A journal of my experiences with breast cancer to inform those who are interested and to help any one else who might have just been diagnosed.

“[She] will have no fear of bad news; [her] heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Wibbly Wobbly Weight Loss, Living the Healthy Life: The Magic of Lemons and Vinegar

What do lemons and vinegar have in common? They both are sour due to the acetic acid in them, and they both keeps the effects of other foods eaten with them from affecting blood sugar levels...as much as 50%!
Scientists are not sure why this happens, but they do know that they interfere with the enzymes that break apart chemical bonds in starches and the kinds of sugars found in table sugar and milk. They, in fact, keep foods in general longer in the stomach so they aren't digested as quickly. Acetic acid may also speed up the rate at which glucose is moved out of the bloodstream and into the muscle cells for storage. 
I have written about many of the health benefits of lemons and limes before, but vinegar has similar effects. Just 3-4 teaspoons of vinegar can not only lower blood sugar, but it can make you feel more satisfied after a meal and it also fights bacteria and fungi.
So, have a pickle with your lunch, or squeeze some lemon into your tea or salad and enjoy the magic of lemons and vinegar!
Encouragement A little by little becomes A LOT #fitness  For more motivation, healthy recipes, weight loss tips, workouts, and more  http://www.fb.com/jenniferwoodfitness
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At my doctor's check-up today, she let me know that I had lost 20 pounds since my last visit, which makes a nearly 30 pound loss total.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Wibbly Wobbly Weight Loss, Living the Healthy Life: Is Fat the Bad Guy?

good fats

As with carbohydrates, I have learned that whether the fat is bad for you has to do with what kind or where the fat comes from. Like proteins, fat doesn't raise blood sugar so snacking on fat-rich foods like nuts is not so bad. Fat takes a while to digest and so slows the rate at which food leaves your stomach, blunting the blood sugar effect of the whole meal. Tossing your salad or drizzling your pasta with olive oil, adding nuts to your rice or using slices of avocado to your sandwich can help you lose weight because it helps make the meal more satisfying. Remember, real weight loss is long term and it has to be something you can live with.
So, fat is not necessarily the bad guy. It may be if it is in butter, high-fat lunch meat, marbled steak, full-fat cheeses and ice cream, but if you switch those out for lean cuts of meat, chicken and fish, low fat milk, cheeses and lunch meats (such as turkey and lean roast beef) and instead get your fats from those in avocados, nuts, seeds, olives (including olive oil, and canola oil as well), fish and seafood, you will not only keep your heart healthy, but also lose weight and feel satisfied. 
Seafood also contains omega-3 fatty acids which lower triglycerides, helping prevent blood clots, reducing inflammation and promoting a normal heart rhythm.
good vs bad fats

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Wibbly Wobbly Weight Loss, Living the Healthy Life: The Power of Protein

Protein Power Pack @ Wawa Food Market
I found out first hand the power of protein by accident one day. Steven and I had gone to one of my medical check-ups and it was late and we were both hungry. We stopped off at Wawa for gas, and so I went in and picked up what they call a Protein Pack, which included a hard-boiled egg, a mini whole wheat bagel, a cup of peanut butter, some salted almonds, some grapes and some apple slices. I could not believe how much better it made me feel.
Protein Power Pack
So, I had to do some research to find out why. Unlike carbohydrates, protein doesn't raise blood sugar. If you substitute calories from one of these foods for some of the carbohydrate calories, the whole meal will have less impact on your blood sugar because your body takes a while to break down the protein in the foods you eat, and this slows down the digestion of the whole meal including the carbohydrates it contains, making for a slower rise in blood sugar. 

Not All Proteins Are Created Equal

Of course, all proteins are not created equal so you have to be careful about your choices of protein-rich food. Saturated fats increase insulin resistance, which is bad for your blood sugar. Fish and shellfish are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the heart. Beans, peas and lentils have the added plus of being rich in fiber.
Some of the compounds our bodies make from protein's amino acids help regulate blood sugar, so including protein in a meal means that your body will handle the carbs in that meal more efficiently, so it is a good idea to include a source of protein in each meal.
In diet studies, people on moderately high protein diets lost more body fat and less muscle. A moderately high protein diet might get as much as 30% of its calories from protein, which is a lot more than is in my usual diet. So, I began the idea of duplicating the protein packs for my snack at home. They have done a lot for making me feel better and less hungry, and they are so popular that now five out of the seven people in my family ask for them. They make me feel better and less hungry between meals. 
Incidentally, the nutrition information on the back of the packs states that they have 660 calories, 43 grams of fat, 52 grams of carbohydrates and 28 grams of protein, so I needed to figure out the best way of keeping the protein up but lowering the calories, fats and carbs. First, I reduced the amount of peanut butter.
I use little cups to measure my peanut butter in. I use anywhere from 1-2 Tab. of peanut butter and I use only half or a quarter of a whole wheat bagel, a hard-boiled egg (sometimes pickled with beets), about 10-14 nuts such as almonds, some fresh fruit such as apple or blueberries and a small square of dark chocolate, which of course is not part of the protein, but is a small treat that keeps me from wanting a bigger (and worse) dessert, and dark chocolate has its own health benefits (which I will go into in another post.)

