volume or intensity of your workouts, usually for one week. The purpose is to allow the body to dissipate fatigue and allow you to recover. I’ve learned that de-loading is valuable tool to have in my routine because weight training also puts stress on the joints, ligaments, connective tissues, and the central nervous system (aka where my MS lives).

Incorporating this into your schedule can be done in different ways.

  • Continue with your normal routine and normal volume (sets & reps) but reduce the weight you use by about half of what you normally use.
  • Use the same weight as you normally would, but drop your total volume (less sets & reps).
  • Decrease your lifting and increase your cardio
  • Take a week off completely

Normally I just take a week off, usually planned around vacations. This week I am on an unplanned de-load. I had every intention of continuing with my training this week; however, I have a new schedule with my children and I haven’t yet figured out how to incorporate my training days into this schedule. I also haven’t actually taken a week off since maybe Christmas, or it could have been my vacation in September, I don’t remember.

I feel so much guilt for taking the week off. I feel like my muscles are slowly deteriorating, an exaggeration, yes.

I know that I need to take time and listen to my body and enjoy some rest and healing, from the physical stress I put my body through and the emotional and mental stresses of life.


Knowledge is power

Last evening I attended my first educational MS event. I keep getting notices from the company that makes the drug that I am on and I’ve always overlooked them, for several reasons.

I wasn’t really interested in learning about the drug that I am already on, I didn’t want to hear the sales pitch. Also I often feel like I don’t fit in with other MSers that I have met. Many of them are older and their disease is more advanced and defined than mine. That leads me to many emotions. I feel guilty because I do not have mobility issues. I wonder if they will take me seriously and I also wonder if that will be me in the future. I know, only time will tell and I am going to continue to do everything in my power to avoid getting to that point. I consider myself lucky that there are many treatment options available to me; whereas, only twenty years ago there were none.

The event itself was good. The Neurologist presented facts about MRI, how it works, why it’s done and what exactly they are looking for. He was able to help me understand the difference between a pseudoexacerbation and a true relapse, which I never fully grasped before. A pseudoexacerbation is when you experience a flare up of symptoms that you’ve had before, often brought on by stress, extreme temperatures or a fever. This type of exacerbation usually resolves after rest or a few hours. A relapse on the other hand is new or worsening symptoms lasting longer than 24 hours. I really do not think that I have had a relapse since my diagnosis two years ago, but plenty of pseudoexacerbations. This makes  me think my medication must be working.

I was able to connect with a few people last night in my local community, which is important to me. I plan to attend more of these functions, meet more people and hopefully recruit people for my functional exercise program that I hope to implement in the near future.


Healthy Lifestyle Assessment

The company I work for offers a yearly Healthy Lifestyle Assessment for the employees. I wouldn’t normally participate in this sort of activity for a multitude of reasons, but this year I decided to only because there is financial incentive involved. Since the adoption of the Affordable Care Act, there are financial incentives for companies to have wellness programs for their employees which includes some sort of assessment.

The assessment included an analysis of my blood for cholesterol levels, A1C (checking for diabetes), weight and blood pressure. I also filled out a survey of lifestyle habits. All of my bio-metrics were within healthy ranges but the survey indicated some risk. The survey is based on the eating habits from ChooseMyPlate.gov, which gives you recommendations on how much fruit, vegetables, protein, dairy and grains you should eat in a day based on your age, gender, height, weight and physical activity. For example; it has calculated my daily calorie intake as 2400. What!!? It has suggested that the majority of my calories come from grains, no no no!

According to my healthy lifestyle assessment I eat the right amount of vegetables, not enough fruit, dairy or grains and too much protein! Is there such a thing as too much protein when you are bodybuilding?

I am not a nutritional expert, so I’ll throw that disclaimer out there, but I would have a hard time recommending ChooseMyPlate as the source of information on how one should eat for a healthy lifestyle. What if you’re gluten free, what if you are dairy free; like so many of us MSers are?

In my opinion the basics to a healthy diet are eating fresh whole foods and avoiding packaged processed foods as much as possible. I eat a diet of 80/20, meaning 80% of my foods come from whole foods such as vegetables lean proteins (fish, chicken) and 20% from processed sources, such as a bagel here and there. There are so many articles and studies on diet it can be overwhelming, you have to do your own research, experiment and come to your own conclusion on what diet works best for your health and lifestyle.