Finish Your Food Math (Tips for Thyroid Cancer Weight Loss)

Is it possible to lose weight with thyroid cancer?

Okay, bear with me. This is a rather long confession and analysis of my relationship to food. I am hoping to create a shift in both exercise and eating plans so that I can reach THE ULTIMATE THYCA GOAL (dramatic pause).

If you've been playing along, you know that "the ultimate thyca goal" is to prove that significant weight loss, post-thyroidectomy, is possible. It is both a very personal issue and (if I have gleaned correctly from other thyca blogs) one that seems to plague most women with thyroid cancer.

If you aren't interested in personal details, just skip ahead to FOOD MATH.

I have put on between thirty and forty pounds since high school and am not at all happy with my current body. This isn't some media-driven scheme to meet an impossible standard. I don't really feel the need to be skinny, but I would like the clothes in my closet to still fit. I'm running out of things to wear because I refuse to go shopping and thereby tacitly accept my new size. I don't recognize myself in the mirror, or worse, in pictures.

I, like everyone else in the world, want to have a body I can be proud of and use. Not an andocentric, hypersexualized, woman-objectified body, but a healthy body. (I cannot emphasize this enough. I want NO part in perpetuating the shame campaign being imposed on women's bodies. I am an advocate of and active participant in the NOW Love Your Body Campaign and the Miss Representation Campaign.)

Last Thursday my closest friends and I sat on the front row of a Cirque du Soleil performance (we could see the stitching in the costumes) and we were flabbergasted, thunderstruck, dumbfounded, stupefied (don't they have the greatest words for awe??) by the sheer strength of the performers. Have you ever seen the "Human Statue?" They are pure muscle. At one point in the show, the woman held the man, twice her size and weight, at a perpendicular angle to her body using only her knees and one arm.

The next most impressive physical feat was an aerial contortionist who could swim through the air on a band of silk. Quite beautiful.

At the end of the show, all three of us were wishing we had taken better care of our bodies and could be a part of such a gorgeous celebration of the human body. While I am 99% sure that all the training in the world could not get us in that good of shape, the show made me aware of the limitations imposed by a food-driven life. No, I will never be able to hang upside down in a cocoon of silk (sigh), but there are so many other things I could do if I take back control from food. I could complete the 64 mile bike ride I signed up for in June, no fear of passing out around the 34 mile mark. I could run a marathon. I wouldn't have to worry about having enough energy to keep up with kids. Hiking uphill wouldn't leave me out of breath. I could wear a swimsuit in public again (okay, I'm not immune to the media).

Currently my exercise plan looks like this: I go bike riding 3-4 times a week, unless I'm lazy or it rains a lot. I average 30-45 miles. Obviously, I need to come up with some exercise alternatives for bad weather and muscle training. Sometimes I do indoor yoga, but I don't have a TV and squinting at my laptop while in bowing tree pose is really uncomfortable. I was in a bootcamp, but I quit after three sessions because it met at 7am and I got the distinct impression the instructor did not like me. That may sound petty, but personal training really is quite personal, and a good instructor makes all the difference. I would LOVE to join a gym but I need to be saving as much money as possible right now. I could try biking every day, but I know you are supposed to mix up your exercises for muscle confusion. If the bootcamp taught me anything it was that certain groups of muscles in my body are not the tiniest bit used during my rides.

My diet plan is like this: For breakfast I either have a large bowl of cheerios or a banana shake. I recently discovered that my ONE bowl of cereal is actually 2 cups!!! A serving is 3/4 of a cup or 1 at most! Oops. So I'll have to cut back on that. Having inherited a lot of Herbalife shake powder, I try to drink one shake a day, but it is usually more like four a week. The super healthy people in my family drink two shakes a day and so only eat one solid meal. (They have a lot more will power and shake powder than I.)

I cook 2-3 times a week, usually a chicken dish or ground turkey dish that I try to make last as long as possible. I put lots of peppers, onions, zuchinni, squash and tomatoes in them. These function as dinners and, if I'm lucky, lunches. (I like cooking but it is way time consuming.) If my cooking has run out, I will either eat another breakfast option (cereal or shake) or something like a tuna or turkey sandwich. (I have not eaten any sandwiches in a while because I gave up bread for lent.)

Then there are snacks, which I probably consume far too many of out of boredom. I work from home, which means my scenery shifts only from upstairs to downstairs. And the kitchen is oh-so-close. And watching instructional videos and constructing webpages all day makes me really antsy. So I get an apple. Then a banana. If there is any lactose-free cheese or cottage cheese in the house, it is gone within a week. If there is any chocolate it is gone within a day. (Chocolate and sweets are my kryptonite.) Anyway, probably too many.

