Lighting and audio are not what I’m talking about

To be honest, it wasn’t easy. Even though I knew the basics, my two-week project took a whole year.

I knew to get the right lighting and that audio was key to making good video.

The hardest part was filming myself. There was a week when I made no progress at all. When I rewatched the footage, I’d cover my mouth with shame and embarrassment.

I’d shake my head, mumble, and feel wide-eyed with idiocy.

Lesson 1: Accept yourself

It was confronting. My head looked completely lopsided, like it was going to fall off.

So I changed the way I parted my hair. It’s now a daggy centre-middle part. Better, I thought. Less completely asymmetrical.

I noticed that a lot of different-looking people were making video. So, I thought, why not I?

And I had a message. It was important. It was helping people based on my own lived experience with multiple sclerosis since 1998. I could tell people what no neurologist was going to tell them. I could tell them that darn right diet is important. Even if the doctor says there’s no evidence, or it isn’t strong, I’m telling you where you can find it.

The problem was, I looked weird.

Then the answer came from a children’s storybook.

If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. Quote from Roald Dahl. Sunbeams through clouds in background.

It’s good to look different. You don’t want to look like you’ve been assembled in a factory and come off a conveyor belt.

The most important thing is to SMILE. Everyone looks better when they smile.

Like the Jazzercise instructor said, ‘Smile, for heaven’s sake.’

Simple.

Lesson 2: Extreme Fact Checking

The second thing was a decision I made early on. Be one hundred percent sure of every single claim you make.

Now the order is switched here but for a reason. If you’re fact-checking after filming, it is too late. Do this in the scripting phase, or at the very least, before you hit ‘record’.

That meant not just double-checking everything, but triple-checking, and every time I forgot whether I had already checked something, I checked it again.

Haven’t I already checked this? I’m sure there were items I fact-checked seven times.

At least, I am watertight. Keep your evidence base handy.

The other thing is when you fact check every little thing and treat it like a job, you learn so much more. You get to understand your subject matter with a real degree of expertise.

The more you understand, the more interesting it becomes.

Lesson 3: Make it easy

Now, my advice varied a bit here. Part of me wanted to include as much supporting evidence as possible and to share everything.

One trusted adviser said ‘Keep it simple’.

I chose the middle road.

There is enough evidence and complexity to make it rewarding and thorough, but not so much to drown a person.

I hope I got the balance right.

The homework I renamed ‘Action steps’ so people didn’t feel like it was ‘work’.

The whole thing looks fine. Not made by an Oscar-winning director, or anything, but not too dreadful. Again, it’s the middle path. It’s all about the ‘content’.

Then I had to make it all as simple as possible.

About the same time, I did another video course about fitness. The presenter made it easy with her five golden rules. Good idea, I thought. I’ll do that too.

Five rules are easy to follow. Five golden rules are a real point of difference from every other MS diet, which are complicated and restrictive. Or weird. Organ-meat weird.

The way I eat is casual. Family-friendly. Delicious. And flexible. You don’t have to do anything.

If I feel like I want to eat a big piece of chocolate cake, I do it, (as long as it doesn’t have dairy). Food is for enjoyment. Not just health.

Lesson 4: Make it engaging (because it is fascinating after all)

But am I happy with it? I am so happy with the course. (Okay, maybe the lighting is a bit patchy). Happy with the website too, which is a work in progress, and proud because I did every piece of it myself, including the PhD worth of research.

I’ve watched neurology webinars, spoken to neurologists, read hundreds of medical journal articles, and I feel like there isn’t much I don’t know about MS. I’ve studied inflammation, oils, meat and meat-free diets, real food, different chemical symbols in food, and what they actually are.

First, I had to research every successful MS diet there is, find out where they were similar and different, and what they all have in common.

I also had to deeply explore what I have done to stay well. That meant a deep dive into biology and scientific literature. Holy cow, I thought this was supposed to be easy.

I also thought it would be quite boring. Wrong on both counts.

It was one of the most fascinating areas I have ever researched.

