Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Eating For Healing

I've always been a pretty healthy eater.  I go through phases where I'll be very strict with my diet and other phases where I'm more relaxed.  But the truth is that until now I've never eaten for my health.  When I said I was watching what I ate, I meant I was ensuring that I fit into a size 2.  It just happened to be that the foods I selected were pretty healthy, and that my palette is not particularly picky.  I've also never been one for skipping meals or starving so my diet for many years has consisted of 5-6 small meals a day.  I've never really cared whether I was getting all my vitamins and minerals or if I was eating enough fruits or vegetables.  At the end of the day all that mattered to me was knowing exactly how many calories I had consumed.  Well all of that has changed.
My nutrition priorities shifted the minute I was diagnosed.  I wanted to do everything in my power to help my body create a healing environment.  A friend of mine sent me a book by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, titled Anti Cancer A New Way Of Life.  The book is written by a man with both an MD and a PhD that had a malignant tumor in his brain.  He took advantage of his resources and did massive amounts of research on the link between cancer and helping it heal with food and the mind-body connection.  He puts all of this research in his book.  His cancer has been in remission for ten years.  I also read up on the China Study.  This was a 20-year research project conducted by Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine.  The findings showed that people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease.  People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease.  I combined what I learned from the book and the China study and for the first time in my life I began eating for health.  My diet still consists of 5-6 meals a day but is mostly made up of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains and it rarely has any animal based products. 
Truthfully this hasn't been terribly difficult for me but it has required a change of mind set.  The best food for "the size 2 diet" is egg whites.  You don't get much more low calorie, no carb, and high protein than the egg white.  I bid the egg white adios and haven't looked back.  I used to shy away from fruits.  Not because I didn't like them, but because I associated them with sugar.  Now I start my day with a 100% fruit drink (I use a juicer and mix in frozen fruit with a blender) that contains apples, oranges, blackberries, strawberries, blue berries, and raspberries.  I had no idea why people spent more money to buy organic anything.  Now organic is my friend.  Almost all of my fruits and vegetables are organic. I also gave up my favorite snack - smart pop pop corn.  It contains an oil that I should stay away from.  Lean Cuisines were my go to staple when I was in a hurry.  When you're tyring to heal, that has to take priority over being in a hurry.  I just plan a little more time in my day now - and if I'm late, I roll with the punches.
I've had a couple people ask me what my food intake looks like for the day now.  So here's an example - I'll use what I ate today.  I started the day with my fruit "smoothie."  Next meal was a slice of whole grain bread with organic hummus and a small bowl of edamame.  The next meal was some Jasmine rice and black beans.  Then I had a handful of almonds and walnuts with some dry whole grain cereal for a snack.  The last meal (which I have yet to eat) will be vegetables (red pepper, carrots, broccoli, asparagus, garlic, onion, and ginger) cooked in a wok with some olive oil with a mix of leafy greens.  It all tastes great. 
I was also taking green tea, fish oil, and a super food supplement.  I have stopped taking all of these because my doctor asked me to stop while we were doing the radiation.  These supplements, although very good for you, are anti-oxidants.  During radiation you need an oxygen rich environment for the radiation to be effective.  Once it's over, I can go back to taking the supplements.
Also I should mention that while I eat this way most of the time, I still go to restaurants and grandmas house and enjoy my food.  I am staying away from animal products but Abuela's arroz con frijoles and platanitos are just not something I can go without indefinitely.  Allowing myself to have a little splurge every once in a while makes it much easier to stick to a healthy eating plan.
If you're wondering about my size, it hasn't changed one bit and I don't expect that it will.  But if it did, I'd be more than willing to accept that if it meant that my body was healthier and a better environment for healing. My defenition of healthy has been tweaked and I've learned a valuable lesson - even in South Beach, where the average size is a negative 1, who cares how faulous you look if your body is not as healthy as it can be!

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