I was recently one of the panelists on the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation's talk on life after cancer. One of the first questions that came up in the Q&A section was about sugar: Should I reduce my sugar?
Instead of entering a massive explanation on the negativities of sugar, I suggested the person start thinking about the kinds of things they wanted to start eating.
This isn’t the first time people have asked me about sugar. And afterwards we as the panel discussed how many times people ask specifically about sugar. It seems we are a people addicted to sugar whilst also obsessing about sugar!
Personally, in my pre-cancer life I used to eat a lot of sugar, mostly in the form of processed foods just like anyone consuming the traditional “western standard diet”. Aside from those “hidden” sugars that make up so much of the ingredients in processed foods, I also enjoyed my fair share of cakes, biscuits and chocolate. I knew it wasn’t good for me. But it was so damn tasty, and well, soothing.
Now? I do have some xylitol in the cupboard for sweetening when I occasionally have a cup of english breakfast tea (green tea being my preferred daytime drink). I like the occasional slice of dark chocolate. I avoid processed cakes and biscuits - they really don’t taste good! If I’m at a market day I might occasionally enjoy a slice of homemade chocolate cake. But the overwhelming majority of my food has been cooked from scratch, either by my own hot little hands or that of my husband. So I basically don’t eat sugar. But thats because my taste buds have changed and I simply don’t like sugar, its too sweet.
And I did all this without ever forcing myself to give up or feeling guilty about sugar. I’m not telling you all this to make myself sound amazing. I’m telling you so that you can see what happens over time when you ask yourself the right questions.
Just for the record, yes, I can confirm that sugar is not good for us. But you didn’t need me to tell you that right? You’ve probably known that since you were 7 years old and your dentist told you it would rot your teeth. It has no nutritional value, it has a huge - and until fairly recently - underestimated impact on the physiological processes inside us that leads to inflammation and potentially a lot of chronic illness, including heart disease and potentially cancer.
So why, when someone asks me should I reduce my sugar, would I answer “I prefer to focus on what you should be adding in?”
It’s not because I don’t understand the physical impact of sugar. Its because I understand the emotional and psychological impact of recovering from cancer.
I understand how scary it is, how life is now filled with overwhelm, and fear, and wondering if you are going to die, and did I cause this, and a constant undercurrent of panic that bubbles just beneath the surface, threatening to rear its ugly head at any turn.
And I understand that where you focus your attention is hugely important. If you spend your time focussing on all the things that can possibly kill you (and for the record, there are plenty more areas than sugar!), you’ll be forever in a state of paralysis and fear.
Now tell me, how do you take that energy - of feeling scared, panicked and worried - and do anything useful with it? That energy deflates you, de-energises you, depresses you, desponds you and in a way decreases you.
The question isn’t should I reduce sugar, the question must always be what helps my body and mind to heal and recover?
Or perhaps one of the below questions:
What gives my body the elements it needs to function at its best?
What nourishes me?
What makes me feel amazing?
What does my body need now in this moment?
The answer to those above questions will clearly not be sugar. But you already know that. Perhaps the most likely answers will be in the realm of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, healthy proteins and fats, plenty of water, exercise, to relax, to slow down, to call a friend, to be kind to myself, to have a cry, to find a hug, to ask for help, to be more mindful…. and well I could go on and on.
So tell me when you ask yourself these questions how do you feel? Uplifted, positive, motivated?
When you come at a problem from an angle of deprivation, guilt or restriction, that’s the energy you are left to work with. And I can tell you that you don’t get much done in that space.
You’ve been through enough. So now start focussing on the positive bountiful things in life that are available to you that you want to move towards. Stop concentrating on all the wrongs out there and what you want to move away from, and put your precious energy into what is life-giving and nurturing to you.
From this place you are more likely to start taking positive actions in your life that will really enable you to heal and recover and be at your vibrant best. And change becomes easy.
