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Laura Crowder

S6E5 Change your life, for life with health coach Laura Crowder

Listen to S6E05: Change your life, for life with health coach Laura Crowder.

Welcome to Living Well with MS, where we are pleased to welcome Laura Crowder as our guest! Laura is a health coach and recently joined the Overcoming MS team as an Overcoming MS facilitator. In this episode, she talks to Geoff about what the ‘Change your life for life’ pillar means, how to make lifestyle changes easier to adopt and the importance of looking at your overall lifestyle.

Watch this episode on YouTube here. Keep reading for the key episode takeaways.

Topics and Timestamps:

01:02 Intro: Laura’s MS diagnosis.

02:08 Laura’s new role as an Overcoming MS facilitator.

03:48 Change your life, for life: What it means and how you can implement it.

08:18 How finding your deep ‘why’ makes lifestyle changes easier to adopt.

13:40 How you can feel empowered by following the Overcoming MS Program.

15:28 The impact of reducing alcohol on your physical and mental health.

25:48 What it means to feed the soul and the body.

Selected Key Takeaways:

Positive lifestyle changes can have immediate health effects.

05:08 “The minute I read [the Program was] evidence based, I thought, ‘I’ve got to read this.’ I read the entire book, and I jumped straight in. I implemented the diet and the vitamin D straight away, I couldn’t do much about the exercise at the time, because I was still off my feet. Eventually, I started walking and then running. It was brilliant. I felt the effects instantly, I think because my previous lifestyle was so poor.”

Some people find reducing alcohol consumption can have a positive impact on mental and physical health.

17:05 “Karen Law speaks about this in the Overcoming MS Handbook about how she just noticed that her stress response was better without alcohol in the mix. I think that was probably quite a significant part for me as well. My running improved hugely, I actually completed my first marathon last year, and just my health in general [improved]. So, for me, I decided that I didn’t want to start drinking again.”

Our health is impacted by our overall lifestyle.

27:00 “Our health is not just what we eat, it isn’t just exercise [or] supplementation. Things like our career, relationships and finances, these aspects of our lives are so important in terms of nourishing us. If we’re dealing with conflict or unresolved issues, or if we have got very destructive or negative relationships in our lives, that’s going to have a really adverse effect on our health, even if we’re eating all the superfoods in the world.”

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Read the episode transcript

Overcoming MS  00:00

Welcome to Living Well with MS. This show comes to you from Overcoming MS, the world’s leading multiple sclerosis healthy lifestyle charity, which helps people live a full and healthy life through the Overcoming MS program. We interview a range of experts and people with multiple sclerosis. Please remember all opinions expressed are their own, Help others discover living well with MS. If you enjoy the show, please rate and review us wherever you listen to podcasts. And now let’s meet our guest.


Geoff Allix  00:36

Welcome to the latest edition of the Living Well with MS podcast. Joining me on this edition is Laura Crowder. Laura is a health coach who’s also a newly qualified facilitator for Overcoming MS. So, to start off with, we want to learn a little bit about that. So welcome Laura Crowder.


Laura Crowder  00:54

Hi, Thanks, Geoff. Thanks for having me.


Geoff Allix  00:57

Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your MS journey?


Laura Crowder  01:02

Yes. So as you said, I am a health coach. I haven’t always been a health coach. I started out as a teacher, and I still teach as I have two teenagers at home one doing A levels and one doing GCSEs. So that’s all good fun. I live with them. And my husband and a bit of crazy Jack Russell. She’s 13 going on three months, I think. And I was diagnosed with MS in 2018. And that followed the previous year when I’d had a bout of optic neuritis and then ended up in hospital after a massive relapse that left me unable to walk or talk properly.


Geoff Allix  01:46

So, yes, they knew about something being seriously wrong in your case. And so as a facilitator, so you’re a newly qualified facilitator for Overcoming MS. So firstly, what is a facilitator? What does that mean? And how did you get involved with that side of the charity?


