Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'J'

So far, this has been the most difficult topic for me to come up with. It needed to begin with the letter J and, for my purposes, fit in with my blog topic - My Journey to Wellness. It was then that it hit me...'journey' would be my topic. This truly has been a journey for me over the last couple of years. After my initial hospitalization in September of 2006, I really wasn't expecting to ever approach any normalcy in my life. Prior to the onset of symptoms, I had been in the best shape of my then-38 year life.
A little history here...I was 6'2" and 220 pounds in 8th grade and even though I participated in sports and other activities I would never weigh less than that 220 mark until 2001 when I began following the Atkins Diet. With the restricted sugars and a regular exercise program, I finally got myself down to 205 pounds and stayed there for several years. I truly believe that things began to turn sour when Coca-Cola released Coke Zero. Up until that point, I really didn't bother using artificial sweeteners but I really began drinking a lot of Coke Zero - sweetened, of course, with aspartame. It wasn't too long after that that the symptoms started. After six months of gradually worsening symptoms, I was hospitalized. This was when the corticosteroids started along with ridiculous weight gain. I ballooned up to 300 pounds due to the steroids and the inability to maintain any form of extended activity - 15 minutes of any type of movement would completely drain me.
The good news is that September of 2006 - when I was hospitalized - was as bad as it got. From that point on, things didn't necessarily get better, but they didn't get any worse. Eventually, I was stepped down off of the steroids. With the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis came the prescription of Rebif. While this was supposedly helping me but the side effects were completely unbearable. Injection site reaction (redness and pain) and flu-like symptoms hit me really hard. I took myself off of it largely due to this but also when I learned that it was costing me (and insurance) $24,000 per year. This was probably the true starting point of my journey to wellness. It was when I really started to explore alternate therapies.
My journey to wellness really began to make some progress when I started taking VIDACELL - a little over two years after I was hospitalized. A month later, we adopted Ginger from the Humane Society because I felt that I was able to walk and care for a dog.
The next major advancement on my journey to wellness came when I began to really take tighter controls over the food that I was eating. I began following The Maker's Diet in January of 2010. Since this time, I gradually began to make better food choices - free range chicken and eggs instead of caged, corn-fed chicken, grass fed beef instead of feedlot beef, raw milk instead of pasteurized (or worse, ultra-pasteurized) milk, sprouted grains instead of whole grains, etc. It has been a slow but steady process - and not always perfect - but the results are undeniable.
I haven't quite gotten back down to 205 and I still have some nagging symptoms but I am not the same person that I was 4 years ago. My interest in better food sources has led me to composting and gardening in addition to better meal planning and preparation (the microwave has not been used in well over a year and Teflon has been eradicated from our house).
My journey to wellness is far from over, but I can't complain about my progress thus far!


Lorena G. Sims said...

Wow, what a Journey! I'm glad that you feel much better now and that you are indeed on your journey to wellness. Thanks for sharing!

Linda H. said...

There is a lot of contraversy over aspartame. The health officials insist it is safe, but I've read a lot of independent tests and research that says otherwise.
Luckily, I have never been a big soda drinker nor a sweets person. I can't even tell you what half the candy bars are. But aspartame isnt just in "junk food" products. It is in some yogurts and products you wouldn't think to look. If I see aspartame or acesulfam-K on the label, I wont't buy it. I'd rather err on the safe side.

So sorry you are dealing with these issues. I admire your ability to follow the strict diet. Hope it continues to help you improve your health.

M Pax said...

Wow, you have made great progress.

What I learned from a journey to better health helps me in my new journey.

Hope you keep moving forward.

Greg Johnson said...

@Lorena Thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate it!
@Linda It is really scary how far aspartame has 'infiltrated' our foods. It even appears in chewing gum that is not 'sugar-free.' Reading labels is increasingly important...or eating foods that don't NEED labels! :)
@M Pax What is your new journey?