Self-Care Challenge #2: Nutrition

Welcome to the next exciting edition of my Self-Care Challenge! Feel free to follow along in the Health Storylines app that I use to journal my progress. Or let me know about your progress below in the comments. (There are a few advantages to using an app to track your progress, which I’ll reference below.)

This time I am focusing on nutrition — specifically, nutrition and weight management.

As you may know from following my blog or my social media posts (links in the right column of this page), I lost a fair amount of weight in February. Being down over 20 pounds as a result of radiation to my intestines and then a bout of the stomach flu took quite a toll on me. Not only did I look a lot different, but I felt weak and, of course, my clothes no longer fit me — not even my “skinny” clothes. Fortunately, I started regaining some of that weight quickly and managed to put on about ten of the lost pounds within a couple of weeks.

Now I am at a happy weight. My old clothes fit me fine, and I feel good not carrying around the extra pounds. But this means that I have to actually work to manage my weight now. I have to actively try to keep the good weight on, but not overdo things that will cause excessive weight at this time.

While this is a multi-tiered process, one that involves good exercise in addition to good diet, I’m taking it one step at a time. Besides, the persistent reactive cough that I have also been dealing with since late January has been keeping me from getting too active while also probably burning a bunch of calories on its own.

So here is the challenge… It comes in TWO PARTS!! (Insert drum roll.)

Part One: Identify good sources of protein and eat more of them.

The first part of this is probably pretty easy for most people, especially if they are carnivorous. If you have followed me long enough, you know how much I craved a good steak when I was going through chemotherapy. Well, I don’t eat as much red meat anymore, but I do have it once in a while. Our family has cut back on meat consumption for a number of reasons, but we have not abandoned it entirely. While the complex protein in red meat is probably the easiest way to get what we need into our diet, there are other options that, when combined, will do the trick just fine.

What we are focusing on now is collecting a wide variety of beans and grains that will offer the various amino acids that we need to build good muscle. We still have various types of meat in the mix, but it is interesting to attempt to get complete proteins from vegetable sources. I am excited to get comments below about what dietary combinations you use to achieve complete proteins for your diets.

Part Two: Identify sources of healthy calories.

Obviously, if you are eating a diet primarily made of fresh vegetables, you are already getting healthy calories in every bite. But if you are like most of us, then you have at least some pre-packaged or processed food in your culinary repertoire.  In those instances, it makes sense to check out the labels with nutrition information.

Some time back, I noticed something funky on Coca-Cola labels. Two identical bottles had completely different nutrition information, one even proclaiming itself as a “very low-sodium” food. This seemed preposterous to me since the bottles were for identical product, so why would the calorie and sodium information be so different? The answer was simple: they packaging simply changed the serving size on one bottle to represent less of the beverage. One bottle used a 12-ounce serving, the other used an 8-ounce serving. It was a marketing ploy, and as far as I can tell it was only a temporary one, but it is an example of why checking labels is important.

My basic criteria for identifying “good” sources of nutrition is not to follow the claims on a product label. Often there are big words printed there that say something like “Good Source of Vitamin C” or “Great Source of Calcium” — but when comparing the amount of the RDA for these nutrients with the amount of RDA for things that we do not need as much of, like fats and sugars and salts, often the “good” or “great” stuff is there in far smaller percentages than the not-so-good things we try to avoid. So, 15% RDA for Vitamin A does not outweigh 65% RDA for sodium or 30% RDA for fat.

I’d love to hear your criteria for determining what is or is not a good source of nutrition, or a source of healthy calories. Please share in the comments section below. Or, of course, on my social media feeds.

Now, if you do use the Health Storylines app, you can clearly use MyJournal to track your progress and how you are feeling. However, there is also a Food Diary section that, at least for this challenge, might prove especially helpful. Because the app keeps adding new sections, you might even find something else that is more useful for your particular needs. Again, let me know what works for you because, frankly, it might work better for me, too! Sharing is always a good thing.

I am beginning a new clinical trial this month and I have no idea how it might affect my appetite, so I will be looking at your suggestions for inspiration! Thank you for participating and joining me on this journey.

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