I went to a sort of "spa day" yesterday that was held by my onc's office. It was lovely to have a positive, confidence-building experience like that with other survivors - we had healing touch sessions, massage, tai chi, etc. - but I am really rankled by the way that the issues of food and weight were handled. The nutritionist spoke in very vague ways about food, listing certain foods that had particular anti-cancer properties. That was helpful. What was not helpful was the following:
Telling a room of women of all shapes and sizes to "be as lean as possible without being underweight," which is a recommendation of the American Cancer Society. Here's the problem with that. The research on diets tells us that they don't work - including Weight Watchers. The vast majority - over 90% - of dieters (including Weight Watchers) gain all the weight back, plus more, within five years. Meanwhile, the stress on your body and heart of gaining and losing and gaining and losing weight is phenomenal. Heart disease is (I think?) the leading cause of death among women. Something to keep in mind.
Moreover, telling anxious women to lose weight (the nutritionist was rail-thin) without giving them some real guidelines for how to eat healthily and exercise sufficiently is just mean. And further telling them that the recommendation for daily exercise is 60-90 minutes a day is insane. How many of us would ever be able to do that? Most people would say, "I can't even come close to that - I give up." Further, it was unclear what she meant by "exercise," since one of the suggested activities to count into that 60-90 minutes was GARDENING. She also said that walking around in the office counted into that. So I think that the actual recommendation is for 60-90 minutes of ACTIVITY, and 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. But she was extremely vague and did not clarify this when asked. Perhaps she didn't know.
Finally, the food at this event was typical, midwestern lunch food - white bread, chicken, cheeses, green salad, and several pasta or other salads, with cake and brownies for dessert. How about using this as an opportunity to share whole foods and vegetables that women may be unfamiliar with? How about showing how delicious eating an anti-cancer diet can be?
What I came away with after her presentation were the (false) ideas that gardening is an aerobic activity; that Kosher meat is no different than conventional meat; that sugar is fine to eat in moderation (without any mention of paying attention to when you eat it and with what). I'm frustrated for the women there who are going to take this as true because the woman who said it has a lot of fancy certifications.