Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Cancer Story, Nutrition Plan and Eating Philosophy

I began this blog with every intention of doing Jorge Cruise's  The Belly Fat Cure precisely as how he outlined it in his book.  That's why I named the blog Cat's Belly Fat Cure, however it changed along the way to my very own unique plan.

Some background about me:

In March of 2008 I had appointments with 3 specialists concerning a nodule in my thyroid. I was sent for an ultrasound, a fine needle biopsy (inconclusive) and one surgery, a partial thyroidectomy, removing half of my thyroid.  During the surgery a frozen biopsy section was completed and sent to pathology, while I waited in the O.R., for the decision from the pathologist.  Is it malignant or not?  Well good news, no malignancy, so I kept the other side of my thyroid, was stitched up, and sent home.  A thyroid gland can function just fine with just half, so no thyroid meds would be needed and I could resume life as usual.  The surgery was on a Saturday, so by Tuesday I was up moving around, had sent my mother home because I was fine and could manage on my own, or so I thought.  My husband wasn't home either when the call came from the surgeon.  Now if a doctor calls your home and first asks if someone is with you or if you're alone, he's not calling to deliver good news. He told me I had papillary thyroid cancer with a follicular tendency. I don't remember if it is the follicular or papillary, but one of those is NOT a good cancer to have.  Sometimes it can be aggressive and the sheer size of mine was not a great sign.

Nothing can prepare a young mother, for such a phone call.  My first thoughts, "what if my children, then 4 and 1 have to grow up without me?"  I don't remember getting overly upset, as I knew God was with me and He'd see things through.

Another surgery was scheduled for a complete thyroidectomy, removal of the thyroid.  Followed by a few weeks of no thyroid function (not fun), a low iodine diet, radioactive iodine treatment, then finally a whole body scan to see if the cancer had metastasized. The hardest part of this process was the unknown, waiting for the body scan. After treatment and the scan, no sign of cancer could be found, but I was told the true test would come a year later.  A year rolled around and no cancer detected again.  It's only by the grace of God I'm alive today!  Really!  My Endocrinologist admitted after treatment, he was pleasantly surprised it had not metastasized!

So what's my point?  I know, you thought I was going to discuss my eating plan....well my health background is part of the puzzle and what has shaped how I eat and live my life today.

Well since thyroid cancer, wellness has been my passion.  Even though I was overweight, I still researched and read everything I could get my hands on about health, nutrition, and cancer prevention.  During this time in my life, my nickname among several friends was "Research Queen".  During this time I tried more diets than I care to admit, some for just weight loss, some for health with the benefit of weight loss.  A pattern was developing though, the diets I was trying for just weight loss were failing miserably, or actually I was failing them.  I realized I needed to think about health, and what I new about health in order to stick with a given eating plan.  In other words, I had to believe in it and follow it with passion.  I couldn't just do a diet for weight loss and deep down not think it was healthy and something I could do the rest of my life.

While my diet could certainly be improved, I've found a balance I can live with that is health promoting AND good for weight loss.  When I tried to do The Belly Fat Cure, certain aspects of the diet conflicted with my health philosophy. Since I believe fruits and vegetables should be the cornerstone of a healthy eating plan, I had a hard time limiting fruits and veggies to keep sugar below 5 grams for the meal and 15 grams in a day.  I could do it in the short term, but since I really didn't believe in it I couldn't sustain it.  I'm not saying I eat high sugar foods, even natural sugar with abandon.  Instead I practice moderation and limit the high sugar fruits and other foods high in sugar as well.  The Belly Fat Cure has definitely made a positive impact in my life and in food decisions I'll make forever.  I always now consider how much sugar grams are in food and make decisions accordingly. The diet also seemed too meat and dairy focused as well.  I do realize I could have done the diet, not consuming dairy and limiting meat and limiting fruit and veggies.  I tried that and for me it became too restrictive.  Other aspects of the diet, I believe are right on, especially consuming no artificial sweeteners.  My body has an almost immediate reaction to those, with a headache and anxiety.  

This is what I've finally determined after 43 years works for me.

