From an early age, I always wanted to be the best. Get the best grades, be the most obedient child, follow the rules. Shortly after my diagnosis, I participated in a webinar explaining that a common trait in people with MS is that we are perfectionists. Does that resonate with any of you? It certainly did with me.

Trying to be perfect is stressful

While I haven’t done any research to see if this is a scientific fact (I assume it’s not), it made so much sense to me. The volume of self-imposed pressure has always been incredibly stressful.

Stress is bad. Stress creates an environment for my body to attack itself. This lightbulb moment has driven my approach to all the lifestyle changes required for me to be healthy, to overcome this health condition. I’m often asked… how do you do it? How do you balance a demanding career, raising two children, attending to my marriage, keeping up the house, and The Diet?

Small steps for a perfectionist

For a perfectionist like me, it is oh so tempting to try to do everything superbly, all the time. But I learned early on that it is impossible (at least for me) to maintain all things at 100%.

So first I had to change my approach. My approach is to do the best I can, and forgive myself when it doesn’t work out. I accept that I can only be an A+ for some things, and others will have to settle for a B somedays. Sometimes even a C!

Starting off with lifestyle changes is a daunting and overwhelming task. I’ve heard many say that they’re too busy to make such changes and I think that in part is because you want to make sure you’re doing it right. Yep, I’m with you (my perfectionist self is jumping!)

So this is what you do… start small. Accept that you will not do it all from day one and that is quite alright. Pick one thing that you can change and start with that.

Incremental changes

Maybe it’s eliminating dairy or processed foods. Maybe it’s just changing one meal a week to a healthier version. You know what’s best for you and where you can start.

When that one thing feels easy, add another, and another, and in a month, year, or a few years, you will have adopted a new way of living. In the beginning it is often about what you can’t have.

Focus on what you CAN have. You can have delicious food, you can be healthy and free from pain. One last thing, and this is – KEY – make room for failure or cheat days.

You have lived your entire life doing something that might be bad for you. Most of us can’t turn a switch and adopt a new way of living overnight. It is not the end of the world if you succumb to that delicious pan of your favorite lasagna with butter soaked garlic bread. But if you do, try to eat really clean afterwards!

Even better if you can plan for it… eat super clean in the days leading to your cheat meal, and eat clean after. The takeaway… Be kind to yourself and make space for error. We can’t be perfect all the time.

Andrea Chua