This may sound simplistic, but I know from experience that this small adjustment in mindset leaves you feeling empowered, lighter and happier - and isn’t that really what you’re searching for?
If you know that vegetables are something that your body could do with some more of, check out how to increase vegetables in your life easily.
Plus if you live in Auckland, last call for the next course kicking off on March 7th, only 3 places left!
Someone listening to the BCF webinar also enquired into whether I could offer Life 2.0 via an online course, so please contact me if this interests you on firstname.lastname@example.org. If I get enough people I’ll run it!
When you notice you’re stressed, does a little tiny part of you start freaking out?
"I shouldn’t be stressed, stress is bad, stress will give me cancer…again!
Oh no, now I’m stressed about my stress levels!
Save me from mysellllllfff!"
Sound familiar? Yup, I’ve been there too.
Well read on my friend, and I promise by the end you’ll be feeling like you just smoked a reefer whilst getting a massage on a tropical island surrounded by pretty fish.
Point 1 - Stress is part of being alive.
You are alive, right? Therefore, you will from time to time experience the tensions associated with being alive. No point fighting this one, in fact its great evidence that you are, in fact, alive!
Point 2 - Stress is not necessarily bad.
Ah, excuse me?
Yes, that’s right, it's actually being stuck in a state of chronic stress that’s bad.
Let's go a bit deeper here. The stress response in our body releases cortisol, adrenalin and inflammatory factors. These stress mechanisms have been proven to have a slowdown effect on the immune system that can contribute to the growth and spread of cancer. Not ideal.
However! Our system was designed to experience stress and we have a system designed especially for handling it and then moving on – our automoic nervous system.
Let me give you an example.
Ever seen those documentaries where a zebra is eating grass peacefully on the savannah? It’s parasympathetic nervous system (rest, repair and digest system) is engaged.
(Cue exciting music…..) next minute its running for its life chased by a lion – how’s it so fast? It’s switched into its sympathetic nervous system – fight or flight (or die!). If its lucky enough to escape, 10mins later we can pan back to the same relaxed zebra, quietly munching away like nothing happened (back to rest, repair and digest).
That too, is how we are meant to operate. Mobilizing energy when required, then calming down quickly afterwards.
The point isn’t that we encounter stress, we will (see Point 1)! The point is, that we were designed to move easily between our two autonomic nervous systems – the fight or flight (sympathetic) and the rest, repair and digest (parasympathetic) systems.
It’s only when we get stuck in a constant state of high alert, and are stressed with no let-up day after day after day that we get into difficulties.
So we need to find ways that work for us to release our tensions regularly.
And it gets better, wait for it.....
Point 3 - Not only is stress not necessarily bad, a certain amount of stress is healthy and has been shown to stimulate our inner resources and natural defences to work better!
Rats who received a series of uncontrollable shocks, plus more additional shocks that they were able to turn off with a lever were found to reject tumours at a higher rate than a control group who had no shocks , and another group who were given just the first series of shocks.
The rats under the most stress, fared the best! Why? Because they were taking control of their situation! They were not helpless, and the effects of having to do so improved their immune system and the ability to fight cancer. In this situation, it was the level of helplessness, and not the stress itself which was important.
What does that mean for you?
Whatever you do, don’t get stressed about being stressed!
Now if you’re looking for some inspiration for releasing your tensions, check out an oldie but a goodie post here on the benefits of breathing.
Yes, literally just breathing. Have you noticed I like to keep things simple?!
For other simple to use techniques to help you feel normal again after cancer make sure you join the upcoming Life 2.0 course – starts March 7th!
One of the other ways I choose to release my tensions is via mindfulness. I currently teach the staff working in the high-pressured hospitals of Counties Manakau how to be more mindful. Due to a number of requests I’m going to run one 8-week public course this May. If you’d like to be on it, then please register your interest here and I’ll be in touch with more details.
As always, be good..... or if you're being bad, make sure you're enjoying it!
5 festive tips for avoiding overindulgence (without feeling like you're missing out) these holidays!
