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The Last Word On Body Weight

Seeing as I used to be a healthy living/fitness/weight loss blogger, I thought it might be fitting to address the weight issue surrounding my treatment. While I lost a lot of weight during my month in the hospital, I have managed to gain it all back and then some since beginning chemotherapy.

I have said a lot of times that being sick, like real sick, will change a person. Well, it has also changed my perspective on weight gain and weight loss. This is why you don’t hear me talk about it as much anymore, nor will I blather about it too much in the future.

I first started blogging in January 2009 after losing close to 30 lbs. Not a substantial amount of weight to lose, I know. And to be honest, it wasn’t really that hard. Most of the extra weight was brought on by too much beer and nachos, followed by a period of perhaps excessive restriction that accounted for losing those final 10lbs.

After the weight loss, I threw out all of my larger clothes, vowing to never get to that larger size again. I had completely overhauled my life and habits, and saw no reason why I would ever gain the weight back.

Well, once I eased up on my more restrictive habits, I gained 10-15lbs of it back. I was bummed, but honestly the freedom to eat and drink more normally was way better than any size on a pair of jeans. So while I missed my old body, my new one was good enough.

What I could have never predicted was that I’d get an illness where weight would be the least of my worries.

Since beginning treatment, my exercise habits have dropped to almost nothing. Walks or mild sessions on my indoor recumbent bike are all that I can handle. No calorie-scorchers here. I’m home all day next to a stocked kitchen. I’m bored all day and cooking in the kitchen is my favourite entertainment!

Finally, there’s the drugs and all their side effects. None of which have affected my appetite to the point where I can’t eat, just to the point where “health food” sounds the least appetizing (or digestible). Namely, the steroids make me feel hungry all the time and come with the lovely side-effect of “puffiness.” Especially a puffed up face.

Those who know me in real life know that I complain about the weight gain and puffiness fair bit. Mostly because my clothes don’t fit. It’s hard to not feel like a sick person when flannels are all I can manage. Future Susan is at angry Past Susan for throwing out all those old clothes!

The real reason why I don’t blog about it however, is that this experience has taught me that gaining some weight back IS NOT A BIG DEAL.

Who fucking cares.

I’m alive. I’m beating cancer. I’m not morbidly obese. It gives me some wiggle room in case I’m hospitalized again and experience a dramatic weight loss. And let’s face it, I’m already almost bald anyways.

I mean, it’s not like I’m sitting here with a bucket of KFC chicken saying it’s okay to quickly gain mass amounts of weight. Because to me, health is always a top priority.

But at the same time, I don’t know why I used to be so paranoid about gaining some of it back. It’s not the end of the world. Cancer has taught me that it’s more worthwhile to learn to appreciate my body for what it currently looks like, than to spend that time disliking it and trying to change it. Weight gain, scars, and bald head included.

It helps that I have an end date. As of this week, I have five more weeks until my last chemo treatment and until I’m off the steroids. I’m hoping some of the weight will come off just by virtue of finishing the drugs and feeling healthy enough to start exercising again. I’m not sure if I’ll bother trying to lose the rest. I think I may ditch the “back to shape” programs and just live my life in a healthy way that will prevent the cancer from coming back. But most of all in a way I can enjoy it. I’ve already lost six months to cancer, I don’t want to spend any more months of my life being a slave to anything else. Vanity weight included.

This past weekend was a good example of living and enjoying my life with cancer. It included a two hour walk on my favourite local trail with the dog.

Whole wheat pancakes.

Indian take-out!

Clockwise: garlic naan, basmati rice, dal makhni (black lentils), chicken dilbahar (with spinach and mint), chicken tikka masala, and onion bhaji (like a sweet onion patty – my favourite on this plate!)

Nanaimo bar.

A Canadian specialty for those who don’t know. A graham/chocolate/coconut layer, custard butter icing, then melted chocolate.

Food trivia!

Watching Buster play to his heart’s content with a golden retriever puppy, then steal his bed.

And hanging out with my best friend, Meghan.