Laura Crowder  02:08

So I feel very honored and very excited to undertake my new role. Basically, I spend most of my time when I’m out sharing Overcoming MS with the world because I think it’s so fantastic. And it’s transformed my life. And now by becoming a facilitator, I’m able to share it, share the charity, share the work of Overcoming MS with a wider audience. And it means that I can help to raise awareness, not just of the program, but of the benefits that you can get from following the program. So I spent a year training, and that involved observing the existing facilitators, and I’m so grateful to them for their time because it was really useful. And as part of my training, I delivered a presentation at a pop up event. And I’ve been involved in some of the events on the Live Well Hub.


Geoff Allix  03:10

So the pillars of Overcoming MS that everyone has, or most people are familiar with, would be certainly diet, vitamin D, physical activity, stress reduction. There’s also Family Health, because, you know, you’ve got kids, I’ve got kids, and we’re aware that it does increase the risk, us having MS increases the risk for our immediate family members. So there’s also that, that we should really look after their house as well. And then there’s a seventh pillar, and that’s changed your life for life. So what does what does that one mean? What does it mean to change your life for life?


Laura Crowder  03:48

This is really interesting, because when I first discovered the Overcoming MS program, which was basically after I had the massive relapse that left me hospitalized. At the time, I didn’t actually know that I had MS. Obviously, I knew something was seriously wrong. And a junior doctor after a barrage of tests, like CT scans, ultrasounds on my neck, all sorts of things. They did an MRI scan, and a junior doctor basically said, it looks like MS. So after the steroids kind of wore off, and you know, I’m sure you know what that felt like? I started to think about what that actually meant. And at first, I was very negative. Why has this happened to me? What did I do to deserve this? And I kind of wallowed in that for a while. And then I thought, Well, surely there must be something I can do about this. And that’s when I started researching. And I came across the work of Professor Jelinek, and I think what attracted me to it at first was I came across so many miracle cures, you know if you pay this money.


Geoff Allix  04:59

And they all cost money, don’t they?


Laura Crowder  05:04

Obviously Overcoming MS, there was no cost. But more than that, it said, an evidence based approach. And I think the minute I read evidence based, I thought, I’ve got to read this. And so I read the entire book, and I jumped straight in, I implemented the diet and the vitamin D straightaway, I couldn’t do much about the exercise at the time, because I was kind of still off my feet. And I eventually started walking, then, you know, walking and running, and so forth. And it was brilliant. I mean, literally, I felt the effects probably, instantly, I think, because my previous lifestyle was so poor. And then after a while, it became a bit of a struggle. I was really craving cheese and craving chocolate. And I could feel those kind of negative thoughts creeping back in. And then I went on a retreat. And that was completely transformative. And I think you’ve been on a retreat, yes. And it was the dynamic contemplation that we did with Linda Bloom. And I sat opposite someone, a complete stranger, you know, never seen her before the retreat, and literally bared my soul to her, and told her all about these things that I’d been holding on to since I was a kind of teenager, young adult, things that I’ve done had done to me. And after this, and I was crying at this point, she looked at me, and she said, that you were just a child. And it’s really hard to explain, but this enormous weight just lifted. And I felt this sense of peace. For the first time ever. It was like this really uncomfortable sensation that had been following me around all my life had suddenly gone. And then I think that prompted me to come back home after the retreat, and reread the book. And that’s when it started to make sense. That’s when I realized that pillar seven for me, that’s where you start. Because changing your life for life, it’s about an inner journey. You know, I think George, Professor Jelinek, you know, he talks very much in that chapter, about how important it is that we deal with, you know, conflicts that we deal with any unresolved issues that we might be holding on to, and that really clicked for me. So I think Change Your Life for life, the key word is change. But I think it’s all about an inner transformation and really getting to know yourself. And from that moment onwards, everything else just fell into place. Everything just made sense.


Geoff Allix  07:54

If someone’s not, because it not everyone can go on a retreat, location wise, you know, if you live in a part of the world where there aren’t any, so you went from sort of yo-yo dieting from doing it, to not doing it, and back and forth. So what can you give tips to someone who maybe can’t attend a retreat that could finally work to be consistent with the diet?


