Cutting Through the Food Noise

Fresh seaside calamari at Sansome’s Lobster Pool in Hillgrade… not a guilty pleasure, just a pleasure!!

I clearly remember the first time that I started to think about my food consumption. I was eleven years old. I had gained a little weight, as many kids do during their pre-pubescence, and my pants were tight. I was sitting in class and I coughed, and the button popped right off my pants and flew across the room.

It could’ve been an embarrassing situation, but I don’t recall anyone else really noticing. I just remember an arrow of a thought deftly skewing my happy childhood oblivion – You have to lose weight!

Like most kids of the 80’s, I sometimes ate cheez whiz and chips ahoy. We barbecued regularly in the summertime on charcoal, and on Sundays we happily filled a brown bag with penny candy at the neighbourhood shop to enjoy after leaving family swim at the Y. But we always had plenty of fresh local seafood and home-cooked meals every night, and Mom usually drew the line at sugary donuts, chips and pop, unless it was a special occasion like a long car ride. We almost never had fast food, because my father refused to eat it. He referred to it as “cardboard.”

In my family, I was the one who loved food the most. Mom says that on those long road trips, when I would get cranky and fight with my brothers, all she would have to do is ask, “Where should we stop for lunch?” and I would instantly drop my fists and cheer up.

So, at age eleven, when I first started worrying about my diet, my parents helped me to make healthy choices and limit myself to eating three meals a day, reminding me to eat when I was hungry. My mom encouraged me to listen to my body. As I grew and stopped eating whole sleeves of crackers out of boredom after school, my weight leveled off. But after that moment in grade-six, I was always wary of food. I think most of us are.

We are now bombarded with “information” about food, and sifting through it can be exhausting. There are so many different types of diets, many of which advocate removing whole food groups from your life. Throughout my thirties I was dealing with bowel issues, and I spent a lot of time reading about food and adjusting our family’s dinners to make them cleaner, more plant-based, higher in fibre, more organic, and on and on.

After my diagnosis, I read that cancer cells love sugar, and that diets such as the keto, which are absent of sugar, can help slow the growth of cancer. Now, the keto diet is generally high in animal protein and red meat consumption has been linked to bowel cancer, so I didn’t know what to think of that. Most books I read that specifically detailed an anti-cancer diet promoted a plant-based diet that is chock-full of fruits and veggies, legumes and whole grains. These are some of my favourite foods. But, after my surgery, I developed stomach issues and even the thought of a raw fruit or veggie made me really sick. This has continued throughout my chemotherapy regime. Raw food sometimes makes me feel gross, and if it is cold it causes nerve pain in my throat. For the first number of weeks of chemo I ended up eating a lot of immuno-bark and white things, so thank goodness for my friend Vi’s tea-buns.

So there I was, eating chocolate and white things and wondering whether I was doing enough to discourage the growth of cancer in my body. I was trying to avoid dairy, meat, and sugar, while eating lots of vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains, but I was failing miserably.

And then one day, a conversation with my friend Robin turned it all around for me. I was telling her about my food difficulties and she said, “What makes you feel good?” I stopped and thought about it, and I wasn’t sure. I told her all the conflicting nutritional information I’d read and she said, “You need to forget about that, and eat intuitively.”

Basically, she said to listen to my body and give it what it needs. She said that if I eat something and it is no good for me I will know. And she gave me some really great tips about easy snacks to prepare.

It sounds so simple, but I’d spent so much time reading and digesting information and trying to make sense of it that I’d forgotten the basics. Eat intuitively. Your body is wise.

Food is one of the pleasures of life and I am fortunate to have access to affordable, healthy food. I thought about my grandparents, who worked so hard to feed their families simple, nourishing food. I remembered the basic guidelines I’d been teaching my kids as I’d been taught – cook fresh food for your family and eat together at the table and don’t eat when you aren’t hungry. I decided then and there to eat mindfully and enjoy my food as much as I could and to stop feeling guilty about it. My choices have been mostly healthy since then, but when I have a treat I delight in it and I tell myself it’s okay.

On a recent getaway to Knight’s Landing in Moreton’s Harbour, my friend Jenn delivered Asher and I a lovely, healthy breakfast. We thoroughly enjoyed it!

