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Healing through lifestyle changes

“Whether it’s the stress of a physical illness or the stress of emotional stuff or the stress of moving, it’s all going in the same bucket from our body’s perspective. I was pouring more and more in there when what I needed was to get a bigger bucket and take some stuff out.” – Becca Benning

Becca Benning is living with multiple chronic conditions, but it was her multiple sclerosis diagnosis that made her dive into Terry Wahls’ research and the autoimmune protocol diet to find what would ease her symptoms. What Becca found made such a difference in her own health, she started helping other people living with an autoimmune condition (diagnosed or not) work thought the autoimmune protocol.

Becca shares her path to healing that went from leaving a job she loved to changing her lifestyle.

Discussed in this episode:

  • Wanting better health vs. vitality.
  • The surprising change she found when going gluten-free.
  • Why working with where a person is currently is more important than strictly following a diet.

Guest Spotlight: Becca Benning

guest Becca Benning standing in the sun by a tree, smiling.

Becca Benning supports people with autoimmune issues – diagnosed or not – to design and implement realistic lifestyle and dietary changes to reduce inflammation and get their spark back.

She has several autoimmune and other chronic conditions herself, including multiple sclerosis, coeliac disease, thyroid dysfunction, psoriasis, and adenomyosis. Becca is stronger in her 40s than she was in her 20s.

Having taken her own trajectory from ‘increasing disability’ to ‘cumulative improvement’, she is a passionate advocate of the power of small steps and self-compassion in creating meaningful positive impact – whatever health challenges a person may be facing.

Are you on a mission to stay positive but are finding it hard to…stay positive? You’re not alone.

Common advise out there can be confusing and a lot of it isn’t even meant to help you long term.

Grab my No BS Guide to a Positive Mindset and find out what works – and what doesn’t. Get your copy HERE.

Love the Podcast? Get these books by Andrea Hanson

Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis

“It is refreshing to have a book that fosters hope and promotes self-healing. This book is an excellent resource for those looking for ways to be proactive….and ways to find hope.”

“It is a true guide on how to listen to our bodies, connect to them, nurture ourselves and understand the power of our mindset.”

“I will be recommending Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis widely to all my patients when dealing with a diagnosis or setback!”

Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis – The Book!

Stop Carrying the Weight of Your MS

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NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by an AI tool. Please forgive any typos or errors.

