I was about 10 when I heard my granddad say this. I didn’t fully understand what he was saying as a child, I totally forgot it as a teenager of course and as an adult turned it on its head and lived for every sugary snack, pizza, glass of wine or bag of crisps I could get my hands on. In more recent years I switched those indulgences to ‘organic’ or ‘high end’ products. My focus was mainly on eliminating chemicals and preservatives. I enjoyed eating healthily but I most certainly enjoyed the extras too. That was B.C. (Before Cancer).
Cancer drops like a bomb in the centre of your life, scattering its parts far and wide… Those parts of me were and still are scattered. Pulling my life back together is currently my life’s work. To go back to what was though, to live relatively carelessly would be to deny what has happened, it would undermine my gratitude for being alive and well, and I just can’t do that, but equally I can’t live in fear of the ‘what if’s’. Cancer remains my life’s most powerful teacher. Even with the all clear. Every decision I make is illuminated by the light of gratitude for living.
Life is uncertain. Now is all we have. Making the conscious choice to feel the best we can, mind body and soul right now, is the best we can do with whatever time life allows us.
Eating well for me isn’t disease prevention any more and it isn’t a guilt fuelled compromise. Eating well is about gratitude for life, the understanding that my body sustains me and so in return I choose to sustain it (not abuse it). An infinite flow of feedback between us, eating well makes me feel well, which leads to healthier choices. Taking food back to basics is worth every single life enhancing meal to feel vibrant, oxygenated, nourished and energised. Free of guilt, free of brain fog, free of hangovers, free of cravings and with all the energy that the day requires. I’ve gained not just a sense of vibrant well-being, but the capacity to think more clearly, which is just a reflection of a more ‘clean and clear system’. In thinking more clearly I’m less stressed, less likely to flair up, hold a grudge or ruminate on something someone said or did. But in facing stress, my body resolves and returns to balance more quickly than it has in the past.
By now I’m sure most of us have heard of the gut being referred to as the second brain? Apparently 90% of the cells of our body are made up of the bacteria which inhabit the gut (which we put there of course)… It’s also the case that the wrong kind of bacteria (which also come from what we put there) can cause us health problems. In my own ponderings I wondered how much of my own anxiety and depression over the previous years was simply my mind registering an imbalance? And I wonder how much of my emotional eating stemmed from the cravings of those bad bacteria and pathogens? There is lots of exciting research happening, but in the mean time Dr Emily Deans, in ‘The Gut-Brain Connection, Mental Illness & Disease’ says:
All in all, the gut is a terrific place to start helping humans be as healthy, resilient, and robust as we have evolved to be.
I live by a few simple choices which I know allow me to feel well and function well.
My Life with food now involves the following principles:
- A Plant based diet with eggs and animal protein from chicken and fish as and when I feel I need it. This seems to work best for me in terms of sustained energy levels, glowing skin and an ability to face my mental processes, emotions and situations.
- Going Sugar free. Because sugar is a drug and it’s only purpose is to sustain itself and the businesses that exploit and manufacture it. I will use honey, but no more than 2 tsps. a day and a little fresh fruit every day – this has led to an experience of sustained blood sugar throughout the day. More energy all the way to bed time and less headaches. Turns out I’m not a crazy psycho, I was just a sugar addict (My husband may disagree).
- Caffeine free. For reasons as above. My energy comes from not eating sugar or drinking caffeine. Those things serve their own purpose and it’s only to sustain themselves. Eliminating them means not being at their mercy.
- Alcohol free. Because if life is this uncertain and short, it’s not worth the hangover. What I thrive on is time with friends, chatting, enjoying food and tea together, enjoying our collective wisdom, love and mutual appreciation of one another in a social situation without ending up falling over, eating junk and writing off the following day to nurse the hangover.
- Processed food and Preservative free. Those chemicals are not there for our wellbeing, they’re there for the purposes of shelf life and the profits of the people that make them. Your one precious and vibrant life does not need that stuff. Your one short, uncertain life deserves precious earth bounty, full of life and vitality. Anything less is a self-inflicted diss.
What’s left? Three meals a day, no snacks! Chicken, Fish, Eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, pulses, beans, herbs & spices. Survival food, real living vibrant food, the food that has sustained human kind since forever. Eating this way makes me feel ALIVE because what I’m eating is nutrient dense!
The bottom life for me, is that whether the cancer returns or not, the time I have between now and my final exit I hope to be filled with life, and to truly appreciate life it needs to be treated and honoured as the gift that it is. The experiences I have in the world are a direct consequence of the condition of the senses I perceive them through, and if those senses are impaired then so is my experience.
As my wise granddad said “Eat to live, don’t live to eat”
A Gut-Brain Bowl of lunchtime Goodness…
This was a satisfying lunch. I was hungry so had an appetite for it, and afterwards I felt happy. Not in a dopamine hit way (the kind you get from a bar of chocolate), but in a gut happy way which filled me with warmth, satisfaction and vitality.
Ingredients (serves 1):
1/4 head broccoli
1/4 head cauliflower
1/2 large courgette
2 cloves garlic
10 almonds (soaked in filtered water overnight)
Handful of sprouting lentils
1 tbsp. ghee
50 mls filtered water
2 tsp coconut aminos
pinch of salt & pepper to taste
- Add the water and ghee to a pan and bring to the boil
- Crush the garlic and add to the water, along with the coconut aminos
- Chop the courgette into cubes & the broccoli and cauliflower in to small florets and add to the water.
- Add the olives, almonds lentil sprouts and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Simmer with the lid on the pan for around 7 minutes (depending how well you like the broccoli done!)