MSer Martin Baum on how his wife transformed him from a junk food devotee to a healthy eating guru, all without him realising
Over the years, there have been many health and wellbeing disciplines I have tried to help me in my relationship with multiple sclerosis (MS) including swimming, lifting weights, exercise, yoga, pilates, mindfulness, meditation and even crystals. But not diets. Abstention from unhealthy food and drink was not something I ever took to, even though it was known to help fix a body with a faulty immune system.
Over the years I have been as difficult as a sulky child that ‘didn’t do vegetables’. My long-suffering wife and carer Lizzy can quite easily attest to that and yet, despite my resistance, over the years, our lifestyles had changed through happier circumstances. We moved to the coast, began regular beachside walks and, whilst I wasn’t really aware of it, were eating more healthily. Lizzy’s approach to encourage my change in attitude was gradual and by stealth, but it worked.
During 21 years of coastal living, a fresh respect for myself began to dictate how I wanted to engage with life. I returned to writing, which was once my living until MS thought otherwise. After regaining an ability to put one word once again in front of the other, I began blogging for various MS organisations.
Yet in all that time it never occurred to me how much my life had changed through healthy eating until, quite by chance, I was invited to an Overcoming MS (OMS) promotional video launch at the House of Commons. It was quite an event, where I was introduced to some notable people. Also, astonishingly for me, was the realisation that for several years I had inadvertently been following most of the OMS seven-step recovery programme.
Because I’m a creature of habit, I can never throw myself blindly into something new and this was no exception. However, as exercise, meditation and mindfulness were part of the OMS system, this was a way of life I had already been practising for a while, so I was very much in my comfort zone.
The biggest surprise, however, was how much I already had in common with the dietary requirements that were part of the OMS lifestyle programme, such as removing all meat and dairy products. Whilst I baulked at that ‘all or nothing’ edict, what I realised – and this really was a pleasant surprise – was that Lizzy had ensured we had already been doing just that by steadily reducing our intake. It also made me realise that instead of consuming a diet that at one time included Domino’s pizzas and McDonald’s, now eating fish and fresh fruit and vegetables are very much part and parcel of what defines us, as much as it does OMS. Of course, this did not come as any surprise to Lizzy who, thankfully, cared enough to introduced the changes without me really being aware.
She has never been one to announce big changes, that’s not how it is when it comes to caring for someone as awkward and pernickety as me. My wife was never going to adopt a carrot and stick approach to get me to eat more healthily because she knew all the time that I would take the stick over the carrot, especially if it was a French one and had a rump steak in it.