Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Beating the Odds-- So Far

Not mine, but illustrative
I don't believe in food-as-medicine.

Yes, I believe in getting one's nutrition as much as possible from healthy, wholesome, locally-grown food eaten in reasonable amounts and proportions.  But when it comes to the esoterica of when and how and how much and in what combinations, my response is "Non credo."

You've seen them.  Articles from nutrition pundits who tell you to eat a cup of fresh blueberries three times a day every day for the rest of your life.  I like blueberries, but not that much!  Or blog posts insisting that all grains are inherently bad for people and one should never eat them.  Or the book that tells me I should never eat red meat after three in the afternoon, and then only if I've done four impossible yoga poses before sunrise.  And don't forget the earnest folks who tell you you can't possibly be healthy unless you consume some exotic fruit or herb found only on some South Pacific island the Polynesians have never heard of.  No.  Can't swallow that.

But there's a way lately that I have been taking a more therapeutic attitute towards food, and to some extent it's paying off.

A couple of things dovetailed this spring, and a very portly dove it was, too.  The first is that the low blood sugar I've put up with since my college years at least seemed to be getting worse.  I found myself getting lightheaded more frequently, and even feeling I was going to faint a time or two.  Yeah, some people would say I should run off to the doctor and get tested for diabetes.  That's not me.  If I can deal with it myself, I will.

The second thing is that I noticed that I'd gained a lot of weight since my last post-chemo weigh-in in late February.  Above the waist, where I generally don't put it on.  Rolls of flab on my back.  No more definition in my upper arms.  The pot around my belly button greatly increased.  I hadn't changed my eating or activity habits at all, but here it was getting difficult if not impossible to fit into my clothes.  What's this all about?

So towards the end of May I decided to tackle both these problems at once.  I'd change my eating habits.  I wasn't going on a diet, oh, no.  Nor would I renounce any particular food.  I've been at this weight loss game long enough to know that that's the recipe for desperation and disaster.  No.  Instead, I began to stretch out my meals.  Instead of eating three largish meals a day four to six hours apart, I'd spread them out.  Have the protein at one little meal, then two to three hours later have the starch I would have had with the protein.  Be conservative about portion sizes, and learn to enjoy, say, new potatoes boiled with just salt, pepper, and parsley, no butter or gravy.  Of course I had to go back to enforcing my no-eating-after-9:00-PM rule.  By all this I hoped to keep my blood sugar even and kickstart my metabolism so maybe I could lose a little weight.

I'm still at it.  It's been interesting the past month.  My birthday is in mid-June, and customarily I share the celebration with my friend Frieda*, who was born in late May.  We celebrated this year on the 2nd, and I made our favorite sour cream chocolate layer cake.  Sent a good two-fifths home with her and shared a couple more pieces with a small neighbor boy who has no compunction about opening my fridge and begging for whatever treats he sees inside.  This left me about half the cake.  You know it took me three and a half weeks to finish it?  I could say I'm "restricting" myself to one dessert "meal" a day, but the fact is, I don't feel like having more than that.  The cake was a little dry by the time I ate the last piece the other day, but it was still good.

Sometimes stretching meals out can backfire.  Couple weeks ago I ate something that was evidently past its use date.  Evidently, judging by all the painful pot-sitting I had to put in that morning and afternoon.  Banana bread.  Spoiled banana bread.  Ordinarily, I would have finished that ages before, but not this time.  I've learned to put things in the freezer if I'm not going to eat them in a reasonable time.

Happily, this regimen seems to be working to even out my blood sugar.  I might still feel a little lightheaded when I finish one of my snacky-meals; normally, that would justify my eating more right then.  But with a shallow nod to the food-as-medicine advocates, I tell myself, "No, let the food work.  You wouldn't take another dose of aspirin if your headache wasn't gone the moment you swallowed the first two tablets, would you?  All right then."  And most of the time, the airheadedness soon goes away.

However, it didn't seem that I was losing any weight.  I have two body scales in the house, neither of them accurate, but their inaccuracy was not encouraging.  I was still being squeezed by those fat rolls above my waistband, and the post-hysterectomy pot below my waist was as protruding and obtrusive as ever.  What was wrong?  I can swear I'm eating only two-thirds to a half of what I was before, so why aren't I dropping the pounds?  It's not like me to get cancer head before my post-chemo checkups, but I found myself wondering if something was Wrong.  Especially since my digestion isn't totally back to normal after that bout of food poisoning.  Oh, lord, what if the cancer had come back and got into my intestines?

It didn't bear thinking of.

So I didn't.  Instead, I went online and looked up "menopot," a cute name for the very uncute bulge we women often develop in our midsections post-menopause.  None of the articles I read was specific about the precise location of the bulge, above or below the waist, but all agreed that it was endemic, annoying, and about impossible to get rid of.  I gathered also that I shouldn't gripe that I'm fighting it now, after my cancer surgery.  The remarkable thing, apparently, is that it didn't set in seven years ago when I hit natural memopause.

So my triannual post-chemo checkup was this morning.  And withal I braced myself for possible bad news.  But all my test reports came in normal, all my numbers are good.  So with my former ovarian cancer, I am continuing to beat the odds, so far.  And as to my weight on the doctor's official scale . . . ?  Down.  Five pounds from my February weight.  Being weighed in jeans.  Which may mean I've lost six or seven pounds since the end of May, since I know I gained some since the February weigh-in.

And I have to admit that those jeans are size 8 slims, and it's easier to zip them.  And my tape measure says I've lost a half inch off my waist in the past month.  So enough with the pessimism!  When it comes to post-menopausal weight gain, it looks like I'm beating the odds there as well.

So far.