A few weeks ago, an overweight gentlemen came up to me while I was picking vegetables at the farmer’s market and asked, “How do you stay so thin?”

I shrugged and kept feeling up tomatoes.

“You must exercise a lot.”

I wanted to say, actually, I haven’t really been exercising that much, aside from walking a lot (I moved neighborhoods and now I can walk to Trader Joe’s!!), since I sprained my ankle. I wanted to say, I’m thin because I have cancer. I’m not sure if that is true, but I feel like having cancer has something to do with why I weigh less now than I weighed before I was diagnosed (though I’ve always been “thin”). I lost a lot of weight when I felt nauseated all the time and didn’t eat much, and I lost a lot after my surgery (they wouldn’t let me eat for a week). I gained a lot of it back but then recently lost most of it again.

Since then, my family has told me I look emaciated. I have bought new pants. My doctor looks at my weights over the last few months, shrugs, and says I just need to eat more calories. I’m not really satisfied with that answer. Can’t we just blame it on the cancer? And still I have dropped a few more pounds, despite eating lots of vegan, good calories the past few weeks in the form of coconut and soy ice cream and nut butters and nuts and good oils and olives and avocados.

I don’t believe this new weight loss is my fault or my diet’s fault. I have been vegan for nine months, and I only really started losing weight three months ago, around the time I started my new treatment and my tumors may or may not have started growing again. It’s summer (well, it’s not summer anymore, but it’s still hot) and I don’t feel like eating as much or turning on the oven. I think my chemo is depressing my appetite. Maybe my tumors are making my stomach smaller again. I don’t know why I weigh less than I used to, but it’s not my fault dammit.

I can’t help but feel I am powerless to make my body gain weight. After my surgery, the last time I lost a lot of weight, I drank Ensure and ate as much as I could (which, granted, wasn’t a lot) and never skipped desert. I didn’t start gaining weight again until six months after my surgery, after I had given up hope that I would ever gain the weight back again. Maybe this sounds weird, but I half believe that my body weighs what it wants to weigh at any given time and nothing I do can change it.

None of these things are really valid, though, because whosever fault it is that I weigh too little (mine or my cancer’s), I’m the only one that can take measures to try to change things. The doctor gave me the calorie and good fat lecture (again). My mom and sister pleaded with me to go back to being vegetarian for a month to see if that helps. I agreed since the good fats I was trying to eat a lot of weren’t really doing the trick. And my cancer may or may not be growing, so my vegan diet isn’t working any wonders. Not that I thought it would. I still like it, but I do miss some aspects of being just plain vegetarian.

So maybe the cheeses that I start sprinkling on everything will do the trick. According to my littlest sister, who is studying abroad in Italy right now, “…in Italy I eat cheese with all my meals (unless its breakfast, when I eat nutella and bread.) While I know that you
don’t have access to the amazing Italian cheeses I do, you can hunt around and find really yummy cheeses (i bet they exist, you just
won’t get them in the regular supermarkets!) I know its a bit different for me because I eat pasta every day, but I think you’ll find you can add Parmesan to every food (except Asian creations!) So for starters I recommend buying a nice block of Parmesan and seeing where that gets you!” Hopefully she doesn’t gain all the weight i’m trying to gain. She says she walks a lot.

I’m not sure if this will help. Nine months as a vegan has definitely made a dent in my dairy cravings. I don’t really want to eat it anymore. Maybe I miss a little parmesan on my pasta (thank you, sister). Maybe a little cream cheese on my bagel. Maybe some greek yogurt, ice cream, and cottage cheese. Goat cheese and mozzarella. I can’t say I’m going to run out and change a lot. I’m not going to switch my almond milk for regular milk because I like almond milk better. I’m not going to order a pizza. When I was thinking of what I wanted to make for dinner tonight, all I could come up with was vegan alfredo sauce (So good it’s a non-vegan crowd pleaser too. My parents loved it. My littlest sister for some reason didn’t. Maybe because it didn’t have amazing Italian cheeses in it.). And I still don’t really want to eat meat.

Maybe you can tell I am not feeling very motivated. I feel a little silly for writing a post about gaining weight. A lot of people probably wish they had my problem. For that matter, a lot of people wish they had the money and the access to good food like I do. I have never been short on appetite nor had problems with eating… but it just seems like such an enormous and unrewarding task to gain 10 pounds. Without thinking about it, I nearly always go for the pickles (which have, basically, negative calories) over the potato chips. But i’m going to go out and buy a cheese grater today and some cheese (probably not going to hunt around the whole city for the really good stuff…sorry sister) and try. And maybe my body will get the memo that i’m trying and decide to start gaining weight anyway.

