When people think about the word “cancer,” they tend to freeze up and feel helpless. But helplessness, as author Dr. David Servan-Schreiber explains, is an emotion that has been directly linked to declining health.
In one example that he shares in Anticancer: A New Way of Life, lab rats who could avoid painful shocks with certain behaviors resisted developing tumors dramatically better than a group that received shocks at random. Feeling a sense of power boosted the rats’ health measurably. In many ways, that experiment is a metaphor for this whole book.
Anticancer: A New Way of Life, was written by a doctor who has twice beat an aggressively cancerous brain tumor. He’s since dedicated his career to helping his patients take a holistic look at their lives, from diet to exercise to psychological health, to find out what they could do to better resist cancer.
I picked up this book because I have been very curious about something called the “anti-inflammation diet,” which is one of the only diets I’ve ever seen that seems to a) make sense from a scientific/ nutritional point of view, and b) still allow you to eat most of the yummiest food groups (cheese, chocolate, grains, fish, wine, etc.). If only it was popular, I could have so many cool blogs to read about it … But alas it doesn’t have a sexy name or workout phenom attached to it, so no one cares. Luckily, my sister Krissy recommended Anticancer to me, telling me it talks in great depth about this diet.
As I read Anticancer, I found it just as hard to put down as any good murder-mystery starring a British female protag. Servan-Schreiber talks about the science behind preventing or fighting cancer in a very compelling way, and includes lots of stories that will make you tear up and think deeply about your life.
Here are some of the best takeaways from the book:
- Green tea is your friend! Drink 2-3 cups a day. Steep it yourself and drink it after 3-10 minutes to get the most powerful effect. Do not bother with the sugary iced kind at the grocery store as it’s far less powerful.
- Turmeric does something mystical and amazing when it comes to fighting cancer. But make sure you eat it with black pepper, which magnifies its potency. Justify your new curry habit as an anti-cancer lifestyle initiative.
- Sugar is cancer juice. Next time you open a huge bag of candy just think, “Yum! Cancer juice!” (Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.)
- Carrying around extra body fat also puts you at risk. He calls body fat “the toxic waste dump of the body” because fat holds onto so many toxins.
- Exercise and just plain walking a lot can dramatically lower your risk of cancer. I’m sounding like your mom or health teacher with these last three tips, I know, but this book will make you think profoundly about these facts, I promise.
- Non-organic meat could possssssibly be giving our whole generation breast cancer. He doesn’t say it in those words, but that’s the takeaway I got. Non-organic meat is full of hormones and antibiotics and horrible things that could help explain why cancer is dramatically on the rise right now. I really don’t enjoy paying more for organic, but after reading this book I’m about ready to try parting ways with that money. (Plus it’s good for the animals and earth too, etc. etc.)
- Finding purpose in your life can measurably improve your health. That doesn’t have to mean becoming the next Beethoven. It can just mean doing something nice for someone.
- Addressing childhood trauma can help you learn to treat yourself with compassion. For a lot of people, getting the strength to make the changes he’s talking about involves going back to square one and dealing with the past and how it has shaped your relationship to yourself.
- Overall, having a relationship with yourself is key. If you only focus on other people, you’re never going to be able to do what you need to do to be your healthiest self.
He doesn’t cover this, but I will add my own tip. Consider getting a dog. A dog can help you with the physical part of this lifestyle by getting you out walking 30 minutes a day, and with the psychological part. A dog loves you no matter what, and taking care of a dog gives people a sense of purpose. (Have you seen 50/50?!) But yeah, disclaimer, dogs are a lot of work yada yada.
Anyway, I hope even just these tips will inspire people to treat themselves well! Anticancer is a great read for anyone who knows someone with cancer, has it now or doesn’t want to get it. Aka everyone.