Before cancer, I had a fairly healthy lifestyle. I consumed a pretty typical American diet with the exception of white bread replaced with whole grain. After cancer, I started asking myself questions about my nutrition, wondering if I “fed” my cancer with anything that I ate.
The cancer survivorship program that I attended was extremely helpful in educating me. I made some very positive changes, not all at once but over time, as I learned more. The message after cancer is very clear: I do not want my cancer to recur and I do not want a new primary cancer! Now that is motivation to change.
Much to my delight, I have discovered many wonderful new real foods that I enjoy every day. Here are a few books that are very helpful:
Food Rules and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen are easy to read and real eye openers about food. He also now has written a cookbook which I haven’t looked at yet. His very basic principal is: “Eat Real Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much. ”
Another wonderful resource that I depend on when I shop, cook, snack and plan my eating: Good Food Great Medicine, A Homemade Cookbook by Mea Hassell and Miles Hassell, MD. I have heard Dr. Hassell speak and he is very knowledgeable about nutrition and how it can prevent and treat various diseases and symptoms, including cancer. The best news: the food is delicious and easy to prepare. I enjoy cooking but not when there are 19 ingredients and 16 steps in a recipe!
Regarding exercise, before cancer I was quite fit. I would do exercise in preparation for various events such as cross country skiing or climbing a mountain. But after cancer, I became determined to exercise for life, not just in preparation for an event. In my cancer survivorship group I was educated about cross training, doing a variety of exercise: weights, aerobics and yoga. I have them alternating on my calendar daily.
My lifestyle has changed since I retired four years ago, allowing me more time to enjoy outdoor activities that I love, during all seasons: hiking, kayaking and swimming.
Am I perfect in my lifestyle? Heavens no, I still struggle with eating the right things and resisting the temptations of modern American food, especially sugar and fatty foods. I know I’m off when I put on the extra 5-7 pounds and need to be more careful. The reward is, I feel so much better when I eat right.
Routine exercise isn’t always so much fun as the outdoor activities that I mentioned. But the reward is, when I do my routine cross training, I can do my favorite outdoor activities and not get sore muscles, feeling strong. When I am busy it’s easy to put off the routine, but then I later regret it.
As a familiar shoe company logo states: “Just Do It” is easier said than done, but post cancer there is motivation.