Exclusive Content

MS and Medical Weight Loss

By Matt Cavallo
In my previous article, Is There a Connection Between MS and Obesity?, I discussed how being overweight was affecting my MS. I am having problems walking, getting up and down, as well as suffering from hip pain and acid reflux. I also am having trouble sleeping, which I learned could be related to being overweight. I put on extra weight during quarantine and just have not been feeling great overall. The kicker is that I don’t look obese, but the reality is that my weight gain was making me really uncomfortable, and I was worried.

In the past, I have tried things on my own such as intermittent fasting, but the results were not very significant and did not last. I needed to take action and correct this problem before I reach the point of no return. To do that, I needed help. 

I decided to investigate nonsurgical medical weight loss. This is where a physician monitors your diet and provides medications that aid in burning fat and suppressing your appetite. To start this program was going to take sacrifice, hard work, and that it was going to be tough, but I needed to do something.

I decided to sign up for the program for three reasons:
  1. I had tried many times to lose the weight, but I was unsuccessful in each attempt.
  2. It is overseen by a doctor who understands my medical history and is monitoring me with regular check ins.
  3. There is a cost to the program and there is something about spending money on a program that makes you work hard to achieve a return on your investment. 

Prior to starting the program, I contacted my neurologist and my primary care doctor. I informed them of the medications I was starting, and they cleared me to start the program. I always coordinate my care, so all my doctors know and approve of what I am doing and what I am taking outside of their specialty. 

Once I had my care team’s approval, I signed up for the program along with my wife. A diet is a mindset and lifestyle change, so having my wife doing the program along with me meant a lot.

The first part of the program included a physical assessment. My body mass index was 34.1 percent. A BMI above 30 percent is considered obese. My body fat percentage was 33 percent, which again was in the obese range. These percentages put me in a higher-risk category for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other health problems. As a person living with MS, I want to try to control all of the risk factors I can so that I don’t develop another serious health problem.

The next part was to learn about my 30-day, customized diet plan and prescribed medication. This plan is not a one size fits all, but rather, designed for my body type and weight loss goals. Here is a sample daily menu: 
  • Breakfast: 4 ounces of egg whites and an apple. 
  • Lunch: 6 ounces of ground turkey patty with a side of mixed greens, and a side salad with vegetables. 
  • Dinner: 6 ounces of grilled chicken breast, zucchini “noodles” with a fresh tomato and mushroom sauce. For dessert, I have sugar-free cherry Jello.

While it sounds restrictive, it is more than enough food. It eliminates all the things I don’t need such as sugar, starch, and carbohydrates. Alcohol is also not permitted on this diet. This diet puts your body in a state of ketosis meaning that it burns fat instead of carbohydrates. We were told that you experience food withdrawal as your body detoxes from sugar and carbs that it is used to. This can cause things such as headaches and mood swings.

What are the results?

I am down 23 pounds, and my wife is down 17. We are both losing inches throughout our bodies and definition has returned to our faces. Our clothes are fitting more comfortably, too.

The change in what I eat and portion sizes hasn’t bothered me as much as I initially thought it would. When my friends and family asked me about the diet and the sacrifices I would have to make, I told them I could try anything for 30 days. Now, my wife and I are really enjoying the food and are talking about continuing eating like this after the diet is over.

It is amazing how losing the weight is having a positive effect in all aspects of my life. Physically, I am not in as much hip pain and walking is easier. I am also having an easier time getting up out of a seated position and my sleep is better. I am also having an easier and more consistent time going to the bathroom and haven’t had any acid reflux problems. Mentally, my confidence and the way I feel about myself is also improving. I like looking at myself in the mirror again. 

The biggest change for me has been a complete shift in mindset. I need to make some of these changes permanently for my health and wellbeing. 

This is what worked for me, but everyone is different. If you are reading this and considering making a change with your diet, make sure to talk to your doctor.