The story of the month for November 2010 comes from Lori Franklin of Jane Be Nimble.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know Lori over the past few months, and discovering that we had lots in common, especially when it came to taking our bodies, health and nutrition seriously. On top of this, I got to know a gentle, kind and loving soul, who also had a deeply inspiring, proactive and moving health journey.

Lori is a highly gifted and talented individual having completed a Ph.D. in the area of molecular biology and biochemistry, with a nutrition emphasis, and also being a massage therapist, personal trainer, sports nutritionist, and athletics coach. She writes about various topics on her site that touch upon each of these areas.

The story Lori shares below, is deeply moving as it chronicles her health choices from a young age to today, and along the way as she was diagnosed with MS.

Lori is an amazing example to us all, because at no point does she give up. She empowers herself and takes accountability for all her actions – and that is perhaps the best example anyone can serve for us.

I invite you now to sit, back, relax and take in the words of this wonderfully inspiring being:

Area(s) of My Health and Wellness that Needed Change

Growing up on a farm, raising our own produce and legumes, and butchering our chickens for food put me in tune, at a very young age, with how our food arrived to our table.

I’d try to play sick or hide when I knew it was time to butcher the chickens. Sure, it was only once a year, but, wow, I really disliked the whole process. Butchering thirty or more chickens every spring, I’d hold them in my hands as they squawked, help scald, de-feather, burn their fine hairs from their skin, gut, and carve into pieces for freezing and eating at a later date. I had the feeling they knew what was coming, they were scared out of their wits, and this was extremely hard for me to deal with.

When rows and rows of delicious veggies and beans were in our fields, I couldn’t figure out why we ate meat. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate my parents and everything they did to raise me and make me who I am today, and don’t judge anyone for their choices. But, after I graduated from high school and left home to venture out on my own, I chose to focus my eating toward a vegetarian diet.

Strategies I Implemented & Their Results

I’m a scientist by training, and I think the strategy that has worked the best for me is to think of my health and well-being as an experiment. At the end of the day, how do I feel? Do I feel better with more sleep or after I meditate? Do I feel better eating less or more ? It helps to remove any judgments of myself, like feeling guilty because I ate for comfort even though I was not hungry.

When I consciously try to remain the observer and focus my attention on what makes me feel good — that’s what works for me. I also try to remain open-minded because my body/mind can change over time. As an example, I was formerly an athlete. I ran marathons, swam in open-water swim events in the Pacific ocean, and participated in cycling races and triathlon. Back then, I felt best when I ate a high-carbohydrate diet: lots of pasta, whole wheat breads, and oatmeal, along with fresh produce and healthy fats: e.g., avocado, olive oil, and flax-seed oil.

Later in life, when my MS (multiple sclerosis) advanced and I could no longer race or be as active, I realized I needed less energy (calories) in my diet. So, I started eating less in general and also stopped eating pasta, bread, and grains (except for brown rice), with the main part of my diet coming from organic produce, egg whites, legumes, nuts, and non-fat greek yogurt. It’s not difficult for me adhere to eating these types of foods. I’ve become enamored with the amazing, flavorful produce I get from our community’s organic food drop that I pick up once a week, and I feel so much better when my body likes what I’m putting into it.

How My Changes Benefitted Me

I feel less sluggish with the changes in my diet in relation to my physical limitations. I think it’s really important, as I mentioned, to pay attention — to be the observer — taking mental notes of how things we do or eat affect us, while not allowing negative judgment to creep in.

Getting more sleep makes me feel better. So, I make that a top priority. I have also made meditation a priority and deepened my mindfulness practice. I am incredibly thankful I have led such an active lifestyle while I could, I think it’s helped tremendously to deal with the challenges MS has given me of late.

I was formerly a part-time endurance/athletics coach, and I often joked with my clients when they would ask if I was training for any upcoming races, I’d often say, “I’m training for old age.” The phrase also meant to imply that we’ll never know what challenges will come our way, and having a healthy mind and body with the awareness of what helps us run on all cylinders will make all the difference. I think I’d be in really bad shape if I hadn’t been familiar with meditation or hadn’t had a strong, fit body when my MS relapsed and started progressing two years ago.

Next Steps on My Health and Wellness Journey

For the near future, I’m continuing my journey of meditation, mindfulness, spending time in nature, gratefulness, service to others, and eating as healthy as possible to try to stop my MS from progressing.

I currently drink a cup or two of coffee in the AM, and I might experiment with cutting that down or out of my diet.

I will continue to stimulate my nervous system and my brain by writing for my blog, expressing my creativity, working on balance and strength exercises, and walking or swimming when I can. Like my swim coach used to tell me, use it or loose it! And it’s so true. I’ll keep training my mind and body for old age (and life challenges) until I’m no longer on this side of the dirt! :)

Wisdom & Inspiration for Others

It’s not easy at times, but it’s worth it to be a guardian of your health and make your health and well-being a top priority.

Do your best to remove judgment from your actions, while simply observing what actions make you feel better (or worse).

Try a mindfulness or meditation exercise.

Vary your exercise routine, or learn a new sport.

Work with a healer or give other alternative health methods a try.

Every day is an experiment, an opportunity to figure out for yourself what makes you feel good and what does not. Don’t let me or anyone else choose for you — it’s your body and mind, no one else’s.

Make the choice to surround yourself with people who make you feel good. If you have friends whose favorite activity is going out for a pitcher of beer and a gigantic pizza every other night, it might be time for a different experiment or to seek out a new social circle.

This is your life. Own it, keep experimenting, and know I’ll be behind you, cheering you along your journey. You can do it!