Food and the Balance Between Physical and Emotional Health

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(Ann Ogden from Cook for Your Life)

When teaching a workshop, Food Solutions: Navigating Cancer, at the Urban Zen Center in NYC a few years ago a young woman with breast cancer, post double mastectomy raised her hand, tears already streaming down her face and said this:

"My doctor told me that I should never eat sugar again. But my cup of coffee with a little cream and one pack of sugar has been a morning ritual since I can remember. I quit the coffee and as a result I’m miserable. I miss it and want it but am scared to indulge in any way. Can I have it?"

At this point, this woman was full on crying. Clearly this cup of coffee meant a heck of a lot to her. And from my perspective it was causing quite a bit of emotional upset. And believe it or not, too much emotional stress can perpetuate physical illness. So this is what I had to say:

"While I fully respect your doctor’s orders because of the link between sugar consumption and cancer, I choose to look at the big picture. Kissing this one cup of coffee goodbye seems to be doing more emotional harm than any physical damage it could trigger. So I say drink your coffee, please, and enjoy it!"

Like I always say, illness is the full time job you are hired for that YOU DON”T WANT. And the journey to get well can be very long and arduous, let alone super scary and incredibly confusing. When it comes to food, you want to do the right thing but what truly nurtures your soul and your taste buds may not necessarily be what you should eat.

So, as a very general rule of thumb, for anyone with cancer (or any illness for that matter), I encourage an anti-inflammatory diet—one founded in whole foods like vegetables, herbs, spices, fruits, grains, beans, nuts and seeds with limited animal foods including dairy. I also try to inspire people to ditch the highly processed foods by talking to them about the down and dirty of chemicals in cuisine (typically the junk that can contribute to cancer in the first place like artificial colors and sweeteners). And if I can get a client to do this 75% of the time, I consider myself incredibly successful!

So, to nourish yourself through illness and back to health there are plenty of folks, including me, who can lead the way like Ann Ogden and Rebecca Katz. We all teach people how to cook for their lives. So here are some great resources—classes, books and people that can hold your hand…

  1. Cook for Your Life
  2. Healing Kitchens Institute
  3. The Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts
  4. One Bite at a Time by Rebecca Katz
  5. The Cancer Fighting Kitchen by Rebecca Katz
  6. Marti Wolfson
  7. Jessica Phillips

And, don’t forget to tune in to Stirring the Pot on WPPB 88.3 FM Thursdays at 5:30pm (with an encore Saturdays at 5pm) for Cook for Your Life and surely check out the Weekly Yum Recipe.

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