— Life —

It’s Not a Diet But a Lifestyle Change

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This week there was a backlash about a weight-loss ad, featuring a blonde, a string bikini and the words, “Are You Beach Body Ready?” Many women think the ad is “body-shaming,” that we should love our bodies the way they are. While I believe health and fitness comes in different sizes, I’m concerned many women may use this as an excuse not to lose weight. Instead, what if we talk more about permanent lifestyle choices, not dieting?


How many of us realize we’re gaining and losing the same 20 pounds? Numerous health and cancer studies report yo-yo dieting may have a lasting, negative effect on our immune function. According to The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, women with more episodes of losing and gaining weight had greater decreases in immune function: natural killer cells. These cells kill viruses and have been shown to attack and kill cancer cells in lab tests. Decreased natural killer cell activity has also been linked to increased susceptibility to colds and infections.

The study raises an interesting question: Would it be safer to carry around a few extra pounds, rather than risk the health effects of yo-yo dieting? While that makes sense, at what point are we good with carrying around just a few extra pounds? How easy would it be for us to justify continued weight gains as being good for our immune system, when in fact, it may increase our risk for cancer, diabetes and heart problems?

After I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I learned the extra weight a woman carries around her waist may be linked to breast cancer. That weight often results in excess estrogen in our body. If you’re of a certain age, the weight and the excess estrogen may raise your risk of getting breast cancer in the first place. If you’ve had breast cancer, and it was estrogen positive—meaning your cancer was fueled by estrogen—you may want to rethink the theory of carrying around too many extra pounds.

My friend, Lisa Powell, has been Director of Nutrition at the famed Canyon Ranch in Tucson, for 25 years. Lisa has a Bachelor of Science in human nutrition, a Master of Science in nutritional science from the University of Arizona, and she’s conducted nutritional research at the University of Arizona and the University Medical Center. Like me, Lisa is a breast cancer survivor who focuses on risk reduction, clean eating and healthy menu planning.

Here are some of Lisa’s rules of thumb for managing our weight, reducing our risk of getting breast cancer and/or recurrence. Notice, it’s not a diet, but a lifestyle change.

  1. Be as lean as you can, within normal body weight, but not skinny.
  2. Be physically active every day: Walk 30 minutes, six days a week.
  3. Limit sugar, processed foods and fast foods.
  4. Eat a diet primarily of plant origin, including berries, nuts and seeds.
  5. Limit red meant and processed meats.
  6. Limit alcohol consumption.

While a change in diet and lifestyle can be difficult in the beginning, once you’ve seen and felt the results, it’s even more difficult to go back to eating burgers and pasta with cream sauce. Yo-yo dieting, or a permanent change in the way you eat? Reduced immune system and risk of disease, or a healthy lifestyle? Your choice.

Love, Brenda


  • Generation Above Me May 2, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Thanks for sharing your friend Lisa’s principles for good nutrition / fitness. I am a big reader, but now that I’m in midlife, I’m seeing that it’s really important for me to pay more attention to my body. I enjoyed your post.

    • 1010 Park Place May 2, 2015 at 5:46 pm

      Me, too! I’ve discovered my energy and entire well-being now is dependent on my lifestyle choices: exercise, sleep, very little alcohol, some red meat, plus I need carbs for energy.

  • Mamavalveeta03 May 2, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    I have all of the “head” knowledge about nutrition, daily diet and exercise…but after being hit hard over the past 5 years with physical problems requiring surgery, I’ve watched the pounds creep on, mainly due to lack of activity. Top that off with thyroid issues (hypothyroidism and only 1/2 of my thyroid gland remaining after surgery), and I sometimes feel that the deck is stacked against me. Time for me to meet with a nutitionist?

    • 1010 Park Place May 2, 2015 at 5:51 pm

      Like you said, you have the “head” knowledge. I appreciate your thyroid issues. My girlfriend struggles with that as well. Kind of a slap in the face, but you can’t give in. You just can’t. Your mental health, physical well-being and the rest of your days depend on your taking charge. Don’t let it get away from you, Val. As your spirit animal, I say, “Pounce!” LOL!