What I normally eat:

  • Eating some protein at every meal or snack
  • Bulking up meals and snacks with fruits and/or veggies
  • Breakfast:  carbohydrate heavy with added protein.  For example, this morning I ate gluten free oats, apple, maple almond nut butter, cinnamon, Sun Crystals
  • Lunch:  sometimes carbohydrate heavy or not, with protein.  
  • Snacks:  a balance of protein and carbs, for example, Mary's Gone Crackers with chocolate almond butter, or carrots with hummus, or an apple with a small handful of walnuts, or a gluten free dairy free bar like Larabars or Kind Fruit and Nut bars.  
  • Dinner:  limited or no starch and protein. For example: steak with green beans. If I crave something sweet, sometimes I'll have a spoonful of chocolate almond butter or a cookie, a small amount just enough to satisfy my cravings, or a piece of fruit.
Sometimes I'll eat treats not within this plan.  If that happens I eat them until I'm satisfied and then put the rest away.  Since I allow treats and nothings totally off limits, if I have a treat I don't feel guilty.  And unlike a diet, I'm never "off plan" because this is just how I live and eat now.  

Some pics of what I eat:

I mentioned earlier not eating dairy and gluten.  If I eat something that has a substantial amount of dairy, I will have a reaction within 5 to 10 minutes, increased mucus, asthma, and sometimes stomach cramping.  I'm doing a gluten free trial, although I have the occasional piece of bread. I do notice huge improvements in my physical and mental health when I avoid gluten and dairy.  Do I do this perfectly? nope.

In summary, most carbs are eaten in the beginning to the middle part of the day. Then by dinner I aim for no starch, just protein and veggies.  Then NOTHING to eat after dinner.  I think the combination of no to limited starch at dinner with no snacking at night has had the biggest impact on weight loss.

That's the basics.  I do tweak it a bit when I hit a plateau, but otherwise it's how I eat now.  I don't plan to ever go back to how I lived and ate before.

I hope I answered all of the questions regarding my eating plan, but if I didn't please ask and I'll address them.

Have a happy, healthy Thursday.

Take care,


  1. I'm glad you found what will work for you for life. That really is the key. I'm discovering that for myself as well. Since I can't eat gluten, my diet is already limited, so I was having a hard time limiting other foods as well. I knew that I had to find something that I enjoy and can stick to for life. My eating at this point sounds very similar to your. I do still eat dairy, but otherwise, it's similar.

  2. It's so good to hear a cancer story that turned out so great. I am happy for you and your family.
    I think its great that you found your balance. You look great too!
    Have a great day :-)

  3. Your food looks so yummy! So glad you are cancer free, and that you have found a way to eat that you can embrace with your whole self and still lose your extra weight. wahoo!

  4. That explains the apples:) I am so happy for you to be cancer free. It is a Blessing for you and your family. I can't imagine, nor do I want to, that phone call.
    I think to be successful with weight loss for the rest of our lives, we have to adapt the plan to fit our lifestyles. We are all so different in how we were raised, the food that was available, the triggers that we learned, etc. The BFC allows me to eat everything I love in moderation except sweets. I will take the new me over a chocolate chip cookie any day!
    Great blog!

  5. Thank you for sharing a part of your life Cat. Those where unsettling times I'm sure-but now you can celebrate being cancer free. I'm sure you appreciate your life, and the choices you can make that feels right for you.
    Take Care

  6. Thanks for sharing your story Cat. I have a thyroid nodule too. I have had two fine needle biopsies and they watch the size every year with ultrasounds. I have to take two medications, synthroid and cytomel. I just started the cytomel a few months ago. My dosage of medication switches alot as my TSH levels don't seem to stabilize. I hope I never have to go through what you did and that's why my dr watches me very closely. People don't realize how much the thryoid regulates most of the body's metabolic functions. It's a very important little gland, and when it's not working or missing, you have to be on medication and watched very closely. I pray for your continued good health. Hugs from me to you!

  7. I want to come to your house for dinner.

  8. Cat, you are an amazing and strong woman!

  9. Your diet plan is seems to be full of vegetables and fruits.. . with the little enclosure of soups . .

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