  • 1-2 Tab. peanut butter: 94-188 calories, 8-16g fat, 3-6g carbs, 4-8g protein
  • 1/2 Thomas' Bagel Thins: 55 cal., .5g fat, 12g carbs, 3g protein
  • 1 hard-boiled egg: 78 cal., 5g fat, .5 carbs, 6g protein
  • 1 apple: 72 cal., .2g fat, 19g carbs, .3 protein or 1/2 cup blueberries: 42 cal., .5g fat, 21g carbs, 1g protein
  • 14 almonds: 85 cal., 8g fat, 2g carbs, 3g protein
  • 1 sqaure Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate: 66 cal., 6g fat, 6g carbs, .5g protein
So, my homemade packs are about 420-544 calories, 27-36g fat, 42-47 g carbs and 14-15g protein and serve as a combination of snack and dessert.

Improving the Protein Packs

The best proteins are found in beans and peas, with lentils being the best and lima beans being the least good of this category. The next best proteins are nuts and then diary and soy drinks. Peanuts are the best for blood sugar and cashews are the least good. Low-fat yogurt with fruit is a good source of protein, but be careful about the added sugar in commercial yogurts. I was thinking that perhaps I could do better with my protein packs by adding 8 oz. nonfat yogurt and only half the fruit I had been using to the yogurt, it would add about 40 calories, but reduce the carbohydrates 15g instead of 21g (or the Wawa Packs of 52g) and add 10 grams of protein, for a total of 25g of protein, nearly as much as in the Wawa Packs.

Portions control is also something that is to look at when you are making choices.

Perfect Portions

Beans, Lentils,Peas: 1/2 cup
Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Fish, Lamb, Pork, Shellfish: 3 oz. twice a day*
Eggs: 1-2
Milk, Yogurt: 3 8-oz.(1 cup) servings of low-fat milk or other dairy products
Nuts: 1 oz. (because they are so high in calories), which is about 20 almonds, 10 walnut halves or 45 pistachios
Peanut Butter: 1 Tab. (because it is 100 calories per Tablespoon)
Seeds: 1-2 Tab.
Soybeans: 1/2 cup
*That's only about the size of a deck of cards.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Wibbly Wobbly Weight Loss -Living The Healthy Life: All Carbohydrates Are Not The Same

Whole wheat pasta cooked al dente, prepared with olive oil and beans or vegetables with a side of side of greens is a healthy choice that doesn't raise blood sugar too quickly. 
I have been enjoying joining up in the discussions, Wibbly Wobbly Weight Loss – Living The Healthy Life! at Angelicscaliwags. She has started this discussion group at just the perfect time for me. I have been exploring a healthier lifestyle ever since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2012. My goal is not to lose weight, but to be healthier, however I think that a healthier lifestyle will probably result in weight loss, however slowly. I began my research with foods that help prevent (or prevent the re-occurrence) cancer and recipes that feature these foods. Then I began to realize the many reasons why we eat what we do. 
I grew up in a very dysfunctional family, and I didn't always get adequate nutrition. For years whenever the refrigerator became empty or my food supply low, I began to panic. Due to my husband's loving care, I have gotten over this, but I still get the same panic whenever I get really hungry. And yet, as my brother wisely put to me once, in order to lose weight, you have to leave the table before you are totally full. Thus, my struggle with portion control. 
I have also been reading a lot about the typical American diet and blood sugar. I have learned that the American diet is full of foods that send us for a wild ride on the blood sugar roller coaster in which we eat fast-acting carbohydrates in order to feel better fast, but they run out quickly, leaving us feel like we are starving. All of this roller-coaster eating can lead to all sorts of medical problems, including diabetes and cancer. 
To find out which carbohydrates are the best and worst took a lot of research on the part of scientists. Back in 1981, Dr Jenkins came up with something called the glycemic index. He had volunteers eat 50 grams of different foods and measured the volunteer's blood sugar over a two-hour period to see how high it went. As a control, he used pure glucose and assigned it the number 100. Using the information from this study, we found out that some foods such as potatoes and cornflakes ranked almost as high as pure glucose in terms of its ability to raise blood sugar.
The only problem with this study was that he measured the same amount, 50 grams, for each food tested. This means that 50 grams of carbohydrate in bread is about one slice and on the other hand, 50 grams of carrots is about seven or eight large ones. The 50 gram measurement did not coincide with how we ate the foods.
To solve this problem, scientists came up with a different measurement, called glycemic load, which took in account not only the type of carbohydrate in the food but also the amount of carbohydrate you would eat in a standard serving. By this method, carrots, strawberries and other low-calorie foods that are good to eat all have low GL values since the amount of carbohydrates they contain is low.
All of this means that some starchy foods like white rice are easy for the body to convert to sugars, therefore raising the blood sugar levels in the body quickly, while those in beans, for example,  take a lot more work for the body to break down, and so  blood sugar levels are more level.
There are four factors that determines which carbs are better than others.
  1. The type of starch. Starches are made of sugar molecules chained together. Some chains have straight edges, while others are branched. The straight-edged type, called amylose, are harder for your body to break down and turn into blood sugar. The branched type, called amylopectin, are much easier to break down because there are so many places for the enzymes that break down starches to get at it. For example, the firmer the rice, the higher the amylose and the harder it is for your body to turn it into blood sugar, making brown rice a better choice than white rice.
  2. The type of sugar.  The sugar in milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose) tend to be absorbed more slowly than other sugars since they need to be turned into glucose by the liver first.
  3. Heat...avoid overcooking starches. All starches are composed of crystals, which are broken down by heat, making them easier to digest. The more cooked the pasta is, for example, the faster it makes your blood sugar rise. One interesting thing, however, is that once the starch is cooled, it returns, in part to its crystal form, which is why hot potatoes have a high glycemic index, but potato salad's is slightly lower.
  4. Processing. Minimally processed whole wheat takes longer for the body to break down than white flour, making whole wheat pasta a much better choice than regular pasta, and wheatberries an even better choice.
I have been using these principals to change my diet and it has helped a lot to lower my cravings, made it easier to practice portion control and has given me more energy.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

