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“Bite Back in 2017 With SUSTAINABLE Nutrition”

This is a tag-along theme to my January 8th post. . .enjoy!

We’re TEN days into the new year, and resolutions are being dropped like hot potatoes (that is, if you would only LET yourself eat an actual potato).

I know, I know. Especially at this time of year, you have every intention of eating better, filling your body with only the “good” stuff, and cleaning out your refrigerator, pantry and digestive system at the same time by devoting every ounce of intention to becoming a paragon of nutritional virtue.

You’re determined to scrutinize all food labels for problematic ingredients, avoid dining out like the plague, prepare all of your meals from scratch, and painstakingly follow “clean” recipes and random blog directives touting nutritional perfection if you’ll only “eat this, not that.”

Fine.

That is, until you succumb to the reality of frustration, exhaustion and potential semi-starvation after recognizing the impossibility of sustaining your restrictive approach to eating for more than 24 hours – if you make it even that long.

That’s not a criticism, rather, a reality check.

I have seen more people than I can count decide to eat better/lose weight/lower blood sugar, cholesterol, or blood pressure by adopting insanely regimented nutritional protocols. Unfortunately those protocols, however well-intentioned, did nothing more than leave them feeling once again like a hopeless failure in the “feed-oneself-well” department.

We need to just stop.

Breast cancer is enough to handle without turning yourself into a nutritional whipping post.

There’s no question that good nutrition supports risk reduction of initial diagnosis and recurrence, as well as optimal outcomes during breast cancer treatment. So if you’re intent on adding food to your arsenal to “Bite Back” at breast cancer, I raise my fork to you!

The trick to getting the most out of your effort, however, is sustaining that effort more days than not; sticking to those nutrition goals week in and week out. Unfortunately, that’s where those good intentions tend to go off the rails.

The good news? They don’t have to!

What would it look like if eating better not only supported a healthy body, immune system, and energy level, but felt attainable and realistic? Impossible, you say?

If you’re game, I’d love to have you join me in a little experiment. Below I’ve listed some ideas for adding a daily nutritional boost. Choose the ONE that is most appealing to you – don’t overcomplicate it or go all “overachiever” on me. We’re after consistent execution, not frustration, for heaven’s sake.

  1. Roast a large pan of veggies (choose your favorites!). Depending on the number of people living and eating veggies with you, a large pan (I used a 10″ x 15″) could last 3-5 days. Eat some each day (aim for 1/2 cup minimally) in any of the following suggested ways:
    1. As the filling in a crusty, whole wheat sandwich.
    2. Nestled atop a bed of quinoa.
    3. As the side dish to a veggie burger.
    4. Tossed with whole wheat pasta, olive oil, garlic and white beans.
Parsnips & Carrots Ready For Roasting.

This is a new favorite roasted veggie combination I tossed together recently; carrots and parsnips. Root vegetables at their peak season in the fall and winter months, these naturally sweet veggie stars are rendered quite addictive by a proper oven roasting. Parsnips = Vitamin C, potassium, fiber, folate. Carrots = Vitamin A, phytochemicals. To create: Peel and wash the veggies, then slice into similar size pieces (~2 inches). Toss with ~ 2 Tbs. olive oil, a light sprinkle of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast at 450 degrees F for 40-50 minutes until soft and sporting bits of roasty brown color. 

2. Eat a piece of fresh, whole fruit (vs. juice) each day with breakfast or lunch, or as a snack. Whole fruit provides the fiber juicing extracts. Fiber helps keep you full, but perhaps more importantly causes a decrease in levels of certain types of estrogen, which could aid in reducing risk of hormone-driven breast cancer diagnosis and/or recurrence.

3. Eat from a smaller plate (~9 inches). Research shows that people tend to stop eating when the food in front of them IS GONE – which may or may not have anything to do with your individual hunger. “Weight  creep” happens when we stop paying attention to when we’ve had enough and continue to overeat. Starting with a smaller plate sets you up to eat less overall – you can always go back for seconds (or thirds), just be certain to check in on your hunger. Smaller plate = smaller waist! 😉

Ok, this is a pretty good list to get you started, I think. Remember to just choose ONE, but do it day in and day out for ONE week. Once the week is up, start again, either with a new idea or continuing with the same. Build consistency over a month and congratulate yourself when you’ve reached your goal! And by the way, you’ll be far ahead of the folks who choose a restrictive approach, only to abandon it by January 10th.

