Inspiring words with Carolyn Kaufman from @withouttheweight
I first found Carolyn on instagram shortly after my diagnosis and found her hugely inspiring. Her posts and stories always have pearls of wisdom which quite quickly have me feeling more motivated and thinking more positively. She is always smiling, always positive and always working-out and smashing her health goals.
Carolyn was diagnosed with MS at quite a young age and has since lost an incredible amount of weight. Her before and after photos seriously blow me away - you need to check out her instagram page @withouttheweight to see what I mean.
Curious about her journey and how she's staying well I asked her if she wouldn't mind answering some questions and she kindly obliged.
She shares with us...
- Her journey from MS diagnosis to overhauling her diet and lifestyle and how that's completely transformed her MS
- What inspires her to stay healthy and motivated
- Her favourite go-to healthy OMS smoothie recipe
- Her advice for someone starting the OMS program
- How she manages work and MS, and
- Her daily non-negotiable's for staying positive and motivated
Hi Carolyn, can you start by telling us about your diagnosis and your health journey so far?
Carolyn: Sure! I was diagnosed with MS in 2009, back when I was a junior in college. I didn't know what Multiple Sclerosis was, I just knew it was bad. While I was being given my diagnosis (and my world was falling apart in front of my eyes) the doctor looked at me and said something that I'll never forget: "Carolyn, if you don't get your weight under control, it will affect you much worse than MS ever will." I weighed 341 lbs (150kg) the day I was diagnosed and my weight only continued to climb, peaking just shy of 360 lbs (163kg).
The symptoms started hitting me pretty quickly. Muscle stiffness, spasms, fatigue, pins and needles, some pain. Nothing I couldn't hide and I hid it well, finishing college on time with honors, a double minor, a paid internship, and leader/participator in multiple clubs on campus.
After college, I knew I needed to take a break but the inner hustler in me couldn't stand the thought. I pushed myself harder than ever when I came home - mostly on the mental and emotional front - and ended up having a relapse that left me with severe disabling chronic pain that lasted 9 months. I recovered, mostly by beginning a treatment with cannabis, but my MS was still active and less than 2 years later, I suffered another relapse that left my entire right side weak. I could barely walk for the next four months and I used the time to see what else, beyond cannabis, could help reduce inflammation in my body.
I found the Overcoming MS plan and dedicated my life to anti-inflammatory foods, meditation, happiness exercises, and physical exercises. I started with a small goal of walking down to the end of the hallway and back with my cane, it was the first fitness goal I'd ever accomplished and I never looked back.
It's been 3 years since that last flare and I feel better than I ever have. I realised that there is a path set up for people who have intimidating like mine, but you can choose to design your own path if you listen to your body and take meticulous care of yourself. Since then, I've lost over 130 lbs, rode in a bike marathon, hiked mountains, and trekked Machu Picchu in Peru. I became a coach, motivational speaker, and writer and I use my story to show people that we don't have to suffer nearly as much as we do and if you take care of yourself, you can live a life that makes you feel happy, healthy, and whole. Sure, I don't feel 100% every day, but I feel better than I have in over a decade and that keeps me motivated to continue on!
How old were you when you were diagnosed?
Carolyn: I was 20 when I was diagnosed.
I know your now on the OMS program (Overcomming MS) like me - When did you start the program?
Carolyn: I started the program in 2014, shortly after losing the strength on my right side.
How are you feeling on it? & how has it changed your life and your MS?
Carolyn: Overcoming MS has been a miracle for me. Without it, I believe that my MS would have continued to advance at a rapid rate and I don't want to know what my life would be like if I hadn't dedicated myself to it!
What advice would you give to someone just starting out on the OMS program?
Carolyn: My biggest advice would be to remember that this plan is just an outline. On top of the OMS plan, I also gave up gluten and since then, I barely ever have pain (and it was chronic for YEARS). Just because this worked for me doesn't mean that it will work for you but being adaptive and listening to your body is the most important thing. I know some people follow OMS but keep vegan or others that are completely raw. As long as you stay in the guidelines, you should try different varieties of eating until you find what makes you feel good!
