Day 26

I’ve never been on any sort of “diet” for this length of time. I’ve almost stopped missing food, but I miss meals something fierce. Humans are designed to break bread with each other, share sliced meats, divvy up the vegetables, refill the wine glasses, and make yummy noises together. I’m ruining the meal aesthetic with my liquid substitute in an oversize plastic cup. Drinking your dinner—unless that means wine accompanied by bits of cheese and crackers and sausages—just isn’t social. Frankly, it makes me feel like a jerk.

About 219 people have asked me why I’m doing this/torturing myself/dieting at all. At first, it was to slide the scale back for an upcoming oncology appointment. Now, it’s really about willpower. Can I eat only one meal a day for 30 days? Will I be able to navigate cocktail parties and (let’s be honest) chilly, dark school nights without a glass of Cabernet? Is a shameful, furtive, late night potato chip binge inevitable? This diet feels like a hair shirt, and the old Catholic sensibilities have kicked in. I’m starving and I’m offering it up. No lie.

I have cheated. A little. Teddy requested teeny, spiced cupcakes for his birthday (cream cheese frosting), there’s a HUGE candy bowl (Almond Joys and 3Musketeers!), and I’ve been to six different cocktail parties (an occasional glass of Prosecco). But my restraint has been LEGENDARY. I’m wildly hungry, headache-y, and occasionally dizzy. Brodie wants to know the difference between this powdery meal plan and an actual eating disorder. I have no good answer.

And now it’s Day 26. I’m lithe and slim and fabulous—that is, if those adjective also mean “look exactly like I did in October,” which is what my kids tell me. Either they are doltishly unobservant, or they’re right: I was actually fabulous then, and remain unchanged. However, my skinniest jeans fit right outta the dryer, which is how all women gauge their weight no matter what the scale says.

Happily, as I enter my fourth week as an ascetic, the scale has budged. But it’s probably not because these liquid meals are magic. It’s because I’m not drinking them. After the first few attempts, I just couldn’t gag down powdered milk mixed with water. I cannot. I will not. I refuse. I’d honestly rather starve, and have chosen this option. How anyone incorporates a whey protein “shake” into her daily life eludes me. Had I known I’d have to drink all of this reconstituted milk, I would never have signed up. First of all, I really do love food. But more importantly, I really really really hate milk.

Remember when President Bush declared, “I’m the leader of the free world and will never eat broccoli again,” or something like that, and then banned it from the White House kitchens? That’s me with milk. I can’t even watch you drink milk. The very idea of someone tipping the bowl to lap up, sweet, chunky, stagnant cereal milk makes me dry heave. And Teddy does it all of the time. I have to look away. It’s my bugaboo. And as Tony used to say when challenged about his limited palate and inability to eat food anyone else had touched, “I reserve the right to be irrational.”

To be honest, what feels really irrational right now is any sort of maintenance on this “system.” I did appreciate the two cleanse days avoiding all food and just drinking an ersatz Gatorade, effectively hydrating my cells and shrinking my stomach. An occasional fast? Redemptive suffering comes naturally (though never easily) for those of us who were raised in the Catholic tradition. But I’ll never swap a fake shake for a real meal ever, ever again.

Four more days, friends. Sauvignon blanc is chilling.

rosary

The fasting and near Lenten devotion to restraint and sober reflection on this “diet” has felt decidedly Catholic. When you learn this a small child, you never forget it. It’s also quite a soothing practice when you’re trying really really really hard to forget there are potato chips in the house.

Advertisements

Day Nine

Everyone hates a gal on a diet. It’s irritating to eat with someone who has “food issues.” We all have at least one sanctimoniously vegan, gluten-free, on-a-cleanse, allergic-to-everything, or even a I’ll-have-it-on-the-side sort of friend. We Lees are even impatient with picky eaters. We love to eat. The boys know that their fiscally responsibly father will eschew all frugality for food. We swoon for real, Japanese ramen, salivate over sushi, order the big steaks, and devour giant bowls of pasta covered with winy seafood broths. I’m a quick cook with some talent and dinnertime is peppered with yummy noises. But now, I’m not really… eating.