Alcohol and obesity are strongly linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. So that can make the Christmas holidays - with all those pavlovas, work drinks and scorched almonds on offer - a little bit challenging!
No one wants to be miserable, hiding at home away from temptation, so here are some useful tips to get you through the holidays:
See you in 2018!
I have my annual mammogram tomorrow. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.
I think I’m probably less nervous now than I was a couple of years ago – it’s been well over 6 years now since I had cancer, and I know that the longer I go without getting cancer again, the less chance I have of getting cancer again.
I also know I’m doing all I can to reduce the chances of that happening again.
I feel those butterflies in my tummy, the memories come flooding back of the first time, and the result, and all that followed – that part wasn’t great. An overall feeling of dread I think you could call it. Much like going to the dentist when you’re 10 years old (I had a lot of fillings!).
The first study on “Scanxiety” came out in 2016. I don’t think that’s an official word yet, but it’s definitely on the “street” where the people are real. Apparently 83% of people have some experience of pre-scan anxiety (or scanxiety). And it's hardly surprizing. That one scan could kick off on an entirely “sh$tty year”, or give you another chance of freedom.
It’s nice to know that it’s entirely normal, and also pretty unavoidable. So here are my top 8 tips for dealing with Scanxiety:
Here's to peace in scanning!
*Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression and improve overall mood and wellbeing in women who’ve completed treatment for breast cancer. I’m a certified MBSR teacher and will be running a course in Auckland next May,
How to start taking actions without feeling overwhelmed and guilty, and wondering if you're doing enough!
You've finished cancer treatment, and now you want to do whatever you can to start feeling better again, right?
Well sometimes our best intentions can be our biggest obstacle!
One of my favourite messages is how taking control of the things in life that you can control is a huge step in moving forward after cancer treatment.
But how do you start taking actions without feeling overwhelmed and guilty, and wondering if you're doing enough???!
Watch the below video to find out!
The next Life 2.0 course is starting soon! Places are strictly limited to 10 participants, so don't hang about if you want to be on it!
Register for your spot here!
If group things aren't really for you, did you know that I can also support you one-to-one? Find out more, and book your free health discovery session to gain some clarity on where you are, figure out where you'd like to be, and see if working together is a good fit and I could help you achieve that.
Until next time!
If you needed another reason to pull on your sneakers, then a new study that may explain just why exercise reduces your cancer risk might just do it!
A new paper published this year by the University of Colorado Boulder suggests that lactate could actually be the key driver in the development and spread of cancer. Fellow science nerds see below for more explanation on this!*
The researchers believe that people who exercise regularly are better at processing lactate in the body (they’ve had more practice having to do this during exercise). Plus, if you’re a couch potato the combination of sedentary lifestyle and sugary diet may increase lactate in the body and lead to cancer development. The team believes their research could lead to new treatment options that include exercise and dietary recommendations. Read more on this here.
Yip, one more nail in the “I’ve got to move my butt” exercise coffin.
You can now add this to the very long pro-exercise list (already on that list is reduced recurrence and chance of heart disease, plus improvements in survival, energy, weight loss, self-esteem, mood, bone and muscle mass..etc etc etc).2
Okay you get the message!
So why is exercise still easier said than done?
In addition to the fact starting a new habit takes time, it’s that annoying f-word – fatigue!
Fatigue is frustrating as hell. Unfortunately, it’s a very real effect of cancer treatment. And even when you hear of study after study telling you to get moving, it isn’t always easy to do so!
It seems illogical, but moving when you really don’t feel like it, has been proven to be one of the best ways to beat fatigue.3
So how to start? The number one rule is to start slowly. Build up gradually.
If you currently don’t do anything, then pick something easy or fun.
Go for a walk around the block. Visit your local pool. Try a dance class. Ride a bike. Jump on a trampoline. Chase a child around the garden. Do some yoga. Ask a friend to join you. You don’t need lycra – though for some that feels great!
