In my youth I was a boxer. So this year, after a couple of rounds with cancer, I knew one thing for sure. As any boxer will tell you, when you're knocked down, you have to take that full eight count and then get back up and carry on fighting.
Fighting to get your health back, however, doesn't have to hurt. It's all about having a good time. Eating good food, exercising as much as you are able, relaxing and laughing at the funny side of life are all part of the prescription. How painful is that?
As part of my own recovery, I went to visit friends in a part of the world that's known for its healthy diet and lifestyle: Andalucia in southern Spain.
The Mediterranean diet is famously healthy – and the people who eat it live longer, healthier lives. But I know, that not everyone can take a Spanish vacation, so I set out to discover the Mediterranean secret of long life and good health and bring it back home to The Skanner to share with all my readers.
Here's just a couple of things I learned:
Diversity goes for food too: Put fresh fruits and vegetables at the center of your eating. From broccoli and greens to tomatoes, carrots and corn. Color on your plate equals healthy food in your body.
Fish and meat in moderation: Think of fish and meat as side dishes – good for taste and variety but not the main event.
Extra virgin olive oil: great for cooking and for salad dressings, it makes food taste fabulous and its healthy.
Small plates: Spanish tapas – or small plates — deliver lots of taste and variety. And eating this way is good for you.
Sit down to eat: no self-respecting Spaniard will ever rush his food or eat on the run. Meals are an event. Enjoy them.
Drink goes with food: In Spain, wine, beer, or cocktails are part of your meal. It's not usual to drink without eating something – try a few olives or pistachios.
Take a siesta: President Lyndon Johnston took a daily nap. And research says they are a good way to recharge.
Walk around the block: Get out of your chair and walk around the neighborhood. In Spain, people get out on the street every day to see and be seen. That's one great way to make sure you get your exercise.
You're never too old to ride a motorbike. Mediterranean seniors are as likely to be on bikes and scooters than in cars. But if bikes aren't your thing have fun doing something else you always wanted to try. It's all in the attitude.
You can find our special report about the health benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet by visiting www.theskanner.com and clicking on the Mediterranean Life button. Inside, you will find three different places to visit. My Journey will take you to a map where I share my photos and experiences of Spain. Andalucian Girl will take you to the story of my friend Wayne Branche, an olive grower in Andalucia. Livin' Well will take you to The Skanner's report on the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. Here's a sample:
Why Eat the Mediterranean Way? In Livin' Well we interviewed Dr. Miles Hassell, director of the Department of Integrative Medicine at Providence Cancer Center and an expert on how eating well can help us live longer and happier lives.
Hassell has pages of data about the powerful impact of a Mediterranean-style whole foods diet – along with exercise – on health. People with diabetes are amazed at the difference it will make, he says.
"Almost everyone can reverse their insulin resistance, and a lot of people can reverse diabetes," he said.
Hassell has plenty of examples from his own practice. He has worked with many people who have improved their health dramatically – lowering their risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, dementia and depression — simply by eating good food. And taking some exercise.
This is good news for African Americans, who are dealing with some of the highest levels of these diseases of any group. And it gives hope that African American families can reverse the trend of the last few years that has seen diabetes rise for Black youth.