My forays into experimental attempts at healthfulness have been many: spin cycling, pro-biotics, Pure Barre, lap-swimming, and one post-baby, ill-advised Hot Pocket diet. Looking back through those entries, one theme prevails. I have no willpower. Also, I love Prosecco and I’m reluctant to give it up. When I posted my Day One essay wherein I poke fun at horrible powder cleanse diets (and myself for following one), I received responses ranging from “that’s stupid” to “why?” to “you don’t need to do this” to “it won’t work.” So, not really a wide range. The only, “You go, girl!” sentiments are from the ladies selling this stuff. Naturally.

But even those gals are critical of this gal on a diet. There’s a Facebook support page for hundreds enrolled in a 30-day challenge. When one member posted her bluntly honest opinion of the taste of these products, instead of commenting “Same,” I linked to my essay. Because, you know, same. They asked me to remove it.

I get that. But me, I’d rather sidle up to the gal who’s wisecracking one-liners– or the boy. Steve and I got through CANCER making fun of everything. Surely a diet can survive a bit of fun-poking. Though I’d be lying to say I didn’t sign up for this to get skinnier, I also have an oncology appointment looming on the calendar and if I keep dropping weight the way I have the past 9 days, we’ll get to skip the discussion of how I’m addicted to potato chips and drink on school nights.

Today is Day 9, friends. Yesterday I “cheated” with a hard-boiled egg white because I was seeing stars. Today, I’m housebound with crampy abdominal pain occasionally so severe, I wonder if I’m in labor with an Isogenix baby. But for whatever reason (probably the cancer appt), I’m resolved to see this through. Also, hungry. 21 days to go…

aec64e5c650566ff142e2f8f5647d70f

This makes me giggle. Also, if I told you how much the scale moved in the past 9 days, you might start considering this awful, awful regimen.

The Diet

DAY ONE:

6:30am. The alarm buzzes. A schedule indicates it’s time to drink some sort of boosting flushing ionizing nonsense. Blurry eyed and reluctant, I pad over to the ‘fridge to pour a shot of this magic elixir that elicits emoji-gasms from a thousand Facebook moms. It’s still dark. I plow my foot directly into a dining chair with full-stride force. THE DIET begins with sleepy reluctance and a broken toe.

I pour greenish orange-y slop into a shot glass and prepare for my stomach to flatten and aging to reverse. But it’s just Tang. Well, Tang that’s mixed with maybe spinach and algae. I wonder if it’s gone a bit off. But I am RESOLVED. It’s 7am and I’m on an OFFICIAL DIET.

Dad gets up and has sole dibs on the coffee pot. Bravely, I’m going to do this thing without caffeine. I’m waiting for the magic potion to imbue me with ineffable exclamation point energy. Dad watches me assemble my first of 30 sad breakfasts. I scoop a rather large amount of powder into a sippy cup for fat moms and shake up a meal that is supposed to taste like French Vanilla.

But it doesn’t.

It tastes like disappointment, chalky milk, possibly vegetables, and is infused with a vanilla essence intended to trick dieters into thinking “sweet.” I gag through three gulps. Dad is giggling at me. I put it on ice, get a straw, and dry heave through 3 additional, timid sips. The rest gets poured behind the rhododendron, as I have no idea what havoc this might wreck on my delicate kitchen plumbing.

It’s 8am. I’m hungry. I take the horse pill that promises to curb my appetite until TWO ENTIRE ALMONDS are allowed at 9am. It’s going to be a long day. My children wake up and tell me I don’t need to lose weight. I love them. I drink more water.

Lunch allows a near free for all (except for gluten, sugar, alcohol, and other normal and delicious things) and I eat half a roasted chicken and extra vegetable side dishes. I really wanted the other half of the chicken, and I’m still thinking about it. Mmmm, chicken. It was fun to chew for the 7 whole minutes it took me to clear the plate. Tina, our regular waitress, is wondering why I didn’t order my usual mimosa or Sancerre. I tell her. Tina doesn’t mince words: “That sounds stupid.” I agree with her. Mmmm, chicken.

I take another horse pill and begin dreading “dinner.” Uncaffeinated, kind of hungry, and yet STILL RESOLVED, I make this fucking scrumptious dinner for Bernie and the boys that is like penance. I pour more water, elevate my broken toe, and watch Blade Runner. Somehow I’ve never seen the original one– the one where Harrison Ford is gorgeous and manly and kills robots (that don’t seem all that evil) save one that he keeps as a sex slave. In 35 years of listening to boys argue the bold genius that is Blade Runner, no one mentions the sex robot part. Poor Rachel is another #MeToo. Ugh. Bedtime.