“A Novel Idea for Taking ACTION to Get Healthier TODAY!”

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you’ve perused my website, become intrigued by my message, and decided to dig a little deeper to learn more about what drives the “DAM MAD” initiative.

Fabulous! Grab a cup of your favorite warm – it IS January in Chicago – “hug in a mug” (learned that phrase from one of my RD friends as she and I discussed the soy creamer “hug” I use to lighten my coffee) and settle in.

At first I wasn’t certain whether to call “DAM MAD” a movement, a project, or an initiative. Words matter, and I happen to be in love with them. Choosing the right words to craft the right language around any idea can evoke both a clear vision and strong emotional reaction to that idea – a powerful combination. Positioning “DAM MAD” in the right context sets the tone that guides my work and informs the people I reach through my work about what to expect.

Given that my goal is to create a powerful, global resource, I’ve settled on INITIATIVE, and here’s why.

“DAM MAD” is all about ACTION. Taking it and sustaining it.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of initiative? “Energy or aptitude displayed in initiation of action.”

Wordnik’s definition? “The ability to act first or on one’s own” and “the power or ability to begin or to follow through energetically with a plan or task.”

Bingo.

Getting and staying as healthy as you possibly can first requires action. Some would argue it first requires commitment to action, and I don’t disagree, but once you’ve made that commitment, absolutely nothing will change until you engage in action. And THAT requires initiative and personal responsibility.

No one can get healthy for you. If that were true, I’d own the rights lock, stock and barrel. Nothing makes me happier than to hear how good my clients feel once they begin to make even the smallest changes in support of good health, but I can only coach, guide, educate and support them in making those changes ON THEIR OWN. They must take INITIATIVE.

If you’re struggling with the initiative to get started or sustain your health goals, here’s an idea (a BIG one) to move you toward ACTION today!

  • Identify WHAT’S WORKING now or HAS WORKED in the past.

It’s common to get all “gung-ho” about health, especially in the new year. Perhaps you’ve found a new diet book, or your friend is following an on-line detox program and raving about how good she feels. Well hell, you want some of that, right? So you go all-in, drowning yourself in green smoothies, chia-seeding your way through unfamiliar recipes requiring mystical ingredients, grocery shopping while clutching and consulting the “foods-to-avoid” list, and white-knuckling your way past the pastry case at your neighborhood coffee stop. That will work. For about 48 hours.

However, if you take a less aggressive and more familiar approach, I think you’ll be surprised at how much more mileage you’ll get out of your effort.

For example, perhaps you’ve gotten out of the habit of eating something before you leave the house in the morning, even though you’ve made a commitment to drink-a-green-smoothie-every-single-morning-dammit. Turns out, that given your habit of incessantly hitting the snooze button until the very last second, your green smoothie is simply too time-consuming to “whip up” – despite the fact that the detox people promised you would be able to do just that.

Yet, when you look at what actually HELPS you glide right past that pastry case (a habit that’s working NOW) with nary a glance, you remember that you LOVE granola topped with fruit (a habit that’s worked in the PAST.) It’s convenient and fast (and did I mention you LOVE it?), but you’ve stopped eating granola because you read somewhere – probably on that detox website – that it will make you gain weight.

Umm, unless you devour the entire box in one sitting, every, single day, no. It’s true, granola IS higher in calories than other cereals, so stick with a 1/4-1/3 cup serving, boosting (or not – depending on YOUR appetite) the portion by adding more fruit and/or mixing in an equal amount of raw, uncooked oatmeal (the milk will soften it up).

Actually, a balance of whole grains, healthy fats (nuts), fiber (fruit, whole grains AND nuts) and plant-based protein (nuts AND whole grains) will satisfy you, help you avoid starvation-driven, non-stop-munching, and aid in keeping you energized through your morning.

The granola and fruit approach is easy, familiar, and sustainable. My recommendation? GO WITH IT.

Save the smoothie-making for when you have more time, like the weekend; a win-win for getting in those healthy smoothie ingredients AND saving your sanity. To be sure you’re buying the healthiest granola you can (yes, some granola is little more than glorified candy), use my buying guide below. And when you feel ready to up-level your approach?

You can even make your own. But only when you feel ready to sustain your granola-making action!