Becca Benning

Hello, thank you for joining me. I hope you're having a great week. What comes to mind when you think about the word diet? What about gluten-free? Dairy-free. Sugar-free.
When you have an autoimmune disorder, these are all things you've probably looked at and possibly dreaded. And I hear you. When I was diagnosed, everybody was talking about what to eat. I mean, they still are. What do you eat? What don't you eat? What helps your Ms. And there's always some pretty big changes that are thrown around. I had the added bonus when I was diagnosed of having a checkered past with my relationship with food and dieting, just in general.
And I was not looking forward to adding all of that drama together to drastically change my diet. Especially since I didn't really know what I was doing. That's where today's guest comes in. I wish I knew someone like her back when I was first diagnosed, things would have been a lot easier. Becca Benning works with people living with an autoimmune condition diagnosed or not to help them with their dietary changes among other things. She uses the auto-immune protocol, but in a way that fits into a person's life. And ultimately finds what foods help and hurt each individual so that they can have a plan that decreases inflammation. And also supports their lifestyle. Her compassionate approach makes big changes seem much more doable, especially since she's doing all of this herself. Becca is living with multiple diagnoses, but it was after her multiple sclerosis diagnosis. That she dove into the world of Terry Walls and other dietary approaches to help heal her own symptoms. Saying that she feels better now in her late forties, as she ever has.
Becca says reincorporating foods back into someone's diet can be just as important as taking things out. And I am all for that. Please enjoy this week's episode. And visit Andrea Hanson, for more. On Becca Benning. Resources we talk about in the show. And transcripts from today's episode. And you can find that link in the episode description.
[00:02:12] Andrea: Welcome to the Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis podcast. I'm Andrea Hanson, author, motivational speaker, and master certified coach. When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I was told I would never reach my goals, but I did. And I'm on a mission to prove that life with a chronic illness can still be expansive and quite remarkable.
Everyone has their own unique path. I'm talking to people living with a chronic illness that come from different backgrounds, have different points of view, and are achieving amazing life goals of all kinds to inspire you to achieve what you thought was impossible. These stories are raw, uncensored, and judgment free.
Listener discretion is advised.
I'm here with Becca Bening. Becca supports people with autoimmune issues diagnosed or not to design and implement realistic lifestyle and dietary changes to reduce inflammation and get their spark back. She has several autoimmune and other chronic conditions herself, including multiple sclerosis.
Having taken her trajectory from increasing disability to cumulative improvement, she is a passionate advocate of the power of small steps and self compassion in creating meaningful positive impact, whatever health changes a person may be facing. Becca, welcome so much.
[00:03:38] Becca: Thank you so much for having
[00:03:39] Andrea: me, it's great.
I am so glad to be talking with you. We were talking a little bit before we started. There are so many common things that we believe, even though I feel like your focus is a lot more on the body, a lot more with nutrition, and my focus obviously is with mindset, but they still have such common through lines of, compassion and giving yourself permission to, you know, let go of the reins sometimes that we're holding on to a little bit too tightly and just allow ourselves and not be so angry.
I think we can get angry at our bodies, especially with autoimmune disorders because they're literally our bodies are attacking ourselves, but also your mind can feel like it's attacking you because you have these negative thoughts and sometimes they feel like you can't really stop them or control
[00:04:27] Becca: them.
Absolutely. And it would be great to choose to not have them, but we don't always have that option.
[00:04:33] Andrea: I think the option comes from choosing how we deal with it. I think that's where our options are. That's where that control is.
[00:04:41] Becca: Absolutely. We can choose how we respond to the situation that we're in. We haven't got control over everything.
But we still have choices.
[00:04:47] Andrea: Yeah. Yeah. And there, I think there's tremendous power in that for sure. Even sometimes it feels like we don't have choices and it just takes a little bit of reminding like, no, we can choose how we want to see this. We can choose how we react to this. We can choose what lifestyle changes that we make.
[00:05:02] Becca: Yeah, absolutely. There's a lot more choice than we feel like we have at so many points along the way. When you get told that you have some incurable thing, you know, it feels like a huge amount of your choice has been taken away. Yeah.
[00:05:16] Andrea: Absolutely. I want to start by talking a little bit about you and your background.
You've got, there's so many things about you that I want to talk about, but you started in teaching with little, little ones.
[00:05:32] Becca: Yes. Very little ones. So I was one of those people who likes being in a room full of tiny children. So kind of a reception, we call it in the UK. So it's. It's the four and five year olds and it's nursery I would work in a bit sometimes too, but it's the really getting the children into the mindset that school and learning is a place of excitement and that it is for them.
Like they are welcome and they can access anything. They have the right to kind of explore and learn and how kind of thrilling that is. So it's a super opportunity because if you get them. at that point, then even if they have a bit of a rough time at some stage in school later on, which most of us will at some point, if they've got the inherent idea that school is a place for excitement and learning, and that it is for them, that they are welcome and included and cared for in that environment, then that will, that will tide them through so much later on.
So it was, goodness, it was a job that I absolutely loved. And that totally ran me into the ground at the same time.
[00:06:39] Andrea: When I was in school, my master's was for early childhood disorders. And so I worked with the little, little kids. This was more focused on zero to three, but I did work with kids up to age five.
But it's that idea of, Um, being able to really set them up for success. And when, you know, when we were working with kids, they were with Down syndrome and you know, autism and a lot of things like that. It was really about setting them up for that inclusion and helping them. I mean, it was just, and kids are just like the ultimate,
[00:07:16] Becca: there's so much, there's no filter and there's so much.
joy and the curiosity that they approach everything in life with, and they'll just ask you. Like, if they want to know, they'll just, even if it's a really rude question by an adult standards, they'll just come straight out with it. And I find that so refreshing and there would not be a day that went by where I wouldn't laugh, you know, and be able to play.
And that's just so joyful.
[00:07:42] Andrea: Yeah. I love watching it because. Even though, like, my kiddos that I worked with had some, some of them had some pretty major challenges, they didn't necessarily see themselves as being totally different from everybody. They didn't have that worry. They were just focused on their challenges and how they can overcome them and whatever capacity they had.
And it was just, it was so great.
[00:08:09] Becca: And especially when they're so young, when you're talking about those really little ones, they don't have that kind of self consciousness yet. And I mean, I worked with classes where there were children that had various different kinds of stuff going on and it was just, they brought a richness is what I felt into the classroom because it was a kind of gorgeous texture of inclusion for everyone.
