Confessions of a Diet Dr. Pepper Addict: My First Clean Eating Changes

Prior to launching Pretty Wellness, I rarely revealed to friends and family how much I really knew about health and wellness. Perhaps I didn’t want to sound too preachy. Or maybe I was afraid of sounding hypocritical, given my former Diet Dr. Pepper addiction (it was once my biggest vice). Regardless, years of nutrition electives in college and part-time jobs as an ACE certified aerobics instructor have given me hands-on access to the latest nutritional information. (Not to mention the countless evenings chugging light beer and reading girly fitness magazines.) While I knew that eating whole foods would contribute to a more healthy and active body, a part of me still felt invincible and wasn’t necessarily practicing what I knew. It took my second round of breast cancer to re-educate myself on fueling my body.

Though I had this information, being 20-something, I largely ignored it. As my career soared, making money gave me freedom to live on my own. So, I could eat when and what I wanted without a powerful figure (aka my mom) telling me I knew better. I thought I was living the high-life, dining out at fancy restaurants, ordering delivery for breakfast daily, and stocking my apartment with easy-to-grab boxed goods because I was “so busy.” While many of these choices were not aligned with “healthy eating,” I felt because I was young and relatively thin, I could discount it. Disease was not an issue (or so I thought). If I ever I creeped up in weight, I just counted calories without ever significantly changing my way of eating. I didn’t realize I felt like crap. I blamed my constant low energy and bloated stomach on work-related stress. I didn’t appreciate that even young me could have benefited significantly from nutrient dense foods.

Once I stopped counting calories and focused on clean eating, I felt and looked amazing. Unfortunately, it took cancer to motivate me to re-engage in a “more healthy” lifestyle. Looking back now, I wish someone had knocked me in the head years ago with this message. The vain me would’ve loved the glowing skin, extra sparkly hair, and slimmer hips that go along with healthy eating.

The less vain me also understands that living a plant-based lifestyle helps ward off disease, so it certainly couldn’t have hurt to start eating strategically earlier in my life. I’m not sure I could have prevented the cancer re-occurrence, but I would have at least felt (and looked) healthier. But for now I’m committed, focused, and feel great about all the positive changes. While I trust my doctors and the traditional treatment I’m receiving, who can argue about eating foods that have solid nutrient and enzyme content to help oxygenate my cells? Who can argue about drinking more water to perhaps help the toxins (both cancer and every day toxic chemicals) release themselves from my system?

So many people have asked me what I’m doing – here were my first immediate changes. In creating my clean eating diet plan, I read several books Anti Cancer by David Serven Schrieber, Eat for Life by Joel Furhman, MD and Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr for starters.) I also watched seminars/documentaries (“Forks Over Knives”, Dr. Silberstein’s “Fighting Cancer with Your Fork”) consulted naturopaths and researched health journals. I continue to communicate often with my doctors and integrated team, so they are aware and can comment on my choices.

Yes, I miss my precious DDP and big blocks of cheese, but I physically feel wonderful and mentally believe that I’m helping my body heal. Plus, it is an added bonus that it makes me look pretty, too.

My Top 5 List of Immediate Dietary Changes Once I Started Focusing on Wellness

My Top 5 List of Immediate Changes – Clean Eating

1. I significantly decreased my sugar intake (cancer supposedly feeds off of sugar)

  • Rid all simple sugars, ranging from candy to pasta and white flour breads/snacks
  • Substitutions –2 tbsps. of sunflower seed butter, sprouted breads, quinoa, homemade bread

2. I eliminated all processed foods – too many bad (genetically modified) ingredients/not many nutrients

  • Literally, no more chips, bread, coffee creamers, most cereals
  • Substitutions – dehydrated zucchini, dehydrated kale chips, steamed spiraled zucchini (aka zoodles,) sprouted breads (in freezer section), olives, avocados

3. I embraced plant-based nutrition (eat tons of vegetables at all meals)

  • Big salads, smoothies, raw vegetables, wheat grass shots, green juices, occasionally use green juice powders when busy
  • Use pumpkin seeds, sea salt, olives, hummus, apples, chickpeas and berries as garnishes

4. I eliminated dairy and animal* protein. Some studies (not everyone agrees) show that the following elements can increase breast cancer risk: both have added human growth like factors (hormones), both can cause inflammation, which has been studied to increase risk of diseases. *Note, after three years of being completely vegan, I have started to consume organic eggs. I consulted with my doctors and naturopath to assure I was getting all the nutrients needed to heal and thrive on my cancer medication.

  • No cow’s milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, meats or fish
  • Substitutions – legumes, nut/seed butters, quinoa, oat milk, flax-seeds (Omega 3’s), cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, homemade hummus, kale and spinach

5. I drink a lot of water (regular water, not seltzer, crystal light, juice or Diet Dr. Pepper)

  • Drink more than ½ my weight in ounces
  • Fun drink substitutions: add green tea (not store bought) – actual tea leaves, drink coconut water, try Kombucha (bought at Health Food stores) – fizzy drink or make infused waters.

Here are some of my favorite tools to help take small steps toward clean-eating.

First books I read that highlight clean eating for disease prevention:

Useful clean eating tools – eat more fruits and veggies in smoothies, juices and salads:

What are your favorite plant-based, whole foods? Mine is our Kid-Approved Green Smoothie.

