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Episode 73: How Talking About Adversity Inspires Positive Change

According to psychologist and author, Kelly McGonigal, listening to someone else’s story of resilience and overcoming adversity is has a powerful effect on the listener. Simply hearing someone’s “restorative narrative” can inspire strength and courage in you. In addition, if you’re the person doing the storytelling about your own traumatic event, and you both acknowledge the difficulty as well as the how it transformed you in positive ways, you are more likely to have better health outcomes. In this light, on this episode I share my breast cancer story and the four profound ways it has changed me three years later.

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The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You and How to Get Good at It by Kelly McGonigal
How I Really Feel About Pinktober
Breast Cancer Lesson #1: Ordinary Moments are Extraordinary
Women Aged 40 to 49: Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations
The Truth About the Benefits and Risks of Annual Screening Mammograms.

If you like the podcast, please leave a review or rating on iTunes! It makes it easier for others to find the podcast. If you don’t know how to leave a review, here are some step by step instructions. Woohoo! So easy!

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Episode 15: Rebecca Katz – Nourish Yourself With Cancer-Fighting Foods

Hi everyone!

On this episode I interview one of my nutritional heroes, Rebecca Katz (@RebeccaKatzYum).

I grew up in a foodie family (I mean, I am Italian-American after all…) and I’ve been cooking and learning about food for as long as I can remember. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer (you can read all about it here), a dear friend (thank you, Joanie), sent me Rebecca’s book and I’ve been a superfan ever since. Here’s why:

* Her recipes are really. good. — I do not exaggerate when I say that every time I make one Jason raves. These days he’ll just say, “Is this a recipe from that Rebecca lady?”
* They’re easy to execute — I’m a home cook, not a trained chef.
* She explains the science behind healthy eating in a way that’s empowering and relatable.

And that’s why I wanted to do this episode. Weeding through information about food can be overwhelming and even disheartening. This episode distills Rebecca’s four-pillar approach to a cancer-fighting diet. And, if you take this approach, you have a shot at preventing other diseases, too (think diabetes and heart disease). On the episode we talk about:

* Rebecca’s background as a chef and nutritionist and how she came to write The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen
* Her new online course, which brings the book to life
* Anti-inflammatory foods, especially the ones we overlook like ghee! olive oil! ah-voh-cah-dohs!!
* Foods that regulate blood sugar and why they work the way they do
* Her recommended subs for refined sugar and why it’s important to have sweet treats sometimes
* Coffee. It ain’t so bad. (Yahoo!)
* How to reduce oxidative stress
* The little tiny foods we often overlook that can powerfully regulate NfKappaB

At the beginning of the interview, we talk about Rebecca’s background and what it took to create a book that references so many nutritional studies. If you want to jump right to the questions about the four-pillars, it starts at minute 15:30.

Did you know? There are more antioxidants in a 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon than there are in a 1/2 cup of blueberries.

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Recipes on Rebecca’s Web Site
The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen Online Course
Rebecca’s Shrimp Stuffed Avocados Recipe
Don’t Fear the Fat — Why It’s Time to Add Healthy Fats to Your Diet

Rebecca’s Cookbooks:
The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery
One Bite at a Time, Revised: Nourishing Recipes for Cancer Survivors and Their Friends
Clean Soups: Simple, Nourishing Recipes for Health and Vitality
The Healthy Mind Cookbook
The Longevity Kitchen

Salami Junior — Get Me Out of America
Jahzzar — Cold Like This
The Polish Ambassador — Wonder Continental ft Beatbeat Whisper

If you like the podcast, please leave a review or rating on iTunes! I’m learning that it really does help others find it and it helps me to know which episodes resonate with you! You can also follow me on Twitter @yogalandpodcast.

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What I’m Grateful For


If you’ve followed me for the past year, you know that I’m a breast cancer survivor. Lately, I’ve been noticing how much I simultaneously want to forget that the whole thing ever happened–and I also want to remember. I want to forget because I’m human. I want to push away the pain of the doctor’s visits, the tests, the physical changes, the worry about recurrence.

But, I sense that sweeping it under some mental rug isn’t the best idea. Because if I remember my breast cancer diagnosis wisely, then I remember how grateful I am to be alive.

The truth is, I never quite felt the aliveness of life until this diagnosis. Once I could palpably feel how this life will go away someday, it was like a switch flipped and the simple acting of living just seemed ridiculously fun. Painting my nails pink or eating sushi with friends or going to a yoga class. Worrying about my “career” or why my kid won’t let me brush her teeth or what kind of flowers to plant in my garden–I now see how all of these things are a giant privilege. Some days it feels just plain silly how much amazing stuff we get to do in the course of a life.

I still get grumpy more often than I should. I still bitch and moan about ridiculous shit. I still worry uselessly. But when I remember, when a little voice kicks in that says, “This could go away at any moment…” I wake up again. And I’m grateful.

And here’s the micro list of what I’m grateful for. I like using my Instagram feed to look back over my year. For the past few years I’ve used Artifact Uprising to create a yearly Instagram book. I highly recommend this. They do a beautiful job and it’s super easy.