Like this, this classroom is a place for everyone and all of the other kids learn so much from the kids who were different to them. Mm hmm. In whatever way.
[00:08:41] Andrea: And, you know, here we are as adults, and I feel like so many people, and I love that so many people are talking about inclusion as adults, and I'm like, if you just look at how kids do it,
[00:08:53] Becca: Yeah.
You'd realize. They'd just hold out their hand and go, do you want to be my friend?
[00:08:57] Andrea: Yeah. Simple. And it sounds so Pollyanna, but it really isn't. Like that's really kind of how it goes when you're working with those little ones. And it's just, hopefully one day we'll continue that on and through adulthood.
[00:09:10] Becca: Yeah, there's so much to learn from the way that kids go about stuff. They're just, yeah, I miss that bit. I miss the spending time with the children. I don't miss the admin.
[00:09:20] Andrea: Oh, I know. Yeah, the forms. Yeah. I know. Yeah. I know what you're talking about. I did a lot of the testing and so it was just a lot of those TPS reports for sure.
So what made you leave teaching?
[00:09:35] Becca: It was health stuff. So really I was... I'd always had health stuff going on, so I was sort of used to it. It was my normal, that there was always kind of some stuff going on. But then I got my MS diagnosis while I was still teaching, and I thought for a while, I was just like, okay, I'm just going to keep going, because that's, you know, that's what we do.
But then one day in my classroom, I just, it hit me, and I can't, I need to look after myself now, because Everything's changed actually much as I thought I could keep going just because that's what we do. It's not enough, and it's too, I can't risk what I'm risking working at this level of stress now that I really need to be able to take care of myself because it just, it's not a job where I felt like I could stop for long enough to even really sort of, take in what was happening.
You mean
[00:10:33] Andrea: like physically stuff, like because it was just such a go,
[00:10:36] Becca: go, go. Yeah. And it was sort of physically and emotionally exhausting, just the kind of the pressure and the relentlessness and the fact of taking work home every day and getting to the holidays and it being fairly standard to get sick.
Like with some sort of flu y, cold y, like I'd lose my voice regularly. I would, you know, every time the holidays hit and I actually did stop, my body would go like, oh, and just kind of give up. And I could see that that was. It was too big of a risk to keep doing that, because I thought I can't put myself under this pressure anymore.
So I thought that leaving my job would fix everything. Right.
[00:11:16] Andrea: Yes. Yes, because it was the job that caused everything.
[00:11:20] Becca: Yeah, because it was, but you know, it was a different kind of stress to the jobs that I'd had before that. I'd worked in the clothing industry before that, so it was high pressure, but without being, it didn't matter as much.
And so I thought, if I'm going to be stressed, I'll be stressed for a good reason. So I went and became a teacher. I was like, oh, brilliant. That's a great idea. But yeah, so I kind of, I decided, I remember the day in my classroom when I suddenly thought, you know what, I can't, I can't stay here. And so I, somebody came in and found me sitting on a table in my classroom crying, which sadly is quite normal in a lot of schools.
So nobody was surprised. Yeah. Yeah. So I just kind of. Um, needed to take some time out. So I just kind of went and sort of thought I need to, I need to just stop completely and think now.
[00:12:09] Andrea: How did you stop everything? Did you just walk away? What would, what did that look like when you stopped
[00:12:13] Becca: and thought about that?
I slowed down. My schools were actually so supportive when I was, because obviously there's a right, you don't get an MS diagnosis out of the blue stuff happens for a while before that happens. So I had had some issues. that had been going on for over a year. And so both of the schools that I'd worked in in that time, because I'd actually relocated during that period of time.
So, which might have been slightly stressful, but you know,
[00:12:37] Andrea: it's like the number one stressor is moving, right? Yeah.
[00:12:40] Becca: Yeah. But I, both of the schools were really supportive. So I was able to take a step back from kind of working the really long hours and being in class and doing the kind of more physically exhausting stuff.
And I was kind of quite well supported to. take a little bit of a step back, but still, I was within the school environment with a view to going back into the classroom. So that was never going to quite cut it. So in the end, when, once I decided that I was going to need to leave, then I did come out of class once they'd found somebody to replace me.
And I did a kind of bit of a chunk of time where I was kind of rounding everything up and doing a lot of admin stuff. And then I left. And I was due to get married that year. So I left in the February and I was getting married in the summer. So I just, I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I was like, you know what, I'm just not going to take on anything else.
I'm just going to deal with that. And that's going to be it for
[00:13:28] Andrea: now. Yeah. I mean, that's a lot of high stressors just right in a row, moving, changing jobs, getting married, even if it's for the best, those are still really high stress things. And as we know, stress. And subsequently getting sick with a lot of different things that you always, you know, that you get from the kiddos, both of those things really set off autoimmune responses.
And it's
[00:13:53] Becca: all going in the same bucket. We've only got one from an evolutionary point of view, we've got one stress response. So whether it's the stress of a physical illness or the stress of emotional stuff or the stress of moving, it's all going in the same bucket from our body's perspective. So it's all adding.
you know, just kind of pouring more and more in there when what I needed was to get a bigger bucket and take some stuff out.
[00:14:16] Andrea: Yeah. So what did you decide to do next? Like what did that help you do when you start, you know, you stopped your job and you got married and you changed your environment and you took a
[00:14:27] Becca: minute.
Yeah, it did allow me to think and it allowed me to kind of, I was still in a certain level of denial about the actual. Kind of situation that I was in, I was still thinking that, well, I've left my job now, so that's, I've dealt with the big stressor, so I should be able to just carry on now. So I need a bit of time to sort of recover from teaching, but then once I've done that, I can kind of regroup and decide what I'm going to do next.
But I mean, what it did enable actually, as a fairly, I got married in the summer and we had been trying to have a baby for quite some time unsuccessfully and. I was pregnant by the January, the following January, and I'm still to this day convinced that if I hadn't left teaching at that point, that would not have happened.
[00:15:17] Andrea: Because the stress was also affecting Yeah. Your ability to get pregnant?
[00:15:20] Becca: Yeah. Yeah. And there are so many teachers with fertility issues. So many.
[00:15:26] Andrea: Yeah. I wouldn't doubt that. So from that moment, what did you decide to do when you said, I'm just going to de stress, I'm going to, you know. get my thoughts together, get my, you know, my feathers in order after teaching.
And then you had your daughter, is that right? Yes, that's
[00:15:49] Becca: right. So she, yeah. So pregnancy, I was actually able to focus on having A healthy pregnancy because I didn't take on anything else major. I was doing some kind of small bits and pieces of, of admin work from home, which was fine. And it fitted around that focus perfectly.
So I was able to kind of exercise and take it slowly. And I was getting stronger through the course of my pregnancy, which is relatively unusual. And so that kind of went really pretty well. And I was. And of course there's the whole thing with MS and pregnancy where they say that your relapse activity will go down during pregnancy because your immune system is kind of standing down so that you don't reject the baby.
