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Kim Venter

S6E9 Sticking with the Overcoming MS Diet with Kim Venter

Listen to S6E9: Sticking with the Overcoming MS Diet with Kim Venter

Welcome to Living Well with MS, where we are pleased to welcome Kim Venter as our guest! Kim is a trained teacher, professional psychological counsellor, and nutritional consultant. She is also currently training to become a facilitator for Overcoming MS. In this episode, she discusses how to switch to a plant-based diet, how to make your healthy habits stick and her experience starting disease-modifying therapy.

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


Topics and Timestamps

01:04 Kim’s diagnosis and MS journey

06:45 Switching to a plant-based diet.

07:38 Top tips on meal planning and grocery shopping on the Overcoming MS diet.

10:08 Making your healthy habits stick.

13:09 Mindful activities you can do to manage your stress.

15:09 Her experience with disease-modifying therapy.

17:23 How diet and pharmaceuticals complement each other.

Want to learn more about living a full and happy life with multiple sclerosis? Sign up to our newsletter to hear our latest tips.


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. Living well with MS is listener supported. If you’d like to support us and help keep our show advertiser free donate online at And now, let’s meet our guest.


Geoff Allix  00:37

Joining me on this episode is Kim Venter. Listeners can hear more about Kim and the gut brain axis in Episode 21, season two of the podcast so you could go back and have another listen to that. So we’re welcoming you back onto the podcast and now YouTube channel. But for those who don’t know you, could you introduce yourself and your MS journey?


Kim Venter  01:04

Yes, hi, Geoff. It’s really nice to be back on the podcast. So for those who don’t know, I’m Kim. And I was diagnosed with MS in 2010. So it kind of feels like I’ve had, I’ve had it for my whole life really, I can’t really remember the time before I was diagnosed, it feels like ages now. Yeah, it was it was a bit of a buildup, I experienced symptoms of numbness for a couple of years, before I decided to go and get it checked out, then got the MRI got the splendid news that my life was going to change. And then yes, I stuck my head in the sand for six months, really, you know, just kind of pretending I didn’t have it, pretending everything was fine. And then it just wasn’t MS symptoms were increasing. And that’s when I decided to take some real action. Contacted a natural nutritionist, then completely rehabbed my diet. And I did I pretty much changed everything all at once. So I gave up sort of all the inflammatory foods and started eating so much more of you know, just the natural foods. Within a couple of weeks, all my symptoms were gone. And I felt so much better. I had so much more energy. And I since that time, I’ve pretty much stayed well. Barr a couple of the symptoms here and there, but nothing consistent. And so yes, I will be forever grateful to MS actually, for introducing me to this way of life, because I don’t think I would be following it now if it wasn’t for MS. And yeah, I think over the years, I’ve come to actually see MS as more of a blessing than a curse because it has helped me to start living in a much healthier way. And I mean, who knows, I could have been diagnosed with something much more serious. So I almost feel like MS was a bit of a wake up call. It was you know, saying okay, so you’re not doing things quite right. You know, you need to change things. And yeah, so that’s how I view my MS.


Geoff Allix  03:23

You’re now an Overcoming MS. Facilitator. So could you tell us a bit about your journey through to becoming a facilitator and what that actually involves being an Overcoming MS. Facilitator?


Kim Venter  03:36

Yeah, sure. So yes, I am. I was exposed to the program quite early on in my in my journey, and I had the privilege to attend the launch party actually of Overcoming MS which was amazing. Yes, and I attended a few of the conferences with George Jellinek. And I was just so amazed that everything Overcoming MS was saying confirmed what I was doing in my own life. You know what? It was just amazing to me that there’s there was a charity out there confirming that this is the right way to sort of treat or manage your MS. And so I’ve always been a big believer in Overcoming MS. But just recently, I applied to become a facilitator just because I wanted to get more involved. And it’s been wonderful. I’ve taken part in webinars, we’ve helped to host webinars, and I’ve helped to do talks at a recent pop up event. And I’m the I’m attending their retreat this weekend, which I’m very very excited about and so yeah, I think I really just want to be part of what Overcoming MS is doing, you know, and just giving people hope for living life with any illness or chronic illness. So I’m really, really grateful, really privileged to be to be in a training facilitator. I don’t, I’ve not quite there yet. I’m not sure when I get my certificate to being like a fully fledged facilitator, but I am getting there. Maybe another few events, and I’ll get there.


Geoff Allix  05:22

Right. And you also you’re the founder of MS diet for life. So could you tell us a bit about what that is what that involves?


Kim Venter  05:30

Yes. So MS diet for life, is my blog. Actually, just to mention, it’s, the website’s not up at the moment, just because I was I’ve taken a break from writing it, but I will get it up and running. But I started it as a blog, to share my journey. And to help people, other people with MS just have a bit of hope that they will gain a bit of hope that they don’t have to resign themselves to a life of, you know, declining function and living with an illness and there being no, way to manage it. And so really just wanted to share my experiences with diet. And the response was just so amazing. I’ve been able to connect with people all around the world that have MS. And that are also just equally amazed at how just by changing what you eat, you can manage your illness. And so yes, I will, I will get it up and running again. It’s really important to me that you have I really enjoyed putting the blog together.


