This week there was a backlash about a weight-loss ad, featuring a blonde, a string bikini and the words, “Are You Beach Body Ready?” Many women think the ad is “body-shaming,” that we should love our bodies the way they are. While I believe health and fitness comes in different sizes, I’m concerned many women may use this as an excuse not to lose weight. Instead, what if we talk more about permanent lifestyle choices, not dieting?
FOR MANY OF US, DIETING IS LIKE A LIGHT SWITCH. IN THE “ON POSITION,” WE FOLLOW SOMETHING LIKE THE SOUTH BEACH DIET, AND IN THE “OFF POSITION,” WE EAT WHATEVER WE WANT.
How many of us realize we’re gaining and losing the same 20 pounds? Numerous health and cancer studies report yo-yo dieting may have a lasting, negative effect on our immune function. According to The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, women with more episodes of losing and gaining weight had greater decreases in immune function: natural killer cells. These cells kill viruses and have been shown to attack and kill cancer cells in lab tests. Decreased natural killer cell activity has also been linked to increased susceptibility to colds and infections.
The study raises an interesting question: Would it be safer to carry around a few extra pounds, rather than risk the health effects of yo-yo dieting? While that makes sense, at what point are we good with carrying around just a few extra pounds? How easy would it be for us to justify continued weight gains as being good for our immune system, when in fact, it may increase our risk for cancer, diabetes and heart problems?
After I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I learned the extra weight a woman carries around her waist may be linked to breast cancer. That weight often results in excess estrogen in our body. If you’re of a certain age, the weight and the excess estrogen may raise your risk of getting breast cancer in the first place. If you’ve had breast cancer, and it was estrogen positive—meaning your cancer was fueled by estrogen—you may want to rethink the theory of carrying around too many extra pounds.
My friend, Lisa Powell, has been Director of Nutrition at the famed Canyon Ranch in Tucson, for 25 years. Lisa has a Bachelor of Science in human nutrition, a Master of Science in nutritional science from the University of Arizona, and she’s conducted nutritional research at the University of Arizona and the University Medical Center. Like me, Lisa is a breast cancer survivor who focuses on risk reduction, clean eating and healthy menu planning.
Here are some of Lisa’s rules of thumb for managing our weight, reducing our risk of getting breast cancer and/or recurrence. Notice, it’s not a diet, but a lifestyle change.
- Be as lean as you can, within normal body weight, but not skinny.
- Be physically active every day: Walk 30 minutes, six days a week.
- Limit sugar, processed foods and fast foods.
- Eat a diet primarily of plant origin, including berries, nuts and seeds.
- Limit red meant and processed meats.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
While a change in diet and lifestyle can be difficult in the beginning, once you’ve seen and felt the results, it’s even more difficult to go back to eating burgers and pasta with cream sauce. Yo-yo dieting, or a permanent change in the way you eat? Reduced immune system and risk of disease, or a healthy lifestyle? Your choice.