And then there's the increased risk of a relapse after the baby's born. So there's a fair amount of apprehension to deal with around
[00:16:43] Andrea: that. Were you more accepting of, okay, I have MS, this is what it means, or were you still kind of like, ah, it's fine? I was.
[00:16:51] Becca: I mean, the thing is, I had seen other people with MS, it is in my family, so I had seen kind of relatively close family members dealing with it and having a pretty rough time.
So I think that was a piece of my, kind of like, I'm just going to keep going. I can't kind of let this big, scary. version of what this situation could be. I can't let that in because then I felt like the wheels were just going to fall off everything and I was going to lose the plot completely. It wasn't something that I could allow myself to entertain.
I was being practical though. I was kind of looking at the future and thinking, well, I, you know, I need to accept the fact that I could be disabled at some point in the future. So when I'm making big decisions, I need to think about that.
[00:17:43] Andrea: After your pregnancy, did you have a big relapse or did any of that materialize?
[00:17:47] Becca: didn't. I didn't. And I, I mean, I say there may well have been small things that happened that I can't remember because that whole period is with a small baby. There's a degree of a blur that happens. So I felt Pretty good on the whole. There wasn't anything dramatic that happened. There were like minor things, but nothing major.
But then as time passed, so I was 38 when my daughter was born, and then it was in my... The big shift happened when I was nearly 40. Because I was in a neurology review, so I was having my annual meeting with my consultant and he said that I was on a trajectory of increasing disability because I wasn't fully recovering in between relapses, so it was a decline.
So we talked about what I could potentially do, so I was being kind of lined up for all of the appointments that I needed to be assessed for various different medications and things like that. And. It got me thinking about something that I had kind of filed away, which I had seen quite a long time before, but not really been ready for, which was a TEDx talk by a doctor who has MS called Dr.
Terry Wahls. You may be familiar. Very. Yeah. And so I went back to revisit her talk and I kind of thought, you know what? Maybe I can do something. So maybe this. Something that I can change for myself. For
[00:19:20] Andrea: people who don't know, although I don't know, I feel like there's not many who don't. Terry Wahls is a doctor.
She has progressive MS, which means there's different types of MS. Progressive is where it's just, there's no backing out of the relapse. It's just further and further progressive relapsing. And she was, I think at the point where she couldn't walk, like I don't, I think she was.
[00:19:47] Becca: She was in a tilt recline wheelchair, she couldn't even swallow
[00:19:50] Andrea: properly.
Yeah, couldn't, couldn't do anything. And long story short, developed, she calls it a protocol, the Wahls Protocol, and it's a way of eating to heal your mitochondria. That's her main area of research and what she found with MS and what really helps MS from her perspective. And she put herself on this protocol and I mean, I've met her, you would have no idea.
It's completely invisible at this point. And so it's something that a lot of people with MS and I would assume other autoimmune disorders as well are. It's a pretty hefty diet, I gotta
[00:20:29] Becca: say. It's no small
[00:20:31] Andrea: undertaking. It is not. Absolutely. It is not. I mean, when I talked to her, I mean, I met her at a conference that I talked to her and she, you know, she's like, some days I just take raw meat and throw it in the blender.
And it's like. Okay.
[00:20:42] Becca: Great. That's not a commitment that everybody can make. It is not.
[00:20:48] Andrea: But anyway, that is just an aside for those of you who don't know. I mean, she's got a very famous book about the Wahls Protocol and a TEDx that's really impressive. So, and I'll put that in the show notes so you guys can look at that.
So Terry Wahls, was it the diet specifically that you were looking at or was it just her story and the fact that you can come back
[00:21:09] Becca: from this? Yes. Yes. Because I had watched it before, as I said, and I just hadn't been ready to kind of take that level of responsibility myself at the point where I first saw it.
I was like, I can't really process that at this point. But by now, by the time I'm nearly 40 and I'm being told that I'm on this downward trajectory, I looked at it again and I just thought, You know what? There's stuff for me to learn here because I'm a, you know, I'm a teacher. I'm an all out geek for the learning.
So I was, you know, studying and learning is, is always something that I've been passionate about. And so I just kind of threw myself into learning about the dietary elements of what she did, but also researching similar sorts of protocols that existed and what kind of other people were doing and what kind of results people were seeing and just kind of what.
Other elements there might be beyond food because I did start with the food and I decided in the end that I was going to work through something called the autoimmune protocol because there's a lot of overlap with, I'm sure you know, there's a lot of overlap with the WALS protocol, but what appealed to me about it at the time was that it was aiming to broaden back out ultimately to kind of get me to a point where I was going to have the broadest possible diet, um, that was supportive of my health.
And so I thought that kind of, there was the reintroduction kind of process of testing things out. And I thought that was interesting. And I noticed as soon as I, but what the first things that I did were from the minding your mitochondria, TEDx talk, it was the kind of, if you're going to do one thing today, go gluten and dairy free today.
And so I did, I was like, right, okay, that I can do. I can handle that and I can try and eat loads more colourful fruits and vegetables. And so I had a mixed experience because it turned out that some of the things I was eating more of actually aren't great for me. They're really lovely and colourful, but my body doesn't like them very much.
So it was a kind of mixture of like, Oh, some things are definitely getting better. Like I can feel my digestion is different to the way it's ever been. And. There are also some things that are maybe not working. So I kind of fiddled around and I accidentally kind of gluten to myself a few times and realized how insanely gluten sensitive I am because I was just like, Oh, this is a really big problem for me because I had, there was a situation where I had a really minor gluten exposure essentially because I was trying to be polite in a situation where I wasn't, I wasn't far enough into have developed the way that I needed to talk about what I needed.
with other people, so I just kind of didn't want to say no to people, and I didn't want to be rude. And it was a really tiny bit of gluten exposure, and I lost a whole chunk of feeling in my leg for three months. Wow.
[00:23:55] Andrea: That's quite a reaction, for sure. I'm always curious about the mindset when... looking at the like, especially looking at diet and changing your diet.
Cause I know it's very rarely and maybe it was for you, but it's very rarely. So I just decided to go gluten free and dairy free and stop doing this. And I wasn't going to have sugar anymore and it was fine. Rarely is it like that?
[00:24:18] Becca: Yeah, no, it's not simple. It's not, there's no, I mean, you know, obviously for some people it can be for some people.
Sure. Straightforward. But I mean, those the rarities for most people, there's a huge amount of adjustment because it's just even going to a whole foods diet is so far from the way that most people eat because of the food environment that we live in. It's not because we're terrible people.
[00:24:42] Andrea: It's
[00:24:42] Becca: just the environment that we live in is designed to.
guide us towards certain choices. And so if you're trying to kind of swim against the current all the time, that takes quite a lot of effort.
[00:24:53] Andrea: It takes effort on your part just for, you know, looking at food in a way that you've never looked like. For me, when I started, I didn't do anything specific like that.
