I’m 38 years old and I live in Ely, Cambridgeshire with my husband and one-eyed rescue cat, Bonnie. I love spending time with family and friends as well as being in nature. I have been diagnosed with RRMS and am currently on the DMT Ocrelizumab (Ocrevus).
I decided to become vegan before I knew that I had MS. January 1st is a typical day for many people to make a fresh start for whatever reason; my reason was that I was becoming increasingly worried about the state of our beautiful planet because of the ways humanity has treated it. I had also started to feel like a hypocrite for being an omnivore when my thoughts and ideas about the natural world didn’t agree with this dietary choice. So, on New Year’s Day 2019, I committed myself to try and become vegan. It was as good a time as any to start, and the ‘Veganuary’ challenge meant there were loads of helpful hints, support groups and recipes to try. But this wasn’t the first time I’d removed meat from my diet.
As a challenge to myself, the previous Lent, I decided to try sticking to a vegetarian diet. Although I didn’t find the challenge that difficult (I’ve always enjoyed eating plenty of fruit and vegetables), I felt better about myself knowing that I wasn’t contributing to the meat industry. Once Lent ended, I didn’t give up meat entirely; my husband, being an omnivore and quite a keen meat-eater, hadn’t joined me in my experiment, and therefore it was easier to eat the same foods at mealtimes. We both, however, made a vow to always choose vegetarian options when eating out and at the work canteen, and, if and when we did eat meat, we would make sure that we bought the highest-welfare products we could find.
Receiving a diagnosis
Unbeknownst to me, my journey towards becoming vegan coincided with the first steps of my MS journey: I was officially diagnosed at the end of January 2019 after first experiencing symptoms in October the previous year. While researching all the reliable sources of information about MS that I could find, I came across the OMS recovery programme in June 2019. I sent off for the free Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis book. Reading about the benefits of a predominantly plant-based diet which avoided dairy and saturated fat made me feel even more sure that, by being vegan, I was giving my body the best chance against this condition, as well as doing my part to help the planet.
Difficulties following the diet suggestions
Initially, I didn’t always find it easy to follow a plant-based diet; it was daunting thinking about what I’d eat every day when previously meals had revolved around meat and/or animal products. But what an eye-opener it was to fully understand just how many foods list dairy or eggs in their ingredients. It made me rethink how to make meals, which, mainly through necessity, meant using fresh ingredients. I got some help from vegan cookbooks and magazines. Beans, lentils, chickpeas and tofu have become the main ingredients that I base my meals around. I’ve always enjoyed eating beans and pulses, but tofu has been a revelation, especially in its versatility and health benefits - it’s a great source of protein and calcium. If you miss scrambled eggs, I can highly recommend scrambled tofu! Best of all, my husband has embraced the different foods that we now eat, and, as he’s the main cook in the house, has put his own twist on vegan recipes, creating some go-to favourites when we’re struggling for ideas. Lentil cottage pie and sweet and sour tofu stir-fry spring to mind!
OMS in COVID times
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit earlier this year and the UK went into lockdown, I saw the extra time spent at home as an opportunity to explore ingredients and combinations that I hadn’t considered before. I was helped by signing up to a vegan health challenge that was advertised by a well-known make of vegetable spread which meant following a meal plan every day for 30 days. It took the pressure off having to think of what to make every day and, consequently, I’ve added some more go-to favourite recipes to the recipe file! Avocado on top of beetroot hummus on sourdough toast with seeds, tahini and lemon juice in the morning gives me energy to face the day and keeps me feeling full until lunchtime. I find that a lot of vegan recipes are very satisfying, and I don’t feel the need to snack as much as before I became vegan. I think this has had a great impact on how I feel.
Giving my body the right kind of fuel means I feel I have enough energy to do what I need to and helps me cope with any MS symptoms that I may have. Best of all, my husband has also embraced the vegan lifestyle, so I have my own live-in chef to cook tasty meals for us, and we know we’re doing our bit for the environment.