Laura Crowder  08:18

I mean, I think the key process is, it’s kind of you when you mentioned the yo-yo dieting. Yes, that is something that I did. And I’ve recently worked with a client on this as well. I used to go through life, I used to eat junk, I didn’t used to exercise much I had massive amounts of stress, due to my job and other things. So I thought at the time, and then I’d get to a, I don’t know, a friend’s wedding or a summer holiday. And I’d think I need to get into that dress, I need to get into that kind of swimming costume. And then I’d go through this like whole process and like following some sort of crash diet, you know, whether that be cabbage soup, or juicing, I tried to have most of them really, and none of them ever worked. They might have worked temporarily. But it’s a bit like I said, initially, with the Overcoming MS. program, I’d fall back into my old habits. And that’s when I realized that it’s, you’ve got to get to the roots, you’ve got to get to your core beliefs. And this is what George talks about in Change Your Life for Life, you’ve really got to work out. So for example, if we take my yo-yo dieting, my intention on the surface was I want to lose weight so that I can get into this dress or this swimming costume. But then it’s like, well, but why why did I want to do that? Well, okay, because I wanted to look good. Well, what does that suggest that suggests that I feel like I don’t look good at the moment. And then what does that suggest? Oh, well, maybe I’m just not good enough in general. And I think that what we need to do is we need to instead of thinking about it changes that we need to make on the surface on the outside, we actually need to go inside and work out what are our beliefs around this? What are our beliefs around diet, around exercise around meditation, and around health in general. And that’s where we need to start. And Professor Jelinek talks about how we’ve got an incredible power over how our bodily cells behave, but that it’s our mind, that’s the key player. So for me, if we start with our minds, and if we start with our beliefs, if we start doing that work on the inside, the outside will take care of itself.


Geoff Allix  10:45

So that I’m guessing is connected with he says that biography becomes biology. So could you explain what that means? And how does that relate to your previous career and going through working in education? And then your MS diagnosis?


Laura Crowder  11:05

Yes. So I think that quote, actually came from Caroline Myss, but I think George quotes it at least twice in Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis. And the way that I look at it is that it’s the stories that we tell ourselves, and the way that our life experiences and the way that we perceive the world actually have a direct effect on our health, physical and mental health. And therefore, in relation to Overcoming MS, our experience of life after a diagnosis of MS. And I think I had been full of stories that were self fulfilling prophecies. And this is something that we learn about in education, but it can be applied to anything, although it’s funny, I didn’t actually apply it myself to Overcoming MS initially. So you know, the self fulfilling prophecy says that, you know, if a child believes that they can’t, then they can’t, you know, and if a teacher believes that a child can’t, they can’t, that’s a very simplified view of it. But language is so important, and the language that we use around behavior. So I think I mentioned earlier that initially, I was craving cheese and craving chocolate. And it’s because partly the language that I was using, you know, I would say to people, oh, I can’t eat cheese, and I can’t eat chocolate, or I’ve had to give up eating cheese and chocolate, and lots of kind of language that’s really weighted with kind of negatives, I guess. So for me, it was about, you know, we used to teach the children to say I can’t do it yet. And you wouldn’t believe the difference that could make to a kid sitting in front of a math problem. You know, the kids saying, I can’t do it, I can’t do it. If you teach them to say I can’t do it yet, the way that they persevere, to try and solve that task. It’s it’s a huge shift. And it’s the same with mindset. When I was saying, I can’t eat cheese, and I can’t eat chocolate. I was making myself feel deprived. And George again, talks a lot about this in the book. So instead of saying that I can’t eat cheese and chocolate, now I either say things like, I choose not to eat cheese and chocolate, or just I don’t eat cheese and chocolate. You know, it’s so powerful.


Geoff Allix  13:32

And it’s becoming you then isn’t it? It’s not someone telling you want to do it’s your it’s your internal choice.


Laura Crowder  13:40

Exactly. And choice. Geoff, that’s really key as well, you know, this is something I am. No one has forced me to follow Overcoming MS. I follow Overcoming MS because it does, it gives me that choice. And it gives me that sense of empowerment over my health, that sense of taking control. And I think that’s really, really, really important.