For daily tips and inspirational ideas on healthy living, clean eating and a non-toxic lifestyle, please follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

This site chronicles my experiences including research, interviews, meetings, seminars and observations made knowing I have cancer. I am not a medical expert or health care professional. The lifestyle changes and decisions I have made are personal decisions analyzed often with family, friends as well as my own medical and natural team.

This post may contain affiliate links meaning I may receive a commission with no costs to you. I pro-actively try various products and then affiliate myself with these items that I already use and love.

Images courtesy of


  1. The one thing going for me is that I never drank soda! I have tried it, but not much. I’m mostly water and occasionally juice, which I know isn’t great but I have kids!
    I think some favorites around here are avocados, all fruits, salads, carrots, more carrots, sweet potatoes!
    Tamara recently posted…I Thought I’d Be More Excited About My Life Beginning

  2. Your post is inspiring because it is so honest. We like how you list the changes you’ve made plus add substitutions that are easy for anyone to use.
    Holly recently posted…Hostess Gifts to Say Thanks and Sorry

    • Holly, Thank you for the kind words. Yes, I really walk the walk/talk the talk…whatever that saying is. I feel great because of it. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great week.

  3. Fabulous post, thanks for sharing. I don’t drink a huge amount of soda, maybe one or two a month. I do drink a lot of tea and water. I have a weakness for chocolate, but I try to be controlled about what I eat. I do love avocados, on toast, in salads, in sandwiches and if my kids weren’t carnivores I’d happily be veggie. Have a great week #happynowlinkup x
    Lisa recently posted…Why I Let My Daughter Do Halloween

    • It sounds like you have tons of healthy living in your life. Avocados are my best friend. I use them in smoothies, on toast, by themselves and anywhere possible. So excited you stopped by…Thanks.

  4. So over the last 2 months we have really tried to change things around here. Soda is gone, lots more fresh and home made is on the diet and over 40 lbs has been lost. Plus we are exercising more as a family and feel great. You are right to stop counting calories that just isn’t the way.
    Jen recently posted…Pumpkins, Nudists and Halloween 2016

  5. So you kick butt. But you already knew this I am sure. My biggest problem is drinking enough WATER. I hate water so much. I have been drinking A LOT MORE lately, but it’s fizzy drinks like Zevia because I can drink fizzy until the cows come home….. But water, NOPE! ha! I like herbal tea and whatever, but… Sometimes we are just on the go – so who has times to make herbal tea?! ;) You are inspiring me to drink more though! I am going to tell myself: Caryn is “watering” me! — Wait, I meant to say WATCHING not WATERING, but I guess that makes sense? lol
    GiGi Eats recently posted…Munching The Med: Part Two (Katakolon, Corfu, Cooking & The Slots)

  6. OK, I must admit that the Diet Dr. Pepper got my attention. That is my only TRUE vice (because I refuse to consider my Chardonnay consumption to be a vice).

    I wish that I had the willpower to pursue this kind of lifestyle. Unfortunately, I am repelled by most vegetables, which presents a bit of a problem. I’ve even tried hypnosis to get over this mental roadblock toward healthy food…to no avail.

    Any ideas you could share would be most appreciated!

    Carolina Twin Mom / Mary Peterson recently posted…Andy Cat for President

  7. Do you really like the Ninja? I LOVED reading your story, even though I knew it. And there are so many helpful tips here that are motivating me. And I’m HOOKED on coconut water because of you. Miss chatting!
    Kristen Hewitt recently posted…Keep Kids Injury-Free with 5 Tips from an NBA Strength Coach

    • I miss you, too. I love chatting healthy living and life. I’m so glad you love coconut water, too. I have a few friends that like the Ninja, so I feel comfortable promoting it. It’s a high speed blender with many of the bells and whistles like the Vitamix. I like the Ninja but LOVE the Vitamix. The ninja seems to be most cost effective for an every day buy, though. If you find you use it a lot then splurge for a Vitamix.

  8. I’m slowly moving away from processed foods, but I still have a few cheat days… :)

    • Think of it as having “sometimes foods” that you eat sometimes. You will feel so much less bloated when you eat more wholesome foods regularly. Sounds like you already do.

  9. Wow! It is amazing how much you have changed. I know that I’m addicted to sugar but I don’t have willpower right now to change that. I’m thinking about it again based on your post. kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you.

    • Hi Kristie. I really believe in taking small steps to make change. If you or anyone tries to do it all at once, it seldom works. If you like sugar, experiment with substitutes. When you are craving something sweet, try having a tablespoon of nut butter or cashews. Make a chocolate smoothie or healthy hot cacao. I wrote a post on desserts for my birthday and what I now eat that you might like to kick start if you want to eat less sugar. Happy Holidays.

  10. A few weeks ago I lost my second brother and my fourth family member to cancer (all men). I have made a decision to change my diet and it has been a few months since I have not eaten meat. I am still learning what to eat and how to read labels. My desire to be healthy and live a long time. What are some of your favorite plant-based dishes?

    • I am sooooo incredibly sorry to hear about the loss of your brother (as well as your other family members.) How is the plant-based diet doing? I LOVE cauliflower rice. I sauté it with red sauce and olives. I stir-fry it lightly avocado oil and then will sprinkle hot pepper sauce and tahini. I use collard greens as wraps and fill it with raw veggies and hummus. Smoothies are also a GREAT way to be filled with nutrients and satisfy a sweet craving. I hope this helps. Check out my Instagram page @prettywellness – I take pics of some of my favorite foods/snacks, etc.

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