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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.

Should We Really ‘Run To Eat’?

“Will run for beer”

Ever hear this saying or something similar before?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Particularly, how I don’t agree with it.

You see, I began exercising on the regular when I set out to lose 30 lbs four years ago. I counted calories to lose weight, so for a long time exercise was purely a way to burn calories. It gave me a little more wiggle room in my daily calorie allotment and made it so I didn’t lose my mind restricting food in order to shed a few pounds.

As the days went on, I fell more and more in love with exercise. I eventually started doing it because I like it, and not just as a way to lose weight. As I transitioned into weight loss maintenance, exercise not only became my most loved hobby, but also a way to splurge on some of my most favourite treats. Run 6 miles? Awesome, now I get to have dessert today. All without putting on a pound.

But now that I’m a little more separated from the situation, I wonder – is it healthy to use exercise as a justification to eat?

If you were to ask me today, my response would sway towards “no.”

Food and exercise are two very different things and serve two very different purposes. But mostly, I think by creating a relationship between the two, one is setting themselves up to have an unhealthy relationship with both.

I have gained at least 10 lbs since beginning chemotherapy, for a number of reasons. I’m not as active as I used to be (read: no 6 milers here), my eating habits have changed (read: digesting a big salad on chemo is tummy torture) and my most favourite excuse – I’m on steroids, I can’t help it! (same goes with the occasional ‘roid rage)

If I weren’t sick and gained 10 lbs I would immediately turn to exercise to start burning it off. Except this time around I really don’t care about the extra weight. Apart from the frustration of having jeans that don’t fit, I’ve got bigger fish to fry. Like a life threatening illness. Suddenly, the idea of vanity weight goes out the window.

With that said, I do still mildly exercise every day. But this time it’s not to lose weight or to keep it off. This time it’s for a different reason altogether. I now realize it’s the reason why I should have been exercising all along. For my health. Study after study shows that cancer patients have a higher rate of survival with exercise. When I hop on the recumbent bike, it’s not with the idea of burning off the ice cream I ate earlier, or for some notion of vanity. It’s for my health, my real health, and my longevity.

When I’m all better and back at the gym, I won’t reward myself with a beer after because I’ve got the extra calories to do it. I’ll drink beer whenever I want and exercise because it’s good for me.

Today is chemo day – treatment #6. I’m halfway through!

Why Your Body Can’t (and Shouldn’t) Make You Happy

There once was a time when I hated my body. Like so many girls, I grew up thinking my body was never good enough. Even though I’ve always been a normal weight, even in my pudgy days, I always berated myself into thinking my body could be better.

When I set out to lose my university beer gut, a strange thing happened. As the numbers on the scale went down, I started to like who looked back at me in the mirror. As I started to run races and ticked off the miles, I began to think “Damn, I’m pretty awesome.”

After years and years of hating my body, I suddenly loved it. I credited my new active regime for the 180. Heavy weightlifting transformed the shape of my body from a skinnier version of the old one, into the body I always dreamed of having. I was on cloud nine. For the first time in my life, I had oodles of self-esteem, and I owed it all to healthy eating and exercise.

This is one of the reasons why I started this blog. I was just so excited about this revelation that I had to share it. I changed professions so I could teach people in the gym how to not only look good, but feel great as a result.

If you haven’t spotted the problem yet, I will tell you, there is a very, very big problem in all of this.

When I fell skating on the Rideau Canal in February, I didn’t just shatter my arm. I shattered the self esteem that I’d spent years building. It had never occurred to me that I was putting all my eggs in one basket. That my sense of self worth came from the fact that I could run and exercise and lift heavy things.

I never considered that an accident could take my ability to do those things away. And as a result, lose my sense of self worth.

I’ve been very open about my struggles dealing with my arm injury. Although it probably just sounded like whining over a broken arm to many, the struggles came from a very deep place.

In the months following my injury, I spent a lot of time mourning the things I’d never be able to do again. I clung on to the hope that maybe someday I’d be able to do a push up or go into downward dog. Again, silly things to get so upset over, but things that meant SO much to the identity I’d forged for myself.

Then the cancer diagnosis came and everything changed. Without that diagnosis, I would probably still be clinging on to some hope that I could still take on the activities I once loved. But now I truly understand how silly it was to put so much importance into something so fleeting. I never should have relied on my body’s abilities to give me self esteem. Even when it was blanketed in seemingly healthy things like running and eating good food.

I am only just beginning the process of recovering my broken ego. I am creating new passions and finding joy in things that have nothing to do with my body or the way I look. I will never again think “I love my legs because they can run far!” Because will I still love them if I suddenly can’t run anymore?

As you know, I still (mildly) exercise every day. But now it’s purely because it increases my rate of survival and makes me feel good. I still eat healthy foods because they’re good for the cells inside my body. My self esteem now comes from the idea that yes, I am pretty awesome, but not because I can lift “x” number of pounds. My self esteem comes from the fact that I am happy being who I am on this planet, regardless of the body the houses me.

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Taken yesterday while walking the trails of Hillsborough, New Brunswick with my mom.

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