Can we get real for a minute?

Every, single thing you read about improving breast cancer treatment and survivorship while reducing risk of recurrence seems to circle back to the same theme: nutrition and fitness.

Pay attention to the food you put on your plate and into your body, get regular exercise, lay off the junk/alcohol/sweets and break a sweat on a daily basis.

You want to do all of that. You really, truly do.

But you don’t.

And that makes you feel a) guilt  b) shame c) worried

None of which, by the way, help you commit to the behaviors that make you feel strong, in control, and proactive heading into treatment.

I’m gonna take these one by one.

GUILT

Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.” ~ Audre Lourde, 1934-1992

I love this quote.

Audre Lourde was a poet, feminist writer and author of “The Cancer Journals”, a reflection of her breast cancer and mastectomy experience. (1)

Guilt “as a response to one’s own actions or lack of action” is EXACTLY what you feel when you choose French fries over the baked sweet potato, binge watch television instead of going for a walk, order in rather than cooking up a meal.

Let’s see if we can’t put the wise words of Ms. Lorde to good use, and use guilt “to lead to change and as the beginning of knowledge.”

What to do NOW

  • French fries (or junkie food of choice): Keep it in your meal rotation if you choose; just decrease the frequency.
  • Television: Use it as a reward. For every 30 minutes you walk/run/swim/hike, give yourself 15 minutes of television. 30 minutes, 7 days/week buys you 1.75 hours. That’s enough binge watching time for anyone – can I get an amen?
  • Order in: Order yourself a subscription to a meal prep service and give it a try.

SHAME

Shame fills the gap between what – ideally – we would like to be, do and have, and what we see ourselves as actually being, doing, and having. The bigger the gap, the greater the pain.” (2)

Another great quote, and spot on for the challenge of NOW; that agonizing stretch of time (regardless of how short it actually is – it FEELS long) between diagnosis and the start of treatment.

This is the time when the voices in your head tend to get a little pesky, a little “blamey.” Have you ever heard that persistent, whispery voice say, “See what you did? You ate a HORRIBLE diet, you gained weight, you drank too much BOOZE and you NEVER exercised. You MADE yourself get breast cancer.”

There’s an awful lot of shame in that.

What to do NOW

  • Please know, you DID NOT CAUSE your breast cancer. You’ll probably never know the cause (unless there’s a genetic condition), but believe me, your diagnosis was driven by more than a crappy diet and inactivity.
  • If you weren’t keen on taking care of yourself BEFORE your diagnosis, so be it. Move past that, and consider the moment you’re in RIGHT NOW, this time of your worst nightmare, an invitation to start. Why not? What have you got to lose? Go slow. Go steady. You can do this, and I promise you, it WILL make a positive difference in how you feel.

WORRIED

You tell yourself you’ll get better at taking care of YOU, that you’ve “got this”, but you just can’t seem to get yourself going.

You’re feeling frustrated because you’re stuck, and FREAKED OUT because you don’t want to make things worse by continuing to do nothing to help yourself.

I hear you! When everything you read screams “BROCCOLI and EXERCISE or Else,” of course you feel a little uneasy when you’re not jumping on the health train.

Unfortunately, when it comes to eating better and moving more, we tend to be REACTIVE versus PROACTIVE. We lean more toward “get a diagnosis, get thyself to the gym and buy a smoothie cookbook,” versus making gym visits and veggie stir-fry as natural as breathing.

Some folks are naturally drawn to a healthy lifestyle; to eat healthfully and exercise dutifully is a no-brainer for them – they actually feel WORSE if they don’t do those things.

And then, there’s everyone else.

If you’re in that “everyone else” group, it’s ok.

What to do NOW

  • Give yourself a little grace and compassion, and figure out where it’s humanly possible to start down that path to even a slightly healthier you.
  • Start with your mindset. If your brain says “I’m not doing ANYTHING that’s good for me.”, guess what?  You won’t.
  • Yes, you deserve to feel good. No, you don’t have to be a marathon runner. And by the way? You WILL ease that worry by taking ACTION.

So get going.

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Sources

1) Poetry Foundation. Audre Lorde.

2) Psychology Today. How to Wreck Your Self-Esteem: Compare Yourself with Others.