To lead healthy, mindful, fulfilling lives, sometimes we need to cut through the noise that is all around us. The food noise is big, and looms large on the internet, in book stores, and on television. I’ve cut food research out of my life for now, and I am happier for it.

Is there anything you’ve had to stop investigating, dear reader, for the sake of your own mental health and wellness? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

If you drop it, we will eat it. And we won’t feel bad about it at all!!

14 thoughts on “Cutting Through the Food Noise

  1. Beautifully written Janine. I now always find myself thinking about Alice and how much she loved food. Then of course with her cancer everything had to be blended up…From that I have decided to eat what I want but be mindful of moderation. After all we need food for sustenance without it we do not live right…By the way J love the kitten…new addition…God bless Janine.

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    1. Genny, I think of Alice often, too. I think she would be happy to see you enjoying your food 🙂 and of course, you are right, a little moderation is in order, too.
      Our new kitten is amazing… We love him and luckily he and Cleo are great buddies! Thank you for reading and commenting. Hope you are feeling better each day 🙂

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    2. Thank for this blog Janine. Since the big “M” has struck I have been struggling with weight gain. Some days it bothers me while others days it doesn’t. I have the threat of colon cancer looming over me as there is a strong family history of it. I also remember my mom spending her entire adult life trying to lose weight. The ironic part is when she was really sick she wished she had that weight on. So I have now decided (after reading this blog) to try to eat the best I can without depriving myself of the food I love. Thank you for putting things into perspective for me. By the way you are looking fabulous darling.

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      1. Hi Vicki, I am so glad this resonated with you. I think separating food and our enjoyment of it from our feelings around weight is so important. We get so focused on pounds that food becomes an enemy. I just am thankful now to have a strong body that can take me places and I focus on that, rather than weight.
        Due to your family history, I hope you are having regular colonoscopies every couple of years!
        Thanks so much for reading and commenting! It is so nice to hear from you 😊

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  2. This is really good advice. Love the term “mindful eating”. Never heard it before, but I get it. I practice it and never eat unless I am hungry, but for others, eating beats boredom, the blues, and doing what you’re supposed to be doing. I’ve gotten Jack into the habit of mindful eating and he’s pretty good unless chocolate is nearby. In our house, chocolate is rarely nearby for that very reason. I’m so glad you’re moving along with the chemo and will certainly break open champagne and toast the end of your ordeal. Your writing is a blessing, I am sure, to anyone going through the same thing.

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    1. Thank you so much, Bethanie. I am totally with Jack on the chocolate. It is too good to have in the house! I am also looking forward to celebrating the end of the chemo, and hopefully we can share a glass of bubbly together in Chicago in June!

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  3. Another super post, Janine: informative, sensible, and wise.

    I do think people make themselves crazy following fad diets and the latest semi-researched trends.

    When I took a mindfulness-based stress reduction course, “eating mindfully” was prominently discussed. I’m glad you reminded me because I’d gotten away from it, and reading the current news while eating is NOT conducive to good digestion. Mindful eating is also good for those who want to lose weight, as the slower pace leads to less consumption.

    “Listen to your body” is an exercise maxim that seems equally appropriate to diet.

    So glad to see your post. I think of you often and hope the negatives from the chemo will rapidly disappear, having successfully completed the work.
    And your furry kids are adorable!
    Cheers,
    Annie

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    1. Annie, yes, listening to your body is so important in all aspects of life, isn’t it? I’m learning to do that now, where I used to “power through.” It’s something we all need to do in this fast-paced world I think!
      Thanks for thinking of me and, yes, my furry buddies are so cute. They make me smile!
      So nice to hear from you 🙂

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  4. Another great article Janine. I read once that a good diet could be reduced to seven words: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. I think I’d add an eighth word; mindfully. These words makes sense to me, and they also allow for the occasional bag of chips or cheesecake! Looking forward to your next article.

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  5. Janine, what an excellent post! Pseudoscientific advice on food as it relates to health and disease is everywhere; and with cancer, it is rampant. It is so hard to cut through the fake information. Thanks for giving your readers a clear voice of reason.

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      1. Janine regarding my thoughts (and opinions😳!) I can tell you that we are very much on the same wavelength about food/ health! I have loved everything you’ve written on this blog but this entry is near and dear🧡😊.

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