Monthly Archives: June 2016

It was (nine) years ago today….

I look forward to singing along with the Beatles eleven years from now… “It was twenty years ago today….” but today marks nine years since I was biopsied, diagnosed, treated, and cured of an adult bone cancer called chondrosarcoma all on the same day: June 7, 2007. The cancer was in my left knee, right at the end of the femur, and it was about the size of my fist. The reason I was having all those things done, of course, was that it was a pretty good bet, based on the MRI, that I had chondrosarcoma, but until the biopsy was done, no one was positive. I had a biopsy, followed by cleaning out the tumor, followed by a bone graft and a mending plate. The mending plate was removed in January of 2009.

The surgery went well but I was humiliated by hearing the nurses announce my weight as they transferred me to and from the bed after the surgery. It was for their safety, of course, since I couldn’t assist in lifting myself, but it took four of them to safely move me.

And of course, I had knee surgery. After the surgery, every step I took hurt. Every single step. I limped. I used a cane. I was gently informed, by several different orthopedists, that every step puts four times your weight on your knee joint.

The experience changed my outlook on my health. Before the surgery, I thought of myself as “fat but fit”. I had a lot of stamina, I could walk for hours and hours. After… not so much. It took four years of off-and-on-and-off-and-on physical therapy to walk without a limp. I found a nutritionist who told me my diet was good, but I still wasn’t losing weight, which was a problem, because my knees–both of them now–hurt all the time. I figured out for myself that, if my diet was supposedly right, and I still wasn’t losing, perhaps my metabolism was just more efficient than most peoples’ metabolisms. Okay, I needed to move more, eat less, eat more carefully. I learned to eat more carefully, and figured out what works for me. Not what works for “most people”–what works for me.

Fear of fat….

Back in the 1980’s, which is thirty years ago now, when I was trying to lose the weight I’d gained during two pregnancies, I went to Weight Watchers, which was a very different beast than it is now. Less commercialism, no food in boxes and crunchy plastic, but huge meetings full of medium-plump women and a thin leader. We had sheets of paper with check boxes to assure that we ate just so many servings and no more. Three teaspoons of “salad oil” a day was all we were allowed.

It was embedded in the culture then. Fat was evil and made you fat. Oils were fats and to be avoided. 1200 calories a day (about) and not more. You could eat lots of vegetables and I did that, but I was hungry all the time. Just plan hungry. I took off most of the weight, but I didn’t get to the goal they wanted me to, quit going, and didn’t go back until about 2008 (more on that later). I gained weight slowly over the years, eating what was supposed to be a healthy diet: lean meats, fruits, veggies, breads, etc. Just avoid fats, right?

Well, sadly, it turns out that was terrible advice, and we–as a culture and as individuals–are just waking up to that. It turns out, when you do real research, that–as just one example–people who eat full-fat milk products weigh less than people who eat the same amount of non-fat milk products. Here’s an article for you. People who eat more nuts often lose weight spontaneously, as mentioned in passing in this article.

I signed up for a nutrition program for athletes during April (described here), and among other things, the advice came down: eat more nuts and avocados and whole milk yogurt, more green vegetables, and watch out for added sugars. I was worried about the fat in the nuts and the avocados and the yogurt… as anyone who lived through the “fear of fat” stage of bad dietary advice is. But I’m not hungry, and I’m slowly losing weight (very slowly), and I feel amazingly good.