Sunday, December 21, 2008

What I Eat

I've promised many times to post my post-cancer diet. "Diet" is right and wrong; eating this way helped me lose almost 40 pounds (so far), but it's not about dieting the way our society tends to think of it, and it's not about being thin for vanity's sake. It's about a lifelong way of approaching food and nutrition so that these things are part of making me healthy (being thinner so that I don't have fat as a risk factor; exercising for even more risk reduction). It's about a changed relationship to food.

First and foremost, the idea is to eat as close to nature as possible. We hear all the time about the crazy toxins and contaminants in food. Even if you eat stuff right out of the garden, of course, who knows what jet fuels and refinery emissions have settled on your zucchini. So (as I ponder just below) no, there is no absolute control. However, we can do a whole lot by cutting down on overly processed foods, with their extra chemicals; and we can shift things so that most of the calories come from real nutrition, rather than from fillers or corn syrup.

The second major principle (really a cluster of principles) is about evidence-based practices--that is, using food in ways that solid research has shown to reduce cancer risk, specifically. Low fat (10-20% of calories only), high fiber (30-35g per day), lots of antioxidants (green tea, cinnamon, turmeric, cruciferous vegetables)--all of these have a central role.

It's funny, because at first it was enormously difficult for me to eat this way. Then it became a way of life. Then I kind of backslid, while teaching, out of laziness and a reversion to the "comfort foods" of old habit. Since my class ended, I've been pretty strict again (I tell Noah I'm "hitting the reset button") and it has been ridiculously easy. So it can be tough to start this kind of habit, but it's really not tough to maintain. (My comrade-in-cancer, though, who just finished chemo, utterly refused the nutritional oncology approach. As a trained chef, she has too much value for butter. I can certainly understand priorities. Who knows how long we have, and perhaps for some people a butter-less life is not as worth living!)

In any case, at long last, here's the basic outline. I'm skipping a lot of detail because the specifics of the diet are copyrighted by Rachel Beller, my nutritionist, but this will still tell you a lot.

3/4 c bran cereal (Nature's Path Smart Bran is my favorite; Fiber One has the most fiber)
3/4 c almond milk
1 c greek yogurt (fat free) w/1/2 t cinnamon
1 mini bran muffin

something like fruit (1/2 banana, some blueberries, etc.)

vegetables (e.g., salad) and lean protein (e.g., fish)
For example: large (3-4c lettuce + other veggies) salad with salmon, using plain balsamic vinegar as a dressing; or perhaps using a locally-made dressing called Galeo's miso caesar, which tastes amazing and is super low-fat. (Commercial nonfat dressings are a no-no because of chemicals.)

tomato soup (no cream) or gazpacho, raw veggies, etc.

vegetables, lean protein, salad, soup
For example: 2-3 lbs grilled veggies (asparagus, broccoli, chard), grilled halibut, side salad and miso soup

yogurt, popcorn, or something else

It's pretty plain when written out like this, but it really leaves a lot of flexibility in terms of preparations, seasonings; I can have Indian or Mexican or Italian or Chinese food this way, as long as I watch out for the fats and privilege veggies and fish above bread or cheese.

Anyway, at long last there is the basic diet, and I hope it is somewhat helpful for someone out there!


Anonymous said...


Rebecca said...

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2007. Until I witnessed her journey, I gave no thought to the types of foods that are shown to reduce cancer risk. Now I'm eating fruits and veggies like a bandit. Thank you for sharing your diet and this information. I work for healthcare website and I was able to document my mother's journey. She talks some about what foods she ate while going through chemotherapy. I thought I would share.

All the best,


Audreyvp said...

I love Galeo's Miso Dressings. They are low fat, gluten free, GMO free and one tablespoon goes a long way.