Are you currently working/studying? if so, could you tell us about how you manage your MS with your job/study? what do you find helps you be a better student or worker?
Carolyn: Currently I work part time for a gym (hello, free membership!) and I also run my speaking/writing business. I spend time meditating each morning which really helps with stress management and then I practice deep breathing through the day. I'm very open about my illness with my boss and coworkers and as long as I stick to my diet, exercise consistently, and focus on stress management/positivity - I can work effectively without MS concern.
Whats your favourite healthy OMS food or recipe? that you can't live without
Carolyn: I'm a big fan of green smoothies! I can throw all the good stuff in there, including my flax oil and pea protein powder, and it gives me a ton of energy to get through a long day! When I need something sweet, I like my pina colada smoothie - 1/2 frozen banana, 1/4 cup mango, 1/4 cup pineapple, 1 large handful spinach, and coconut water. Like I said, I usually add flax oil and protein as well.
You're always so positive and inspiring - do you have any daily non negotiable's like a routine or ritual you start the day with, and/or foods that you love to help keep you motivated?
Carolyn: You're so sweet, thank you! I start the day with 30 minutes of meditation every morning. It's been my saving grace. I also try to get a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio in every day and I rotate other complementary aids - journaling, spending time in nature, cannabis, connecting with friends, etc.
Where do you find inspiration to stay motivated and healthy?
Instagram is a great way to connect, but honestly, my flares scared me half to death. I was 25 and using a cane. I was 25 and in miserable pain. I was 25 and so high from symptom management pills, I didn't know which way was up or down. Reminding myself of where I've been daily, keeping a gratitude journal, and connecting with other people who are on a similar journey are my favorite ways to stay focused.
Whats one of the most important things that helps you stay healthy and happy with MS?
Doing the mindset exercises. The happiness/positivity exercises, the stress management techniques, these are what lead to success in anything in life. Your thoughts truly do shape your reality and stress/depression leads to coping mechanisms which undoubtedly lead to sickness. We get this cool opportunity to not only live, but to experience life. When I got really sick, I didn't know if I'd bounce back. I was so heavy and so scared, I thought I'd messed things up bad enough that I might not walk again, I might not write again because I couldn't use my dominant hand, and I wouldn't be able to live an independent life. Being unable to experience all the amazing things this universe had to offer made me mourn the life I could have had, mourn how I wasted time being morbidly obese, and I finally understood how important it was to change how I treated myself. Now that I feel so much better, it's my intention to appreciate this phenomenal existence that we're all given to live a life that makes me feel happy, healthy, and whole.
If you had to choose 1 book and 1 film to recommend someone with MS as a must read and must see - what would they be? (were their any that changed your view on health and wellness)
Carolyn: Book - Overcoming MS by George Jelinek for the plan but to understand the benefits of happiness, I might suggest reading into something from Ellen Langer, Tal Ben-Shahar, or Shawn Achor.
Film - I honestly don't watch TV or many movies but I would suggest watching youtube videos of other people who've healed themselves through holistic means. Terry Wahls has a Ted Talk that made me completely change my view on food and how to use it as a tool for healing and, even though I chose to do a different plan than hers, her story is mind-blowing and worth the watch.
to finish off, Your favourite inspiring quote
Carolyn: Oh gosh, there are so many, I can't choose! Here is one of my all time favorites:
Thank you so much Carolyn for sharing your story!! I found it so inspiring and I can really relate to you, I'm sure others will to.
You can find more of this lovely lady below on her website, email or her instagram which I highly recommend you check her out.
Inspirational Writer, Speaker, and Health Coach.
Instagram - @withouttheweight
Hope you enjoyed this interview as much as me! if you liked it or have any feedback please let me know!