Friday, January 16, 2015

Resolutions, Schmesolutions

I have been asked so many times since being diagnosed with cancer whether I've changed my diet. My answer is always: not really. I was pregnant and then nursing for more than a year prior to my diagnosis, and I took those jobs seriously. I aimed to eat organic, whole foods most of the time. I took my prenatal vitamins. I only cooked with organic, free-range, grass-fed meats or wild-caught fish. I might have been a little obnoxious about it, but I hope not too terribly so.

My diet was far from perfect, I'm sure, but it's not like I was eating at McDonald's or KFC. Not that I would judge a person for that. Much.

When I was undergoing chemo-chemo, I ate what I could. Sometimes that meant I was drinking Gatorade -- red dye #5, sugar and all -- just to stay hydrated. Raw fruits and vegetables were largely off-limits because they could carry harmful bacteria, at least until my white blood cell counts rebounded. Not that I had the stomach for salad anyway. I just wanted to keep my weight up and stay reasonably healthy through treatment. If anything, I was less strict about what I ate because I just wanted to have an appetite for anything.

Last year, I even shook my head a little at friends who all seemed to be jumping on the paleo bandwagon. Mostly because the word drives my anthropologist, evolution-studying husband crazy. And I couldn't see how depriving myself of entire food groups was going to make me any happier. (Plus, I was really iffy as to whether it would make me any healthier.)

Do you know that I didn't have any signs of cancer in 2014? 

And so I let some things slide, especially in December. There were neighborhood open houses, cookie exchange parties, end-of-the-semester celebrations, Christmas Eve gatherings, and New Year's Eve toasts. I ate gingerbread and chocolate and cheese and peppermint-and-white-chocolate-covered pretzels and I drank wine and champagne like my pre-cancer self. I thoroughly overindulged. I had the breakouts and bloating to show for it. The holidays were fun, but if any January called for culinary austerity, it was this one.

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My goal was to do the Whole30 thing. If you're not familiar, it calls for eating whole, fresh foods with no added sweeteners of any kind, no dairy, and no grains for 30 days. Also, no alcohol. As I dug a little deeper into the theory, I came across blogs with quotes like, "You haven't really lived until you've made your own paleo mayonnaise." Or I realized my (uncured, organic) bacon wasn't "diet" enough for this diet because there was some sugar in it. For that kind of bacon, I'd have to pay $18 per pound, and I just couldn't rally myself behind that kind of quackery.

It also turns out that -- although I love to cook -- prepping meals in advance for an entire week is not my forte. I found myself subsisting on mostly Lara bars and trail mix, or apples dipped in almond butter, or "cheating" with non-diet bacon or a bite of Quinn's leftover pancakes.

I've been pretty great about limiting sweets and alcohol, and I'm proud of that. I've cut way down on my dairy and pasta intake. The combination has done wonders for my skin and my digestive system. I'm pretty sure I'm eating more nuts and nut butters and seeds than most birds, so I should probably figure out some alternative snacks.

This experiment has been eye-opening. I will probably never be the type of person who makes her own mayonnaise. Just about every type of packaged food out there has added sugar. A couple of glasses of wine a month might be necessary for my mental health. And I'm terrible at diets that are this restrictive.

Did you make any resolutions this month? Have you stuck with them? If so, please tell me your secrets!   I hear that if I write down my goals and share them with people, I am more likely to stick to them. Hence, this post.

Next up: my other project/resolution of sorts and an update on my book, the ultimate of new year's resolutions.


  1. Ugh...your comments have a "signout button" right where I expect a "submit" button, so I just lost my night whitty response to your post :-( ...

    Anyways, won't make that mistake again...

    Can't help you on the diet thing, as I agree with you in that it makes more sense to just make healthy choices than it does to stick to restrictive diets. The one useful thing about some of the diets though, is that when you are looking for a restrictive recipe, they can be handy .. need to make something gluten free, then search for paleo!

    1. Oh no! I'm sorry about the sign-out thing. And yes to the special recipe thing. There are a lot of special restrictions due to allergies at my son's preschool, and I've just stumbled across an excellent recipe for beet chocolate cupcakes. Alas, they're not "paleo." (A comment that my husband REALLY laughed at, since there's pretty much no way cavemen were making cupcakes at all, gluten or not.) XO

  2. Moderation in all things including moderation. I am not huge on diets and guilt over having something I want here or there (I eat quite similarly to what you described). It won't stop me from a sweet now and then or a cheeseburger on occasion. Life is short! Enjoy that glass of wine. :)

    1. And this happens to also be the exact advice my oncologist gave me a couple of years ago: "moderation in all things, including moderation." I just have to keep reminding myself that when I'm tempted to jump on these diet bandwagons ;)

  3. Great, honest post. I generally don't make New Year's resolutions; rather, I set goals. I'm reducing dairy and sugar in my diet. They just don't do a body good. I look at this as a lifestyle choice rather than a diet.

    1. Exactly! And I think that's the key to making things stick long-term: looking at them as a lifestyle change rather than a diet. You've inspired my next post, Beth -- thank you!

  4. I don't diet either but I try to avoid certain things like: soy products (I know, so hard!), sweets/sugar, alcohol, anything fried or processed. Like you, I try eating whole foods. One thing I stuck with is eating two servings of fruit a day, at least one full serving of veggies daily, and my 5-8 glasses of water. I don't drink anything but water. About resolutions, I gave up on that a long time ago. What I do now is if I think of an idea in, let's say, July, I try to make that my resolution for that month. So my resolutions happen throughout the year. I try not to view them as resolution though because then they become "homework" for me and I don't like those. I call them "my desires."