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Figuring out post Big C fitness (and asking for help) - by Rebecca Walden

Rebecca C. Walden is a writer/speaker on breast cancer, faith, mental health, and parenting good humans

Rebecca C. Walden is a writer/speaker on breast cancer, faith, mental health, and parenting good

A journey of self-discovery

Well hello again, old “friend.”

For the first time in a bajillion days, I logged back into MyFitnessPal yesterday. If you can love and loathe an app at the same time, this one’s mine.

I lifted weights at home yesterday, just a short 30 minute session, but that didn’t burn enough for me to earn a nighttime snack I’ve come to love (and have a hard time saying “no” to) – hello, Pop Secret Homestyle popcorn and chocolate! Truly, the combo of savory and sweet cannot be beat.

I’m trying to reframe how I view the nutrition tracker – as a tool that helps me avoid overeating, which is scary easy to do, even if you subsist primarily on healthy stuff. Portion control always has been (and prolly always will be) my biggest nemesis.

Even without snacks and with measuring out my portions all day long (again, another tactic that helps even though I detest doing it), I was already over my caloric limit for the day before I’d even finished dinner.

I ended up saying to heck with it, and enjoyed every last kernel of deliciously salted popcorn (except for the ones I dispensed to the pups, because these two will stare you down and tap your leg incessantly for their fair share). Aaaaand I savored every last morsel of a single Ghirardelli 72% cacao square, instead of my usual KIND frozen bar.

Old habits and new beginnings

Before indulging, I had pre-tallied up the 5 weeks out projection of what I would weigh if every day were like today (by far the coolest feature of MFP) – and I could live with the forecast. In getting my snacky snack on, it’s true that I’d only be working towards dropping a pound or two, but I was cool with it because it meant a sliver of enjoyment when I eat, instead of feeling miserable, limited to three square meals and no treats. Emphatically no thank you!

So here I am again, trying to figure out my new normal baseline. My motivation isn’t all that different from before, when I lost 60 pounds the year I was turning 40. I’ve kept 30 pounds off since that time, and only went up one pant size after a grueling year of surgeries and chemotherapy. So I’m pretty darn proud all in all of how well I’ve maintained an eight-month effort to shed a significant amount of weight. But I’d sure be okay with dropping 15 pounds or so, and not being embarrassed to wear shorts or cute sleeveless tops.

Bottom line. Cancer (so far as I know) is squarely in the rearview mirror and I want to get back to feeling toned and trim and to enjoy the confidence that comes with knowing that I look as good as I feel. There is a bit of a reckoning that I’m working through though, and I don’t quite know what’s real and what’s an excuse.

It’s harder now. A lot harder. Is it that I’m six years older? Is it that there were major poisons pumped through my body to get rid of any remaining cancer cells, and has that taken an overall toll? Is it the estrogen-blocking effects of Tamoxifen, a daily pill I’ve got at least another three years to swallow? Is it perimenopause? Most importantly, do any of these questions even matter?

When I had my bone density test after finishing chemo, the results revealed osteopenia. Much as I love calcium in all its delicious dairy forms, I found that news shocking. No way are my bones weaker, right? Wrong. The good news is that weight-bearing exercise can reverse it. Do I need a better motivator than that? Nope.

I also get a lot more tired than I used to, and I don’t like that feeling. What’s not to love about having more energy and needing fewer naps?

And as has always been the case, I’m a way nicer person when I’ve exercised, whether on purpose or via hobby i.e. working in the garden, walking the neighborhood, or taking a leisurely-ish bike ride, plus a few inclines to make it worth the effort :). Not to speak for my people, but I think they would agree that things are more harmonious when I make time to move my body.

Reclaiming my health and confidence after cancer

We’ll see how it all goes. I’m going to (force myself to) stick with food diary logging, because seeing that data in black and white works for me. It helps me find the self control to walk away from the kitchen.

I’ll keep measuring portions, even though it creates more dirty dishes and makes the food look wholly unsatisfying on the plate, because what I think is 1/2 a cup turns out to actually be a lot more. Generally speaking, I’ll modify what I did before, but less hard core this time, because salad without dressing is sort of depressing.

As for activity, I’ll find the balance of listening to my body in terms of how much weight it can lift and how much pressure my knees can bear. I will be as disciplined as I can when I train. Also, I will give myself permission to stop when my stamina runs out.

Whatever my body does for me, I will be grateful. We’ve already been to hell and back.

Now for the ask (and people selling shortcuts of any kind need not apply). If you have experience creating a training program for cancer survivors, I’d love to talk with you. My body is 1000% different than it was before June 2020, but I’m not dead yet. I absolutely believe I can find a realistic workout regimen that honors my body’s limitations but that also challenges my muscles and builds strength in my bones.

Onward into survivorship!


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