I was one of those people that I looked at the Wallace Protocol. I'm like, you're a lovely lady. You had some amazing things. There's no way in hell I'm going to put meat in a blender and I'm like, this is just not going to happen. And so I was always anti like diet because I mean, and it's a whole different story because I've always just had just bad results with diets, just a bad history with certain diets.
And so I was like, I'm not going to make it in this environment as well. But that's not to say I don't pay attention to what I'm eating and I don't pay attention to what's going on. And when you are starting to look at what's in foods and how many things that you think are healthy, really aren't healthy.
And it's like a deep dive into so many different worlds that you hadn't been in before. You're deep diving into just the, just sheer consumer world of food and the marketing and the lies that happen, not to be, not to be totally dramatic about it, but I mean, come on. And so it's like this deep dive into that whole world.
And then there's, you know, I had a whole relationship with food, apart from any of that, that I had to heal and had, you know, struggled with for a long time. And then on top of all that, if that's not hard enough, there's, You know, you don't live in a vacuum. You have other people. You've got your spouse, you have your family, you have your friends, you have anything.
And as lovely as they are, and I think as helpful as some of them try to be, there's a lot of the, oh, are you still gluten free? You know, like, and you go to a, you know, is this, you know, a medical thing or is it just a preference? And it's like, there's so much judgment coming from. And sometimes you are gluten free and sometimes you figure out like, well, maybe I can't have a little bit.
And sometimes you figure out, no, I actually have celiac and I cannot have any of this. And people get confused and it's just, it can be a whole thing.
[00:26:59] Becca: Yeah. It's so complex and it's, and all of the other people that you're dealing with as you're moving through this situation, their relationships with food are also complex and they're kind of, there's so many situations where people take, if you're doing something, which is kind of against the.
prevailing norm in any way, then other people start kind of going, Oh, but does that mean she thinks that I'm making terrible choices? And so, but don't we all belong to this same tribe that does things the same way? Doesn't that make us all safe? So please come back over here where we all feel like everything's fine.
[00:27:32] Andrea: Yes. Yeah. It is that safety. Yeah,
[00:27:35] Becca: sure. Yeah. And there's, as you say, the family thing is complicated because I was, I re like I said, I realized I was insanely gluten sensitive. And I was living in a house with my daughter, my husband and two stepchildren who were not in my house full time. So they were part time living with their mum and part time with us, but they were with us about half the time.
And so I felt initially I can't make them go gluten free because that's like, that's a step too far. They're just, you know, that's going to be too much of an upheaval for them. So I was. juggling all of this stuff and kind of getting continually exposed to gluten all the time, because it was in my kitchen.
And then I was eventually diagnosed as celiac. And then I was kind of like, ah, now I'm afraid the whole house is going to have to go gluten free. Sorry, everyone, but that's the way it's going to have to be. And it is, there is a real period of adjustment there, especially when. there are some people who are living a very different life in terms of the way that they eat.
So there's the kind of these people are doing this thing and then these people are doing this thing. So what do we do when we all come together?
[00:28:44] Andrea: Yeah. And you know, with something, especially something like gluten, it's been such an interesting thing to watch because I, and you also, I think, uh, I have been looking at gluten for a long, long time.
I can't remember when it was, maybe like when Terry Walls came out with her protocol, but that's, it's been a long time.
[00:29:04] Becca: The TED talk was in 2011. Yeah. And so
[00:29:08] Andrea: a lot of this stuff that we have been aware of, um, and by we, I mean, you know, those of us with autoimmune disorders that have been looking at our diet and things like that, we've been aware of gluten for a long time.
And then at some point there was like this. dietary lose weight by not eating gluten kind of a movement. And that just changed the whole dialogue about gluten. And I know I've, I've spoken to a lot of people with celiac where they, they think that is detrimental because it's changed how people react to you when you're like, you have to almost like plead your case.
[00:29:44] Becca: no, there's a justification element. No, I really need like, if you're going to cook anything for me, the kitchen needs to be clean. Yeah. Yeah. And stuff like that. There are so many people who are kind of finding out that they feel better when they don't eat gluten, but then they don't really know because they're like, yeah, I do feel better.
So I felt horrible. So I stopped eating gluten for a month and I felt better, but then, you know, now I feel fine. So it's back and it's fine. And for some people, like gluten isn't going to really hurt a hundred percent of people. Right. Yeah. So. It's not like everyone needs to ditch all gluten forever.
[00:30:19] Andrea: And I think it's one of those things where it's different.
Like the bread, for instance, that I can get, even like the best of breads, is very different than the bread that you can get over, you know, across the pond. It's just, it's made different. It's got different chemicals. It's got different things. And, and for some people, like for me, I'm, I'm one of those people who I'm like, 90 percent gluten free.
I don't have celiac. I feel better when I don't have it, but I don't have to like make sure my salad dressing doesn't have it. Right. I don't have to go to that level, thankfully. And if I have bread, like it's all right, I can tell in my body. If I've had like a sandwich, but it's not crazy.
Like if I had like a sandwich every single day, if I had a toast every single morning, that wouldn't be great. But it's just, you know, it's kind of like what you're talking about before where you can notice what works with your body, what doesn't work with your body. And then you can Broaden that out to make it more sustainable.
[00:31:15] Becca: And one of the things I love about what you're saying is that you're talking about making an informed and conscious choice because you know that you don't want to choose to eat something like that every single day because you know it won't make you feel good. But sometimes you know the way that it's going to impact you and the way that you will feel afterwards and sometimes it's worth it and it's completely fine.
And it's like, there's no police that are going to come and tell you that you're not allowed to have this, that or the other, you know, it's up to you. And it's just, it's so powerful to know and to learn. Like the whole process that I've been through, the thing that I love the most about it is the self knowledge that you get about not just food, but about all of the things that are the linchpin things for you, which are going to be different to the linchpin things for me.
So these are the habits that I need to maintain consistently, not necessarily every single day. you know, the majority of the time, certain things need to look a certain way. So like, I need X amount of sleep as a bare minimum. So I go, I don't really do late nights apart from perhaps once a year in the same way, because it's just not worth it to me anymore.
But when it comes down to my sister's birthday, that's worth it because it matters to her. And it's a, you know, it's an important thing for us to spend time together. So that's one occasion every year where I will make an exception. And I just, I know that I have to spend a certain amount of time recovering.
