Last week my friend Janet Thompson featured a guest blog on her women to women mentoring site. Each month she has a ” Love your body” feature and the article below was what I wrote for it. I am including it here on my site because there has been overwhelming response, which tells me that we need encouragement, as women, to take care of ourselves. We become expert at taking care of others but might need a dose of encouragement to surrender our bodies and health to God as an act of trust and obedience. I sincerely pray this helps someone and I want you to know that I am still on the journey . This hasn’t been a crash diet but a means of restoring my health and changing my appetites. To God be the glory!
My Wake Up Call by Debbie Alsdorf
Three months ago, my cupboard shelves were filled with the latest diet products—nutrition bars, snack packs, and 90-calorie “this-and-that.” Despite having a pantry filled with diet foods, I’ve been a consistent 40 pounds overweight for many years. As I’ve gotten older, the weight has clung to me. Nothing I did seemed to budge the pudge, as my appetite for sweets, comfort, and junk foods kept growing stronger. Each day brought fatigue and frustration. I saw no end in sight.
Then in the middle of yet another “diet plan,” I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a wake-up call. The shock was enough to make me lose my appetite for a few weeks, but after the shock wore off, discouragement set in. Though my instruction was to exercise and lose any excess weight for optimal health and to reduce the chance of a reoccurrence, I couldn’t bring myself to do either. After surgery and six weeks of daily radiation treatments, I began to take a cancer-preventive drug that had side effects: hot flashes, bone pain, fatigue, nausea and weight gain. Ugh! Worse yet, I was to take this drug for five years. Discouragement seems to call for comfort foods, and in the blink-of-an-eye, I added ten pounds to my already overweight frame.
When the symptoms began to get ridiculous, my oncologist had me stop the drug. I apparently was not a candidate for this normal protocol. My only hope would be to take care of my body through nutrition, proper rest, and physical exercise. Easier said than done! I had never been able to do it in the past, so what made me think I could now?
The 90 Day Challenge
A doctor suggested I try a strict protocol of no sugar, no dairy, and no grain for 90 days. These foods cause inflammation—fuel for any disease. This strict protocol also would help insulin resistance and the liver problems I had been plagued with for years.
My initial thought was no way! I didn’t want to be that weird girl who couldn’t eat what everyone else could eat, and I didn’t want to make others uncomfortable. I travel a lot for speaking and often eat whatever the venue is serving. I am in airports, long car rides . . . I kept thinking of all the excuses that would keep me from taking care of me.
Truth was, I just didn’t want to change because I had little faith that I really could change. I didn’t want to give up anything I liked, even if it was hurting me.
But, I knew without a doubt, it was time to take care of myself. Thus began the journey of 90 days to freedom from the bondage of all my comfort foods. I have to be honest, the first two weeks were terrible. I experienced withdrawals and that was a wake-up call in itself. What drug was I withdrawing from? Sugars and grains.
From the Inside Out
A week ago, I completed the 90 day protocol. I have no desire to add back into my diet the desserts and snacks that were my old best friends. Not only do I feel better, but after 90 days, my blood work returned to normal. All levels have improved dramatically, and I am no longer fatigued or frustrated. Instead, I am sleeping well, waking up energized, no longer napping every day, lost 6 inches off my waistline, and am now 28 pounds lighter!
What Plan Did I Follow?
I didn’t follow a “plan.” No gimmicks, no diet foods, and no anxiety over weight loss. Instead, I concentrated on eating nutritious, whole foods. Some call this “eating clean” or paleo; but I’ve tweaked it to make it my own personal way of eating that I believe God helped me discover.Rather than thinking of all I couldn’t eat, I chose to focus on what I could eat. I began filling up my plate with lean proteins, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and a few fruits.
You may have noticed that processed foods were not on my list. What I never knew is that my love for sugars, carbs, and processed foods aided the development of a fatty liver, which caused me all kinds of problems. Besides cancer, I was on a slippery slope as fatty liver can develop into cirrhosis, and cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer. With the change in diet, my liver went back to normal!
My New Normal
My first mother’s day after cancer brought the joy of being alive. My children bought me a NutriBullet, and that is when things went into high gear. Now I was juicing delicious veggie and fruit smoothies every day. Spinach, kale, chard, chia seeds, almond milk, and half a frozen banana. I was also advised to give up all artificial sweeteners, so I added a little stevia to taste and said good-bye to diet soft drinks. I can’t explain what these vegetables have done for me . . . there are no words. Suffice it to say, I have not felt this good for at least twenty years!
