Warning: It’s about to get all diet-y up in here. In addition to the unfair body standards we’re all subjected to, chronic illness seems to invite a whole new level of judgement. MS IS NOT YOUR FAULT. If you have a history of disordered eating, fasting and ketosis for MS may not be for you. This isn’t medical advice; it’s just what I’m doing. Always talk to your doctor.
There’s a lot of buzz around fasting and ketosis for brain health and even as an MS treatment. Call me basic, but I love a trend, a fad, and even a craze. So when my naturopathic doctor (ND) suggested I try the Fasting Mimicking Diet® (FMD), I was like, sign me up. And while you’re at it, I’ll have an aperol frosé after I put on this oversized hat, and dig out my 90’s bike shorts.
More than a ketogenic diet, the FMD is a 5-day plant-based plan that tricks your body into thinking it’s not eating, thus thrusting it into survival mode. The idea is to reduce inflammation, boost cellular rejuvenation, reset the immune system, and stimulate the body’s own stem cells.
Intoxicating words for someone with MS.
a boring link some captivating science you should totally read, or at least make your doctor read, if you have any intention of trying to temporarily starve yourself to health.
While there are different interpretations of intermittent fasting, my ND, Dr. Deprivation, wanted me to try ProLon®, a convenient but expensive kit full of soups and snacks and everything you need to (not) eat for 5 days.
Unfortunately, ProLon is packed with things I’m allergic to, and since I didn’t love the idea of death by low-calorie diet bar, Dr. Dep and I decided to create the Ardra Protocol (AP): a bespoke menu to match the macros of ProLon (50% fat, 40% carbs, 10% protein, 0% joy), adjusted for the amount of calories it takes to keep my slow-moving, mostly supine body alive.
My instinct was to do the math on how many chips and glasses of prosecco this translates to, but the answer was unlimited lettuce and not enough hooch. So I figured out a smoothie, a soup, and a salad recipe instead. My Fitbit (but like, SitBit) app let me log every calorie consumed while simultaneously tracking my macros.
Despite ProLon’s hefty price-tag, I felt a skosh of remorse that I didn’t send them my Starbucks points, or even my Canadian Tire money for all their R&D efforts. Normally my cold heart wouldn’t care, but the majority of ProLon’s proceeds go to charity. Wow!
On the other hand, the packaged diet claims it was designed for people who are “busy” and “on-the-go”, and I am neither of those things. So.
9:15 am I have 2 cups of coffee, which is allowed on the AP, otherwise what is even the point of extending your life?
12:30 pm My first calories come from a strawberry, cucumber, pumpkin-seed butter smoothie that I promise to make last at least 30 minutes.
12:37 pm 7 minutes later I’m sucking air through a straw like a philistine. I’m not getting any more of my smoothie, but I’m def giving myself gas.
1:00 pm Despite the speed with which I inhaled my breakfast I feel smug–like this is easy, and I’m the best at fasting, ever.
1:50 pm I heat up my homemade zucchini soup. Meh.
4:04 pm Snack time means a green apple and I’m reminded why I never buy green apples.
6:15 pm Dinner is a big salad with 4 of the expensive olives I usually reserve for martinis. I slice them each into 6 pieces for maximum olive coverage.
8:05 pm I have 8 cherries and they taste so good I feel like I am doing something wrong.
9:45 am Still feeling smugly, I sip my coffee and decide that, so far, mild starvation is not even in the top 5 hardest MS treatments I’ve had.
11:32 am At 152 calories, my first meal of the day is a lower fat, higher carb version of the smoothie I had yesterday. Banana made it better, and I make it last 27 minutes.
3:12 pm I have some green tea, and no green apple. Apples are only for Day 1 when you’re supposed to ease into things and few more calories are permitted. Anyway, that apple sucked and I don’t miss it.
8:06 pm I savour 1 cup of fresh strawberries and give three cheers for summer produce.
9:37 am I’ve been awake for an hour and I’m a little dizzy. I decide to add caffeine to that, because I make good life decisions.
