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Why a MS Diagnosis Was the Beginning of My Life

Why a MS Diagnosis Was the Beginning of My Life

Being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2007 was the best thing that has happened to me.  Bet you don’t hear that statement too often!  But seriously, my diagnosis was a turning point in my life.  It woke me up and got my attention back where it needed to be: the basics.

I was on vacation in sunny Ft. Meyers, Florida burning my winter-pale skin on the third baseline of Fenway South.  Most vacations are memorable, but this one will always hold special meaning to me, for it was that Red Sox spring training vacation in 2007 that I noticed a numb spot on the bottom of my right foot.  It felt weird, but wasn’t causing any major malfunctions so I continued to enjoy winter baseball.

Months later I would visit a neurologist who explained to me that I might have Multiple Sclerosis.

For those of you that are unaware of MS and its wonderful symptoms, I will allow the National MS Society webpage to explain:

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) involves an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. The exact antigen — or target that the immune cells are sensitized to attack — remains unknown, which is why MS is considered by many experts to be “immune-mediated” rather than “autoimmune.”

Basically what happens is your immune system decides to attack your central nervous symptom.  It wreaks havoc on nerves and causes countless side effects including: severe fatigue, nerve pain, hyper-reflexes, banding in the chest, lightning flash pains, headaches, joint pain, skin sensitivity, noise sensitivity, depression, anxiety and in rare instances, death.

Now back to our story.  As any normal, self-diagnosing expert does, I conducted an extensive internet investigation and immediately starting designing my coffin!  All joking aside, my initial reaction was to excuse myself from the doctor’s office, go outside and cry.  After all, the only knowledge I had of MS was Annette Funicello… and she died!  What I would eventually discover was that MS was the best thing that could have happened in my life; it was a gift!

Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption said it best:  “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.” So, I turned a “death sentence” into my own personal new beginning.

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My disease forced me to focus on my body, my mind and my spirit, which is why a MS diagnosis was the beginning of my life!

My Body

Up until a few years ago I didn’t think much on what types of food I put in my body, nor what quantity.  It was not uncommon for me to eat fast food several times per week or lay around the house on my days off.  Then it dawned on me that carrying around too much body fat and a lack of physical activity was actually helping MS destroy my body!

I had to make a change.  I developed a plan that would involve introducing lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and water into my eating regimen.  I began to track my daily caloric intake with a mobile app and began to walk the dog 2-3 times per day for exercise.  I spoke with a nutrition expert to check my plan for weaknesses and to gain a better understanding of how the body operates.

My plan was a huge success.  In 6 months I trimmed down from nearly 200 pounds to 170 pounds, mostly due to a keen awareness of the types of fuel I put in my body.  I knew that if I were going to be successful I would have to focus on a strict eating routine due to the fact that I would not be as active as a healthy adult male.

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The benefits of losing that weight have been immeasurable!  My symptoms, although still present, are more tolerable.  My knees and hips hurt less when walking up and down stairs.  My feet hurt less when taking the dog for a walk.  My confidence has been elevated, which helps tremendously on the bad days.  There is a reason why military personnel go through extensive physical training, because if the body is weak the mind will be weak.  I had to have a more fit and healthy body to help my mind deal with the stress of living with MS.

My Mind

One of the worst symptoms associated with MS is cognitive impairment, and for me it is a new and developing issue.  I have moments when I forget how to spell my wife’s name or forget where I’m going or can’t remember my social security number.  Now for most this would seem normal as we’ve all experienced walking into a room to retrieve something, only to forget what that something was.  With MS it is like that scenario, but slightly more often and a little more extreme.

To combat this my neurologist suggested I incorporate activities into my life that would act as cognitive therapy.  So I decided to start blogging.  Writing would challenge my mind, keep me fresh and would allow me to purge some of the internal baggage I had been holding on to.

It had been years since I exercised my mind on a regular basis and boy was writing a workout!  Developing post ideas, outlining, writing and editing was just what the doctor ordered.  No pun intended!  Writing my blog has changed my perspective on having MS, as well as, the world around me.  I met new and interesting people that had diseases and health situations far more drastic than mine, which allowed me to appreciate my life and my disease.  I am reminded of a quote by Regina Brett: “If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”  Writing challenged my mind and led me to a brand new world that put my life in perspective.  And trust me, the mental drain of hurting everyday is intense and unrelenting!  Having my mind in the right place made it easier to deal with the daily grind of dealing with constant pain.

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My Spirit

Our spirit is one of the areas I think most people neglect and one of the first areas sick people reclaim.  I met a doctor through my blog that had abandoned traditional medicine and had replaced it with what he referred to as Integrative Medicine.  I had never heard of this method before, but once I educated myself I realized this was for me.  Integrative medicine incorporates treating the mind, body and spirit with many types of treatments, including traditional medications. The primary difference being that a traditional doctor will prescribe you medications to treat only the body.

