In embracing the changes breast cancer brought to my life, I had to face 'the diet challenge'. Despite the name it was given, this process was actually easier to execute than other aspects such as exercise (I am what many people would consider a 'non-athlete'). I have always been a picky eater and somewhat stubborn once I have made up my mind about not eating something, as my mother would would no doubt confirm. Therefore, my challenge did not come in the decision and execution of excluding certain things from my diet, it came when it was time to eat. I could not find suitable things to consume.
A Caribbean diet, or more specifically, a Bajan diet, consist of cheese, grease, sugar and meat. If any Bajan tells you otherwise they are lying. Regardless of the name of the dish or the 'variation' the cook may try, one of these four characteristics is dominant. I am laughing as I type this but I swear it is the truth, we are not healthy eaters. Hence my difficulty, I was now faced with the challenge of readjusting my approach to meals entirely. It was not a simple swap out as many people would think. When it came time for meal preparation I had to seriously re-align my mind adjust my thinking and educate myself in a major way.
The idea of 3-5 servings of fruit and vegetables or the careful balance of protein to starch to vegetables etc. at meal time is somewhat of an urban legend. These are things we hear about but never really see in practice. So I had to scour the internet, at this stage simply balancing my meals was no longer enough, I had to consume 'cancer fighting food' and ensure I did not use 'cancer feeding foods'. Grocery shopping became an undertaking. In the past I would choose the things that I like in the relevant brands, I now had to read content labels. That was an eyeopener. We take too many things for granted and trust too easily as consumers (on a side note, whether or not you have been affected by breast or any other type of cancer READ LABELS). Everything that seems healthy or may advertise as being healthy isn't. Thank God, companies are mandated to tell you what the put into their products!!
Eating out became a task in and of itself. First the selection of the place to go became a long and tedious process. Then when I actually got there, as I reviewed the menu, I had to go through my mental checklist. This would result in a mental conversation something like this 'I can't eat that, or that....'. At the end of it, a menu with 15 to 20 options for its diners is whittled down to about 3 for me and I make my selection from there.
As time passed it became easier, as with most things. I became familiar with the brands and items I would purchase from the supermarket and only had to read labels if I wanted to try something new. I have a list of places I can go to purchase a nice meal and I am somewhat 'skilled' at preparing healthy meals. I love to experiment now with my meals and would you believe that healthy foods are quite TASTY?!?!
A lesson I have learned from this experience regarding meals; is the trick of perception. This lesson can be applied to life in general. Instead of my mental chant of; 'I can't eat that or that or that'... my mental banter has become 'this looks good, that is definitely an option...' It is better for your quality of life if you see and address what you can have, rather than harping on what you cannot.
One more thing, embracing this new diet allowed me to drop 20 POUNDS without any exercise. YUP! 20 POUNDS. Embrace your lot in life, great things will follow.