10: 35 am The rooms’s a bit spinny and I make my smoothie as fast as I can because I’m pretty sure I’m about to barf. I suddenly remember brushing off Dr. Dep’s warning not to do this when I would be alone all day. I down the smoothie and 13 minutes later I’m fine. I mean, I’m fine-ish.
11:34 am I open the fridge to an unholy amount of Oscar-the-Grouch-green soup. I decide to ‘accidentally’ drop it, but realize I lack both the strength to lift such a tremendous amount of garbage water and the energy to clean it up. I close the fridge and go lie down.
12:00 pm I have a meeting which means my afternoon requires that I not faint or barf. I swap my dinner for my lunch and eat my big olive-y salad.
2:55 pm I arrive at my meeting with 426 calories in my belly, praying that the sound of my tummy trying to eat itself doesn’t give away my cheeseburger FOMO.
4:30 pm I survive my meeting, and for the duration, forget about food. On my walk home, a random superhero leaps into the intersection I’m waiting to illegally cross, throwing up his hands in a ridiculous display to stop traffic in 3 directions. This isn’t a diet-related anecdote. Just a day in the life.
8:00 pm Not wanting a repeat of this morning, I decide I need a few extra calories and ask The Banker to please bring me 1 fig, 5 cherries, and a small square of dark chocolate.
8:03 pm I send back the fig, asking for a bigger one. He drops the bag on the couch next to me, and I sift through it, touching all the figs until I find the Mack Daddy. The Banker seems annoyed and I remind him that he chose me.
8:55 am Last night’s fig binge was a good idea. I wake up feeling fine. Bored with food, but fine.
9:34 am I outsmart my body and have my smoothie before my coffee. I add the avocado that was supposed to be in my salad just to make sure I don’t get the spins again.
2:21 pm I have 2 figs and a cup of green tea. The figs are off-label, but I feel like it’s fine because I did 20 minutes of cardio on the arm-bike. I’m in the bargaining stage of grieving food.
5:56 pm I briefly wonder what Miss Vickie is up to before eating some homemade kale chips with more salt than the Dead Sea.
10:00 am I drink my coffee and stare absently at a mid-morning talk show. I’m struggling, not from lack of calories, but from lack of sleep. I don’t blame the Ardra Protocol; nocturnal nerve-pain keeps me up on the regular.
11:27 am I’m still feeling spacey but I have shit to do, and I need my brain to work. I add pumpkin seed butter to my smoothie, boosting it to a whopping 237 calories. I’ll make it up later.
1:33 pm I’ll say one thing for ProLon, they don’t make you eat the same fucking soup for 5 days.
2:15 pm I feel hungry and I try to embrace it, imagining that this is the feeling of my body repairing itself.
3:00 pm I discover that napping is an excellent way to enjoy not eating, then feel pissy for not having hacked this sooner.
The morning after my 5 days on the AP, I step on the scale and find I’ve lost 3 lbs. Wine isn’t really a breakfast beverage, so I make a smoothie and pretend it’s a milkshake. I’m following the rules, anyway, as Dr. Dep tells me what we eat immediately after an FMD is as important as what we don’t eat during an FMD.
Well, FML, because I haven’t stopped day-dreaming about gaining back that 3 lbs in pancakes and pie as soon as possible.
I give this 5-day plan 5 stars. Compared to the treatments and therapies that have left me with everything from injection site reactions, to migraines, flushing, fever, flu-like symptoms, hives, vomiting, rash, and secondary auto-immunity, the AP left me a little hungry, maybe a tad preoccupied with food. I was never hangry; in fact my mood was better than average, and aside from some touch-and-go moments on the morning of Day 3, I had more than enough energy to go about my daily activities (including exercise).
There is no 5-day plan that will fix your MS. This is about trying to modify the course of MS over years, not days, and while fasting and its effects on MS are still being researched, I feel like I can commit to repeating the AP a few times a year. Depending on my brunch sched, natch.
In the meantime, I leave you with this Ted Talk by Valter Longo, the OG of the FMD.