Geoff Allix  14:05

And so you’ve mentioned that you were a teacher, and then you switch to becoming a health coach are quite a fundamental shift in what you do. So someone who’s got MS. What are your tips for making a lifestyle change? Because it could be that in some cases, some it will be necessary for some people because of physical or mental changes because of MS. And they need to change their career. So it’s been it’s quite a big thing to do. So what if you’ve got any tips for people who are considering a lifestyle change?


Laura Crowder  14:34

Well, funnily enough, I didn’t actually I left when I left teaching. I didn’t intend to become a health coach. I wanted to spend more time with my own children. Because the role that I was in meant that I was spending very little time with them. So initially, I didn’t intend to make that career change. But I think with lifestyle changes, it’s really important again, to start with the mind start with what is it not just what you want to achieve, but why is that important to you? And I think when you start delving inside, and when you start asking yourself those questions, you will discover, maybe changes that you hadn’t even considered, I hadn’t even considered becoming a health coach, although it is actually very similar to teaching in many ways.


Geoff Allix  15:28

And another thing is to sort of change track a bit. So you stop drinking alcohol, for your health. Tell us about your decision. And any tips that people have if they want to reduce alcohol or completely stopped?


Laura Crowder  15:42

Yes. So that was, that’s been a big part of my journey, actually. And I didn’t actually stop drinking alcohol for health reasons. Initially, the reason that I stopped drinking alcohol was because I was training for my first half marathon. And I had a really nice training plan, typical teacher, I had a little sticker chart on the fridge to motivate myself because I was struggling to get the training in. And I realized that I kept missing out on the long runs at the weekend. Anyway, to cut the long story short, I realized that it was basically because I’d get to a Friday and I think, have a couple of glasses of wine, wake up on Saturday morning and saying I can’t be bothered to run. And so I saw I’ll just stop drinking until I you know, finished the half marathon, certainly intending to celebrate with a, you know, bottle of fizz or something at the end of it. But I felt so different. I think I’d done things like die dry January before, but never really other than my two pregnancies never really taken a break longer than a month. And I think after that first month, and I got into the second month, the third month, I just realized that my life was a lot calmer. I think my reactions to things were a lot. Again, just I it’s interesting, isn’t it? Karen Law speaks about this in the Overcoming MS Handbook about how she just noticed that her response to stress was better without alcohol in the mix. And I think that was probably quite a significant part for me as well. My running improved hugely, I actually completed my first marathon last year, and just my health in general. So for me, I decided that I didn’t want to start drinking again. And interestingly, I’ve worked with people over the last year or so who’ve also wanted to stop drinking. And I came up with this acronym, I guess, which is SWAP AF, obviously, AFP and alcohol free. And again, it’s basically just about if you start with the S so that’s again, looking at stories, your own stories and other people’s about alcohol. Why are you drinking? Why is it? You know, why do you maybe want to take a break or stop drinking, and then the W is starting to look much more in depth at the, again, the roots of those stories? So for example, I would be like, Oh, it’s the weekend, let’s have a drink, or oh, I’ve got something to celebrate, let’s have a drink, or oh, I’ve had a terrible week. Let’s think so is starting to look at those kinds of stories that we tell ourselves and, and thinking about what’s actually really behind them. And then with the A, our associations and making new associations. So if I was associating it with reducing stress, which actually I found out, it turned out it was actually doing the opposite for me, then what else could I do to reduce stress, maybe I could go for a run, maybe I could dance around to some music in the kitchen as long as no one’s watching, or have a bath with a candle, you know, whatever it is, that helps people to de stress and we’re all obviously different with that. And then once you’ve changed those associations, then you need a Plan. And I know this sounds really silly because we’re just talking about not drinking. But I don’t know about you the first time I went and met up with friends in the pub and said, I’m not drinking immediately I was bombarded with why aren’t you drinking? What’s this all about? Laura, you know really love a glass of wine. So I think being prepared and having you know your story ready so for me now, it’s just like, I just don’t drink alcohol for my health, but also because I feel like I’m a better person without it. My life works better without it. And also planning what you are going to drink. Now it’s quite easy because there are so many alcohol free options, whether you think that’s something you’d like or not, there’s also loads of different soft drinks, but planning in advance so that you don’t get there, like I did when I first stopped and think, oh, I don’t know, because I normally have wine. So what am I gonna have now. So having that plan in place, and then with the AF, the first part is acceptance. And this is something that George talks about a lot in the book not to do with alcohol. But except that, you know, you’ve probably seen I know, we’re recording in January, I’ve got lots of friends doing dry January at the moment, and a lot of the stories are things like, Oh, I can’t wait for February, I can’t wait to have a drink. And, and, and I think, you know, they’re obviously finding maybe finding it a bit difficult. And I think I did find it a bit difficult at times, because it had been something I’d done for so long, you know, since I was a teenager. So having that acceptance that when you get that thought, I want to have a drink, but actually, you’ve stopped drinking for a reason. So you don’t want to have a drink, just sitting with it. You and I we’re very lucky to live by the sea. It’s a bit like being caught in a riptide. If you sort of swim against the riptide and try and sort of battle it, you’re gonna get in a lot of trouble. Whereas if you just relax, you’ll eventually come out of it. And I think that’s very, very similar with the acceptance not just of discomfort through stopping a habit that you’ve maybe got yourself into. But we talked earlier about the Change Your Life for Life, and acceptance, I think is a huge part of dealing with our feelings. George talks an awful lot about, you know, not being in denial. And I think that’s really important as well, it’s quite easy isn’t it’s just keep pushing things down, I used to use the analogy of the kitchen bin, Oh, this feels a bit uncomfortable. Let’s put it in there, put it in there, put it in there. And if you never deal with it, eventually that lid is just going to pop. So you’re going to have to deal with it at some point. And I think that was probably what you know, the result of me ending up in hospital was that I ignored all this stuff for so long. And I know I’ve gone off topic here because we’re talking about alcohol. But I do think acceptance is a huge part of any change that we’re going to make in our lives.