This new eating journey takes a little more work up front. I prepare and plan a bit more than I did before. I read restaurant menus a little longer and choose what is good for me ,not what I feel like having in the moment. I carry healthy snacks and water and find it a small inconvenience in comparison with how great I feel.
Walking My Way to Wellness
Once I started getting used to no sugar, grain or dairy, I knew it was time to start getting physical. I put my Fitbit on one day just to get a baseline of my normal daily steps. Pathetically, 1078 steps by 5 pm! 10,000 is the suggested steps we all should strive for each day. I had my work cut out for me.I was lazy from being so inactive. I had zero motivation and never even went to the health club where I had a membership. Every cancer support group touted exercise as the magic bullet to renewed health, so I realized I had to make more changes.
Things have changed. No longer lazy and inactive, I now look for ways to move my body and schedule exercise into my schedule six days a week. This morning, I was up walking with my friend at 6:30 am. We walk about 4 miles or 8,000 steps. At dinnertime, I was at 17,000 steps! Quite a change. I must say that at first, it felt like someone was coming over and putting a leash on me to drag me out for a walk. I went along with it—I didn’t like it— but I knew I had to do something. Just like the first few weeks of no sugar was hard, the first few weeks of exercise were just as hard. Over time, I have come to look forward to walking every bit as much as I look forward to my morning shake.
You Can Change
Did you know that you can change? Our habits and comforts don’t have to rule us any longer.
When we yield our bodies and our food issues to God, He begins the work in us. Yieldingdoesn’t mean we do nothing. Once I knew I needed to change, I began to ask Jesus for the grace to succeed. Every day I thanked Him that I would get to my goal weight. I didn’t have a date in mind; I just knew it had to happen. I took 90 days, one day at a time. Some days I went to bed pretty hungry and other days I forgot to eat when I should have eaten. Food was slowly losing its power over me. I am still not at my goal weight. I have about 15 pounds to go, but I am now living this new lifestyle one day at a time.
Since the 90 days are over, I am carefully adding in foods one at a time. I have no plans to add back in the junk, just good wholesome things. Each day, I still pray the same thing,
“Dear Lord give me the grace and strength to make it to my health goals. Guide me today into what is right for my individual body. Thank you that I will reach my goal because I have prayed to you for the grace to make it and the strength to see the new path before me”
Recommendations for Cancer Prevention
I received the following guidelines after my breast cancer diagnosis:
- Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight
- Be physically active for at least 30 minutes daily
- Avoid sugary drinks and foods
- Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits
- Avoid processed foods and meats
- Use meat as a condiment and focus on vegetables
- After cancer treatment, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention. Following these recommendations could help prevent at least 1/3 of all cancers.
Physical and Spiritual Renewal
I’m on a path of discovering that walking with God is a sacred journey that encompasses every area of our lives. I no longer dread the scale and I am not looking for the latest and greatest diet. I am eating when I am hungry and filling up with good things. It is wonderful to begin taking care of me after years of neglect. I love God, am a Christian author and Bible study teacher, but the one area I previously refused to look at was the discipline of surrendering my body to its Maker. I am grateful for the gift I found in the middle of a cancer diagnosis. It was a wake-up call that awakened my soul to fresh surrender and my body to renewed health.
My Morning Green Shake
4 ice cubes
1 Cup Almond Milk
4-5 frozen Mango Chunks
2 handfuls (2 cups) of power greens (spinach, kale, chard)
1 T. Chia Seed
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (sweetened with Stevia)
(This is Janet speaking, if you’ve had breast cancer be sure to check the label of any protein powders to be sure they don’t contain soy. Most do.)
Stevia to taste You can use other fruits, this is my favorite.
Debbie Alsdorf has been a women’s ministry leader for over 25 years. She is an Amazon bestselling author, international speaker, and the founder of Design4Living Ministries. Affectionately known as a cheerleader of hope, Debbie holds out God’s Word to women with compassion and application. Her messages are real and a mix of wit, humor, and biblical truth. Her life’s work is to encourage women to embrace God’s love for them and learn to live in the life changing realities of God’s Word in the practical places of everyday life.
She is the author of twelve books, A Woman Who Trusts God, A Different Kind of Wild, Deeper,The Faith Dare (Revell) and The Design 4 Living Bible Study Series (David C. Cook).