This is a guest blog from Cathy Leman who is a registered dietitian, personal trainer, nutrition therapist, speaker, writer and survivor of ER/PR+ breast cancer.
A common belief in the breast cancer community, especially for women diagnosed with hormonally-driven cancer, is that certain foods will make their cancer return.
Well-intentioned friends and family perpetuate that belief with (un)helpful comments like, “Why would you eat THAT? You had breast cancer!”
Cue the guilt.
The fact is, the synergy of any single food is the “coordination” of all the biological compounds that particular food contains. That’s why it’s difficult to tease out the impact on cancer risk of a single food.
That said, it’s true we “consist of what we consume”; and since what we consume likely influences our health, it’s smart to focus on quality, variety and balance for a healthy eating pattern.
But if you have/had breast cancer, you’re likely familiar with this rule: you must eat only certain foods and avoid others. And so, that fact doesn’t apply.
On the contrary it does, very much.
Your dietary pattern over time, in other words, ALL THE FOODS YOU PUT INTO YOUR BODY, has the most significant impact on your breast and overall health.
Upon hearing that information, what do you do?
Aim to eat 100% perfectly, 100% of the time. Because obviously, a perfect dietary pattern equals perfect health.
And then, you fail miserably and abandon it all.
Cue the guilt.
Why do you insist that “eating healthy” means bad tasting, boring, breast cancer penance food that doesn’t make you happy and leaves you dreaming of pasta and pastries?
Because you’ve been brain-washed to believe there’s no other way.
I’m here to un-wash your brain. It’s possible to shift your eating pattern to be (mostly) nutritious, healthy AND delicious, feel good about the impact your choices have on your health, AND keep the treats.
The greatest gift you can give yourself is to enjoy your food, and eat without stress and guilt.
Here are 4 tips to help you get started:
I’ve shared this concept with clients for years, long before it became a common phrase.
Of course it’s important to improve your diet; quality nutrition is crucial to rebuilding your health after treatment. But you can’t do it in a single day.
Changing deeply ingrained habits requires small, consistent steps forward, the only way to make lasting change.
Remember that the smallest amount of progress is still progress. And by the way, forget about a “perfect” diet or way of eating. That’s a myth perpetuated by the diet industry.
Life without treats would be a very boring life, indeed.
Maybe you’re a chocolate chip cookie lover. Can you imagine never eating another chocolate chip cookie? Of course not! But that’s exactly what you think you’ll do once you “perfect” your diet.
You’ll eat only apples, and skip the cookies.
Who says you can’t have both? Literally. When you eat a cookie (or other treat), uplevel your choice by pairing it with an apple, grapes or an orange. And if you bake those cookies, choose whole wheat pastry flour, healthy fats/oils and decrease the sugar.
Murder, cheating and lying are bad; cake is not. Neither are you for eating it.
When you label food good or bad, you subconsciously label yourself. When you feel bad about what you eat, guilt and stress take over and make it impossible to enjoy your food.
Habits can be good or bad. Your mindset can be good or bad. Behaviors can be good or bad.
Are your habits, mindset and behaviors health-supportive or health-destructive?
When you think about it that way, you leave the food (and your character!) out of the equation. You’re empowered to make choices based on whether or not they support your health goals, rather than beating yourself up for being “bad”.
Discover what makes food scary for you. On a sheet of paper, list every fear you have about every food. Maybe it’s a food “act” that scares you, such as eating at a restaurant.
When you name the fear, you can begin to tame the fear.
Consider this: food takes away our hunger, gives our body nourishment and energy, helps us heal. Food is culture, celebration, tradition and ritual.
Embrace all the positive things food does for you, and use that discovery to challenge yourself to leave your food fears behind.
Do you have breast cancer food rules? Rules you wouldn’t dare break?
Food rules take the pleasure and joy out of eating by dictating a strict approach to food with no room for spontaneity.
Instead, try creating a nutrition philosophy that honors your body, your health and your love of food.
For example, maybe your nutrition philosophy is that you choose to eat mainly whole foods, yet you’re flexible when travelling.
A fluid nutrition philosophy versus iron-clad food rules is like permission to be human, and you deserve that.
Cathy Leman helps survivors of ER/PR+ breast cancer conquer their phytoestrogen food fear, eat without stress and guilt, and confidently rebuild their health after treatment. Cathy is a registered dietitian, personal trainer, nutrition therapist, speaker, writer and survivor of ER/PR+ breast cancer. Cathy is also the founder of HIGHER GROUND HEALTH REBUILD REVOLUTION, an online membership for survivors of ER/PR+ breast cancer, and REBUILD, her 8-week private coaching program. Learn more about her programs here: www.cathyleman.com and follow her on Instagram @hormone.breastcancer.dietitian and Facebook
The information and content provided in all guest blogs is intended for information and educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice. Please seek professional advice or speak to your medical team if you have any questions about the issues raised in this guest blog.
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