Lilly Padilla, author of Anti-Cancer Habits & Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition, shares her passion of Holistic Chinese Nutrition and how it saved her own life by improving nutrition, digestion and immunity.
As a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Holistic Nutrition Chef and cancer survivor, Lilly delves into the root of inflammatory diseases like cancer, teaches how to maintain balanced health and describes the benefits of an anti-cancer lifestyle.
As a 12 year ovarian cancer survivor, Lilly can use her personal experiences to help others avoid the risk of disease.
Lilly, can you tell us about your cancer diagnosis, how you followed your intuition in the treatments and the emotional impact it had on you?
12 years ago I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. For many months I knew something was wrong with my body. I was not feeling well and kept going back to see the doctor, from referral to referral, I noticed they were not sure what was happening to my body. I had abdominal bloating, uneasy digestion, skin rashes and lots of cravings for sweets, which I usually don’t have.
Later I started having a weird bleeding here and there for no reason. I was finally referred to a cancer specialist. The surgical oncologist did a thorough vaginal exam, and told me I was clear, he didn’t think it was cancer, he was ready to go on vacation and asked me to see him again in a few weeks when he return from his vacation.
But the symptoms got worse; I was having a heavy bleeding, felt horribly bloated, and was having a profound sadness. On top of everything, I started rapidly losing weight. I knew something was wrong as the body kept sending signals and my mind was also feeling out of balance, I wasn’t able sleep much.
By the time the oncologist came back from his vacation I was in terrible pain, overly bloated, couldn’t eat much, was feeling weak, I had to have a rushed laparoscopy surgery. I remembered a few minutes before the surgery the surgeon asked me, “if I see it is cancer may I take everything out?” It meant I wouldn’t be able to have children, and a big possibility of cancer.
Instead of a short laparoscopy, the surgery took many hours because the tumor was so big it broke apart as he tried to pull it out. When I woke up from the surgery, I remember seeing my mother crying. I knew then- it was ovarian cancer and that I wasn’t able to have children. I was devastated.
How did your long recovery in the hospital influence your desire to become a health coach and certified integrative nutritionist?
My family and friends support, love and compassion sparked the motivation and enthusiasm for learning and fighting whatever it was I needed to fight at the moment. It could be malnutrition, sadness, depression, low immunity, all the things that come along with a chronic disease like cancer.
The first thing I questioned was why me? What did I do wrong? And what can I do about it? Hunger for knowledge was key when I started my research. I remember a conversation with my father. He said “you have the tools and resources, start learning and making a plan”. I was lucky to have my sister Diana’s books handy. As a nurse she has lots of great health books that opened up my eyes. That was the beginning.
Every day I was reading about health, nutrition and wellness. Within a few days, I realized that before cancer I was malnourished in more than one way, as I was over worked, over stressed, not eating well, not sleeping properly and was going through a toxic relationship. It was the perfect environment for creating acidic blood pH, in which cancer can flourish easily.
I read over 250 books and kept learning from both perspectives, Western and Eastern medicine and nutrition. Then I decided to take nutritional cooking classes. I spent all my time nourishing my body and mind by planning my meals to be highly nutritious, alkaline and delicious. Eating well and resting properly was important to bring myself back into balanced health.
It worked so well, I ended up immersing myself into learning holistic nutrition, not only for myself but for my family as well. It sparked a light in me! I found a purpose in life. I was happy to see my own healing process. I became passionate for helping others to eat well and have a balanced life. Later during my research, I found my nutrition school and decided to change careers. I went back to school and my whole life changed for good.
One of your passions is holistic Chinese Nutrition Therapy. Can you explain what that is and how it aligns with your strong feelings of nature and animals?
I love how nature works and has the answers to most things in life. During my healing process, one of my integrative medical doctors introduced me to the concept of Holistic Chinese Nutrition. For centuries ancient cultures have promoted and applied the principals of nature to maintain balance. From the macro to the micro, they all work together in the same way. It is called Wholeness since we are part of the environment, we are one with the environment, so it has a huge influence on our health.
This concept includes the ying and yang principal, which counterbalances each other’s opposites constantly in a rhythmic way, striving to retain a lasting dynamic balance. This same principal is applied to eating and nurturing the body when using food properties. It is a way of life, every season is connected to the next and provides us with the foods we need for a specific time and weather.
Also, the inclusion of the five flavors of the earth, which are sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty are part of the of Chinese Nutritional Therapy. The Five Phases from the 4th century BC, is an ancient model that includes the five elements of nature; Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and its connection to the five flavors that food provides us in order to create balanced nutrition and proper Qi energy for the mind-body.
As a child I learned from my family, especially my grandmother, all about natural wholesome foods. As a chef, my grandmother created wonderful dishes preserving taste and balancing meals by using herbs and the fresh seasonal foods. Also my father’s love for nature and animals influenced my passion for nature. As a child I was taught to observe and respect nature.
After cancer when I found Chinese Nutritional Therapy, I quickly connected the dots. Chinese Nutritional Therapy became my passion and a big part of my daily life for the last 12 years.
Nutritional cooking has made a difference in your health and that of your clients. Can you tell us about nutritional cooking and your cooking classes?
Each food has a thermal nature, a particular flavor and, a unique chemistry that influences our body. In my first career as graphic designer, I learned the art of designing. In holistic nutrition I found that nutritional cooking is similar. Each food has a taste, color, texture and specific properties. When cooking nutritionally, we take into consideration all aspects of the food applying the natural principals of ying and yang along with the five elements and flavors.
It is a holistic process for designing my meals with a health purpose in mind. It is said that good nutrition is about the seven colors of the rainbow and the five flavors of the earth, all which nature provides us with the nutrients to create balanced health. Nutritional coaching, nutritional cooking and education are part of my programs for clients. I also love teaching group nutritional cooking classes at cancer support centers, Whole Foods stores, public libraries, wellness centers and corporations to create nutritional awareness in our communities.
As the author of “Anti-Cancer Habits and Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition”, who will benefit from reading your book? Cancer survivors and other people who want to be healthy?
I wrote the book for the general public, especially for cancer survivors and people looking to prevent inflammation, cancer and chronic diseases. I think that everybody benefits from learning more about anti-inflammatory nutrition and anti-cancer habits.
Why anti-inflammatory nutrition? Learning and understanding the root of inflammation and chronic diseases was key for my healing process. I wish I had learned about nutrition and inflammation before cancer occurred, but even after cancer, I brought myself back into balanced health with holistic nutrition and healthy habits. My hope with this book is to inspire and empower people to improve their nutritional and lifestyle habits.
To learn more about me or to purchase my book, check out my website.