I have become super intrigued and passionate about switching to a vegan diet since I found out that I had cancer. When I asked my breast surgeon what I need to do about my diet and she said “there’s no research to show that diet changes the outcome of your diagnosis.” WHAT?!?!? I was so mad. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my breast surgeon, she is amazing (see the last post if you doubt me). BUT, this one thing we simply do not see eye to eye on. I understand her reasons for saying what she did and that’s ok. From a doctor’s standpoint, that may have been all that she could say. Besides, saying something else could lead to “false hope” and I surely am not a fan of that at all!-
— sorry for the tangent, back to my story!—
One of the very first things I did when I got the cancer diagnosis was call my friend Catherine and asked what do I need to do about my diet? She is a dietician and I needed her help. She already knows so much information about this subject, but I know that she did even more searching. She researched, listened to podcasts, read articles and ultimately told me the news that (at the time) I didn’t think I wanted to hear. I even remember her calling me on the phone on her way home from work and she said “well, you’re not going to like this very much.” I said I don’t care, throw it at me. I’m going to do whatever it takes to give this cancer no incentive whatsoever to grow inside of me… so that’s exactly what I have done.
Here’s my story.
This food journey started A LONG TIME AGO. Prior to college, I was the pickiest eater, ever. I seriously only ate meat, bread and potatoes as my dad would always say. I did not eat any vegetables. None at all, it was bad. Then, in college I got a little better. One of my roommates, Joanna, was a fantastic cook. She would cook these delicious dinners that were healthy. It was either eat what she’s cooking or fend for myself. I chose her deliciousness and the rest is history when it comes to eating healthy. I love it ALL NOW… BUT I just don’t love 3 little things: mushrooms, green and red peppers (although I am slowly learning to kinda like them) and olives. Yuck!
I have always been interested in diets and trying new foods and diets/workout regimens. I think it’s fun to experiment and try new ways of eating and working out. AND not to mention its been pretty successful most of the time, but never consistent. I’ve tried so many and although I haven’t stuck with a “diet” and fell back on the bandwagon of convenience of take out food a dew days a week and cooking what’s easy some of the other days, each time I learned something about food and how to eat healthy. A few “diets” that I have done:
- No salt diet – I don’t know if there is an official name, but I did it for a few weeks and lost 10 pounds. Of course I gained the weight back, but I learned SO MUCH about sodium. This was probably 8-9 years ago when I did this, but to this day I still pay so much attention to the amount of sodium in foods. I opt for unsalted or low sodium food whenever its available (canned, boxed, bottled, spiced… ALL have no sodium options if you look at the labels!) and I rarely ever cook with salt. If you come to my house, I promise I will season your food very well- just not with salt. BUT I do have Himalayan Pink Salt ready to add if you need it!
- Weight Watchers – Whoa! Take me back again to 10 years ago… before iPhones and I paid for a weight watchers subscription and logged my food on a computer – before they had flex points I think they call them now. Hah! WW was awesome too, just not for me. Problem number 1 – I would stay in my points “range” for the day, but my food would be LOADED with all the bad things. Nothing healthy, but hey I stayed in my points range and I was losing weight. Woo hoo??? Nope.
PS It is going to be so fun for me to go back and read this post in 10 years and see how technology and things have changed even more than they have now. I can’t imagine life without an iPhone and apps that keep my life straight for me! CRAZY!
- Counting Calories – when I didn’t want to pay for weight watchers anymore, I went through a TON of recipes, picked out my favorite ones and PRINTED THEM OUT (who does this anymore?!?), calculated all the “points values” in my weight watchers computer program so I could still know how many points I was consuming, then I cancelled the subscription. This didn’t last for long, I have always been terrible at counting calories! Even now, I have tried using the app: My Fitness Pal and it’s the easiest way to count calories, ever! Especially if you are tracking your macros and protein/fat/carb consumption, etc. Which I will probably start doing again when I can workout in a few weeks, but that doesn’t make me any better at it!
- Flat Belly Diet – This was a great recipe book, diet not so much. I wasn’t so successful with this one at all. Quite honestly, I didn’t need a flat belly – my thighs were, are, will always be the trouble area!! 😉 What I learned the most from this diet is that eating fats CAN be really good for you and I learned about healthy fats and how important they are for us – TOTALLY opposite of WW and their “low-fat” philosophy (Back then, not necessarily now). FRIENDS – PSA – Low-fat (or reduced fat) means MORE SUGAR. EWWW. Stay away, please.
- WHOLE 30 and PALEO – Now this is a good “diet” – a great one actually if you want to start eliminating sugar, processed foods, and dairy from your diet. It’s a great beginning to where you should be headed… I’ll get to more about that in a minute, but lets talk about this diet first. I started doing Crossfit about 4 years ago when I got a divorce started dating a new handsome bachelor (my now husband of course!) and needed to get into shape. My divorce helped me lose ALL the weight, then Crossfit helped me tone it up! or so I say… hah! Serisouly though, Crossfit is amazing – at least the gym I went to was – and if I still lived in Atlanta then I’d still be there! Anyway, CF pushed me beyond my limits of lifting weight that I never thought in a million years I’d be able to lift and I was in the best shape. Even throughout my entire pregnancy with a very quick, natural birth to wrap it up. (I blame it all on CF and squats!) I even did an Olympic distance Triathalon (St. Anthony’s in St. Petersburg, FL) and it was tough, but so fun! I totally drank the CF kool-aid and it was awesome, BUT the more I worked out the more I wanted to eat so my weight started to climb PLUS my handsome new boyfriend was pretty awesome and took me on some fantastic dinner dates. How can you say no to ALL the delicious food? The answer is, you can’t! Especially in Atlanta where the number of delicious restraints is – 1 million. Anyway, I tried to “eat Paleo” or “do Whole 30” but I never kept with it. I did learn a lot of good tips to eat healthy protein and fats, less carbs and sugar etc. etc. but I have a huge sweet tooth. It just never worked like its supposed to for me I guess, but definitely gave me a great foundation for what healthy eating should look like and the importance of how your food is made and what is actually in it. Shopping mostly from the outer rims of the grocery store rather than in the aisles – grasped beef, organic produce, its SO worth the extra money!! Lots of good and very beneficial information!
