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Skinny-Jeans Svelte Secrets!

I’ll admit it: before I developed cancer, I was always concerned with trying to lose a few pounds. Always. I once read that Dolly Parton said she could “go into a restaurant skinny and come out fat.” That was me—just one meal away from Tubsville, with a waistline that could expand faster than a bag of Orville Redenbacher in a whirring microwave.

Oh, I never really had a period in my life where I was anywhere near what a doctor would label “hefty.” But does a doctor’s opinion really hold any weight (pardon the pun) when it comes to looking good in a pair of skinny-jeans? I ask this because, from my experience, it seems to me that doctors actually prefer that we tip the scales at about five to ten pounds heavier than “sexy.” You know what I’m talking about; those annoying extra pounds that constantly tempt us to ask our mates, “Do I look fat in this?” which usually elicits the ever-dreaded “No, honey. You look fine.” Translation – “Gad, your butt is enormous,” because anything less than the equivalent of “hot dang, woman!” makes us feel downright frumpy. Am I right?

So in my ongoing quest for svelte, I often chose foods that valued “thin” over “healthy.” Diet Dr. Pepper? Bring it on! That third cup of coffee? Let’s see – lots of energy for only a few calories... pour away! A fat-reduced frozen entrée for lunch? It’s got little clumps of broccoli underneath the orangey-looking cheese on the cover-photo. Go for it!

It naturally follows, then, that when I was diagnosed with cancer, the thought occurred to me—and I’m really revealing my “shallow factor” here—that at least I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to lose those “freshman ten” anymore (which, over time, had morphed into the menopause ten, but the first one sounds so much zippier, don’t you think?), because women with cancer were thin, right? At least, they were in the movies.

So just imagine my shock when I asked my oncology nurse how much weight the average chemo-patient loses, and she murmured, “Oh, I’d say it’s a ten to twenty pound change. But it’s normally a weight gain. Not a loss.”

What? A gain? But what about all those Lifetime stories where the heroine might be bald and whose dark circles would rival the black anti-reflective patches worn by any Dallas Cowboy on game-day, but hey—her silhouette looked runway-ready! What about her?

Oh, now, don’t judge me here, as I was only hoping to find a silver lining in the rapidly approaching chemo-clouds. But instead, what I got was an extra-harsh jolt of turbulence. Now I could look forward to both cancer and to packing-on the pounds.  This was really beginning to suck eggs. (But only the whites, please.)

And all to soon, I found that she was right. With the vast amount of chemicals causing radical changes to my body, along with growing fatigue, emotional stress and the fact that my taste buds were so skewed they only found foods either terribly sweet or carb-laden to be acceptable, it was indeed, a challenge to maintain my normal weight during my four months of chemo.

But surprisingly enough, as I emerged from that turbulence, battered and bruised, I found myself looking at what soon proved to be the silverest of linings; a subtle change in my attitude, in that I now valued “health” over “thin.” It sounds like a small change, doesn’t it? But what a surprise for me, when I realized that this little “adjustment” has freed me, completely, from ever worrying about my weight again.

And it feels so good, so energizing to live this way that I want to share the diet-styles I’ve learned along my journey through anti-cancer-land with you. You don’t have to have gone through a health-challenge to enjoy them. You only have to own a body and have the desire to feel your best!

So we’re going to start out with something that I begin my day with every morning – nut milk. It’s a simple, easy change that carries a powerful punch, as it replaces your more-than-questionable dairy with something that’s actually really, really good for you!

FUN FACT: Do you know that over 40 million Americans are lactose intolerant? And even for those who aren’t, they’re very likely drinking milk laden with hormones and other nasty stuff!

Now, before we go any farther, let me just say that I used to think that people who made their own nut-milk were totally hard-core in their health regimen. I mean, really. Who has time for that? Answer? You do! A: Because it only takes about 5 minutes, and B: Because it’s a huge step in the right direction when it comes to your overall health!

“Oh, nut-milk is such old news!” some of you might be thinking, since you’re already drinking store-bought brands of soy, almond, rice, hemp or a variety of other kinds of alternative milks. I was drinking them, too, for a while and I thought I was being soooooo healthy doing this. But then I found out that there are sugars, preservatives and all sorts of creepy additives that they put into those products. Rule of thumb: If it’s on a shelf in a box or a carton, it’s probably not the best thing for your body, okay?

But when you make your own nut milk—which can keep for up to five days—you’re getting all of the good and none of the bad. And it’s absolutely delicious! Plus it’s white, just like Mom used to serve!