We’ve been best friends since grade 1 and lived together in university. She’s off getting more educated in science-y things, and explained to me why eating the above Nanaimo bar with my current food restrictions could kill me. Thanks Meghan! Now I know how the smokers at the hospital feel. Getting off the chocolate has been rough. Especially when there’s no weight loss to show for it, har har har.

Foods That Make You Trigger

I received a comment a while back that really made me stop and think. After blogging about some form of chocolate or peanut butter treat, someone said they never buy it because it’s one of their trigger foods.

For some reason, this comment resonated with me. The term “trigger food” is one I’ve used and see all the time. And yet, to have it used so commonly really stuck with me.

The idea of a trigger food is that it creates an uncontrollable urge to eat. The type of food is different for everyone. But I’m sure we can all relate to grabbing a small handful of chips. Then another. Then another. And without even thinking about it, half (or all!) the bag is gone.

Not a salt person? Ever have a chocolate bar disappear before having the intention to even eat it all?

A trigger food can mean different things to different people. For people with a history of binge eating, it can mean a lot. For people who are trying to lose weight, it can be the difference between a good day and a bad day.

I’m of the school of thought that there is no such thing as bad food. Just bad food choices. What I mean is that everything is okay in moderation. And yes, there is such as thing as too much of a good thing!

I hate to live in a world where cookies are absolutely off limits. Or crackers are something I’ll never allow myself to eat again. That is not a healthy way to live life, and it’s important to open ourselves up to indulgences every once in a while.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I do have trigger foods. Ones that I’ve more or less deemed completely off limits. Yes, even in my quest for balance there are some things I’ve taken an all-or-nothing attitude about. And in these cases, I really do believe it is for the sake of my mental sanity. For there are some foods, trigger foods, that I really do have no control over. Ones that will leave me feeling bad about and sorry for myself. Ones that I’m really better off just not having in my life. No matter how delicious.

First up, pretzels. In all forms.

Pretzels always sound good in theory. They’re fun to bake with. A nice addition to any trail mix. But I have absolutely no control over them. Soon after the bag is opened, I’ve devoured 1000 calories in a salty food devoid of any nutritional value.

I almost didn’t buy Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels because I knew they’d be a danger food. Sure enough, I munched on them until the bag was gone. Happy that I got to experience their deliciousness. But finishing a bag in three days is just not healthy or welcome for me. So long pretzels! (and good riddance)

Another one: small crackers.

I don’t buy them. I don’t know how to portion them. It irks me that most small crackers are 10 calories a piece. You see, I have a serious munching problem. When I’m in my kitchen, even if I’m not hungry, some food container is being opened to munch on. I’ve gotten smart about keeping carrot sticks around to do this with. Because it’s going to happen no matter what (I’ve tried many times to stop, all in vain). These days I’m all about the big crackers. Ones I can sit down and make an actual snack out of.

The absolute worst trigger food for me is cereal. Of all kinds. Granola, bran cereal, even puffed cereal. If it’s in my kitchen, I will eat it by the handful. Entire boxes have disappeared with nary a bowl or milk being involved.

I’ve tried numerous times, each time with fail, to kick my cereal habit. I’ve finally realized that it is just one of those foods that trigger an automated response from me. One I am not comfortable with. Thus, you will never find me in the cereal aisle. I know this sounds pretty depressing. It is sad to come to the realization that cereal is not good for your mental health.

I am however happy to report that I’ve overcome some trigger foods!

Me and trail mix used to have a rocky relationship. Now when I buy a big bag, I immediately portion it out into little baggies. For some reason my mind (and tastebuds) don’t like messing with those little baggies and it now goes untouched until intentional consumption. Same goes with other dried fruits and nuts.

The biggest success for me so far has come with chocolate.

I have memories of eating half a large chocolate Easter bunny in one sitting as a child. It’s one of those foods I just can’t get enough of. It’s taken some practice, but I can now have just a small square of chocolate, or a small amount of something like M&MS or Mini Eggs and feel completely satisfied.

This post is not supposed to be about deprivation. Believe me, I do allow myself “trigger foods” occasionally and thoughtfully enjoy them. But it’s about living day-to-day in a world where eating is often connected to a mental or emotional response. It’s about recognizing foods that make us feel bad, and deciding if they’re worth having around at all.

