Food Angst … never surrender

By | September 9, 2014

For much of my adult life, my diet has been about control. I can choose to control what I eat, and as a control freak that is important. I’ve tried several different diets to no avail. Mostly, I’ve learned that my body doesn’t like some foods and it likes others. I’m lactose intolerant but my body is happier when I eat dairy – so I try to stick to dairy that my body likes, perhaps with the exception of ice cream. I may eat a little more ice-cream than I should, but at least it is organic “healthy” ice cream. That’s got to count for something.

I went through a phase where I didn’t eat gluten. That didn’t go over well. My body likes wheat. I’m allergic to alternatives (quinoa and spelt).

I’ve learned to listen to my body. Certain foods cause it grief (e.g. tomatoes cause eczema to act up, peppers and walnuts cause heartburn), so I avoid them. Other foods I enjoy.

Going through chemo has meant that some rules had to be applied to what I eat – e.g no sushi or cold cuts for risk of listeria – but otherwise, all bets were off. I was given free reign to eat whatever I wanted, in part because there were days that I just needed calories. And there is that trust that, since I’m considered “healthy” for a cancer patient, that my diet and exercise regime are already good.

However, at support group the question comes up “how has your diet changed as a result of cancer?” There is often a discussion about the link between cancer and sugar. I’ve done those diets too BTW – I went totally off sugar and lost a lot of weight but also lost energy. I went totally off sugar substitutes, not wanting my diet to be full of chemicals. I now generally avoid refined sugars, but I am guilty of eating pasta and white bread but I avoid potatoes. I find that too much of diets are fads – and little is truly known about what actually works or doesn’t work. I question whether there is such a thing as a “cancer diet”. Sure, people who used to eat a lot of fast food and junk, stop eating fast food and junk, they do better – but does that mean that sugar is the cause? An the article that crossed my stream today about the link between soy protein and cancer. This particularly annoys me, as it treats all soy as if were one thing. So the highly processed soy protein isolate used in the study is being made equivalent to the whole soy bean (edemame). When I asked the cancer nutritionist about soy, her comment was that whole soy such as edemame and tofu were good, but soy protein isolate which is often used in supplements (and check your granola bars and breakfast cereals) is a bad thing. So, when I read that article, it feels more like fear mongering about all soy, when in fact, some soy might actually be good for you. Note that the asian diet that is mentioned, which is typically a low cancer diet, involves a lot of whole soy products rather than highly processed derivatives.

Before cancer, I ate a pretty healthy balanced diet, with mostly organic fruits and vegetables and definitely organic meats. Frankly, there are so many variables at play when it comes to diet – I’m just not convinced that whether or not I choose to have a little more ice cream or a brownie will have any affect on my overall health. I just hate being subjected to the guilt around my diet. I hate questioning and feeling guilty because my body is craving red meat, so I choose to have a steak for dinner (buffalo, not beef – so hormone free, grass-fed).

I don’t want cancer to dictate what I eat. Having cancer means I have lost control of a lot what my body does. I have lost control over how I physically feel, and I’ve completely lost control over my schedule (as much as I try to manage it), and if I could only gain control over my red blood cell production! There are too many areas of my life where I have lost control. I’m not willing to give up control over what I choose to eat. Now, there are days when I don’t really have much choice – queasiness or mouth sores have severely limited what I could eat. I just hate that “cancer diets” propose to make me feel guilty for eating food that I want to eat!

I’ve decide I have a new theme song when it comes to cancer diets … I’m going to “Never Surrender” (one of my favourite songs when I was teenager) …

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