Managed nutrition should take a front and center role in your cancer treatment. Food is the fuel to give you the energy to stay strong. You wouldn’t drive your car on empty or fill your tank with the wrong kind of gas. So why would you treat your body any differently? But just as a car needs gas to run, it also needs oil. Your body is the same.
The Whole Story
Diet is only half the plate when it comes to the whole healing process. Improving the quality and quantity of the food you are eating is essential in your fight against cancer. But equally important is managing what is eating at you. This means learning to cope with stress and anxiety through a healthy lifestyle diet.
I am a breast cancer survivor, five years since diagnosis. I credit my mantra — “hydrate, gyrate, masticate” — for helping me stay strong. This included: getting enough healthy hydration by drinking pure water, no sugary drinks or artificially sweetened sodas; eating a balanced diet of whole foods, and exercising at least twenty minutes nearly every day, even if it was simply taking a walk or stretching my body. The result was my body healed faster after surgeries and treatments. I am a stronger, healthier person today by continuing to adhere to my holy trinity. I also learned from my own experience that even the healthiest cancer diet will only take you so far if stress and anxiety are still gnawing at you.
As with all diets, a lifestyle diet starts with portion control — learning to manage your time and not overload your plate with too many appointments and commitments. It also means allowing for down time to relax, get enough sleep and give yourself some quiet time to recalibrate your body and mind. Much like dealing with unhealthy habits like stealth snacking or binge eating, it’s important to identify what triggers your stress and find ways to deflect them in order to cope.
Stress and anxiety are frequent companions to cancer patients and their caregivers. They are the bottom feeders in the human psyche. There are steps you can take to deal with stress, but if your anxiety is so overwhelming that your ability to manage your day-to-day life is too much, you may want to seek out professional help to work with you, much in the same way you may utilize the guidance of a registered dietitian, certified nutritionist or health coach to help you develop better eating habits.
Steps to Improve Well-Being as a Cancer Patient
With cancer, it is easy to feel your life is not in control; you have to listen to doctors; you have to adhere to a schedule of treatments and medications. But there are steps you can take that are in your control. Here are six:
Take “snackersize” breaks
Every one or two hours get up and move your body for at least ten minutes.
Make “me space”
Create some “me space” in your home where computers and phones are off-limits. Let this be your place to mentally re-adjust.
Trim your list
Trim your “to do” list to include only those things that are absolutely essential for you to address that specific day. If the task can wait, let it. The world will not come to an end.
Ask for help
You don’t have to answer every call or email or run every errand. You will find that people are willing to offer to help a cancer patient but may just need to be told how they can help. This also means delegating tasks to family members and not trying to do it all yourself.
Nurture your mind
Feeding your mind is important to your mental equilibrium. Read a book; listen to music; watch a movie; take up a hobby; play games, work on a crossword puzzle, listen to music. Whatever you do, make the sure it is not related to your diagnosis or work.
Even strict diets need a small bit of chocolate. Do something that makes you feel fabulous! For me, it’s as simple as turning off the phone and curling up in bed with a book and a cup of herbal tea, or getting a massage.
Just as the right food diet will help balance your weight physically, a proper lifestyle diet will help reduce what is weighing you down mentally. You will feel lighter in spirit, more steady in your mind and more solid on your feet. And everyone, especially cancer patients, want to land on their feet!