Geoff Allix  22:25

To go back to what you said before, it’s all about choice, because I’m currently doing dry January, we’re recording in January. But I’m thinking actually, it’s actually intention to do a dry quarter. Because I’ve done it before and I find a three months is when I really felt it was put Yeah, my system might just stop drinking. But I’m not saying that I can’t drink. I’m just choosing not to drink at the moment. Yeah, exactly. I think that’s the way because I think otherwise if it’s like I’m not allowed to drink, then there’s a there’s a part of you that rebels isn’t there and you’re like, Well, I will because I’ll tell you what to do. But I’m just currently choosing not to drink and I’m actually I went out last night with my friends and it was fine. I drank alcohol free Guinness which was perfectly nice.


Laura Crowder  23:08

I mean don’t get me wrong I think it’s fantastic that so many people take a break from alcohol in dry January. Although I do feel that it does remove that choice a little bit it you know, people feel like I say the language around dry January. I can’t wait until February oh only so many more days. And I think to me, and I was guilty of it I was exactly the same I remember doing dry January’s and thinking, Oh, how many more days is it before I can have my glass of wine. And, and I just think that maybe like you say doing it out of choice in the beginning rather than because it’s a thing is important. And what you just said about going to the pub last night, so many people associate sober with being boring, and meaning that you have to close off your social life. And I was guilty of that as well. I used to call my friends boring if they weren’t drinking with me. And the last part of the SWAP AF is the F and that’s the Fake it till you make it. And I don’t advocate being fake in life other than in this instance, because I feel that we can trick our minds into believing something if we actually go ahead and do it. So I remember my first New Year’s Eve as a non drinker. And I had this real sense of discomfort. It wasn’t about the not drinking. It was about the how do I go and be silly and dance around and sing with everyone else when I can’t dance and I can’t sing and oh my gosh, it’s so embarrassing. And then I just had this thought, you know, drinking alcohol doesn’t make my singing or dancing any better. And I just thought What’s stopping me what’s holding me back? Well, I guess it must be a mix of you know, confidence, something like that. And I just thought, you know what, I’m gonna go in there. And I’m just going to pretend that I’ve had a drink. And I’m just going to behave as if I would enjoy the music. Enjoy my friends sing at the top of my voice like I would if I had a drink. And you know what? I had the best New Year’s Eve that I’ve ever had. It was amazing. And I absolutely love partying sober.


