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Pounds vs. Inches: Does Cancer Care?

Sometimes I lose weight and sometimes I lose inches, but does it matter?
PUBLISHED January 27, 2017
In July 2011 Barbara Carlos was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. A resident of Hawaii, she works in administrative support at a college and has retirement as her career goal. Music keeps her sane, as side effects of chemo and radiation linger. Overweight since childhood, she keeps trying to lose the estrogen-laden fat that her cancer loves.
I am trying to lose both pounds and inches, but sometimes it’s confusing as to which is more important or better to lose than the other.

The more I exercise the more lean muscle I build. As I understand it, when you build lean muscle you may gain weight from that muscle, but still lose inches, depending upon which muscles got leaner, and therefore meaner. So, it’s all right to stay the same weight, or even gain a few pounds, as long as your clothes are getting loose, or at least less snug. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you can burn, even when sleeping. Cool. 

The pounds will drop, but you have to give it time. Okay, I get the concept. It sort of makes sense; however, if I think about it, my brain malfunctions. If I lose inches, I also want to see progress on the scale.

Over the years, I bought larger clothes as I gained weight. When they no longer fit, I would convince myself that I just needed to lose a few pounds to fit back into them. I would further convince myself that those few pounds were going to melt away at any moment. After a while I would need room in the closet for new larger clothes, so when clothes were too ridiculously tight to leave in the closet any longer I put them in a bag that eventually made its way to my storage locker. This process went on and on until my storage was full of clothes that didn’t fit me, and probably would never fit me again. I kept the clothes anyway because I somehow thought, and hoped, I would be able to fit into them again. You see, I just had to lose a few pounds.

A few years ago I started exercising. My medical team encouraged me to move, and I knew I should. I walked a bit, not a lot, not very enthusiastically, not often, but sometimes. A fit co-worker suggested weights. Frankly, I thought he was nuts, but when out and about one day I saw five pound bar bells. The price was right and they were a lovely shade of purple, so I thought I would humor him and give them a try. 

Five pounds is not a lot, but two of the weights meant 10 pounds. You try lifting that when you have been a couch potato most of your life and are exhausted from your cancer treatment. Then, as now, my balance was easily thrown off due to neuropathy. I almost fell down when doing simple moves while standing, so I solved the problem by keeping the weights on the floor by the couch and using them while sitting there watching TV, just 10 minutes at a pop and not every day. I did say I was a couch potato.

It took months, but it worked. The scale didn’t move much, but clothes started to be less snug. I bought a dress for my nephew’s wedding and when the day came a month later the dress was a bit loose. I kept at it. No big production, just when I felt I had the energy, a few reps, maybe a little walk, too, sometimes some stretching. I advanced to 10 pound weights after a year, amazingly because the five pounders didn’t challenge me enough. My clothes got looser. I found there was a waist hiding in the rolls of fat. I visited my storage locker and resurrected clothes that didn’t used to fit, but now fit again. It’s nice to go shopping without having to go shopping. My fashion style can best be described as frumpy, so I didn’t have to worry about the old, plain, boring, basic clothing being out of style.  

I have advanced to 15 pound weights, but I find they are a challenge. Let’s make that an unpleasant challenge. Consequently, I don’t lift them as often as I should. It’s hard to lift them. It’s not fun. After spending 10 minutes lifting them I do feel energized, but I find myself thinking about reverting to 10 pounds. I’m just thinking about it. I hate to give in because I’m a pretty tough cookie. I’m not ready to admit defeat to five pounds, even though it’s really ten. Well, I’ll continue thinking about it. 

And, what, you may ask, have I done with the clothes that are now too big for me? I kept them in the closet for a while, way longer than I should have. Eventually there wasn’t enough room for them and the clothes that did fit, so they had to leave. It was hard to get rid of them because I was afraid I would grow back into them and need them again. In the past, whenever I lost weight it always found me, and when it returned it brought its friends and relatives. But, this time, I can’t let that happen. I have to continue to lose pounds and I have to continue to lose inches. Both are important and they go hand in hand. By losing both I will be losing fat cells that my estrogen loving breast cancer could use against me.   

I guess I’ll stick with the 15 pound weights after all, but I am definitely not going up any higher than that!
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