After that, because I've had one night of not inset. It's not like I'm going out drinking until four in the morning or something. I'm just going to bed a little bit later than usual. But I can feel the impact of that because my system is sensitive and I know that so I can make an informed choice.
Whereas people kind of invite me to do things that might be going on late. And a lot of the time I'm just going to say, I'm sorry, I'm not going to do that. But I'd love to see you in the daytime.
[00:33:04] Andrea: Yeah, it's funny. I'm like that. My husband's like that, too. He doesn't have an autoimmune disorder or anything like that.
He's just, for a long time, he had a job that started really, really early in the morning. And so he just got into it and he, you know, he was raised in a military family. And so he's just all about early bedtime, early rising. And It's a beautiful thing. My friends all think I'm super totally boring. They're like, Oh, you want to come out?
Oh, wait, that'll start at nine though. So you probably won't want to. And I'm like, Nope.
[00:33:33] Becca: But isn't it glorious because my sleep was horrendous for most of my life. And I mean, when I was a teacher, I would. Sleep, because I was so exhausted that I would conk out, but it wasn't good quality sleep. I didn't wake up feeling refreshed.
But now, my sleep is just, it actually, like, I'm awake awake in the day, and I'm tired when I'm supposed to go to sleep, and I fall asleep within, you know, a relatively short amount of time when I get into bed, and I wake up at the same time every day, whether I remember to put my alarm on or not. Yeah. And I've got like, it just feels so different to the way that my sleep was before and it's glorious.
I love it.
[00:34:12] Andrea: Yeah. A good sleep. There's nothing better. And I, and it's interesting, you know, you kind of touched on it before with, you know, that bucket of stress and what's going on. And, and a lot of times we are in, or we have been in that chronic stress situation, like with the job or with our health or with whatever it is.
There's, like you said, there's so many things that go into that bucket. And when that bucket is full and you get an amount of sleep, it is like that, I had to crash because my body was just literally powering down, like shut down. And it's a different quality. And then if you are, you know, emptying that stress bucket and not under chronic stress because yes, it is possible to not live in chronic stress all the time.
And when you get to that baseline, things like rest and recovery and sleep impact you so much differently.
[00:35:05] Becca: Because that gorgeous window that we have while we're sleeping for all the healing, the deep stuff to happen that our bodies are trying to do. And if we're not sleeping properly, then we're, it's in the way of that being able to happen, regardless of like, it doesn't matter what you eat, if you're not getting any good quality sleep, there's going to be real limitations around what your body can do with what you're giving it.
Whereas if you're able to, so it's very easy sometimes for people to get really kind of very heavily focused on diet when they kind of discover that they do have the power to do something about their own autoimmune issues, but it's so it's actually. So much more than that. Like I tend to in the work that I do with people, the nutritional stuff often naturally comes last.
Because there are multiple other things that if these things are not functional, then there's going to be a limit to how far you can get with the nutrition
[00:35:55] Andrea: stuff. Yeah. You talk about having your five pillars of health and not only are they five pillars, but they are in order. And I thought that was really interesting.
[00:36:04] Becca: Yeah. No, the order that I tend to talk about is first of all, stress management. And then sleep. So because those two are so interconnected, because if you're stressed, you don't sleep, and if you're not sleeping, that's another stressor. So it's just going round and round and round. And so working on both of those at the same time is super powerful, as I'm sure you know, because it's like you're changing that into a virtuous cycle.
stress cycle where the good or any little positive impact that you have on your sleep is relieving stress. And anything that you do to relieve stress genuinely, so to either remove some stresses from your life or to improve your capacity to deal with them, the ones that you can't do anything about at this point, that's going to enable you to sleep better.
So they're just going to be kind of feeding off each other in a positive way. One that really often gets overlooked is social connection. And I think there's a huge impact when people feel isolated with, and with chronic health problems, just that fact on its own can be so isolating, can't it? And so, just acknowledging that.
and kind of helping people to think about what does your support network look like, really? Like, who is in your life that you can turn to? And don't expect one person in your life to meet every single need that you have, because some of us are in that situation where it feels like that's all we've got.
But it's worth branching out beyond that and thinking about, you know, let's not put everything on this one person because that's too much for them. And it's a recipe for disappointment for us. And it just puts too much strain on that relationship. So then where can we kind of reach out and connect with other people that might be able to provide different kinds of interaction and support?
And it doesn't have to be someone that you're able to talk to about your deepest, darkest feelings. It might be just someone to go and see for a cup of tea or even someone to kind of, there's a park behind my house where I go for a walk every morning. And there are so many people who say good morning to me.
I've no idea what half of their names are because I don't know them, but they will smile and say good morning. And sometimes just that. Being in the same place as other people and exchanging a greeting can be enough to make you feel that bit connected and then you feel that bit more resilient and kind of strengthened to enable you to move into, so the last two pillars are movement.
Because I don't call it exercise because it's not about the exercise bit. It's about kind of how can, especially when there are sometimes limitations around movements, it's about how can you move more during the day in a way that works for you. It's not about kind of where can you fit in a 75 minute workout, because that's not the priority, frankly.
[00:38:53] Andrea: 75 minute, that's adorable.
[00:38:57] Becca: So, and then comes nutrition, because if you've got. It doesn't mean you have to have all those other four completely sorted out before you even think about diet, but it means that you can build yourself the most amazing foundation if you do little things in all of those four areas to then give you the resources that you need to be able to then start to make some changes in your diet and for it not to feel like such hard work.
[00:39:22] Andrea: Yeah. I'm a big supporter of doing things in somewhat of a methodical way, because I feel like if you just take a bunch of stuff and cause, and I understand, especially when you're first diagnosed, especially when you're looking at maybe a flare up or something and you just want to do something. I have to do all the things because I have to get myself out of this.
But when you take five things and you do them all at once, You don't know what's working. You don't know what's not working. You might have, you know, these convoluted results where something might be working, but you don't realize it's not, it's working because you've got something else that's confounding the whole thing.
And, and so I'm a big, I'm a big supporter of doing things. where you can lay that basic foundation, like just little things and getting that. So it's like, okay, your sleep is good. So now your nutrition is going to be a little bit better because when you don't get proper sleep, that affects our hunger single signals.
It affects how we, in fact, the type of food that we are attracted to a, and just a basic level. And, and so I think it's really smart that Start with things that are I'm not going to say easy because I've, I, you know, took on the battle of figuring out my sleep and it's not an easy one. It's not easy. No, it's not
[00:40:38] Becca: easy.
