One of my favorite lessons from my Chinese Medicine studies was this perspective on nutrition …

Nutrition includes everything you take in with all five senses. It is not just what you eat, but also what you feel, what you hear, what you smell, and what you see.

To my Western mind, this simple idea was a revelation I have never forgotten. This broader definition of nutrition made so much sense to me that it has become a cornerstone in my conversations with patients about their own self-care and quality of life.

No matter what stage of the cancer journey you are in, your treatment team is likely to be stressing the importance of nutrition. Good nutrition supports your immune system, energy, strength, and stamina. It is your foundation.

But what if you took it a step further and committed to getting good nutrition from all five of your senses. How much would you improve your health? How much would you enrich your quality of life?

Begin with a simple assessment: How much of what I take in with my five senses is “good nutrition” and how much is the equivalent of “junk food”? Then take some steps to cut back on the junk food and increase your nutrition.

Tasting. Healthy food choices, nicely presented on your plate, a relaxed and pleasant environment, a pretty table setting, good dinner company and a slowed pace that encourages you to fully taste and enjoy your food.

Feeling. Comfortable clothes that feel good against your skin. Holding hands or giving a foot rub to a loved one, moisturizing your skin, cuddling on the couch.

Hearing. So much noise! Turn it down if you can. Move away from it if you need to. Wear ear plugs if it will help. Combine daily moments of quiet with sounds you enjoy – music, pleasant conversations with friends, the sounds of nature.

Smelling. Smell triggers us on a very deep level. Nurture yourself with aromas that please and stimulate. Essential oils, candles, fresh air, a slow-cooked meal. Take time to notice what you are smelling and explore new pleasing aromas.

Seeing. We take in an enormous amount of information through our sight. How nurturing is it? How much of it is “junk food”? Strive to add more pleasing, beautiful, inspiring, and calming visions to your day. Put effort into making your workspace and your home more visually pleasing. Ask yourself, “is this television show good nutrition or junk food.”

When you understand that the foundation of your health, your well-being, and your quality of life is dependent on your daily nutrition, doesn’t it make sense to be more selective about what you are taking in from all your senses? Begin experimenting and see how it feels!

Wayne is a Shiatsu therapist at Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. He has been providing Shiatsu sessions and Chinese Medicine based self-care workshops to patients and their caregivers since 2001. Wayne is also the managing director of his national professional association, the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA).