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Weekly Blog: Discipline Fatigue

Community Manager
Community Manager
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By Tim Baker

Over time, I’ve realised this journey is a marathon not a sprint.

I’d be the first to admit, I came out of the blocks a bit hard, abruptly and radically overhauling my diet, exercising like a maniac, meditating like a monk, researching whacky folk remedies and overpriced herbs and supplements, desperate to do all I could to remain fit and healthy.

I lost 15 kg in the first month, understandably freaking out my friends and family, and my monk-like existence created a distance between my partner and I that proved difficult to mend and left me feeling socially isolated.

Gradually, as my results became more stable and I grew accustomed to my new perilous circumstances, I’ve learnt to moderate my approach, to go more gently on myself, and work out what culinary pleasures I’m not prepared to sacrifice. And what level of diligence and self-discipline feels healthy, nourishing and sustainable.

There is now good evidence around the benefits of exercise, specifically high intensity interval training, and a predominantly plant-based diet, to help manage a prostate cancer diagnosis, to improve quality of life and mitigate the side effects of treatment, and in some cases even slow the progression of the disease. But how far you want to go, or how diligently you feel capable of applying these principles, is an intensely personal question.

There’s a witty meme getting around on the internet that proclaims, “If you can replace your morning coffee with green tea you can eliminate 80% of the joy from your life.” It’s an extreme example but they make a salient point. A few years into my diagnosis I could no longer maintain the lie that I enjoyed my turmeric soy latte as much as coffee and that the pleasure of a morning caffeine hit was a simple, enjoyable ritual I did not wish to forego. Similarly, chocolate and ice cream remain an occasional weakness, and I allow myself the odd mid-strength beer or a glass of wine when the mood takes me.

My exercise regime has gone through fits and starts, largely according to energy levels fluctuating around intermittent hormone therapy. One thing I’ve learnt is that scheduled, supervised exercise is important to maintain the physical fitness I need to manage my diagnosis and its treatment. But this can be expensive. And discipline fatigue is real. There are periods where I just get a bit fed up with maintaining the strict focus on diet, exercise, meditation, and just want to enjoy a more relaxed approach to life. Striking the right balance here is key.

A few tricks and tips that have helped me reboot when discipline has been found wanting:

  • Many universities run exercise clinics for cancer patients with their final year exercise physiology students. It’s a low or no cost option for expert, supervised training that caters to your physical condition and diagnosis and can help develop a program you can maintain at home. Search any local universities’ websites for details.
  • Many councils run free exercise classes in local parks – yoga, Qi Gong, and other physical activities. Your local council website should promote these or details maybe included in information that comes with council rates, if you are a home owner.
  • Find a friend. An exercise buddy is a great way to motivate you to maintain regular exercise. Whether it’s swimming, surfing, morning walks, the suddenly popular pickleball or some other sport that’s good for pairs or small groups, recruit a pal or two to help keep you on track.
  • If maintaining a healthy diet proves difficult, because of time, cost, taste or discipline, try introducing yourself to some new foods, recipes, cooking shows, or restaurants that specialise in a predominantly plant-based diet. Eating well does not have to be about deprivation and sacrificing pleasure. It can be a deeply enjoyable and satisfying adventure.
  • Visit a local farmers market and marvel at the fresh healthy produce. Take up the Hare Krishna’s offer of a free vegetarian feast in exchange for a bit of chanting at the end of dinner.
  • Explore different cuisines. A traditional Mediterranean diet is widely promoted as suitable for those living with prostate cancer, rich in fresh vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, legumes, seafood. The same goes for a Japanese diet, with plenty of pickled or fermented foods, green tea, quality soy products like tofu and tempeh, seaweed, fish.
  • Food fads can lead you off on dubious tangents, but some simple principles apply – eat a rainbow, with lots of different coloured fresh fruit and vegetables to ensure adequate nutrition.
  • If you are really struggling to maintain a healthy lifestyle, particularly after the holiday period, some sort of retreat can be a great way to reboot and refresh, if you have the means. Vipassana meditation retreats are essentially free (or by donation) but do require sitting in silent mediation for up to 10 hours a day, which might prove a bit much for many. Some Hare Krishna communities offer volunteer programs where you are offered food and board for a few hours work a day in their gardens. The range of yoga, meditation and health retreats on offer these days range from the quite spartan and affordable to the luxurious and high-end, but it’s worth exploring to see if you can find something that meets your needs and budget.
  • Importantly, consult a qualified exercise physiologist and nutritionist or dietician early on to guide your exercise and diet. You may qualify for a care plan under Medicare which would subsidise the cost of these consultations.

Above all, go gently on yourself. The stress and guilt of not ticking every box in your lifestyle regime is likely worse for you than the occasional indulgence or periods of inactivity. Find a level of discipline and constancy that works for you. The best form of exercise is the one you will do on a regular basis. And the best approach to diet is one that you can happily maintain in the long term, while observing the general principles of good nutrition. Laughter, love, social connection and having things to look forward to are all important in keeping us buoyant, healthy and hopeful too.

About the Author


Tim Baker is an award-winning author, journalist and storyteller specialising in surfing history and culture, working across a wide variety of media from books and magazines to film, video, and theatre. Some of his most notable books include “Occy”, a national bestseller and chosen by the Australia Council as one of “50 Books You can’t Put Down” in 2008, and “The Rip Curl Story” which documents the rise of the iconic Australian surf brand to mark its 50th anniversary in 2019. Tim is a former editor of Tracks and Surfing Life magazines. He has twice won the Surfing Australia Hall of Fame Culture Award.

Tim was diagnosed with stage 4, metastatic prostate cancer in 2015 with a Gleason score 9. He was told he had just five years of reasonable health left, but seven years on, at 57, he’s still surfing, writing, and enjoying being a dad. His latest book, Patting The Shark, also documents his cancer journey and will be published in August. Tim will be sharing weekly insights into his journey to help other men who have also been impacted by prostate cancer.

Help is Available

Prostate Cancer Specialist Telenursing Service

If your life has been impacted by prostate cancer, our Specialist Telenursing Service is available to help. If you would like to reach out to the PCFA Prostate Cancer Specialist Telenurse Service for any questions you have about your prostate cancer experience, please phone 1800 22 00 99 Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm, Wednesday 10am-8pm (AEDT).

Prostate Cancer Support Groups

PCFA is proud to have a national network of affiliated support groups in each state and territory of Australia consisting of men and women who have a passion for assisting others who encounter prostate cancer. This network is made up of over 170 affiliated groups who meet locally to provide one-to-one support, giving a vision of life and hope after treatment. Call us on 1800 22 00 99 to find your local group.

MatesCONNECT Telephone-based peer support

MatesCONNECT is a telephone-based peer support program for men affected by prostate cancer. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer, our MatesCONNECT service can connect you to a trained volunteer who understands what you’re going through. All of our volunteers have been through prostate cancer. Simply call us on 1800 22 00 99 to be connected with a volunteer.

Newly diagnosed? or need to find more information? Access the PCFA resources here.

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