I realize I skipped the liquid dinner meal. Honestly, I’m too coffee-deprived, toe-broken, and let’s face it #MeToo world-weary to stomach another sad, shaken meal that makes me gag. I go to bed like a punished child, but STILL RESOLVED. I’m doing this again tomorrow. Tomorrow will be easier.

RIGHT?

IMG_5058

To be fair, I’m the only Facebook mom who is saying these are sad and impossible to drink and, well, gross, and probably improved 1000% with tequila.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got cancer… and fat! By Steve Safran

 

Picture the fictitious cancer patient. Skinny. Gaunt. Wasted muscle clinging to pencil thin bones. Weak. They have lost a ton of weight from the combination of no appetite coupled with vomiting up what they have managed to get down. It’s the World’s Worst Diet. Everyone loses weight on it.

This wasn’t me.

I finished chemotherapy a year ago weighing one pound more than when I started. Today, I weigh 25 pounds more.

What the fuck?

So here’s the nasty trick chemo played on me. The treatment and never-ending recovery has added a lot of weight, and it continues. And, mind you, I take ownership for much of this. I did not go into treatment nice and svelte. Britt has called me “…a teddy bear… a grumpy Jewish teddy bear,” and you don’t get that moniker weighing 145 lbs.

The oncologists suggested eating 2000-3000 calories a day during the course of my chemotherapy regimen. They didn’t tell me how to pack in a 4th or 5th meal a day, but insisted I needed extra calories to fight cancer and stave off nausea. When they didn’t specify any specific source for these calories I thought, “Awesome! Ice cream at every meal!”

Except, I found out, eating was a horror. You know how you feel at 3pm if you’ve skipped lunch? Imagine that but with a sour stomach, achy bones, bitter fatigue, and a sandpaper tongue. I had nightmares where I actually screamed, “I can’t eat again!”

So there I was, lying in bed, immobile, eating 3,000 calories a day. It’s amazing I only put on one pound. Chemotherapy treatment ended. Eating habits returned to normal. Bald and exhausted, it was now time to start an exercise regimen. But my body had other plans…

Neuropathy.

For the uninitiated, neuropathy is extreme nerve pain. Imagine “pins and needles,” except the pins are on fire and the needles are sticking you a thousand times a second, all over, from the inside. Neuropathy is a common, though under-discussed side effect of chemo. About one in three of us get it. For me, it is exacerbated by heat. I keep my apartment at a temperature approaching the crisper drawer.

So here I am, post-treatment with one no-advancement-of-disease scan under my over-stretched belt, actually wanting to move. I want to return to some sort of daily routine that involves logging steps outside the apartment. But doing so activates my neuropathy. The pain is awful in a way that awful is just not nearly strong enough a word. I’ve tried meds. I’ve been to acupuncture. (A funny irony. The cure for Hell’s “pins and needles” is more pins.) These treatments stave off an attack temporarily, but a short sprint to catch the cab or extra flight of stairs is enough to warm my body for another attack.

All of which means I’m terribly out of shape, gaining weight, and damn near immobile at times. Helplessness settles in: if I can’t lose weight getting cancer, what chance does Weight Watchers stand?

I can eat less, or better, I suppose. Who couldn’t? I’m determined to fight through the pain. I’m starting physical therapy with people who specialize in neuropathy. I take cold showers after exercising (which helps) and text Britt that this sucks (also helpful).

I’ve written before about how when cancer treatment ends, you’re really only smack in the middle of it. “If you think cancer’s bad, wait until you’re cured,” I’ve noted. The PTSD. The side-effects. The constant follow-up appointments. The time spent in giant scanning tubes and machines that make loud noises. The four days after each scan wondering “Has it come back?” The cancer goes away, but the “cancer patient” remains.

Recovery for me still includes lasting effects. It also, unfortunately, includes an occasional jokey barb about my increasing teddy bearish-ness. Prior to cancer, those comments might not have weighed as heavily on me as these extra pounds. But I got cancer and got fat. Beat the first. Working on the second. Stay tuned.

goodpartfinal

Editor’s note:

I will continue to remind Steve that a recent study of breast cancer patients found an average 11-pound weight gain for women who had chemo versus those who did not. The toll these poisons take on our metabolism is still undefined, but certainly reported anecdotally and with great humor and frustration in thousands of breast cancer blogs. Hang with us, Stevie. We think you’re doing great.