    • Lori Shemek PhD,CNC May 2, 2015 at 7:28 pm

      Any struggle you have will melt away once you have the right knowledge. Knowledge is key. Many people believe what they are choosing to eat is healthy but not knowing that the products they are consuming are packed with sugar and more. For example, just 2 slices of certain types of whole wheat bread can raise blood sugar levels as much as 2 tablespoons of white granulated sugar. Reversing fat cell inflammation is key to optimal health and weight loss.

      • 1010 Park Place May 3, 2015 at 8:41 am

        Thanks for the solid information about sugar, which is the enemy. People think they’re eating healthy–whole wheat is a great example–but they don’t understand what they need to look for on the labels, or that sugar causes inflammation.

  • Rebecca Forstadt-Olkowski May 2, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    I completely agree with Lisa’s diet principles and it’s what I practice myself as well as portion control. It becomes frustrating though when, despite all my efforts, the extra weight sticks like glue. I’ve had plenty of blood tests and they’re all normal. I know stress and emotional eating plays a huge part as well. I’m determined though.

    • 1010 Park Place May 2, 2015 at 5:57 pm

      Dairy/cheese and the type of carbs can be holding you back. Also drink lots of water. My never break rule is no white foods: rice, bread, potatoes, pasta, chips, popcorn. If you don’t bring those trigger foods home for the grocery store, you won’t be tempted. Once you get past craving them, it’s pretty easy.

  • Lori Shemek PhD,CNC May 2, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    Excellent points! The key to optimal health and weight loss is reducing low-level inflammation. The fat cells (if overweight) emit low-levels of inflammatory molecules that reduce metabolism and it becomes a vicious cycle of weight gain that can be stopped. We used to think that fat was just a lifeless, jiggly mass..we now know it is the #1 largest endocrine organ and sends/receives messages.

    • 1010 Park Place May 3, 2015 at 8:35 am

      In other words… It IS the blob! Anyone else remember the 50s sic-fi film, with Steve McQueen? It clearly sent/received messages, and once it attached itself to you, you couldn’t shake it loose. Sorry Lori, the first time you visit my blog… I couldn’t resist.

      I’m a Journalist, previously married to a scientist for 17 years, so hard science and the credible data to back it up is my currency. I’ve written about inflammation before and know that doctors and researchers consider it to be at the root of many diseases.

  • Zowie Gooding May 4, 2015 at 9:37 am

    Well I can honestly say that being a Vegan (two years+) haves given me not only the weight loss I needed but a “HOLE” new way of living. Been with a rare form of b.c. since 08 and so needed a change. Never understood why meat /eggs / fate in general smelt bad, almost to the points in life I eat ALOT of jello nasty. Well no more fat eating here and love the sweet smells of fruit and seeds. Love the Vegan change.

    • 1010 Park Place May 5, 2015 at 8:06 pm

      Breast cancer changed my perspective on just about everything. While I wish it had never happened, it put me in touch with life and people in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Changing the way you eat was such a smart thing for you to do. I know women who, after treatment, go back to life as usual. While diet’s no guarantee we won’t have recurrence, it’s a gift step in the right direction. You go, girlfriend!

  • Lynne May 5, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Simple rules. Why have I made them so hard to follow.
    I needed this!
    Thank you and your friend Lisa.
    I’m a five year BC survivor.


    • 1010 Park Place May 5, 2015 at 8:13 pm

      LOL! Sounds like you just had a “I could have had a V-8” moment! That’s great. Another thing that could be on this list is eat as close to what God made as possible, which sums up a lot of the other items. Another one is “Nothing white: rice, bread, pasta, potatoes.” They all turn to sugar in your body. I don’t remember the last time I had any of those foods.

      FIVE-YEAR BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR!!! Yay!!! I’m 11 years out.

      Stay healthy!

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