Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
Many people struggle with extra weight and cancer survivors often do it with extra helpings of fear and guilt. See if these thoughts can help!
I am a breast cancer and melanoma cancer survivor, and I am overweight—again. I don't plan on staying this way. I don't think anyone does. People with additional health issues, including cancer survivors, have an extra dose of fear and guilt to go with their weight loss frustrations. We know our weight can impact our disease. We are mortally afraid. No one wants to die. Fear, however, is not a good long-term motivator, as my talk therapist has repeatedly told me. So, what might work?
As a cancer survivor, there is seems to be a mixed message in my brain. On the one hand, rather than focusing on cancer, it is good to live in the moment. Does living in the moment include a second glass of wine or a dessert with friends, I wonder? On the other hand, carrying extra weight is carrying extra cancer risk, and so the circle beings again. Help!
My fat grafting to improve the shape of my reconstructed breasts is completed, so my poor excuse for clinging to any extra weight just evaporated. The vacation is over. It would be nice to be thinner before summer. Many people, including me, have made weight loss one of their New Year's resolutions. What will be different this time?
What are you telling yourself? Add some healthful propaganda to the mix. This could be a magazine about health or a book about healthful eating choices. Find food documentaries to watch and exercise videos to try. Invest in a step counter to wear. The information a step counter gives you about your own movement will be helpful. The very act of exploring these things can help bump us out of our habitual comfort zones and into some simple more healthful choices. Read weight loss success stories. One woman recently lost over 100 pounds by marching around her apartment while watching television!
Food choice is personal and powerful. What do we each decide to ingest in our own bodies? It seems like we each are handed a puzzle— our body— to solve. We live in a world that makes weight loss difficult. Pull back a little. Read labels in the grocery store. One of my friends suggested “The Elimination Diet” because she has had some success with it reducing her headaches and other symptoms. It makes sense in my brain because eliminating an unhealthful item or two, like fried foods or processed sugar foods, seems easier than counting calories. I have not had fries for a month and I don't miss them (mostly). My friend has lost weight eating fruits, vegetables, and protein. I am not doing that— yet.
Movement is also a piece of the puzzle. I like Christine Northrup's approach of "joyful movement." We each get to figure out what kind of movement (dance, spin class, exercise) works for us as individuals. For me, I go back to Leslie's Sansone's easy moves to music (march in place, knee lifts, kicks and sidesteps) at walkathome.com. I like the simplicity and privacy of it. I am not good at more complicated moves that are dance-like. Other people would prefer to exercise in person with other people.
Don't use fear as a motivator and know the facts. Cancer survivors do not need shame and fear—we've already had doses of those. Positive motivation will work better. Rewards are fair game. Toughen up. That is, mentally toughen up a little. In order to achieve the goal of wearing smaller jeans, step away from the refrigerator. A little hunger means it is working! Sometimes I think I just need something in my hands. A glass of water is a better choice than a high calorie beverage or a bowl of chips.
We can each make personal improvements in our eating and movement. We can share our successes and our failures to help each other. Most importantly, we can do it without the side dishes of guilt and fear.