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Thursday, November 04, 2010

28 days of sugar free life - WHY?

I have been heavily overweight since childhood, the only member of my family to become obese at an early age. As the years went by there were the usual succession of diets, some healthy and some decidedly not. I was the champion diet queen. I tried them all and some worked, some did not. Like so many before me it was the realisation that yo yo dieting inevitably makes you heavier that brought me to the decision that a healthy weight was not about dieting but about diet. Activity is also a component but if you keep eating unhealthily no amount of exercise is going to keep you in good shape.

I became what is often termed as a "mindful eater". I placed all my attention on what I was eating, slowed down my rate of eating and listened to what my body was telling me. I allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted to but found that in giving myself this permission, combined with the acute awareness of the flavours and textures of what I ate, I ate less and I ate healthier foods. Over a period of seven years my weight fell from almost 24stones, the highest I had ever been, to a still horrifically obese 18.

Then two years ago, in July 2008, my body served notice that something was seriously wrong. The story of my 18 months nightmare journey to diagnosis with stage 3 kidney cancer will be told another day. In the latter stages of the illness, I could hardly eat at all. Everything tasted too sweet or too salty. My weight plummeted a further twenty eight pounds in the two months prior to the removal of my kidney and the attached thrombus which stretched into my heart. I could not hold down food at all for a week after the operation and I dropped a further 13 lbs. I do not recommend cancer as a way of shedding weight. There are other less painful ways.

I recovered astonishingly quickly from my operation and was soon back eating normally again but not mindfully. After three months of near starvation, my metabolic rate had taken a dive and weight pile on again. I am not back at the weight I was before the cancer started to take its toll.

Obesity is linked to several cancers and kidney cancer is one of them. I will never know if this is what triggered my cancer but there will always be the thought that it might have. I was eating very healthily, lots of vegetables and fruit, pulses and whole meal bread and rice, adding cinnamon, turmeric and garlic to everything that would still taste palatable with it. I was also eating sweets, cakes and biscuits, not every day and in small quantities, but I was eating them. I knew that they were empty calories and what was worse that there was a theory that they might provide direct nourishment for cancer cells. That might or might not be true but I have studied enough about insulin resistance and the toxic effect that overloads of sugars have on the body to take a guess that this might be true. Yet I still drifted mindlessly until a month ago.

I was in London for a meeting with a group of Kidney Cancer Advocates and some of the top doctors in the field. Something happened at that meeting. I watched all of these dedicated people giving time from their busy lives; I heard how passionately they care about helping people like me. They were devoting their lives to us and the least I could do in return was to create as healthy a body as I can, to make my body an inhospitable place for cancer. Anything less is an act of gross ingratitude.

As they served the pastries with morning coffee, I made a decision. I would give up sweets, cakes, biscuits and chocolates until December 25th when I would review the situation. It was as though a light had switched on in my head, a no-brainer. From that moment on, I have said no to every offer of such foods. I made the promise public on Facebook and to all of my family and friends.

I have not wavered once. I have not been tempted once. A client gave me a gift of Thornton chocolates last week and I handed them over to my husband and son and told them to enjoy. I have a box of chocolates from the extraordinarily wonderful Hotel Chocolat which has now been sitting unopened for over three weeks. Normally it would  have been devoured within 24 hours. It will not be opened until Christmas Day.

I owe my life to the dedicated surgeons who operated on me on November 20th 2009. I owe my life to the staff of the Golden Jubilee Hospital who nursed me back to health. I owe my life to my family, especially my mother, and to my friends who were my guardian angels and protectors throughout this ordeal.

I will do all I can to protect that life. Should the cancer return, it will not be because I did not do all I could to prevent it.

Life is a precious gift. I also owe my life to me. There is still much to be done.
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