Meltdown in the Grocery Store Parking Lot

9 08 2011

We're about to have some fun, you and me. Remember that Sesame Street game titled, Which One Doesn't Belong Here? Here's your chance to play the adult version. Pick the one that doesn't belong in our everyday diets. I went easy on you this time. No guarantees for next time. Photo by Amy Rauch Neilson.

Last Saturday morning began easy and laid back. All of us slept in til about 9:30 — quite unusual for Theo. We three then snuggled up on the couch and watched the World Premiere movie of Phineas and Ferb in the Second Dimension. I’d tivo’d it the night before. By the time the movie ended, the decision as to whether it was breakfast time or lunch time was a bit nebulous. We decided to move on to lunch.

I opened the fridge. Not a lot to choose from as I’d only dashed into the grocery store once that week, after returning from our trip to Indianapolis, to pick up some basics. Today was going to be the Big Grocery Shopping Day. But first, lunch.

Ewww. The contents of the fridge were not an appealing sight. Not because there was anything wrong with the food that was in there, but because of the type of food that remained. Our best option for sustenance was hot dogs. Don opened the package and threw them on the outside grille. Usually, I find them quite tasty. Today, the thought made my stomach turn. All I could think about was the nitrates they contained and how bad those nitrates are for my body.

He brought them in and fixed them in white buns. I tried to save the day (or at least, the meal) by slicing up some peaches. They were mealy and inedible. Don and Theo wolfed down their dogs. I squirted mustard on mine, took a bite, and couldn’t go any further. I had an aversion to hot dogs and pretty much everything else left in our kitchen.

“Is there something wrong with your hot dog, honey?” Don asked.

“Nope. It’s me, honey. Sorry.”

The “something wrong” was a culmination of months of reading various opinions by holistic and traditional Western medical doctors alike, finally coming to a head that morning in our kitchen. I had nearly finished the book Anti-Cancer, the one that of all the books I’ve read since my diagnosis, truly makes sense. It’s well balanced. It doesn’t pooh-pooh Eastern Medicine or Western Medicine, but illustrates how each of us can tap into the benefits of these different approaches to healing as complements to one another.

The author of Anti-Cancer, who is both a biochemist and an MD, figured out how to heal his own brain cancer through a combination of chemotherapy, supplements, and nutrition. The book not only follows his journey back to health, but he describes how he’s never been so healthy in his life.

I can’t do this book justice in six blog posts, let alone one. But I will say this — the changes in our food production and the increasing incidence of a wide variety of cancers, striking people who are younger and younger, is a major problem that we need to address in our country’s food supply. And if we can’t at this point address it on a national level, we can certainly start at the grassroots level — our own food choices.

Some of the changes that have brought us the most harm post World War II:
1. The staggering amount of refined white sugar in our diets, which grows every year;
2. The processed, bleached foods and preservatives we eat, like the bleached white flour that we can find on the ingredient panel of so many of our foods;
3. The changes in how our chickens are fed and treated (think egg supply), as well as how our sources of meat are fed and raised.

When you read about this and the long-term studies that back up how these changes are affecting our health, it’s not only staggering, it’s nauseating. This is the very same message that the doctor from Indianapolis is sharing with me. If I want to get healthy, I’ve go to change my diet, take the supplements that my specific body needs, continue chemotherapy (the diet and supplements dovetail nicely with my chemo regimen), and walk 30 minutes a day, at least six days a week. That’s for starters.

Sound like a lot to take on? It’s not. As I explained it to my friend Jennifer Amprim Wolf today, it’s all about the source of your motivation. For example, following the above protocol might be a passing thought if I was looking to drop 10 pounds for an upcoming wedding or high school reunion. But when it literally is a matter of life and death, well, it takes on a whole new meaning.

That brings me to what happened in the Meijer Parking Lot last Saturday morning. I drove in, parked, and began sobbing out of frustration and confusion. What am I supposed to be eating? How will I know when I get in there what to choose and what not to? Where’s the hidden refined white sugar, bleached flour, nitrates, poorly fed beef and poultry, eggs from caged chickens, organic vs. non-organically grown fruits and veggies? I was overwhelmed.

So, I called my cousin Lori Parker. Sobbing uncontrollably.

“What’s wrong, Aimers?” she asked.