When you research more deeply WHY they are good for you, the fascinating world of biological sciences opens up.

You can see the beauty. The complexity. The precision of our instruments. The clock that ticks. The sieve that filters. Our bodies are finely tuned Swiss watches.

What each organ can do. The accessory organs (like the gall bladder and the spleen). Every part has a role. And it turns out, there is still so much unknown.

Even the junk DNA. Remember that? Most of our DNA is junk. Turns out all that non-coding ‘junk’ DNA is our epigenetic system.

Is MS a case of getting bad genes? No way! We have epigenetics to turn them on and turn them off. That’s where diet comes in. Your diet can press the switches.

And don’t even get me started on the gut microbiome or the excitement will LIFT YOUR HEAD OFF.

Doing all this research and fact-checking has been a privilege and a joy.

Every human being alive is a f__ miracle!

Lesson 5: Name your product

I was watching my old friend Steve Harrison talk about books. He said, Give your book a title. If you feel the motivation start to slip, name it!

The turning point came when I gave my product a name. I went through a sad list of weak names.

The Highly Effective MS Diet (too Covey)

The Magnificent Relapse-stopper Diet for MS (too Best exotic)

Another complication was that it wasn’t really a diet. Diets are temporary things you go on and get off. This was the way I ate all the time.

Easy MS Lifestyle Food (urgh)

When people asked why I wasn’t taking any medication, I would say I eat ‘food medicine’.

That branched into the whole food-as-medicine thing and then I found like-minded souls who were into the old ways, like ancient medicine.

When I decided to name it the Food Medicine Diet for MS, my commitment surged.

That was it.

Lesson 6: Wrapping it with a bow

Of course, there is more to good health than just food. Movement or exercise is so important as well, and so is nature and mindset. And sleep.

In many ways, living the best life with MS is a list of common sense things. It’s not until you’re an adult and appreciate good health that you realise common sense is not common practice.

The umbrella name for the project is Best Life with MS, because although multiple sclerosis is a horrid disease, it can also be a blessing if you look at it from another angle. Like a rubin’s vase. Old hag/young-and-pretty. Two sides of the same coin.

Rubin;'s Vase image with black and white drawing of a youndg woman in profile that can also appear as an older, wartier woman from another angle.

There are so many gifts.

It gives you gratitude for all the good days and the good things.

It brings the key of empathy. If you are unable to see, or walk, or taste, how do you feel when you see other people in the same position. You feel empathy. You’ve been there.

Gratitude and empathy together show you about mindfulness. This is where we really slow down and find a better groove of life, the now.

Spending time every day in the now helps us get well again. It makes us notice the details. The fractals in nature. The magnificence of nature. The sand in the cliff that once may have been under the ocean.

It gives everything coherence. Focus. And becomes a virtuous cycle.

It reminds us that we’re not here for long. Life itself is a course in being human. Who knows if it’s a one-life course or a thousand lives course.

Me

What happens after we graduate? It doesn’t matter.

Me, Again

*

To wrap this up, the course I created is called the Food Medicine Diet for MS. It is new and ancient, easy and simple, fascinating and maybe a little bit boring at times. The main thing is that it works.

It was much more difficult and time-consuming than I realised at the beginning. But this is what I learned. You have to accept where you are right now. What you look like, your skin, your nose (even my massive conker), everything.

You have to tell the truth and fact-check everything obsessively.

You also have to make it easy for people to finish and keep going through.

Don’t make it an omnibus guide to the history of omnibuses. Be specific.

Make it engaging so people don’t fall asleep. Give it a good name. I wanted a one word name. Or a two-word name. I ended up with a five-word name. Oh, well. Whatever. It’s a good one.

Finally, wrap it up with a bow. That means add some bonuses like resources, things that help the person after the course to stay on it. Or some higher-order advice. Tap into the big picture. Put things in perspective. Everything will be alright. Even if it’s not alright.

Leave people feeling good. Have a way for them to stay in touch.

xo