Action Guide to Granola Buying.

  • 3+ grams fiber per serving (typically 1/4 cup = 1 serving)
  • 6 grams OR LESS sugar per serving
  • No hydrogenated oil or trans-fat in ingredient list

 

 

 

“The Mad That You Feel.”

The title of this post was inspired by a piece of work I was nowhere near clever enough to create, “What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel?”, a song written and sung by Fred Rogers.

You know, Fred Rogers, the creator of the national treasure that is “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood?”

The song’s message is all about helping children embrace and normalize that intense emotion known as ANGER, with lyrics so compelling they worked MAGIC in the effort to support funding for PBS and the corporation for Public Broadcasting in response to significant proposed cuts by President Nixon.

I’d been mulling over the focus, tone and content of the inaugural blog post for my new project/initiative/movement when I heard a story on NPR about this song; a song I’m embarrassed to admit I’d never heard.

The irony wasn’t lost on me – and I thank the universe for connecting me with THAT exact song at THAT exact moment. It is eerily perfect for my inaugural post.

The “mad” that I feel, while nowhere near gone, yet mercifully now somewhat assuaged simply through the passing of time, had become in the months following my breast cancer diagnosis and surgery, corrosive.

Corrosive to the point where the intensity began to scare even me.

It was around that time when I ordered (in an oh-so-loving sort of way) my husband to purchase and hang a heavy bag in our garage. I needed to move the anger through my body by a forceful means that didn’t involve other humans; just me, that punching bag, loud music and direct, forceful physical contact. Contact with something firm, yet at the same time yielding to my need for relief, calm, focus, release.

Another thing that I needed – and I knew this beyond the shadow of a doubt from practically the first minute of my diagnosis – was to somehow use what had happened to me in a way that would make a difference. I simply couldn’t go through the most horrific experience of my entire life without wringing every ounce of meaning and (hopefully) inspiration out of it – not only for myself, but others as well. And in order for it to begin to make any sort of sense, I needed to somehow meld it with my existing work, to build on the professional platform I’d spent years developing, because quite frankly? The synergy and irony was impossible to ignore.

I know I’m not the first woman diagnosed with breast cancer (and unfortunately certainly won’t be the last) intent on sharing my story with the world in order to make a difference. It happens with alarming frequency. Alarming not because all of these women have nothing to say or add, but exactly BECAUSE all of these women have something to say and add. There are TOO many of us, and we’re multiplying daily – hourly, in fact.

I actually asked myself, “Seriously, does the world really need ANOTHER breast cancer story?

And this is how I responded to myself; “I would seriously like to be THE LAST breast cancer story, as in, there are no more to share. But as that is highly unlikely any time in the near future, let’s look at it another way. While the world may or may not need ANOTHER breast cancer story, it needs YOUR breast cancer story. You need to lend your voice and your expertise to a conversation that is desperately all too common. And crushing. And constant.”

On another level, it’s also a way to give back. I am beyond lucky, and I feel an extraordinary sense of obligation to contribute, in the ways I know best, to the women (and men) who are not as fortunate as I, with my “vanilla” breast cancer diagnosis.

Blending the nutrition, food, fitness and psychology of self-care is my area of expertise. I happen to know both personally and professionally that whether you’re interested in potentially reducing your risk of an initial breast cancer diagnosis, managing or recovering from breast cancer treatment, dealing with the unique challenges of metastatic breast cancer, or show NED (no evidence of disease) and are looking to potentially reduce your risk of recurrence, you can benefit from each of these areas.

So here I go.

I’ve committed to channeling the “mad that I feel” into something good, stepping outside the comfort zone of my own breast cancer anonymity, and trusting that what I have to share is useful, impactful, meaningful. If my message speaks only to one person, so be it, yet my hope is that it STARTS with one, then reaches many more. That would make me hysterically, insanely happy – in a really good way.

Breast cancer is a vicious sniper, randomly picking us off one by one by one, completely disinterested in our careers, families, goals, dreams, lives. Doesn’t care, doesn’t discriminate, doesn’t spare anyone. Regardless of what “flavor” breast cancer you have/had, there’s no denying it’s a mother of a ride.

We need protection. We need to duck and cover.

We need to Bite Back. Move Back. Strike Back.

And that is the essence of my work and effort. Thank you for joining me as I take the first step.