I would come to understand how neglecting my spirit, my essence, had negatively affected me as a person and my ability to deal with my MS.  I began to introduce some meditation practices into my morning routine as well as prayer; something I had not done in nearly 20 years.

Needless to say awakening my spirit has been invaluable in better understanding myself, my disease and my place in this world.  I don’t have to fret and worry about the future.  I don’t have to wonder why.  I don’t allow these types of thoughts to enter my mind as I have learned they are unproductive.

Prior to my diagnosis I took my life for granted.  I took life in general for granted.  I took walking for granted.  I under-appreciated living in a healthy body.  MS has opened my life to meeting incredible people, volunteering as a public speaker for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and becoming a blogger and soon to be author.  None of these things would have happened had it not been for MS.

Sure the daily grind of being in pain is tough, but I wouldn’t trade my experience thus far for any amount of money. One day we will live in a world where MS is a thing of the past, taking its place beside polio where it belongs.  Until then, you’ll find me writing, eating veggies and maybe doing a little meditation.

If you’d like to find out more about my experience, please click on the link in my author bio.

Featured photo credit: On the Fence/Steve Wilson via flickr.com

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4 Habits You Need to Know That Will Change Your Life Forever Why a MS Diagnosis Was the Beginning of My Life 5 Life Changes That Will Make You Jump Out of Bed Every Morning!

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Last Updated on September 4, 2020

How to Lose Fat and Gain Muscle to See Results Fast

How to Lose Fat and Gain Muscle to See Results Fast

There’s a lot of confusion, mystery, and desperation around how to lose fat and gain muscle. We applaud body transformation pictures we see on Instagram, Facebook, and magazine covers but are never able to replicate the results ourselves.

Well, that mystery is over because I will tell you exactly how to achieve those results in this article.

The journey to getting there is straightforward but not easy. Most people give up too early in the game, when they stop making visible progress.

Keep reading to learn how to utilize your metabolism and the laws of muscle building to lose fat and gain muscle fast.

Skyrocket Your Metabolism to Lose Fat

Learning how to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time is one of the biggest misunderstandings of body transformations because they are opposite metabolic processes.

To lose fat, you must have calorie deficits each day, and to gain muscle, you must be in a caloric surplus, but you cannot do both at the same time.

When you look at pictures, it looks like it can be done simultaneously, but what is actually happening is a change in fat and muscle percentages.

If your weight stays the same through your journey, and you lose body fat, your percent of lean muscle mass automatically goes up by default. You didn’t gain any muscle, but your fat and muscle ratio percentages have shifted.

Calculating Your Calories to Lose Fat

There are many good calorie calculators out there that will give you an estimate on how much to eat to start losing fat for weight loss. You usually need to cut about 10 to 15% of your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) calories to start the process.

You can find a visual explanation of TDEE below[1]:

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Use TDEE to learn how to lose fat and gain muscle.

    Remember that the calculators are just an estimate. It’s up to you to track your measurements and to adjust your caloric intake to ensure you’re getting the results you’re looking for.

    Metabolism calculators take into account four different ways your body burns calories to come up with your TDEE, or how many calories you burn in a day:

    • Resting metabolic rate
    • Thermic effect of food
    • Thermic effect of activity
    • Non-exercise activity thermogenesis

    Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)

    This is your baseline metabolism at rest, or how many calories your body needs to survive if you spent the entire day lying in bed awake.

    RMR accounts for about 60 to 75% of your total daily energy expenditure. Your RMR is mostly determined by how much you weigh.

    A heavier person has a higher RMR than a lighter person, even if the lighter person has a higher lean muscle mass, because the metabolism of muscle only contributes to about 20% of your total RMR energy expenditure[2].

    Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)

    You’ve heard that to lose weight and gain muscle, you should be eating lots of protein. This is true for a number of reasons:

    • Lowers your intake of other types of foods, like processed carbs.
    • Increases satiety, so you continue to feel fuller, longer.
    • The building blocks for your muscles are found in protein.

    About 30% of the calories from protein intake are burned off during the digestion process, which includes absorption and waste removal of it. Eating more protein as opposed to other macros increases the amount of calories burned during digestion. That’s why you feel fuller with a higher protein diet.

    Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA)

    The calories burned in TEA are relatively minor in your entire TDEE equation. TEA is any calories burned during official exercise, like going to the gym, doing an aerobics class, or going for a run. It covers any exercise you do outside of your normal activities.

    Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

    The calories burned in NEAT is the big game changer for most people and can vary up to 2000 calories burned per day between people with identical RMRs[3].

    For the majority of us, when we’re done with our workouts for the day, we don’t do much else for movement. We spend about an hour in the gym, and instead of using the other 15 hours awake as an opportunity to move and burn more calories, we spend it sitting.

    This is how there can be such a big difference between the amount of calories burned between two people who have the same RMR.

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    Outside of your gym workout, any additional body movements count towards burning additional calories. The quickest way to add this to your day is to make everything you do as inconvenient for yourself as possible.