I like to make mine with walnuts—best bought in bulk, as they are much cheaper that way—which are an amazing brain-booster as well as an anti-aging food because of all the Omega-3’s. Check it out on Google. And if you’re concerned that walnut milk might taste a bit bitter, like the whole walnuts sometimes taste, no worries; for some mystical reason, there’s no bitter taste. It’s truly delectable. Go figure. And speaking of figure, I drink about a cup per day of this stuff, and I haven’t ever found it to make me feel the least bit “fluffy!”

So here’s all you have to do:

1. Take out one cup of walnuts

2. Rinse and then combine with three cups of filtered water in the carafe of a blender and blend for at least two minutes. It makes it really creamy!

3. Pour through a strainer, which you can purchase online for $7.50 at  http://www.vt-fiddle.com/rawfood/nut_milk_bags_sprouting_bags.php, or even through a mesh coffee filter. I find the strainer is the best way to go, however, as it's easy and lasts practically forever. Besides, you need a bag that you can really get your hands on to squeeze the milk out...and I find that a bit challenging to do without breaking up the coffee filter! After squeezing for a couple of minutes, you'll have a whole bowlfull of delicious milk!

You can also make it with almonds, but you don’t get near the nutrition because so many of the raw almonds in the states are now pasteurized. Cashews are another choice, but they are quite fattening…so just keep that in mind when you’re spooning it over your oatmeal or into your morning beverage. (BTW, cashews are the only item on my menu these days that I even have to give a second thought to, calorie-wise.)

You can add a little stevia or agave, a dash of salt (Himalayan Sea Salt is best), and perhaps some almond or vanilla extract if you like, then pour it into a Mason jar and you’re ready to go!  I promise you that once you’ve done this a couple of times, you won’t think twice about making it, it’s so easy and great-tasting.

So go get some walnuts, order a bag or two and go for it! You'll soon find yourself wondering why you didn't start this wonderfully healthy habit years ago!

A simple change – for simply marvelous results!






























































Go for the Grow

You could say that life, as I knew it, was changed forever on that snowy afternoon back in February 2009. “I’m afraid the biopsy came back positive. You have ductal invasive breast cancer,” my oncologist told me. My husband and I sat stunned and wide-eyed while my friend Janie took copious notes for the next half hour. I don’t remember anything else he said, but I do remember my acute awareness of the nubby fabric on the couch-cushion that I kept clenching and unclenching the entire time he talked.

Shouldn’t I be seated on an uncomfortable straight back chair for this? I wondered. A plush, earth-toned lounging sofa just seemed all wrong.

Right before we left, a hospital chaplain came in, introduced herself and handed me a large notebook filled with “dealing with cancer” type information.

“Thanks. I’ll take that,” Janie intercepted.

A chaplain? I’m now in the queue of patients that get a chaplain? Wait - I’m supposed to be in the group that gets the yellow slip of paper, goes to the check-out desk and pays up while the cashier gives me the listless suggestion that we go ahead and get next year’s check up booked on the calendar!

Nope. Days now were filled with an endless stream of social and medical phone calls, bottomless research and question asking, followed by testing and more testing, which led to other questions; and all with a looming deadline in which a big pile of important decisions had to be made.

“Being diagnosed with breast cancer is like suddenly finding yourself a member of a club you never wanted to join,” one girlfriend commiserated.

She was right. The vote was in and I was initiated, like it or not. Ironically, I had never thought of myself as a very good club member, as anything with mandatory meeting schedules or lots of rules makes me fidgety. Now here I was – honorary inductee of The Sisterhood of the Tumorous Breasts. The Junior Beleaguered.  Alpha Gamma Mammogramma-gone-all-wrong.

Another friend, known in our circle as one who believes that within every bad scenario lie the dormant seeds of possible good, gave me an early on phone call-to-action. “This is horrible. A real bummer. You don’t deserve this. Nobody does.” She paused, and I could hear her next thought forming as she drew in a long breath. “So… what are you gonna do to make it one of the most positive things that’s ever happened to you? It’s your choice, you know.”

Shut up, Judith, a small voice within me snapped. But another voice, one that I had yet to become intimately acquainted, whispered, Listen to her, Lou. She could be right.

From that point on, I began paying attention to what the experience might have to teach me. Along with that, I took a creative view and kept a photo journal – eventually figuring out a bunch of different ways to wrap my bald head. In all honesty, working with the wraps was quite enjoyable, gave me a nice diversion and provided a great alternative to scarves or wigs – but it was the thought that I might be putting something together that would someday be of help to other women that really lifted my spirits during those days. This is my something positive, I thought.

And with this in mind, I rode through the ups and downs of those months; the adagios and allegros played out over a bass-line drone of “when will this finally be over?”