Geoff Allix  25:29

And to go on to your so your healthcare work that come up with the terms of primary and secondary foods to go away from alcohol for a bit. Yeah, so what what are primary secondary foods? How can we nourish and our bodies and our souls? Okay,


Laura Crowder  25:48

so I learned about the concept of primary and secondary food when I did my health coach training with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. It’s a bit of a mouthful. And basically, I thought it was brilliant, because I’ve never really thought about this before. But the idea is that the foods that we actually put into our mouths, that’s the secondary food, but it’s the primary food, that’s key. So Joshua Rosenthal who founded the Institute, where I did my training, he gave this lecture, and he was talking about how he came up with the concepts. And he was looking at people as he went about his day to day life. And he came across people who had the healthiest diets, you know, the kale, the blueberries full of superfoods. And they were miserable as sin. And then other people who had pretty dire diets who were actually pretty happy. And that’s when he came up with the concept of primary and secondary foods, and health been about so much more than just what we actually eat. And this is what fits in so well with Overcoming MS. And, again, change your life for life, George talks about this, our health is not just what we eat, it isn’t just exercise, it’s not just supplementation, things like our career, things like our relationships, finances, you know, the whole kind of as well as they call it is the circle of life, all of these other aspects of our lives are so important in terms of nourishing us. And, again, going back to the Change Your Life for Life, if we’re dealing with conflict, or if we’re dealing with unresolved issues, if we’ve got very destructive or negative relationships in our lives, for example, that’s gonna have a really adverse effect on our health, even if we’re eating all the superfoods in the world. So it’s about achieving balance. And if you think about the way that our bodies are set up with, you know, the whole aim of our bodies, ourselves is homeostasis, and finding that balance, and our bodies are absolute masters, aren’t they, we throw ourselves out of balance, what maybe we have a massive spike in blood sugar. So our bodies, they’re working behind the scenes, you know, to get back into balance. And, you know, if we get too hot, again, our body’s gonna, like, you know, start sweating so that we can try and get back in balance. And for me, that’s what health is. That’s what healthy is about inside and outside. It’s about finding that balance. And there’s no point in making ourselves miserable, with a diet that’s full of super food, if we’re really unhappy in other areas. And if we haven’t done the work, as I said inside, that makes us get that real understanding of why this is so important. And if you told me tomorrow, Laura, that was a big mistake. You don’t have MS. I would never go back to eating the cheese and the chocolate that I used to eat and the junk food and the bags of crisps and everything else. I just wouldn’t, because I feel so good after following Overcoming MS. I would I would never turn back.


Geoff Allix  29:02

And how can we find out more about you and your work?


Laura Crowder  29:06

I have a website that’s called And that self as in C E, L L F. So and again on Instagram, I think I’m @Cellf_health.


Geoff Allix  29:20

And with that, I’d like to thank you very much for joining us and all your work that you do for Overcoming MS as well. Laura Crowder


Overcoming MS  29:30

Thank you for listening to this episode of living well with MS. Please check out this episode’s show notes at overcoming you’ll find useful links and bonus information there. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode. And please rate and review the show to help others find us. This show is made possible by the Overcoming MS community. Our theme music is by Claire and Nev Dean, our host is Geoff Allix. Our videos are edited by Lorna Greenwood, and I’m the producer Regina Beach. Have questions or ideas to share? Email us at podcast at overcoming We’d love to hear from you. The Living Well with MS podcast is for private non commercial use and exists to educate and inspire our community of listeners. We do not offer medical advice, for medical advice please contact your doctor or other licensed healthcare professional

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