It’s Thursday we are continuing to honor Breast Cancer Awareness with our Breast Cancer Awareness Healthy Living Series. This week I’m honored and so excited to introduce, my guest, my dear friend Caryn Sullivan from Pretty Wellness. Caryn is a true inspiration in more ways then one. She is a wife, mother, friend, and living with cancer. Caryn completely changed her life, her diet, and her lifestyle. She inspires me to be the best person I can be and reinforces my love for organic, local foods and clean eating. Please help me welcome Caryn, she is talking about Eating Clean for Better Health.
Eating Clean for Better Health by Caryn Sullivan
For as long as I can remember, I thought losing 10 pound would make my life better. As a teenager in the early 1990’s, I followed many fads, like eating only fat-free foods, exercising with the “Buns of Steel” VHS tape and perpetually starting my diet tomorrow. Seldom did these strategies work. It took getting cancer for the second time to wake me up to find a successful long-term solution. This time though, it was different, I wasn’t looking to lose those last 10 pounds to be pretty or have a better life, I was seeking strategies to be well and live a long life. It just so happens, now that I focus on eating to be healthy, I look better than ever.
My awakening came right after I was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic cancer. I spent 48-hours in a complete daze … shocked at my diagnosis, scared that I was seeing my last days and confused about who to trust. Knowing that I couldn’t control the cancer, I wanted to do something to get out of the funk. I started to explore ways that might make a dent in my health, figuring any improvement toward a healthier life might pause the cancer growth. Turns out there are a ton of well-credentialed individuals from the natural and medical communities that believe lifestyle changes including eating clean, wholesome foods can help prevent and treat various diseases.
As early as 460 BC, Hippocrates wrote, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” This mantra is as relevant as ever here in the 21st century. Premiere doctors such as Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Andrew Weil and even many of my very own physicians at Yale New Haven Hospital support eating a wide variety of nutrient dense foods and eliminating refined and packaged items altogether to improve overall health.
To some, like me, who have life threatening cancer, seeking a new lifestyle becomes imperative. Truth be told, we all can do it. A significant amount of Americans are stressed, so a focus on wellness could provide an outlet to improve their health. In fact, according to an NPR/RWJ/Harvard study, over 49% of people surveyed had a stressful event happen in the past year. Regardless, with or without hardship, oftentimes bettering one’s health equals bettering their lives.
For those that think, improving their health takes so much time and work, I’m here to say, that it doesn’t have to be that way. What’s worked for me is making my journey toward wellness a family affair. When changing my diet, I tweaked my family’s, as well. We got rid of the packaged foods together, took a weekend and cleaned out the entire pantry. We also tried healthy restaurants to figure out what foods we might like to try preparing on our own, then scoured through cookbooks to gather ideas together.
Here is how I started, I focused on three changes that seemed to be consistent across many sources including: Food for Life by Joel Fuhrman MD, Anti-Cancer by David Servan Schreiber MD, PhD, Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr as well as EWG.org. I also consulted my doctors before making these alterations; I suggest everyone should do the same.
My First Three Steps – Eating Clean
- Choose Plant Based Foods
Everywhere I read, I saw information about eating wholesome fruits and vegetables that provided a mix of nutrients and minerals. Now, most of my meals include a ton of leafy green veggies. Think breakfast smoothies, big salads or substituting collards and kale for wraps. Watch the documentary Forks Over Knives, if you are short of time, but want to learn more about the value of plant-based eating.
- Eliminate Refined Sugar
If you’re eating packaged foods, be sure to read labels. Did you know that sugar goes under 57 names? The more ingredients in an item, the more likely it has sugar as well as other highly processed, therefore unhealthy, ingredients. Once I started reading labels, I felt so much better informed. I slowly but surely, made better choices. Now that I eliminate simple sugars, I feel a lot less bloated and more full of energy. If you want sweets, bake with organic non-GMO organic sugar. For beverages, sweeten with fruit especially medjool dates. If you are interested in learning more, check out the Fed Up movie.
- Eat Less Packaged Foods
This is hard when you have a busy family schedule, but is such a useful step. What I’ve come to learn is that with a few minutes of prep time, I can make my own bag of carrots, kale chips, quick-bake muffins or throw fruits like apples, avocadoes and oranges in my bag. For non-perishable items, I look for the non-GMO symbol when purchasing snack packs at the grocery store.
What holds you back from embracing clean eating? What steps can you take to overcome that hurdle?
Caryn Sullivan is the creator of the Pretty Wellness blog, where she chronicles tips and tales on making the journey toward optimal health easy for her and her family. Once a Hostess Snowballs addict, she traded in diet sodas, toxic make-up and a chaotic routine for green juices, clean products and a more-Zen lifestyle.