If anything, writing this post made me realize that my list of trigger foods is pretty small. Way smaller than it would have been when I set out to lose 30 lbs two and a half years ago. Maybe I will make amends with the remaining foods someday. But for now, I am completely content keeping them banned from my cupboards :)

Question of the Day: How do you feel about trigger foods? Too strict? Any that you don’t let in your house?


P.S. Deb is still accepting orders for our Charity Blogger Calendar! Click here to learn about it and get your own!!

The Toronto Ten

I’m sure all of you have heard of the “Freshman Fifteen.”

Or the “Sophomore Twenty.”

How about the “Newlywed Thirty?”

Then how come no one ever warned me of the “Toronto Ten?”

Okay, honestly, I kind of suspected it might happen. In fact, I actually feared the idea of gaining weight once I moved here almost four months ago. But I thought anything noticeable would be unlikely. I exercise. I eat healthy.

I was wrong.

I did not expect exactly how bombarded I would be by delicious food in Toronto. Nor did I know that I was still lacking in many foodie experiences. New Brunswick is a fabulous place. Its culinary culture however, is severely lacking.

Toronto has Thai.

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The spiciest Indian food I’ve ever had.

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Boats and boats of sushi.

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Cute and colourful French desserts.

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An area of town devoted to my favourite food ethnicity – Greek.

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A Dim Sum place on every other corner where white girls such as myself say they want the chicken feet and end up spitting it out.

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It’s a city that takes its brunch very seriously, offering never ending choices of morning themed dishes on weekends.

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Including a traditional Jewish brunch. Blintzes, challah French toast, beets, hummus and smoked fish.

 

In New Brunswick, I had to get in the car if I wanted to go to a grocery store or restaurant. In Toronto, I am just a hop away from homemade sausage.

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A skip from a gelato place.

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And a mere jump from the city’s best cinnamon buns.

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And no matter where you are, there is a  street meat stand ready and at your disposal.

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Including at the entrance of the park I run in. You have no idea how tempting hot dogs smell after running 6 miles.

Toronto is also known for some signature dishes. Ones I can’t help but try out.

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When Bobby Flay says it’s the best peameal sandwich he’s ever had, you eat it.

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I can’t say if we actually have the best Italian food outside of Italy as some claim. However, it saved me from a pricey trip to Naples just to try the pizza.

Toronto is home to food I could have never even imagined.

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A lot of bacon has been consumed in the name of foodie curiosity and adventure. Things that I know won’t be any good… but have to try just to make sure ;)

I know what you are thinking. In such a big city, it must be at least easier to find healthy food. You are correct. Produce is cheap and bountiful. There are a gazillion types of seedy breads and organic meats in grocery stores. But be careful. Not all “health” food is healthy for your waistband.

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I was initially easily lured into the never ending options for juices here in the city. Every place specializes in some immunity boosting concoction. Fine. But not when paired with a full-sized meal.

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Toronto loves its raw vegetables.

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As well as its nut and calorie-dense raw desserts.

It’s not just restaurants to blame. The food markets and grocery stores carry so many foods I was never exposed to in New Brunswick. And so many foods I now want to try!

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Including every flavour in the Whole Foods nut butter aisle.

I am of course forgetting a main contributing factor here. The beer.

My goodness. The beer.

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As I’ve confessed before, I am a GWLHB. “Girl Who Loves Her Beer.”

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Being a more populated province, Ontario has way more microbreweries. Also pulls in way more kinds of imported beer I’ve never been exposed to.

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We can’t just blame the beer though. There’s been the odd jagerbomb as well ;)

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Yesyes. It seems the change in location and lifestyle has taught me all about the Toronto Ten. Something no longer feared. Definitely not loved. But perhaps embraced.

It’s recently been decided that my time in this great city is limited. So I am open to experiencing it for all it is worth. Bacon adventures and all. I thank my lucky stars I work in a gym and running store. Otherwise, we may have to invent the Toronto Twenty.

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