- Isagenix cleanses – My husband and I got hooked on these when we were training for a half marathon in Seaside, FL. It was my first half and our friends in Florida started talking to us about this thing called Isagenix and their cleanse system and we were interested! In a nutshell, Isagenix has a cleanse system where you have cleanse days (no food at all, only their cleanse for life “drink” that kept your body from going into starvation mode and cleaned you out at the same time) and shake days (you have two protein shakes and one healthy meal on those days). It is a scientifically proven system and we actually LOVED it! The protein shakes are delicious and priced comparable to other similar shakes. The only thing about Isagenix is that it just wasn’t realistic for us to do on a regular basis. We did it about every 3-6 months to detox as a reset and that was perfect for us. It really does clean you out and we felt great after every time! We also used the shakes on a consistent basis too. I loved that their shakes have 22 or 23g of whey protein from New Zealand and it was an easy and delicious way to sneak in extra protein everyday.
That is almost it for all of my “diets” that I have tried!… until I found my most recent one.
In addition to different diets, I bought and read Jessica Alba’s book, The Honest Life, the origin of her now company called The Honest Company. In 2013, when the book was published, information about how dangerous chemicals are for you and where they exist (in your food, in your makeup, in all your beauty products, you household cleaners, you name it!) and there is likely a chemical of some kind in pretty much everything. Well, after reading this book there was very limited information about this kind of stuff, but I sought to continue to read and research and figure this all out for myself. Thus becoming just a little “crunchy.” Since then, you can find more information than you really need about this topic, I have become a whole lot “crunchier” and am pretty particular when it comes to what type of products I buy for our family and use on our bodies and in our home. This is or could be a whole separate post, maybe one day!
Ok, so fast forward to now… well back up a little… on March 20th, when I found out I had cancer. I feel like all of these diets and researching safe beauty, body and home product for us to use came full circle. I didn’t need to re-learn it all. I just had to use what I already knew and take it another pretty extreme step further. That meant, it was time to be vegan. Yikes!
The day I talked to Catherine on the phone, on her way home from work, she told me that I may not like it but everything she had researched said that the best possible diet regimen for me to follow would be a plant-based, organic, mostly raw vegan diet. I’ll say that again… plant-based, organic, mostly raw vegan diet. I took a hard swallow and said OK, I’m doing it! BUT, what does that even mean? Oh, I was so naive.
Since then, I have read, listened, researched, figured out… how to be vegan and actually ENJOY it. I love food and I love to cook, I had to find a way to love this too. Vegan by definition is no meat or dairy – nothing from an animal at all. Well, given my cancer diagnosis, I have had to take it a few steps further…. no meat, dairy, sugar, or processed foods of any kind, no wheat/gluten, no alcohol (I’m sneaking a glade here and there – I love wine too much), no caffeine, or soda (in the South we call it Coke – man, I miss a good fountain Coke!) and I am also limiting most my soy intake because both of my hormone receptors are positive. Some soy is really good, but too much could be really bad! Sooooo that basically leaves me with… lettuce. Yep that’s pretty much it!
Lettuce it is!
Now, unintentionally, 17 pounds lighter, I have learned to LOVE eating vegan. I actually crave it y’all. I can’t believe it. I am not a naturally skinny girl so to crave fruits and vegetables is kind of insane, but I promise I am not lying. It stinks when I want to go out to eat because it’s just difficult to do so or when I just don’t feel like cooking, but it’s an adjustment and I am definitely giving myself some grace. I am allowing a “cheat meal” each week and an occasional glass of wine. Most days I may enjoy the idea of what it would be like to drink 4 cups of mostly cream and sugar coffee again, but I certainly done miss it or crave it anymore. It’s honestly been an easier transition than I thought because I knew that THIS is what I MUST do for my body. Theres no argument to it, to be my best healthy self, to give cancer a kick in the rear and have no chance of it growing or showing up somewhere in my body in a year or two or ten. I know that THIS new “diet” is no diet at all, its what is going to save my life.
Realistically, for me, that means to enjoy a glass of wine occasionally (we love wine and wine country and we visit CA often!) – probably not weekly- and eat a cheat meal – thats enough for me to be ok. Last night, I ate salmon for my entree and had burrata as an appetizer. It was delicious and just what I needed to hold me over for my next cheat meal. I feel silly even calling them cheat meals because I’m not actually cheating, but I don’t have a better word. I know eventually I’ll probably cut these meals out all together, but its a good transition and something to look forward to when I’m in the mood for it.
Now, what about Alkalinity…you know the whole topic of my post? Managing my pH level is the plan behind my vegan lifestyle. Who knows how many parts there will be to this post, but I’ll slowly explain (in a not as long post I promise!) how important it is to maintain your pH level and why that matters, for me as a cancer survivor and for you as a regular person who may or may not have anything wrong with them at all… at least not yet.