    Examples of inconvenient activities that count towards NEAT include:

    • Taking the stairs versus the elevator
    • Parking farther away
    • Getting up to change the TV channel versus using the remote
    • Pacing and walking while on a phone call instead of sitting down

    Increasing your NEAT goes a long way to helping your burn calories faster, leading to quicker fat loss. For more ideas on how to make life a little more inconvenient to up your activity level, check out this article.

    The Laws of Building Muscle

    Congrats on reaching the stage where you want to tone and get some definition! Learning how to lose fat and gain muscle isn’t an easy process, so if you’ve taken it on, that’s a huge step.

    To build muscle, first you want to increase your calorie intake.

    Based on your TDEE, you want to add about 10% more calories as a starting point. This is enough calories to build muscle, and any excess can lead to fat storage if you’re not training hard enough or aren’t active enough.

    Again, be sure to track your measurements and adjust your calories if necessary.

    Second, follow a muscle-building program that you can sustain for at least 3 to 6 months.

    Consistency is key with building muscles because they need to be stimulated and broken down on a regular basis in order to build back up. You want to strength train at least twice a week for at least an hour each time to start getting results.

    Of course, more often is better but requires better planning and a more complicated body parts training plan. So, start simple if you’re a novice. It’s not necessary to train 6 times a week unless you’re training for a competition.

    Progressive Overload

    Muscle needs to be challenged in order to grow. You need to gradually and consistently increase the amount of load and volume you are lifting.

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    Load means the amount of weight you’re lifting during weight training. Up to a certain point, it becomes unrealistic to keep adding pounds to each exercise every week, at which point you need to switch exercises and work on your weaker points to break that plateau.

    However, the goal with load is to keep increasing the amount of weight you lift.

    Increasing the volume you do is another method to progressive overload. Volume means the total number of reps for that specific exercise. If you’re doing 3 sets of 12 reps, it means you’ve done a total of 36 reps.

    But increasing volume doesn’t mean doing super high reps of 20+ unless you’re training your muscle for endurance versus strength.

    You want to use a challenging weight and be able to lift more of it each week through increased reps and sets.

    Here is a visual explanation of how you can engage in progressive overload[4]:

    PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD FOR MUSCLE MASS by @jmaxfitness - Visit the link in my bio to claim your free 1-week muscle bu… | Muscle, Gain muscle, Weight training workouts

      Training Intensity

      Paying attention to what you’re doing is required if you want to lose fat and build muscle because you want to build and improve the mind-muscle connection to optimize growth.

      A healthy mind-body connection means you’re able to better feel your muscles working during each lift.

      You know you’ve picked the right weight when the last 2 to 3 reps of your intended rep range is challenging. On occasion, you want to push past the burn and muscle fatigue for the last reps.

      This little bit of pushing past the discomfort is the difference between an average body and a body with more definition. Lifting almost to failure increases muscle recruitment, metabolic stress, and anabolic recruitment to grow muscles.

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      Proper Recovery

      This is the most overlooked aspect of building muscles. We focus too much on pre/post workout meals, macro tweaking, and supplements, forgetting that we already have the ultimate tool for recovery: our own body.

      For best recovery practices, allow at least a day, but no more than 3 days of rest between workouts that stress the same muscle group. Overtraining results in diminished exercise capacity, possible injury, and illness.

      Remember, muscles are broken down in the gym and built outside of it during recovery.

      Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, and be mindful of your stress levels to optimize recovery time. A lack of sleep and excess stress will spike cortisol levels, leading to hunger cravings, decrease regulation of burning fat, and cause faster aging.

      You can learn how to lower your stress levels fast here.

      Stop Program Hopping

      Every day, there is new workout, new exercise, new program on a website, in a magazine, or in your social media feed. No wonder we’re tempted to try a little bit of everything!

      Frequent program hopping stops you from getting any results.

      When you change programs too often, you don’t make progress on each exercise. It becomes hard to gauge whether you’re getting stronger or even getting results because you’re not allowing enough time for your body to adapt.

      Strength is a skill that needs to be built and developed by practicing it consistently. If you’re changing the skill set too often, you won’t know if you’re improving, and, therefore, cutting yourself short of future muscle gains.

      Conclusion

      The steps to losing fat and gaining muscle are simple, but the journey to get there is not.

      Tracking and measuring your calories is the quickest way to lose fat, along with increasing your activity level outside of the gym. Having a stronger, more toned body can be yours when you follow the laws of building muscles consistently.

      Applying these methods will guarantee that you get the results you’re after!

      More on How to Lose Fat and Gain Muscle

      Featured photo credit: Benjamin Klaver via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Cheat Day Design: What is TDEE?
      [2] International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders: Determinants of energy expenditure and fuel utilization in man: effects of body composition, age, sex, ethnicity and glucose tolerance in 916 subjects
      [3] Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: Variability in energy expenditure and its components
      [4] J Max Fitness: PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD FOR MUSCLE MASS

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