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6 Responses to weight

  1. Saso says:

    No matter what the topic is, always a pleasure to read, Lindsey.

  2. Matt says:

    I’ve got 30 extra pounds that I really don’t need.

    What do you have to trade?

  3. Michael says:

    Hi Lindsey,

    Thanks for posting, I always enjoy reading your posts.

    I COMPLETELY understand how frustrating it is about gaining weight – I’m healthy but I am extremely thin…I’m a nearly 6 foot tall male and I weigh around 124 pounds. Whatever I do (and I’ve done most of what you mentioned in your post), I just can’t seem to gain weight.

    I’ve tried the Ensures and eating more and nothing seemed to work. It’s so frustrating when someone shoves food in my face and tells me to “eat more” when I’m not hungry. I also have a pretty healthy appetite and eat more than the normal person but I just stay really thin.

    I finally went to a nutritionist who told me (and you mentioned in your post) that it isn’t how much you eat but rather eating calorie dense foods…..and adding toppings (like you also mentioned), like salad dressing, honey to peanut butter sandwiches (which also has a lot of calories). Protein bars are good, too (I started eating balance bars) because they won’t fill you up but have around 200 calories and protein in them…I eat them between meals.

    It’s very frustrating and the United States is biased towards people who are trying to lose weight, rather than gain weight. It’s much more socially acceptable to tell someone how thin they look than it is to tell them how overweight they are.

    Not sure if it is helpful, but here is what she told me to do (I only do some of it but I’ve gained 2-3 pounds in the last month and it might not all apply to you):

    1) Add “add-ons” when possible (honey, cheese, etc)

    2) 2 shakes/bars/supplements (250 calories per item)

    3) 1 cup of juice/milk/smoothie for each meal (3 meals a day)

    4) Some kind of exercise 3 times a week (push ups/ 3-4 days a week)

    5) Overall, I should be getting 10 units of protein a day (a “unit” is pretty small, the nutritionist said a “computer mouse/ iphone sized protein” is 3-4 units and 2 thin slices of lunch deli meat is 1 unit.

    Anyway, as always, another excellent post. Stay well and please keep us updated on how you are doing.


  4. Bill says:

    This must be so frustrating. What I imagine is particularly difficult is how you’re constantly doing the “right” things, or what sound like the right things (though it sounds like you’re hearing so many right things and deciding which to act upon, which are truly right is just as frustrating). Yet despite all these actions you’re being left waiting and left spinning your wheels as you try to gain weight. It’s tough to hear because you don’t have an unrelealistic or irrational view about food. You eat real food and you make adjustments where you need to and are able. Aargh!

    Well, I guess you’ll have to have some Scoops on my behalf! Maybe get some chocolate covered salted almonds on one of your trips to TJ’s. And go to this Friday’s last Dodgers game of the season and find the tamale guy. Here’s to hoping you can pack on the pounds!

  5. Schrödinger's Cat says:

    Have you been tested for things that make you lose weight and have absolutely nothing to do with cancer or diet? Like hyperthyroidism? Lack of physical activities can also lead to weight loss (if your metabolism is active enough), because mussles are heavy as well 😉 Are you insulin dependent after your surgery? If so, is your diabetes managed well? Stress can cause weight loss…

    Of course, it could be the cancer itself. Or the medication. Or lack of appetite (in that case chocolate usually does the trick – nutella on toast is always good for weight gain… or skip the toast… heck, skip the nutella, carbs are wonderful to make you gain and gain and gain – if you are me that is). But the best advice usually is: stop worrying about it!

    It’s like getting pregnant. If you worry, overthink, it won’t happen.
    Or losing weight. Weigh yourself every day, twice, you will plateau.
    Do what you feel is right. Eat what you like and what makes you feel good, as long as it’s healthy and enough (I assume you are not consciously starving yourself). Add an icecream or two, a chocolate bar here and there. And please get checked for “other” weightloss reasons, if you haven’t done so already.

  6. Ellen says:

    I have a suggestion as long as you’re eating Italian cheeses – mascarpone! It’s not just for tiramisu. Try it with berries – delicious and loaded with fat and calories (which is why I have to avoid it), but without added sugar. Your honesty and beautiful writing is such a pleasure to read; we’re all rooting for you.

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