Geoff Allix  06:38

And I’m guessing from the accent that you’ve come from having quite a meat based diet culturally.


Kim Venter  06:45

Oh, yes. Yes, South Africans do love their meat. They do. And I and I did. I really enjoyed my meat. You know, lots of barbecues, and chicken, and you know, all that. And so there’s a part of me that misses that a little bit. But I’ve learned to live without it. And, you know, the food that I eat now is just so amazing. It’s so nutritious, so delicious. And so don’t really miss it that much. I mean, I certainly think the food we eat now it’s not just about cutting things out. It’s about whole foods. So you’re doing a lot more cooking really involves more cooking.


Geoff Allix  07:31

So do you have any tips for meal planning or food preparation for people following Overcoming? MS?


Kim Venter  07:38

Yes, definitely. So yes, a lot of cooking from scratch is involved in I think people are often intimidated by cooking from scratch and it because they think it’s going to take so much time. But actually, there’s so many meals that you can just throw together really quickly. And as you move on in this journey, you’ll have your go-tos, you know, you’ll probably have like five go-tos that you’ll have every week. And that you know, you can just throw together really really quickly, and it’ll become part of your routine, it’ll be really enjoyable. Also, you can do a lot of meal prep. So you can make meals, freeze them, pull them out of the freezer, there there is that, you know, if you want to be really organized, you know, do a big cook up a big vegetable stew on a Sunday, and then freeze portions or big curry, vegetable curry. So yeah, there are lots of ways that you can make it easier for yourself. But it was really, really helped me is setting aside one day one time a week, so maybe one hour. Actually, it takes less, maybe 30 minutes to do my meal planning and my shopping for the week. So I do online shopping. So what I do is I plan my meals out for the week. Some of them are very similar to the meals I had last week, but I try and mix them up a little bit just so there’s not doesn’t get too boring and stale. So plan the meals out. Add the ingredients to my online shopping list. That’s all I do. And then obviously it takes it takes the guesswork out of the meal every day the evening meal. It’s just so nice. You look at your list. Are we having vegetable curry today? Are we having mushroom risotto and then you just do it. And then you have the ingredients because you plan. So it took me a long time to get into that routine to be honest. It took me a long time to really discover how powerful meal planning actually is and how can change your life. And it doesn’t take long at all. That’s my tips.


Geoff Allix  09:47

Do you have advice for people who who really want to make healthy habits stick? Because that’s I think there’s a risk isn’t that you can sort of like go all in and do everything and then it’s like they needs, like, start to have temptations or you start to have, you haven’t got time for something. So how can you make those healthy habits stick?


Kim Venter  10:08

I think that in the end, they help themselves stick because you realize how good you feel when you are eating this way. And then you know, and then when you stray from the program, and you have something you shouldn’t have or something that’s not very healthy, you realize just how awful you feel. And so you might, you might fall off the wagon a couple of times before you actually you won’t do it again, just because you’re self motivated. And you just, you know, how awful you will feel if you do stray. And I mean, in serious circumstances, you might, you might even get symptoms, if you eat something that’s not on the plan. And so I mean, that often happens if that would happen to me, if I ate something, that I that’s not in the plan might get a little patch of numbness on my leg, I don’t want that. And so even though, you know, I’m tempted, I just won’t do it. The other thing is that if you do have something that is not on the program, don’t beat yourself about it up about it. Just, just start again the next day. So yeah, that’s I mean, that’s, that’s that’s really my advice. Just don’t, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just start again, the next day, every day is a new opportunity. Yeah, it is. It’s in the beginning, it’s a little bit of you know, stop, stop, stop, start, stop, start, but you get in you get into it.


Geoff Allix  11:51

So it’s just we just got to put ourselves in the best opportunity Henry to to be healthier, I think.


Kim Venter  11:57

Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. And as long as you as long as you’re following, you’re following it sort of like, you know, 90% of the time, you’ll be you’ll be fine. You obviously want to aim for 100%. Definitely. But yes, definitely. Don’t beat yourself up if you have had something that’s not quite right. Because often people get really demotivated and they think, Oh, I just, I can’t do this, I can’t stick to it, I have no discipline, I’m just going to, I’m just going to go back to my old way of eating because I was actually okay, when I was I think what you don’t realize is that further down the road, if you keep eating like that, the symptoms will start to creep up.


Overcoming MS  12:36

Have you signed up to the new Overcoming MS app? If not, download the Live Well Hub in your app store and join the Overcoming MS community. Get support, find connections and feel motivated to live well with MS. Download the live well hub today.


Geoff Allix  12:53

And just go away from from diet. The meditation pillar is being expanded. So so it’s not just mindfulness, it’s going to be all forms of stress reduction. So what would that include? What are sort of mindful activities that you can do?