There's no perfect exercise, find what suits you.
On the flip side it can be easy to get over-enthusiastic, push yourself too hard and then be bedridden for the next week. Sometimes you won’t know until afterwards that you went too far. It’s a learning curve, its trial and error, it’s exploring to find your limits, and practicing learning to listen to your body.
If this happens to you, take note for next time and then do less, but whatever you do, don’t stop! Don’t be afraid of moving your body - your body loves to move, its born to move. It breaks down slowly if you sit on your couch too much!
Enjoy being in that beautiful body of yours that’s alive and kicking!
Take it gently, take it slowly, but start taking it!
And remember to congratulate yourself for doing some positive for your health and your body.
If you like the sound of all this “doing something good for yourself”, then make sure you register for the next Life 2.0 course starting August! Its filled with useful information in a positive environment to help you identify what small changes you could start making to take back some control over your health and life.
Nicky from the last course told me recently she got a pat on the back from her surgeon for how well she has recovered from her treatment. She credited it all to her improved exercise and diet that was inspired by Life 2.0! (really I know it was all her taking some positive action, but its still nice to hear! - Thanks Nicky!)
Until next time, keep sweaty!!
If you've finished cancer treatment, you might be finding it harder to get back into life than you expected. Don't worry, it's totally normal to feel this way! I know, because I've been there.
And I also know there is a way to move forward, and to feel even better than you did before you had cancer.
Click here to enter your details and get access to my webinar in which I'll explain how you can regain a sense of control over your life, look to the future with confidence AND lower your risk of recurrence.
I've got you covered!
Lack of energy following cancer treatment can be frustrating as h*ll! You just wish you could somehow “shake it off” so you can get back to life.
The truth is, it takes time for your body to rebuild itself.
But there is one easy way to know that you’re giving your body loads of nutrients in order to heal and get a boost of energy.
Eating more vegetables. Eww (can I hear you groaning from here?).
Yes, vegetables have been proven to be good for you – your mum was right. Plus, they are packed to the tips with antioxidants and cancer fighting properties.
Eating as many vegetables as humanly possible was one of the biggest changes I decided to make after I finished cancer treatment.
The problem was where to start? I hated vegetables, I also hated cooking and I used to eat ham sandwiches every day and sometimes muesli for dinner. The idea of cooking loads of vegetables from scratch seemed a lot of effort, and a little bit gross.
How was I going to increase my vegetable intake from 1.5 servings a day (and that was on a good day), to up to 10?! I had just been through cancer treatment, I wanted to enjoy my life. I didn’t want to eat raw broccoli crudités.
It was a bit overwhelming until I discovered “the secret”!
And the secret is in the glass!
And exactly what is in the glass? Smoothies and juices.
Yes, the fastest way to hook yourself up to some top-grade nutrients and immune boosting health is by drinking them. Daily if possible. If that sounds too off the wall crazy then make it weekly.
If you do nothing else, do this one thing.
It’s easy. It’s incredibly healthy. And it’s tasty. What more do you want? I mean really.
You don’t need to know how to cook. Or buy 50 recipe books. Or try and make bland foods taste good.
You just need to know how to plug in an appliance and press a button.
If you don’t like vegetables - juice them. Blend them. It makes them tasty and you feel great when you realise how many you just consumed. Even smug and chuffed I’d say.
When you juice and blend your veg the digestion starts in the machine. This means the nutrients are ready to go - you get the hit straight from your stomach into your bloodstream. Boom. No digestion effort required. This is great if you’re recovering from being ill, or like me, just plain lazy.
And your body will love you for it, by healing quicker, and feeling more energetic.
Try it first thing in the morning…a morning vegetable juice or smoothie will have you buzzing. No need for coffee I swear!
No time for healthy eating? You can whip up a smoothie in the time it takes to boil a jug of water. Just make sure there is a wad of green leafy veg in there, and not too much fruit.