And I’m quite sure that my response was anything but what she was expecting.

“I’m afraid of food!” I told her. And I went on to explain, as rationally as I could, that what I was about to put into my cart felt like a matter of life and death. Yet, I’m new at this and I’m not sure how to go about it.

We had a long chat there, me sitting in the Meijer Parking lot. And when we were done, I’d calmed down considerably and felt I’d gained back a little of my control. We brainstormed some ideas for good choices I could make in each department. With a new sense of confidence, I got out of the car and headed into the grocery store, where I found that I naturally gravitated toward the “good stuff” about 80 percent of the time.

I’ve never been a junk food eater, so it was no problem to pass up packages of Chips A Hoy, pastries, potato chips. I found myself naturally reaching out for fresh strawberries, organic peaches, blueberries, a seedless watermelon. I also craved green pepper, cucumbers, organic carrots. Mushrooms would also be of great benefit to me, but I loathe them, always have. So, we’ll work on that aspect of my diet some other day.

As I made my way through the store, I realized how many good choices I could make and how easy it really was. Whole grain pasta. Grass-fed beef. Organic eggs from free-range, properly fed chickens. Whole grain bread. Organic milk. I checked out and left the store feeling a bit more confident that slowly, I will learn how to choose and eat the foods that nourish my body, build my immune system, strangle off the blood supply to my tumors. I’m on a roll.

But you just can’t learn enough about this life change and how important it is to each one of us, whether we’re fighting cancer, another disease, or are enjoying a healthy part of our lives. That’s why I can’t encourage you enough to consider, really consider, attending The Pink Fund Luncheon on Saturday, October 1. I’ll be there for the full sha-bang, from the yoga class in the morning to the luncheon, the premiere showing of The Pink Fund national awareness and donor video that I was a part of last week, and the book signing by Kris Carr in the afternoon.

Author Kris Carr, a NY Times best-selling author of the Crazy, Sexy Cancer series, wellness warrior, filmmaker, and an irreverent foot soldier in the fight against cancer, will be the featured guest speaker. She has kept Stage 4 cancer at bay for many years and if you have not yet read her books, check them out. She has acquired an amazing knowledge of food, diet, nutrition, the mind-body connection — you name it — and the impact on the short-term and long-term health for each and every one of us. She is spunky and beautiful, and she’s put a whole new face on what it means to have — and live an amazing life with — Stage 4 cancer.

I urge you to attend. For more information, check out The Pink Fund event info. Tickets are going fast, so don’t dilly-dally.

P.S. The answer to the question posed in the photo caption is the bag of pure, refined white sugar. But you probably already guessed that.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson



15 responses

9 08 2011

This is fascinating stuff. I think you will really enjoy your new diet – you can get a lot of flavor from things like hummus, pesto, toasted nuts, and spices. What a great new weapon in your arsenal!

9 08 2011
Amy Rauch Neilson

I’m actually not feeling the least bit deprived. I am very excited about this new way of eating, how it will contribute to my healing, and how great I’m gonna feel!

9 08 2011

Good for you! I’ve also read that Anti-Cancer book and really got a lot from it.

You might also like the book “Eat to Live,” by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. His premise (and that of many, many others) is that we now eat such a high percentage of our diet in animal protein that it crowds out the “mostly plant-based diet” our body needs. Massive amounts of fruits and veggies have all the phytonutrients our bodies need to fight off cancers and all the other bad stuff. It’s a very good read.

10 08 2011
Rita P

Amy, I’m thrilled for your new weapons! I’ve discovered that sometimes walking 30 minutes/day is easiest to accomplish if I march in place in front of my fave TV show. Still gives me time w/family AND adds an aerobic dimension that regular walking lacks. And I don’t have to leave home, walk outside with all the fumes, or buy a treadmill.
Just a thought!

10 08 2011
Linda Stanislawski

I am so happy that you are on this journey of better health . It really is a wonderful way to live and feel better. Give yourself grace as you learn to eat a more natural diet. Knowledge really is a powerful thing. So keep learning and growing. You are a blessing to many and as you learn, others are learning too. Our journey is never just about ourselves. Blessings and prayers for your long and healthy life.

10 08 2011

wow wonderful diet…:)
have you already count the callory today?
can you teach me please?
i have a problem with my body weight..