And so that's why I think it's key to give yourself permission to do it slowly. Yes. And to take small steps in the direction of where you, not to feel like you have to kind of, Like, to do today, sort out, sleep, tick, it's not, you know, that's not a thing. So we all need to be able to go, it's okay to just do one thing and to feel like all the other things that we know are less than perfect, because perfect is not
[00:41:04] Andrea: real.
It's not. It's not real, it's not attainable, it's not helpful.
[00:41:08] Becca: Yeah, but what we can do is we can point ourselves in a direction that we feel good about and take one small step, then you're one step closer than you were. And if we can keep, and then you can allow yourself the time that you need before you're ready to take your next step.
And it's, so what it looks like varies for everyone because it depends where you're at and what kind of resources you've got to work with. Because if you're really at rock bottom,
[00:41:33] Andrea: it's rough. It is rough. And sometimes it's that one step is that's it. That's your day is the one step. And then you're, you're done until the next day.
But I think the beautiful thing about taking it like that is it allows consistency. Hmm. To me, that is the key, right? We can make all these certain changes, but if we're not consistent with anything, it's not going to, you know, those results are not going to compound. Right. It's like the compounding is Yeah.
Interest that we have in our, in our accounts. Right. It's,
[00:42:03] Becca: yeah. You don't get the snowball of good. You don't, if you can't, if you overload yourself Exactly. And with so many things that you can't hold
[00:42:09] Andrea: onto them. Yeah. And so if you're doing it in that slow, methodical way, It helps the consistency and that's when you can have those aha moments, I think.
They don't necessarily come from one meal where you don't eat gluten. It came from like a couple meals and then all of a sudden accidentally having it. And those were tiny little steps along the way. And then it led to like this huge, this huge aha. And I think that goes with a lot of different lifestyle changes.
[00:42:38] Becca: Yeah. It's definitely the cumulative, all of the, because I mean, I'm now at a point, I'm in my late forties now and I'm the strongest I've ever been in my life. That is absolutely down to the cumulative effect of lots of small things. There are some big choices that I made within that, obviously, but it's actually where the magic is, is in the small things that I do over and over and over again.
And they feel good. And that is motivating and I've taught my brain that I can. So
[00:43:08] Andrea: in this journey, and I always joke that I, I hate the word journey, but I use it all the time because it's just kind of works. So in this journey where you went from hearing that news from your doctor that you're on this trajectory that you clearly didn't want to be on all the way until now, what part of that are you most.
proud of yourself for doing. What part of that do you look back and think, Oh my gosh, I can't believe I did that.
[00:43:37] Becca: Oh, that's interesting. I think it's actually kind of accepting that I could take responsibility for how I felt because we're so, and I mean in the UK, especially with the kind of situation that we have with the national health service and things like that, there's a real level of kind of not being conscious.
about the level of responsibility that we ought to be taking for how we feel, that we're supposed to be able to just go to somebody else and they're going to fix it. And so I think the thing that changed everything for me was kind of that mental shift. Oh, Actually, what I do matters, which means there's a difficult kind of set of stuff that comes with that.
But there's also this amazing set of stuff that comes with that because there's all these potential intervention points where I can experiment and kind of find out how good it can get. And I mean, I'm still on the up. It's, you know. It's still this way, definitely not this way.
[00:44:37] Andrea: How did you help yourself through the most difficult parts of that?
Because I know, kind of like you alluded to, with this realizing that you have a responsibility and it can be amazing with all the things that you can do. Sometimes it can go in the path of like, uh, I did that and it turned out badly or this is all my fault. Yes.
[00:44:58] Becca: Mm. I think that. The amount of learning that I have done around self compassion for my present self, but also for my every past version of me before today, because mostly what is going on with everyone is that we are doing the best we can with the resources and information we have available at the time.
And so I needed to kind of come to terms with the fact that for my younger self, there's no need to be angry. About the choices that I made 20 years ago, I was doing the best that I could. And I, I don't know if I would really want to change any of it. Because if you change it, then I don't end up here and I'm pretty good where I'm at.
[00:45:41] Andrea: Yeah. And I also think that if you change it, then you don't have, you know, there's ahas that come from really good things, but there's also ahas that came from eating gluten and having your body go numb for three months. That potentially is something you could beat yourself up about, but at the same time you're like, wow, that was the aha.
That was a moment that really helped you move forward.
[00:46:01] Becca: And it's, it's the same way that I used to talk to the children. When you make a mistake, there's juice in there. You know, there's juicy learning to be had because it's when we do things and they don't turn out the way that we expect that we can really dig in and find out if everything goes dreamily the way that we expected it to, then fine.
We haven't learned anything spectacular from that, but mistakes. can be so much richer. And I mean, that one in particular made anything with gluten in it, not look like food to me anymore, which made my life a lot easier. Yeah.
[00:46:30] Andrea: Yeah. That's really interesting. It did with that one moment, you completely changed how you viewed things.
Like just, I think that's so fascinating. You know, one thing that I saw you talk about is Something that I just wanted to touch on because I thought it was so interesting and I actually was having a very similar conversation the other day with somebody about the difference between striving for health and striving for vitality and how those things are different.
I don't necessarily strive for Health in the way that like, I think we can have perfect health or I want to be the picture of health. Like, I don't do that. And it sounds like you don't either.
[00:47:16] Becca: No, because I'd found this out when I went, I did some values work with a coach who's very good at all of this stuff.
And it's, it's something that I do work around with clients quite often around values because it's so illuminating. Yeah. Yeah. And health wasn't on my list. And I just thought, Oh, isn't that interesting? And it's because I define how that piece of my value system shows up as being vitality rather than health.
Because to me, that's the point of working to be, to maximize my wellbeing is so that I can live a life in which I experience vitality. It doesn't mean that I have to be free of every symptom of everything, because I've got multiple chronic diseases that are always going to be there. And if I define my pursuit of health as I have to be in a place where it's as though I didn't have any of that, then that's quite limiting.
Whereas I can still, I can experience being who I am with those things at whatever state, because you know, where I'm at now is not going to be where I am in 10 years. If I am still in a place in 10 years where I can have days where I feel like I can ride the wave of vitality and experience joy, then that's well being for me.
I don't need to be able to say I'm in perfect health. Yeah.
[00:48:31] Andrea: Yeah. You know, and for me, I, cause I say things like I want health, I want better health, and I started realizing like, oh, but that doesn't mean what I think people think it means. Like to me, that doesn't mean that I want it to be this, you know, Adonis that everybody thinks is like, that's never met.