Kim Venter  13:09

I love going for a walk every morning. That is, that’s one of my biggest mindful activities. First of all, to movement, which I find actually, it’s healing, it’s gentle movement. So it’s actually it’s very healing from our body. It wakes me up in the morning. And then it gives me time to process what’s going on in my life, which has the function of reducing stress and overwhelm. And I do find that, if I am stressed, I also have the possibility of getting more symptoms. So that walk is really, really important for movement and for from mindfulness also being our nature, you know, it’s just it is it’s a wonderful healing mindful thing. So I do that, and I do 10 minutes of guided meditation every day, which I love. And then I do I do watercolor painting. So I find that is a wonderful tool for mindfulness because you, you can’t think of anything else other than what you’re doing. Your mind doesn’t stray like even meditation, your mind straight is you start thinking about all sorts of other things and you have to catch yourself and bring yourself back constantly. But with painting, your mind doesn’t do that. So it gets a complete break.


Geoff Allix  14:30

I think a lot of activities are like that lots of sports as well. I mean, I came from background, lots of sports and doing outdoor sports, like rock climbing or, or snowboarding or you have to be thinking exactly what you’re doing because if you don’t, you’ll fall or you’re being mindful because you have to because that’s what you do. But the same Yeah, any activity really anything artistic, you’re thinking about that that process can be playing the guitar could be painting. And so to go into another one DMT is medication. So what’s, what are your thoughts?


Kim Venter  15:09

Yeah, so for a long time, I didn’t want to take medication. I think I was nervous about the side effects. And, you know, I thought, well, you know, I’m just, I’m doing okay, you know, just with changing my diet and my lifestyle, I’m doing okay. And, you know, after chatting with my MS nurse one day, you know, she said, she, she was just so lovely. And she said, you know, it just really is just a is just a safety net. And what we really want to do with the medication is to prevent future damage. It’s an insurance policy. That’s what she said, there was a new medication coming out. Cladrabine. It sounded like the right medication for me. And so I have gone the medication route. I’ve now had my first dose of Cladribine, I don’t know if you know how it works, you do one week, and you’re just taking little pills. It’s not injections or anything. So it’s one week, I think it’s even five days. And then you wait four weeks, and then you repeat for another week, I hardly had any side effects, which is amazing for me, because I have the most sensitive body of anyone I know. So I was very surprised at the lack of side effects. So that was good. And yeah, so I’ve coming up on my next dose, which is going to be in April, I think, yeah. And I don’t regret taking it. If I can do something else to to help myself stay well. I’ve got many years ahead of me that I need to be working, I need to be contributing to the family. I can’t afford not to be well. And so this was just one of the pieces of the puzzle that I sort of brought in, you know,


Geoff Allix  16:57

You need to look into the potential side effects, don’t you say? Well, what are the potential benefits? Well, the potential side effects, what would it cost depending on where you are in the world? Because it might be cost aspect as well and then make your decision base. Do you think that medication and diet can support each other and other people who would more likely be just done a direct just on a medication route or combinations?


Kim Venter  17:23

I think they definitely complement each other. They they go hand in hand. You know, they? I think that there are some people who would prefer to just rely on diet and lifestyle. And I think that’s fine if that if that’s what they feel is right for them. You know, if they’re doing really well in it, and they are thriving, and they’re super disciplined, then brilliant. However, I do feel for most people, it’s beneficial to bring in a medication that is right for them. And it takes a long time to decide, which is the right medication. You know, I think it’s not an easy decision. It took me a couple of years to decide what to do. And it was you know, even then I think I cancelled the start of the medication twice because I got cold feet. So is a big decision. But if you do find the right medication for you, I think it can be a wonderful compliment. Also, I think it gives you a little bit more confidence in your body’s ability to manage the illness.


Geoff Allix  18:43

What would you tell your newly diagnosed self, if you could go back or someone else who’s new to the program about Overcoming MS?


Kim Venter  18:52

There’s so much hope to just be able to just live a normal life. This is not a death sentence. This is what I often say to people who are newly diagnosed because it feels like a death sentence. It felt like a death sentence to me that day that I was diagnosed. It’s not a death sentence. It can be managed. But you do need to change how you’re living your life. Because this is a wake up call. This is basically it’s your body saying there’s something you’re not doing right. It’s a wake up call. You either need to reduce your stress or change your diet, obviously do both of them. But I would say I would say change your diet as soon as possible. Don’t wait like I did. Don’t waste six months. Just go for it. Go for it. If you know you’ve got nothing to lose. It is the most wonderful. It’s the most wonderful world that you walk into. I remember almost feeling like I could see color more vividly. You know, everything changed for me when I changed my diet. So yes, there’s lots of hope. Diet is wonderful. You are going to feel better. And yeah, that’s what I say.


Geoff Allix  20:17

Okay with that, thank you very much for joining us Kim Venter.


Kim Venter  20:21

It’s been such a pleasure. Thanks, Geoff.


Overcoming MS  20:25

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.

Kim’s bio:

Kim Venter is a British South African currently living in London who was diagnosed with MS in 2010.

Kim’s professional background

She is a trained teacher, professional psychological counsellor and nutritional consultant who thoroughly enjoys working with people and helping them overcome various challenges in their lives.

Kim is particularly interested in health psychology, which explores the impact on the mind of what is going on in the body. She feels that this training has increased her awareness of the psychological impact MS has and how the food we eat affects the health of our minds.


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