10 08 2011
Dorothy moore


10 08 2011

i have the same question to

10 08 2011
Amy Rauch Neilson

Author is David Servan-Schreiber, MD PhD

10 08 2011
Marie Petrides

Amy, I have read this book twice already. My son bought it for me at Christmas…..Can I tell you that it was by far my best Christmas present. As overwhelming is it seems conquering the whole “Food Piece” gets much easier in time. I have changed my diet dramatically. I am Vegan although I do eat fish a few times a week. Most recently I started eating gluten free. As you know There is a very strong connection between Cancer and the insulin factor. I have dropped 16 lbs since my second diagnosis in December and I feel Wonderful. I walk 2 to 3 miles atleast 6 times a week.and I thank God for giving me the strength in mind and body endless times a day…….Keep thriving hun and May God Bless you with strength in mind and body always!!!! Marie

10 08 2011

I watched the documentary “Food, Inc.” the other night on TV. It brings to the forefront important concerns/issues with our food sources (many of which the general public is probably not aware). It is a wake-up call and certainly helps to educate us about were our food is really coming from (how it is altered genetically, the conditions/health/filth it is raised in, the antibiotics, growth hormones, and type of feed is it given, and the way it is processed). You may want to check it out….
Don’t forget to visit your local farmer’s markets as an alternative to the supermarket. You can find fresh, just-picked goodness at a reasonable price. Many fruits and vegetables can be easily be frozen for winter consumption. And you can talk to the growers themselves (can ask about pesticides/fertilizers used or not used). You may also check out your local 4-H organization or agricultural extension….they may be able to put you in contact with local beef, pork, chicken farmers that graze their animals and can process locally (to order). Lots to think about….but VERY important!

10 08 2011
Cathy Carey

I remember those days of being food obsessed, what do I eat, what should I eat, OMG everything is bad.

I now try to hit a happy balance. We have a local dairy – yea Clover – so good that even it’s non-organic milk, butter & cheese are safe. Lots of organic chicken, little red meat and organic veggies whenever possible. Oh and of course the farmer’s market. What a treat each week to walk through and know the local farmers and their growing practices so I get the best.

10 08 2011
Kim P

Hi Amy! I am with you, we are defined as the sugar nazi’s with our kids but that also goes on to processed foods. We try and avoid and eat fresh when we can. Living off the land is what I refer to it as…. fresh grown fruits and veggies w/o pesticides, free range chicken, beef etc.. and line caught fish from fresh waters….. it is a challenge to maintain though. I have read the Anti Cancer book, unfortunately David Servan-Schreiber recently lost his battle but not because he did not give it his all. There have been several interesting articles about his most recent relapse and how he handled it. I also watched Crazy, Sexy Cancer and Kris helped inspire me to eat better. I haven’t had the ability to try the home grown wheat grass juice yet! One other note for you…. Coleman’s (from Costco) hot dogs do not have nitrates and Oscar Meyer just came out with nitrate free hot dogs. Boars Head lunch meat only has naturally occuring nitrates and does not add any and I did find nitrate free bacon at our local organic meat store in Plymouth (let me know if you want to go sometime). People are starting to catch on and it is becoming more readily available. Once you make the change it gets easier… the healthier foods are the ones you end up craving more. You can do this!!

13 08 2011

Hi Amy,
So glad you are starting your journey with this new way of eating! I am so proud of you!!! It is a big shift in how we choose & prepare food. I was overwhelmed at first, but now I’m mostly in the groove. The first few times I shopped, it was like shopping in a foreign country. None of the names were familiar and reading about the products/ingredients was overwhelming. It gets easier as you learn.

I almost exclusively buy my food at Whole foods now. I think you said that you have a store near you. Unfortunately it is expensive, but I believe that I am getting the best. Also, my Kroger store now has holistic sections – organic veggies, milk & eggs, cereal & breads, etc. Up here, however, organic meats must be purchased at Whole Foods or a local butcher that specialized is organic/range-fed meats. I think Kim has lots of receipts that Jodi gave her or that she got from several sources on the internet. Was it suggested that you contact Jodi for diet information?? Another expense, I know.

