Birthdays and Survivorship

I’m feeling a bit sentimental today, and as a result, this blog will be more personal than previous posts. Last week was my birthday, my 50th! Despite the milestone and the fact that a few weeks ago I started receiving mailings from AARP, I was excited about this birthday.

I have never been into big birthday celebrations, instead having a nice family dinner was more my speed. Beyond that, I always felt it was a normal day. Even this year, at some point on my birthday I had the same thought about birthday’s that I have always had: You wake up, someone says happy birthday, and then it’s like any other day. This year, though, I had the thought because what I did on my actual birthday was cleaning and buying groceries. But, the reason I was doing those things was because I threw myself a big party over the weekend. (It was SO fun!)

In the process of getting ready for my party I began reflecting on birthdays after cancer. Because I had delayed reconstruction, for me it took several years before I felt like I was done with recovery and ready to move forward. I think, too, many survivors have to let some time pass before they move from that fear of recurrence to celebrating the years clicking by. That’s what I did this weekend, though, celebrate! I invited friends and family, and even hired a musician. Celebrating age IS different after cancer. I’m happy I’m getting older, because, let’s face it, the alternative is not a good one. Every year I age is another year I have been blessed with my friends and family.

Now that I’m in the survivorship mind-set, I also think about the quality of the years ahead. Having a can-do attitude is a huge part of survivorship, and health for anyone. Getting your mind focused on your goals and beliefs is half the battle! I strive to eat healthy the majority of the time (yes, I did have cake for my birthday), and I exercise, but not as a punishment for the times that I didn’t eat healthy. Rather, fitness is a celebration of what my body can do. Although I am a work in progress with both my nutrition and fitness, I AM making changes and improving, because I believe I can and I want to do it in order to continue quality health for years to come!

While celebrating birthdays in the survivorship years is important, daily joy is equally important. Each of us may experience daily stress with work, relationships, or finances, but that’s all the more reason to incorporate joy into our days. Maybe it’s a short, funny video, or reading, or a conversation with a friend. Whatever activity brings you joy and reduces stress, for even a short time, will in turn benefit your health.

Here’s to joy…in the small moments, and the big ones! Whether you have experienced cancer or not, I hope you, too, celebrate each day and each year that you have been given by choosing to incorporate healthy actions.


Are you adding or subtracting?

How are your New Years resolutions going? Did you resolve to eat healthier, lose weight,  or exercise more? Being a few weeks into the New Year is when the new resolutions tend to start losing momentum, and maybe it’s time to re-group.

If your goal is to be healthier, whether or not you want to lose weight, both fitness and nutrition changes are key. Yes, doing one or the other is helpful, but to truly be healthy you need to incorporate both. Obviously when you are incorporating fitness, you are adding something to your life. It may be new to you, or you may be taking it up a notch. When it comes to nutrition, many make changes by eliminating certain foods or food groups. I encourage my clients to instead add foods. Think about all the delicious, colorful, nutritious foods, and add them in to your day.

Although salads are an easy way to incorporate a variety of vegetables, here are some other ideas to add nutrition to your day.

*Smoothies are great if you are not a big fan of greens, but want to take advantage of their nutrients. Spinach and kale make great additions to smoothies, and if paired with fruit, you’ll hardly notice them. Frozen fruit works well in smoothies and is picked and frozen at the peak of freshness, so it is full of nutrients.

*Roasted veggies are good all year, but especially in the cold weather months. Simply chop any veggie into bite sized pieces, drizzle with a little olive oil and seasoning, toss and bake in a 400 degree oven until done. Time will vary depending on the vegetable and size, so start checking at 15 minutes and go from there. Experiment with seasonings, parsley, oregano and thyme are my favorite standbys.

*Then there is soup. It may take a little time, but the rewards are so worth it! If you take the time to make a big batch of vegetable soup you will end up with several delicious and nutritious meals. If you have left over roasted vegetables from another meal, toss those in towards the end of the cooking time. Less chopping and more flavor! Add beans or quinoa to your soup for protein and variety.

If you focus on adding in more colors and nutrients, you are less likely to want the non-healthy options. Slowly, over time your taste buds will adjust and you will crave the healthier foods. Tuning in to your body is helpful too. If, for example, you find yourself wanting ice cream you can tune in to your body to decide if it’s emotional or simply that you are craving something creamy. If you are reaching for the ice cream out of stress, or some other emotion, try distracting yourself until the feeling passes. If you want that cool, creamy treat, try substituting the ice cream with a blended frozen banana with milk of choice. (I add a little cocoa powder to mine. Mmmm!) Substituting healthier options helps with the transition as your body adjusts to the changes.

Depriving yourself of unhealthy food options works, but really, who wants to go through life thinking about what you can’t have. Why not focus on the beautiful, nutritious things you can have? We are so fortunate in the USA to have access to fresh fruits and veggies! My hope is that people will become as excited to eat roasted veggies as they are about their favorite dessert. I also hope that fitness becomes something that we view as a celebration of what our bodies can do, rather than a punishment for what we have eaten. May you continue to add to your health and your life!