It’s all a slippery slope from there. Over time your taste buds actually start changing, and before you know it you will be craving salad for lunch, and broccoli crudités for afters! Now I actually get excited when I even see kale. No lie! And if I can do it, you can too!
If following cancer treatment, you’re considering a dietary overhaul but you’re a health newbie, still skirting around the edges, considering whether to poke a finger into some daal or beetroot humus for the first time. Not too sure you have the commitment, or stamina, or interest…then juicing and smoothie making is for you!
When you’re feeling tired and overwhelmed it’s the fastest way to get some life-changing goodness in under 5 mins.
How does that sound for an energetic healing kick in the backside?
If you’d like some no-fail easy recipes to get you started then get my Beginners Guide to Juicing and Smoothie Making - just email me (email@example.com) with Get the guide in the subject heading.
Remember I offer one-on-one coaching on getting back to feeling good again after cancer treatment, plus the next group Life 2.0 course is starting soon! Contact me if you’d like to know more.
You don't have to be recovering from cancer treatment to feel like your head might explode from stress.
But it does sometimes add that extra layer of anxiety and fear onto your already very busy “modern” life.
I’d like to clarify that it’s totally normal to feel anxious, especially if you’ve got appointments coming up, or you feel one of those unidentified pains or niggles.
But your mind can tend to run away with itself and I don’t mean to the sunny tropics, more like the cold, dark arctic - it’s its job to be a worrier!
So all that, on top of your normal to-do list, can have you some days constantly on the verge of bursting into tears in frustration (or punching someone in the face), whilst trying to hold it altogether with your “No, it’s all good in here” smile.
So here’s something to try, that has a surprisingly big impact on feeling more like “you” again.
Put your hands on your belly.
And take a deep breath. One so deep that your hands move, and your belly expands.
Then let it out (let it out with a sigh if that feels good).
Then take another breath. Right down deep.
And let it out.
Follow all the sensations of the breath coming in and out.
Keep doing that that for one minute.
Count how many deep belly breaths you do in one minute.
Remember that number.
This is your mindful minute.
Repeat this number of breaths in this way every time you feel your head, lower lip, or fist wobbling. Then do it a few more times for good measure.
You can do it in your car. On the couch. Walking the kids to school. Cooking dinner. At your desk. In a waiting room. With your eyes closed or open.
This my friend, is breathing. And its surprising how often we forget to do it!
You might not believe that something so simple can have such a big impact. But it does. Your body isn’t necessarily as complicated as your to-do list or your minds endless (and totally normal and to-be-expected!) worries about the future.
It takes in some pretty straight forward messages. So when you’re stressed you tend to breath high in your chest - much like a gazelle being chased by a nasty old Lion. Your body gets flooded with stress hormones so its ready to act, inflammation increases ready to repair injuries (which we now know can act like a fertiliser for any precancerous cells). And it makes you feel wobbly.
So sometimes we have to remind ourselves to breath like a big old buffalo rolling around in the mud. Our body gets the message and steps down, reduces its inflammation response, digests some food, switches to searching the body and killing any enemies like viruses and mutated cells that if aren’t destroyed can grow into cancer. Then it relaxes in the sunshine.
Oo doesn’t that feel better.
If you’ve finished cancer treatment recently, you might be noticing that moving forward isn’t as straight forward as you expected. Or the other important people in your life expected.
In fact it can sometimes feel like you’re standing on the edge of a void and the future is hazy, or blank, or just plain dark. That can feel scary.
I know because I’ve been there, but the good news is that you can take control back over your life and body again and I created Life 2.0 to show you how. The first Life 2.0 - how to live life after cancer treatment course finished last year, it was huge success and we’re planning more over the coming months. If you’d like to find out more then register your interest here.
Kathy who was on the last course gave me this feedback:
“This course has helped with my sleep and work life. I am happier, feel healthier and my energy levels have really picked up. Do it! It's definitely been productive in moving on after cancer for me.“
Until next time peeps, remember to breath!!!