And it was never like that. So I really liked hearing you talk about it too. Cause I was like, that's exactly. that to me really buttoned it up. It's like, no, it's
[00:48:58] Becca: vitality. Yeah. I love that because it's so, it is just joyous when you think about it. Like, when you think about being healthy, being healthy is wonderful.
But when you think about being full of vitality, that kind of, to me, takes it up a notch. Yeah. That's like, I'd rather have that.
[00:49:14] Andrea: Yeah, exactly. Yes, please. Yeah. So talk a little bit about, You work with the autoimmune protocol and you do it with your clients. So talk a little bit about what you do when you're working with clients and what that looks like.
[00:49:30] Becca: Yeah. I mean, it's the autoimmune protocol is one of the tools that we have at our disposal. So it doesn't. necessarily suit everyone. And it depends, like you said, if you are kind of somebody who looks at something like the walls protocol and thinks, Oh, no, that's, you know, this is not for me. I'm not doing any of these things.
Then that doesn't mean that none of this is accessible to you, you know? So it's very much about kind of looking at where. The person is, you know, we start with a signposting session where we really dig in and spend time on working out where are you now and where is it that you want to get to? Because this isn't about what I think you should do.
You're never going to start, you know, doing anything radical because I tell you, I think you should, the thing that is going to be meaningful is what do you want and kind of what do you think needs to be different? in order to point you in the direction of what it is that you really want for your future because you're at a point where you, something needs to change.
And so we kind of, I absolutely do help support people through the autoimmune protocol and people can come to me at any stage if they're trying to implement something like that and really having trouble with it. It can be great to just talk to someone who's got a lot of experience with it. And at the same time, I'm never going to tell you that that's what you have to do in order to get where you want to go.
So it's It's a process of thinking about all of these pillars that I was talking about and other stuff that might not fit neatly into that. You know, for some people, the first thing they need to work on is their relationship with their phone or something like that. That doesn't neatly fit into any of those categories, but if it's the thing that is like a ding, ding, ding, we need to do something about this for that person.
then that's where we start. And, you know, it's about working out a plan of doing things in those small steps that are realistic and where we can build kind of a support round what it is that you're trying to change so that you give yourself the best chance of being successful. And then if it doesn't go quite according to plan, We get the juice.
We get to dig in and find out what happened there and how could we adjust. Is it a course correction or is it just that there needs to be different support or different kinds of preparation?
[00:51:37] Andrea: And who do you work with? It's not just people with MS,
[00:51:40] Becca: No, it's autoimmune diseases generally. And I mean, there are.
The kind of work that I do is kind of relevant for any kind of chronic health condition, really. But I have most experience working with people with autoimmune conditions, because I have several different ones myself. I've got MS, I've got celiac disease, I've got psoriasis, and then I've also got other stuff going on like thyroid dysfunction and adenomyosis, which is related to endometriosis.
So. There's, it often just helps people to know that because then if there's something specific that they connect to about that, then they can, you know, it sometimes feel like, okay, you get it. So I can talk to you about this problem with this thing. But actually a lot of what we need to do is going to be looking at the same.
things, regardless of what the actual challenge is. It's going to be looking at the same things about life and about where it is you're trying to get to, to then work out how methodical and kind of small, realistic changes are going to get you there.
[00:52:40] Andrea: You know, I've often thought after I started looking at my lifestyle changes, I always did it from a standpoint of, because I have MS, because I was very young when I was diagnosed.
And Then it became really clear to me that I'm like, everybody should be doing this. Like it really shouldn't be just because you have an autoimmune disorder, like this is just good for humans.
[00:53:02] Becca: Yeah, I absolutely agree. And I think it's just one of those things that when we are pushed by things like autoimmune conditions to a point where we feel like we really need to change something and be one of those people who is swimming against the tide for it takes something to make us kind of hit that tipping point.
And so People who have chronic health stuff going on are just looking through a different lens at what, what they value about their life and about their well being.
[00:53:30] Andrea: I often say that I know it's a really annoying thing to hear, but I am grateful for my MS. And I think this is one of the reasons is I seriously doubt I would be as healthy as I am now.
I seriously doubt I would be taking care of myself and putting myself first like I am now if I had not had a diagnosis.
[00:53:50] Becca: Mm, and I know I am 100 percent with you because I've said the very same thing, even though it's frustrating to hear, I am so glad that I am where I am now. And I absolutely would not be if it hadn't been for my MS diagnosis specifically.
And then the kind of road that that led me down because I just understand myself and what I need and how to design my life. I know so much more about that than I ever would have found out otherwise.
[00:54:19] Andrea: Becca, I could talk to you for another three hours. This is fantastic. I love it. I'm going to have a link to your website in the episode description.
I'm going to have all your information in the show notes, but how can people get in touch with
[00:54:33] Becca: you? The easiest way, everything is just under my name, so beccabenning. com is my website, and beccabenning is the most of my handles on social media are either beccabenning or beccabenningchc, which is certified health coach, so I'm easily findable, um, so I'm on Instagram, I'm on, I have a Facebook page, I'm on LinkedIn, but I don't beccabenning.
com. adore social media. So, you know, you're more than welcome to just drop me an email if you fancy a chat. And there are various kind of freebies in the works that are going to be popping up. So yeah. So if you check out my website, you might be able to find something that might be of interest if you're interested in getting the ball rolling and not sure where to begin.
[00:55:16] Andrea: Absolutely. And we didn't even touch on this, but they're soon to come as a TED talk. Which I will definitely have a link to. you and I know you have been super helpful to people listening and informative to people who are looking at things like the autoimmune protocol or just how to wrap their heads around this amazing chronic illness in general.
So thank you so
[00:55:43] Becca: much for having me. It's been great. And thank you for doing what you do. Cause I was saying to you before we started recording that I really appreciate a forum like this where people can hear stories of people who are living well in spite of whatever their health challenges may be. I think that's a super powerful thing to offer people.
So thank you very much. Well,
[00:56:03] Andrea: thank you so much.

About Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis

Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis podcast

Hear inspiring discussions with people living with chronic illness. These people went after their passions and big goals -even when everyone told them they couldn’t. Listen to stories of resilience and gratitude in the face of uncertainty.

I’m your host, Andrea W. Hanson, Author, Motivational Speaker, and Autoimmune Rebel living with multiple sclerosis. You’ll not only fall in love with these guests, but you’ll soak up positive mindset tips and ideas to find your own unique path to success.

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