“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!
One thing I have come to realize under my new role as “cancer patient,” is that not all “cancer patients” are into fundraising and charity.
It’s not that we don’t want to help others, it’s just that we’ve become the faces that need to be helped. And to be perfectly honest, we don’t need healthy people reminding us that we need help by running and doing things that us sick people can’t do. I don’t speak for everyone here obviously, but you know, sometimes it stings.
Under my new role as cancer patient, I also now know what is really helpful to fellow patients and the people that love them. A CURE. For all kinds of cancer.
It is with this that I laced up my sneakers on Sunday with my mother and step-sister to participate in the Terry Fox run. One of the organizations out there who I feel is really dedicated to finding a cure, and one of the top funders of cancer research in Canada.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Terry Fox, he attempted to run across the country in what he called “The Marathon of Hope” in 1980 after losing his leg to osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. He did it in the name of cancer research, asking just one dollar from every Canadian. He died before he made it across the country. No wonder, I cannot fathom attempting such a feat with this disease.
I’ve participated in this event a few times before, but it was surreal being there on such different terms this year. Last time I ran it was two years ago, back when I was at the top of my game. This year, I walked the 5k in one hour.
Also surreal was not only writing the name of my uncle down, but also seeing my own name down with those affected by cancer.
What I like about this event is that there is no fundraising limit, no timing chips, no stress. You just show up, donate want you want, and go as fast as you want. You can even bring your dog if you want to!
Hopefully next year I’ll be healthy enough to RUN the 5k again. Although, walking along and chatting with friends and family was great too. I mean, why outrun cancer? No freakin’ way it’ll ever catch me anyways.
In participating, I donated some money from The Great Fundraising Act fund. Spreading your dollars just a little bit further, in hopes of saving another Terry Fox, another Uncle Bob, and of course – ME!
Because cancer really is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Likely the hardest one me, and so many others, will ever have to run. Events like these remind me that I’m not alone in this, and that I’ll eventually reach the finish line.
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.