When I go to the store, I am REALLY good. I only buy one or two "cheat" items depending on what you call "cheating." They are usually the same two things: a bottle of red wine and a Dove dark chocolate with almonds bar (I used to buy the bags, but they would disappear in two days). Basically I have very little will power when around sweets. So I don't buy them. I buy the above chocolate bar every 1-2 weeks. I try to make it last a week, but if it lasts 2 days, I'm doing good. So I'm doing pretty good as long as I stay away from parties or any offer of free sweets. Then I'm in trouble.

This is probably the thing I need to change the most. Another blogger put it as a "fear & shame relationship to food." Check. She quotes Geneen Roth: "Compulsive eating is a way we distance ourselves from the way things are when they are not how we want them to be." Check, check. I could blame my parents, my lineage, my cancer, etc., but the awful truth is I have developed my own unique and terribly unhealthy relationship to food. Stress-eating is not so much my thing as BOREDOM-eating, which never really occurred to me until I saw THIS posted on Pinterest:

Seriously! Try the carrot test. Are you willing to eat a carrot? If not, you are not really hungry! So simple. This has made we walk away from the fridge many times.

The one way that really seems to help people take control of their relationship to food is to do FOOD MATH (yes I finally got there). My husband is always saying (rather snarkily) that dieting is as easy as calories consumed and calories burned. But when you need to burn 3500 calories to lose ONE pound and all the calories you don't burn turn to fat, it feels anything BUT easy. This is why it takes time to lose weight. I FINALLY get why quick-fix crazy diets DO NOT WORK. It is simply mathematically IMPOSSIBLE to lose more than 2 pounds a week and stay healthy.

I am no mathemetician, but I found these formulas fairly simple. Hopefully, you can follow along with me:


FOR WOMEN: The formula is 655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)

FOR MEN: The formula is 66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)

Make sure you use your PEMDAS (calculate the parentheses first before adding and subtracting.)


FOR SEDENTARY FOLK (couch potato): BMR x 20% (x .2)
FOR LIGHT ACTIVITY (exercise once or twice a week): BMR x 30%
FOR MODERATE ACTIVITY (exercise most days a week): BMR x 40%
FOR THE VERY ACTIVE (exercise intensely & daily): BMR x 50%
FOR THE SUPER-DUPER ACTIVE: Why are you reading this? Shouldn't you be working out right now? I'm guessing you can consume a million calories a day. But if you really want to calculate it, go for 60%

3) ADD THE ACTIVITY NUMBER TO YOUR BMR NUMBER. This is the number of calories you can consume and maintain your current weight. Consume more and you gain. Consume less and you lose. Easy! (Math-wise).

4) CALCULATE ONE POUND A WEEK WEIGHT LOSS: Multiply your maintenance number by 7 (days in a week). Subtract 3500. Divide by 7. For me this is about 1500 calories, but since my personal trainer of a year ago told me 1400, I'll stick to that.

5) CALCULATE 2 POUNDS A WEEK WEIGHT LOSS: Multiply by 7, subtract 7000, divide by 7. For me this is 1000 calories. I find it extremely difficult to eat only 1000 calories in a day. My banana shakes have 245 calories in them and that is just protein powder, water and a banana (which have a shocking 120 calories!). Can you now see how ridiculous it would be to try and lose even 3 or 4 pounds a week? You would have to work your but off or eat nothing but carrots for a day (which would completely mess up your metabolism anyway).

I calculated this for both my husband and myself and discovered that my husband gets to consume 700 MORE calories daily than I whether maintaining or losing weight. Disgusting. This is why we get so mad at you for eating potato chips in front of us men! Ugh.

Honestly, I am not sure how our missing thyroids factor in to these calculations. When I FINALLY see my doctor next month, I will be sure to ask. I will also try to research it. But it feels good just trying this.

So, I am now a food math advocate. I am on Spark People, a great FREE online community with all sorts of health tips and blogs and calculators. I use their calculator to figure out how many calories are in the food I consume and then plug those results in my own Excel spreadsheet, so I can keep track of long term results.

The strangest thing is, this math really is kind of fun. When you behave, all those lost calories feel like bonus points! And if you join SparkPeople, they actually give you points for working out and eating well.

I give you 50 points just for reading this blog. If you read it all the way through without skipping, you get 100 points! Happy calculating.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:39 PM

    You really have a way of words. Great style of delivering the information and I could relate to it. Such a great information for me. Thanks for this. Damiana