One Year of Recovery

6.14chrisbday-1 One year ago today I finished my last treatment, radiation therapy. This marks my first anniversary....my first year of recovery. Thank you all for your prayers and compassion through this journey.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cancer Fighting Kitchen: Onions and a recipe for Red Onion Soup

Onions' sulfur compounds and flavonoids may help fend off several forms of cancer. These powerful antioxidant compounds also help fight some of the side effects of high blood sugar, not to mention heart disease. Onions even seem to boost HDL, or the "good" cholesterol. Evidence suggests that onions may help preserve bone and prevent osteoporosis, and because  the sulfur compounds are strongly anti-inflammatory, onions may also relieve the pain and swelling of arthritis. Finally, onions are one of the richest sources of chromium, a mineral that improves the body's ability to respond to insulin. Onions have very few calories, so add them cooked or raw to as many dishes as you can think of. Minced raw onions have the greatest health benefits. A serving is usually considered to be 1/4 cup at a time.
Here is a list of onions and their cousins, ranked from highest to lowest level of antioxidants:
Western yellow
Northern red
Empire sweet
Western white
Imperial Valley sweet

Here is a recipe for Red Onion Soup to get you started.

Red Onion Soup

French Red Onion Soup
3 Tab. olive oil
6 large red onions, sliced
pinch salt
2 tea. fresh thyme (or 1 tea. dried thyme) or 2 tea. fresh marjoram
1 cup red wine
6 cups vegetable broth
pinch of nutmeg

In a large pot, heat the oil and add onions and salt and stir. Cook on med-low heat for 25 minutes to caramelize. When the onions have turned a deep golden brown. Stir in the herbs and deglaze with the wine. Add broth and nutmeg and simmer 15 minutes.

If desired, you may serve with Parmesan Crostini floating on top the soup.
Slice a baguette into 1/4 inch rounds and place on a baking sheet. Brush the top of each slice with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake 350 oven until lightly toasted and cheese has melted.

Source: modified slightly from the recipe at One Bite at a Time, Rebecca Katz; Magic Foods, by Robert Barnett, Christine Pelkman and Denise Webb

Monday, June 16, 2014

1 1/2 Year Check-Up with Oncologist

First of all, it was a good check-up and the exam went well. For this check-up, Steven and I had lots of questions for the oncologist, which was very different from my 1-year check-up in which we had no questions. I have developed a very itchy rash on my arms and I have been seeing a dermatologist for it. He has suggested a steroid cream to apply topically. The oncologist had told me that I was not allowed to take any steroids, but I was not sure whether this applied to topical steroids. The oncologist okay-ed the particular cream the dermatologist suggested and in fact, even okay-ed a temporary use of some oral steroids that the dermatologist wanted to use. He seemed to feel I was getting a good diagnosis and treatment from the dermatologist. So, I am good to go with the dermatologist.
Next, we talked to him about the abnormal pap test results. We were worried because we had understood that the Tamoxifen that I am taking to prevent the re-occurrence of breast cancer might cause uterine cancer. It turns out that the kind Tamoxifen encourages is a different type than the kind detected by a pap test. It is a very rare form of endometrial cancer in which there is no test for. The symptoms are heavy bleeding. The oncologist is keeping in good communication with my gynecologist.
Lastly, we talked about the possibility of switching from Tamoxifen to another medication (I believe it is called anastrozole) now that I seem to be post-menopausal. He said that he would like to see me in menopause for a full year before he would be comfortable with the switch and if I am not not reached that point by the time I see him again in December, that there might be the possibility of me getting shots to make sure that I am in menopausal so that I can make the medication switch.