Grief, Relief, and Ice Cream

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The first time my husband (boyfriend at the time) was diagnosed with cancer, I gained 25 pounds.

Just let that sink in for a second, because you better believe that was a shock to me.

That means, in the year period between diagnoses and treatment I nearly put on another fifth of me. For a girl who is only 5’4, that shows up quickly and everywhere.

I had a lot of excuses for it, and I told them to myself every chance I could:

“Well, he needs to put on weight, so I guess we both have to eat these calorie-filled meals every night.”

“Hospital salad sucks. I’ll have the pizza.”

“I’m too emotionally drained to workout.”

“I’ll feel better if I eat this whole tub of ice cream.”

But ultimately, what was happening in that year that I was avidly avoiding a scale: I was believing the lie that every chick flick and Gilmore Girls episode in the history of forever was telling me…

You’re sad, you deserve this.

You deserve this pizza.

You deserve this tub of Nutella.

You deserve this ice cream.

And you deserve to indulge on it all until you feel better.

You deserve everything that you’ve ever craved but told yourself not to go crazy with because it was unhealthy. You deserve it because you are sad, and it is going to make you feel better.

But the truth is, my body did not deserve that. In this time my body and my mind needed more from me. They both needed nutrition and diligent care. They needed their needs met, but because I felt sad, because I felt such little control over everything around me, I mistreated the one thing I had control of during this hard time, my own health.

I’m a stress eater. I would love to be one of those people who go on ten-mile runs to relieve themselves of anxiety. I would love to be one of those people who can’t possibly eat on an anxious belly, but for whatever reason, that is simply not who I am.

Under extreme pressure, I crave. I crave greasy burgers from McDonald’s. I crave entire cakes in bed. I crave pizza, BBQ, fried EVERYTHING. I crave the things that I constantly deny myself, and in these moments of weakness, I grant myself these indulgences because I grew up in a culture of media that told me this is what I need, this is what will make me feel better.

But at the end of the day, it is nothing more than an addiction.

That’s what no one tells you. This is an addiction, and it’s bad. It’s bad for your body, it’s bad for your wallet, and it’s bad for your mind. If it really occurred in isolated cases the way it does on tv, if you really only had one night of grieving, one tub of ice cream, the effects probably wouldn’t result in 25 pounds of shame, however, despite Rory Gilmore’s glamourous example, grieving doesn’t happen overnight.

Grieving, and hard times, they are not isolated cases. You will feel horrible for days, weeks, months, seasons, and a whole season of ice cream, halo top or Ben and Jerrys, will always make you feel so much worse in long run than the instant gratification it may grant you.

During our prior battle with this disease, I was incredibly unhealthy both physically and mentally, to the point that it took months of counseling to find myself again.  I lived for my next meal, my once active body could barely run a mile, and my prescription for anti-depressants seemed to increase every time I said, “I feel sad,” (a whole new bucket of bad for another blog).

The fact is, the laziness, the food, the indulgences that I thought were necessary to cope, were all the worst things I could possibly be doing to myself at the time. Every case is different, but as someone who has been off the anti-depressants for over a year now,  I can tell you that in my case I wasn’t in need of a man-made chemical, I was in need of all of the organic chemicals inside of my very own body that I refused to utilize.

As I said, every case is different, and some people may truly need help from more than just a run and a salad, that’s a conversation for you and your doctor, but what I’m trying to say is, stop listening to the Hollywood lie that your answers are found at the bottom of an ice cream container. That doesn’t work for your body, and that doesn’t even pair very well with whatever drugs you have earnestly been prescribed.

Grief is a hard thing, and it takes huge toll on the body. It tells you that you don’t have the energy to go to the gym, you are not in the mood for a healthy meal. However, it takes fighting against this villain to truly see through it. It takes exerting a little bit of energy to release the endorphins you need to have energy. It takes redirecting your cravings for the cake to understand what your body actually needs, and is actually craving. It takes finding ways to either work with your anti-depressants or to get off them entirely, in order to understand the zombie-like effect they can be if not paired with a healthy lifestyle.

While the ice cream tubs and the fried Asian cuisine eaten in front of a chick flick with chopsticks may make you feel better in the moment, it won’t stop at that moment. You will wake up the next day, feel just as sad, and indulge in the same fried drugs. And you know what certainly is not great for someone who is already battling depression?

Looking at a mirror and seeing a new, unwanted, 25 pounds.

Life is not a movie. You won’t get over the breakup in one night of ice cream. You won’t stop grieving after one whole pizza. If you are hurting, if you are in a hard season, you HAVE to look at it as just that, a whole season. A whole season of abusing yourself, a whole season of eating things that you didn’t use to touch with a ten-foot pole.

Ice cream doesn’t cure cancer, it didn’t fix my problems, and it it will never repair a broken heart no matter what Hollywood may tell you.

You need to love yourself through these seasons, and you need to nurture yourself through these seasons. You can treat yourself, but don’t abuse yourself. Don’t lose yourself in grief. Don’t lose yourself in the relief. And don’t lose yourself the in ice cream.

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