Then, like a child approaching the slowing finish of a rollercoaster ride – eyes clenched shut and mouth still agape from that last final drop – the scheduled treatment was completed. No more chemo. No more breasts. No more cancer.

At least, for today.

The sigh of relief had barely escaped my lips when, looking for someone to come and disengage my metal cancer-ride seatbelt bar, the car suddenly lurched forward and I found myself building speed once again. And at that instant it became very clear to me that no more doesn’t mean the same as over. At least, it certainly wasn’t that way for me.

I found that once you reach the point of “graduating” whatever course of treatment you’ve chosen, you come huffing and puffing up to the crest of that mighty hill only to find yourself standing at a three-pronged cross-roads:

You can turn LEFT – Give a thankful exhale that it’s now behind you and rely on hope, prayers and the occasional side dish of steamed kale to try and prevent it from ever returning. Or…

You can continue STRAIGHT AHEAD – Shut the entire thing away and lock the door tight; thinking that if you don’t let the word “cancer” back into your consciousness (aside from a yearly exam), it’ll have to stay away forever from sheer will. Or…

Or you can turn RIGHT, eyes wide open – and, with an attitude of affirming life and health, summon the courage to take a deep look into what might have possibly been some contributing factors to your developing cancer in the first place, explore how to make a few changes, and then grab on and go for the grow

I want to be very clear here that by that last statement, I’m not implying that cancer is always something that we bring upon ourselves. No. No. No. And though it is a sign of an imbalance somewhere, the fact still remains that nobody knows for sure why they developed their cancer (that’s one of the disease’s biggest annoyances and horrors), given the cocktail of a person’s particular biological makeup; combined with all the negative environmental bugaboos floating around today; plus what mom ate for lunch one particular Thursday while she was pregnant with us and goodness knows what else thrown into the mix. It’s like one of those test questions we all had in school where it could be A,B,C,D,E, all of the above, none of the above, or a combination of the above – to the 100th power.

I also want to be honest about one of the biggest elephants in the cancer-room, which is: for some reason in this world, there are those people out there who can apparently chow down on whatever junk-laden nutrient-vapid food/drink/smoke they please, and/or wreck havoc in everyone’s life surrounding them as well as their own, and still live to a ripe old age while all the while seeming to have a constant rainbow over their heads and the scent of roses wafting from their pores.

What's up with that? (Okay, so I sound a little miffed here, but c'mon...I'll bet that you wonder about it too, when you see that happen.)

Then there are those who, from whatever lifestyle they come, will go through cancer, change nothing, and still live long and prosper. That’s their deal, and I respect their right to make that choice and I cheer the fact that they get to enjoy many more years of health. I wish long life for everyone, always.

Finally, there are those who will work hard to do everything they can to set the longevity-odds in their favor, and yet the disease returns.

Life is not fair; at least, not from our earth-bound vantage point. Everybody knows that.

Have you ever heard that poem by Mother Teresa that’s a list of positive actions that may not get the result you hoped for, but suggests that you do those things, anyway? A few lines from it are:

The good you do today will often be forgotten; do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough; give your best, anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight; create anyway.

 …and it continues. If I could add a post-script to that poem, it would be:

You could observe yourself daily, searching for ways to improve in body, mind and spirit – commit to those improvements consistently, and yet still die tomorrow; choose to create your best self, anyway.

Back in 2009, I thought the “something positive” to come out of my own cancer journey was the Head Wrap Book and a few healthy personal lifestyle shifts. But now, 3 years later, I understand that those factors were only the beginning of the inherent gold waiting to be mined from this experience. And that, dear reader, is what I’d like to share with you in the entries I make here. I don’t even want to call it a blog. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not one to embrace rigid schedules, and blogs are usually supposed to be a scheduled kind of thing; or at least that’s what I’ve observed. So think of this as my Not-a-Blog. It’s simply a place where I’m still adding a few more thoughts, a few more ideas, to my book. Who knows? You might find some new things to wrap your head around!

I’ll talk about things like:

  • How to make some super-healthy diet choices that are both delicious and easy
  • Thoughts on the big-time importance of reigning in your thinking (before you’re bucked off your mental bronco and find yourself lying smack-dab in a pile of horse manure)
  • Ways to get a handle on a few of those negative emotions that, up until today, have had a handle on you
  • Various tips I’ve come across that don’t really fit into any special category, but that just make you feel better about being human – even with all of it’s challenges

Please keep in mind that I’m not trying to be anything near an expert on any of these topics, because I’m not. But I am someone who loves to learn – and it just seems that I’m coming upon more and more incredible experiences as well as people to learn from these days.

So that's it! Thanks for reading; there’s more to come.

Here’s to the choice of turning right

Lou Gideon