Day-in and day-out I stay mostly on track, but sometimes I tweak foods to make them according to my taste but yet mostly healthy. For instance, salad dressings. I eat tons of healthy salad (use healthy spinach, red&yellow peppers, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, sliced almonds, etc.) but I am hooked on ranch dressing. I just don’t like healthier vinaigrettes at all! So what was I to do? I feel like my compromise is good solution for me & mostly healthy. I use a ratio of 3-4 to 1 of favored hummus and ranch dressing (Paul Newmans brand, which is healthier than Hidden Valley) to create my own dressing. I add a little water to thin the mixture. I was basically unfamiliar with hummus before this campaign. MY new dressing is tasty and mostly healthy and keeps me eating LOTS of salads. Also, I eat blueberries on my cereal 6 days a week, eat strawberries, apples, oranges, cherries, peaches too- 2 fruits a day. I don’t over eat fruit, since I have cut down on sugar. Real butter is healthier than margarine. I drink only water, no juices, pop, coffee/tea or milk, except for almond milk on my cereal. This winter I want to begin drinking hot green tea. Sweets are mostly a no-no, but do find that I need an occasional fix. I have successfully learned, for example, to buy a SMALL Frosty and drink only 1/3 of it a day. Freezing the rest for another day – sometimes going a week before using it all up. Once I got in the habit of doing that, (hard at first), I felt like I was not denying myself but could have a treat! The same with cookies, I buy the health ones at Whole Foods and eat only a 1/3 of one cookie and again I feel satisfied. (I don’t do cookies & Frosty on the same day.) I do have to continually watch myself, because it is easy to slide back into old habits. A side benefit is that I don’t desire sugary products like I once did. And if I do splurge, I can’t eat a whole serving – too rich, and my body let me know it! I’m not really a pizza fan, but I think you can buy healthier pizzas at Whole Foods too. Jamie occasionally buys french fries there too, but they are trying to cut back on even the healthier ones. (Jamie just discovered a cholesterol problem.) We buy our chips at Whole Food because they don’t have all those additives. I’m still trying out canned soups. They are good but different, but I will not go back to Campbells.

I eat salmon, salmon patties, chicken breasts, turkey, all from Whole Foods, organic deli turkey for sandwiches or on salads for lunches, always use organic breads and top my sandwiches with spinach, tomatoes, mayo (from Whole Foods) to keep the veggies going. Again, trying to add nutrition. I eat nuts as a snack. I watch my salt. I add chopped celery to salads and cooked foods, since I learned that my pH is too acidic. Celery is good for lowering pH, as are lemons. I buy free-range chicken breasts or beef too for dinners. I take advantage of already prepared meatballs and patties sometimes at Whole Foods for my dinner meat. I’m still learning how to flavor the foods in a healthy way, but overall, the meats taste much better without all those additives! Kim makes delicious spaghetti, meat loafs, crockpots, tacos, soups, etc using only healthy foods. I do the same, but my cooking tends to be more simple. I pan grill chicken breasts, then pour Whole Foods gravy over it and simmer. Delicious.

Did you ever watch “The Jamie Oliver” show where his campaign is to awaken American schools to the poor foods they offer children? It was on for 2 seasons and he showed, quite dramatically, all the junk & empty foods that kids are fed in schools and in homes as well. Kim had the girls watch it too, so they were getting the information from another source, not just from Kim.

I wish you well in your pursuit of making the right food choices. Keep plodding along and you will become more familiar with it all and it will become easier. The food industry has duped us into terrible habits, while advertising so-called “wholesome” products. It’s a lie. Keep charging ahead. Don & Theo need to learn these things too. With so many people reading your blog, your food campaign will be another way that you are making a difference in our world. Again, I am so proud of you! Keep up the good work!

Love you too!

15 08 2011
Sara Nickerson

This is so true about our foods! My husband and I have been trying to eat healthier as well. I too, loathe mushrooms! But…I found that Portobellos are actually quite tasty and have texture more like meat..especially when grilled, or cooked in the same manner as meat. They’re great grilled (even burnt a little) with a bit of pepper jack cheese on an onion roll, or diced into bite-size chunks and stir-fried with lots of veggies and a little red wine. I just have to “forget” that they’re mushrooms, otherwise I have a difficult time with them. I thought that if I could eat these, I could handle regular mushrooms, but so far, that’s not been the case…I still pick them off pizzas!
Good Luck!

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