When I look back at my feed I remember how all of those small, mundane moments are so meaningful. So here goes. I’m grateful for:

• All of our travels – to LA, London, Ohio, and Hawaii.

• Saturday mornings at home and cozy breakfasts with our family.

• All of the fun things we get to do now that Sofia is older like making sparkly Easter eggs, going to high tea at Fortnum & Mason, or looking at fairy gardens.

• Rainy day boots and toddler topknots and Sofia licking ice cream cones.

• Spring peonies and palm trees, palm trees, palm trees.

• Women who make me laugh and who inspire me and who are kicking ass at making the world a better place. (Hello Amy Schumer, Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown.)

• Ladylike shoes and Onzie printed yoga pants and great outerwear. (I live in a place where you must love great outerwear.)

• Coming back to my yoga practice full force and feeling how magically the body heals itself.

• My husband. Because. He’s the best.

• Sofia Sofia, Sofia, Sofia. I’m grateful that she’s growing so tall and eating butter by the handful. I’m grateful for how she grabs me and kisses me at random times. I’m grateful for how often she says she wants to spend “allllll day with you Mama.” And I’m grateful that she spends half the day in preschool so that I have some time to work on projects of my own.

I’m grateful that she has a little toy laptop that she enjoys “taking to work.” (I like that’s already planning her career 🙂 I’m grateful for how connected she is to her Dad. I’m grateful for the sound of her voice first thing in the morning.

I’m grateful for the other day when we were playing grocery store and she was leading me around our living room by the elbow. It wasn’t just the game, it was that I could imagine us traveling through Europe someday, her leading me around by the elbow and showing me the sights. I imagine she’ll be simultaneously comforted and totally annoyed by her batty old mom. And me? I’ll just be…grateful.

What are you grateful for?

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How I Really Feel About Pinktober

One of the most valuable lessons I try to take from my yoga and meditation practice is to be comfortable with discomfort. This infographic pretty much sums up my day-to-day feelings about my cancer diagnosis. My mind is still constantly a big swirl of crazy. Sometimes I feel like an old transistor radio – I might be tuned into a certain feeling, like full-on happiness that I’m alive and well, but there’s still a lot of white noise—fear, sadness, shame, confusion—in the background. I don’t expect this to change anytime soon. My practice is to accept that sometimes life hands you things that you can’t tie up in pretty packages with pink ribbons.
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What to Say When a Friend Has Cancer

You Got This
When I was diagnosed with cancer, my friend (who is also a cancer survivor) texted those words to me. I cherished this text. He said exactly what I needed to hear. It made me wonder if I’d said “the right” thing to him when he went through treatment. All I remember is offering him a bed to sleep on after surgery (he took it), ginger tea, and some homemade cookies. Other than that, I think I was completely at a loss for what to say.

When someone close to you tells you that they are diagnosed with something terrible, it’s easy to go into panic mode where you tell them how horrible you feel for them. The truth is, there is no one right thing to say to anyone and even when people said insensitive things to me, I didn’t get angry. (Like I said above, I’d been on the other side, not knowing what to say.) But at times, it made an already difficult time even more stressful.

So, I thought I’d share four of my favorite resources for communicating with and supporting a loved one who has cancer.

1. When someone is going through a rough patch – any kind of rough patch – the best thing you can do for them is to pause, stay calm, and listen. This is where your mindfulness practice comes into play. Instead of going with your gut reaction – which may be to scream “No!!!!” or otherwise react dramatically — do your best to hold the space and be supportive. I realize that “hold the space” may sound a little woo-woo. What I mean is, keep your energy and facial expressions even while they talk to you. Create a safe, supportive environment for them to share (or not share) exactly what they can handle in that moment.

And BE POSITIVE. It’s not their job to take care of you and your emotions right now. It’s your job to simply be there for them. This video is THE BEST for giving you encouragement along these lines. My favorite line is, “If you come across cancer, let it transform you into your most positive self.”

2. If you need to talk through your own fears, sadness, and terror, that’s OK. Just don’t do it with the person who has cancer. And don’t do it with their husband. Or mother. Or sister. Do it with someone who is further away from the patient than you — this is what’s called the Ring Theory or Comfort In, Dump Out. I learned about it from this article that ran in the LA Times: How Not to Say the Wrong Thing

3. It’s important to know that everyone’s diagnosis and case is different. Even within breast cancer, there are many different types and classifications. It’s easy to slip right into, “Oh, my neighbor died of that cancer in three months.” But, doctors and scientists are making great strides with certain types of cancer. This article from the Wall Street Journal about “super survivors” chronicles patients who outlived the odds because of a new treatment that harnesses the immune system to fight the cancer: How the Promise of Immunotherapy is Transforming Oncology

4. And this last one is a link to Emily McDowell’s brilliant, funny line of cards. If you’ve found yourself hiding out from your friend and don’t want your first words to be face-to-face, you can send him or her one of these cards, designed and created by a cancer survivor. My personal favorite: “Please let me be the first to punch the next person who tells you everything happens for a reason.”

So, there you have it. These links have helped me immensely and I still look at them from time to time. I hope they’ve helped you, too. And if you’ve got an uplifting cancer-related link to share, please do so in the comments!

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