How Jeremy Regained Control of His Weight After Cancer*
Jeremy Penner is the husband of Jessica Penner, Registered Dietitian and our guest blogger for the month of the July. After battling cancer and gaining extra weight because of chemotherapy, Jeremy found himself having to change his habits for the first time in his life and, even with a dietitian as a wife, had trouble getting started. Below, he tells you in his own words what got him out of his rut and on the path to success!
When I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 27, it came as a revelation. It explained why I’d been losing weight for months: a tumour had decided to eat some of my extra calories.
To me, weight loss and weight gain always seemed like something out of my control–it just happened, or at best, was related to my circumstances. In my teens, my metabolism allowed me to scarf down ice cream every night without gaining weight. As I got older, genetics seemed to catch up with me as I started seeing my dad’s belly on my body. When I had a physical job, I lost weight; when I had a desk job, I gained it.
When cancer struck, the surgery resulted in more weight loss. As I recovered, I backpacked Europe and lost even more. I felt like I was in the best shape of my life.
Then came chemotherapy, and I gained all that weight back.
Chemo was the most legitimate excuse for overeating I’d ever had. The chemicals made me feel constantly nauseated unless I had something in my stomach, so I would snack incessantly. But long after chemo finished, I continued to gain weight. I had developed bad snacking habits combined with a crazy sweet tooth. I had constant cravings for something sweet, which I usually solved with chocolate. It didn’t matter if it was premium Belgian chocolate or cheap waxy Easter eggs, I had to have it. If I had chocolate in my office, I would eat so much that I had no room for lunch. During the five years after my cancer was discovered, I had gained 50 pounds. I was technically obese.
I often complained to my dietitian wife (Jessica Penner of Smart Nutrition) about my weight, but I resisted the tips she’d give me. I didn’t like it when she mixed plain yogurt in with the sweetened yogurt, when she suggested I eat eggs for breakfast instead of Raisin Bran, or when she inquired about possible emotional reasons for my constant snacking. I guess I was just hoping for some other outside circumstance to come along and effortlessly shed my pounds for me. But with no physical job or travel on the horizon, and cancer (fortunately) behind me, that wasn’t likely to happen.
Finally, one thing resonated with me and set me on a path to success. My wife recommended that I give myself permission to give in to my cravings, but to first try something else, like a glass of water and a stick of gum.
At around that time we got our first package of MealEnders. I immediately gravitated toward the Chocolate Mint flavour. The coating was a perfect hit for my chocolate cravings, but instead of just satisfying me for a minute (after which I’d usually go back for more chocolate), the tingling hard candy underneath helped to keep my mouth busy for a much longer time. MealEnders became one of my go-to fixes for my sweets cravings, whether it was after a meal or just at a slow point in my afternoon.*
Then, one day, I realized that it was happening. At the doctor’s office, the weigh-in told me that instead of gaining 10 pounds since my last appointment, I had lost 10 pounds.* During this time, I had been listening to a lot more of my wife’s suggestions too, and things started really coming together.
A couple of months later I weighed myself again. I was down another 10 pounds.
The successes were building which encouraged me to make other life changes as well. I decided that just getting skinnier wasn’t a great look for me, so I started working out too. I’ve now lost almost all of the 50 pounds I gained after I started chemotherapy.*
I remember waking up one morning with my hand on my belly, noticing how small it felt. I remember that morning specifically, because it was the first morning I visualized myself as an elderly man and realized he would not be overweight.
I had made a few small (but significant) changes in my habits that made this realization possible. It didn’t feel like I’d won a huge battle through willpower, it felt more like I’d hit the lottery. It felt like I had a whole new future in front of me.
MealEnders helped get me to this new place by giving me some initial success at changing my eating habits, when all I’d experienced up until then was failure after failure.
Back in the days when I would eat chocolate all day long, I thought that I needed a huge life overhaul. I would never have believed that in the long run I would reach this weight loss goal, because at the time I had just resigned myself to being overweight. It was only when I started achieving small successes that it became a legitimate possibility to me.
My encouragement to you is to stop worrying about your long-term goals, and start making small successes, today.