The Weight of the Weight
“Body fat acts like a sandbag against the flow of lymphatic fluids.”
As I began to understand lymphedema I was hit over the head with the need to lose weight. Not again! I was a lifetime dieter and had significant eating problems. I was, by the charts, on the low end of obesity. FYI that obese label means I was 40+ pounds heavier than normal by the charts – 39 pounds and I would have simply been overweight. Isn’t that a hoot?
I couldn’t do much about other lymphedema factors. I needed the surgery and I had radiation for the same reason – to fight the cancer. But there were the blood pressure issues, and the extra weight. I had some degree of control over those.
My first avenue of research was about controlling my blood pressure. Life wasn’t going to allow me this detour to wellness. Blood pressure control, I soon discovered, would only be possible if I lost weight. Damn and double damn.
The weight had to go. There was an immediacy involved in this fact as well. Fluids that gather will also scar the area involved. If I didn’t lose weight, the steady insidious damage would impact me the rest of my life. I had to prevent further damage; I was already overburdened. I couldn’t imagine how much guilt I would feel, if I didn’t act now.
I reviewed by dieting history. Those of us who have lost weight know all sorts of tricks that work but don’t work for long.
A realistic review of my weight control efforts showed that I knew nothing. However, I knew people who have never had a weight problem, nor will they. They eat normally. That’s what I wanted. All I had to do was figure out what normal was, and aim for that. So I interviewed a non-dieting, naturally slim aka ‘normal’ person and she gave me a key piece of advice.
Start with the vegetables when planning a meal. Good idea. A meal with vegetable dishes would be lighter than one with meat/starch combos. My vegetables were ‘boring’ so my vegetable adventures began there. I told myself that I needed a new hobby anyway, as I borrowed cookbooks and subscribed to healthy food and lifestyle magazines.
I had a clear vision of what I wanted. Anything with rich sauces, or drenched in cheese could be passed over because of the higher calorie inherent in those ingredients. On the other hand, I would entertain flavors and lighter embellishments as worth it since the dish would then be satisfying. That assessment felt balanced. I didn’t know a single naturally slender person who actually counted calories. They enjoyed their food. I could too. This was about vegetables after all.
I began to find vegetable recipes of all sorts. My next cull concerned the preparation. I had to consider if my arm would be stressed. I also stocked my kitchen with devices that I could use left handed.
(I used to say that I couldn’t sweep the floor and chop vegetables on the same day as a way of explaining my limitations, when in fact many days, I couldn’t chop more than one vegetable per meal.)
I had fun with the cookbooks and my vegetable adventure. I found my flavorful vegetables eased my appetite for the extra large portions of meat that I was used to. The other big menu change at the time was the inclusion of fruit as dessert. I finally was living up to the food guides, and it made a big difference.
But I wasn’t on the edge of obesity because of what was on my plate during meals. I had disordered eating habits as well. They were a different story, but I was encouraged by my success in making meals healthier.
I congratulated myself on this, and took it as encouragement that other bad habits could topple and fall. Self-praise for any movement at all towards a healthier lifestyle became one of my strongest tools.