Cake

jory-howyoudoin

“Yeah, but bacon tastes good. Pork chops taste good”

 –“Pulp Fiction”, 1994

While I was ranting in the previous post about how the media treated the recent death of Gandolfini, I began ranting about how TV doctors, commercials, and other media go on and on about healthy diets, and soon I was going on and on and on about food and weight loss and the judge-y judgertons on TV, and had wandered away from just fussing about Gandolfini and how his death got treated. I realized just how much media messages about diet and weight bother me.

I call this post “Cake”, but I don’t just mean cake; I’m using that one four lettered food item to stand for:

Ice cream

Chocolate

Cookies

Fried chicken, oh heck, all fried foods, fried stuff with cheese, to quote Joey Tribbiani

Rare steak

Fudge

Bacon

Cookies

Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger

Pie

Mayonnaise

Brownies

Mac-n-cheese

Potatoes

sam

Candy

Fruit juice (not the real, 100% juice kind)

Coca-cola (I mean all soft drinks, where I’m from Coke means any syrupy, carbonated beverage)

Wine

Vodka

Biscuits

Pasta

Waffles

Food smothered in any kind of creamy sauce, mmm, like Alfredo

Sweet tea

Pizza

Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, lovely spam, wonderful spam

In other words, every food or drink that is awesome but is aiming to kill me. For the record, I don’t like soft drinks or soda pop (whatever your region calls it), or pie, or spam (my favorite song), but I’m listing foods that I know many others enjoy.

Now, I love when y’all comment on my posts, but I gotta ask this time that no one leave me a lecture about healthy diet and exercise, or moderation. I don’t eat a box of pasta and a jar of sauce every night for supper. I get the concept of moderation. This post, in combination with the preceding one, should explain that I GET IT, I just feel like I’m being lectured all the time with the constant messages about losing weight. Liberal media, Right wing media, shoooooot, Diet media is more like it. Sometimes I think that whole Cancer Thing I had there was just a plot constructed by The Smoking Man to get me to eat a damn salad. (Kidding, I ate salad in my BC—before cancer—era, I just do it more now). Who is The Smoking Man? OMG, stop reading and go stream all episodes of “The X-Files”, like right now, before I sic the unmarked helicopters on you. My love for that show probably explains too much of my blog.

Anyway.

You guessed it; this is just a humor post, me blowing off steam by going to the ridiculous extreme. I’m just complaining, and kicking against this constant need to behave sensibly that cancer seems to have imposed on me. No, this post was written by the six year old me, and she is cranky. And she wants a donut.

But in all seriousness, the issue of weight in all health-related pieces I see or read is really making my blood boil lately, and Gandolfini was the last straw. Wanna hear something stupid? BC, I was not overweight at all. I was in the correct weight span for my height. Was my BMI perfect? Doubtful. Was I a pleasing shape? No, I looked like—and still look like—a marshmallow with toothpicks for arms and legs, because all my weight gain goes to the middle, turning me into a box shape (oh yeah, forgot marshmallows in above list—but I don’t like them either). Was I fit or in shape? I’m not sure; I mean I had two physical jobs that required me to be active and do lots of heavy lifting. So, no I wasn’t in the gym, mostly because I was busy, working my ass off to get the money to pay the bills. I had no immediate health risk factors for anything really, other than my family (genetically and you know, stressing me out, driving me crazy).

Now, post-treatment, yeah, I’ve put on some extra pounds, and that has everything to do with chemo. During those first awful weeks of chemo, I hated all food and doubted I’d ever want to eat again (and yeah, lost ten pounds very quickly, my pants kept falling down, plumber butt!). Two years after chemo ended, and the smell of most foods do not make me nauseous anymore, it’s like I still cannot quite believe my good fortune at getting my appetite back. I’m like a kid in a candy store, or cake store, or steak store, or fried chicken store, or caramel popcorn store, or…you get the idea. So, I wasn’t overweight before cancer, I gain it after cancer because I missed the taste of food so much, and now all I hear is: fat causes cancer. I just want to scream! I can’t win for losing. So if I get cancer again, can I sue chemo treatments for making me appreciate food anew, and therefore causing me to overeat and get fat causing me to get more cancer? Yes I’m being facetious and sarcastic, to make a point.

I’ve been rolling my eyes lately at the commercials in which a woman is confronted with a donut or cake or a person dressed up as a cupcake or some such nonsense, and she chooses the healthy fruit-filled cracker-like snack. It’s just so stupid. That supposedly healthy choice is not at all healthy (preservatives, empty calories, and all kinds of other crap) and it is just so unrealistic. I would take that cracker and throw it, and then devour the cake. The ad doesn’t make me buy their product; it does make me cook fatty foods. I once watched a film about food that started off promising, talking about why humans crave the carbs and sugars and what not, but then it turns into what seems like an ad for juicing (I did not check, but I can take a guess at what or who funded this documentary). Not once in any of these types of commercials/films/shows does anyone acknowledge a basic truth:

CAKE TASTES GOOD AND THAT IS WHY I WANT IT. All the fancy juices and jam filled crackers in the world will not change that fact, why will no one admit this?

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I do not have great will power, but when I do manage to exert even just a little will power, it comes from admitting to myself that hey—I want that cake (or any tasty food) because I LIKE IT. I don’t stupidly pretend that better-for-me foods will give me even half the joy or satisfaction the cake could give me.  Otherwise being healthy would be easy, and I would not need films, commercials, and talking head TV doctors lecturing me. Of course, this line of discussion gets too close to that Kate Moss quote (“nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”).

Of course, that opens a whole other can of worms doesn’t it? A friend with numerous chronic illnesses (none of them being cancer) must avoid fats and sugars to avoid going from feeling bad to worse. It is like a simple mathematical equation for her: Insert cake into mouth = feel terrible all night. Lucky for her, she is one of those people who just don’t care much about food, and cutting out certain foods doesn’t faze her, she never misses any of them. Well, that ain’t the case for me and the equation is not so simple in cancer. Being fat is a risk factor but not an absolute. Cutting out all the things I love (wine, chocolate) does not give me a 100% guarantee, and I want that guarantee. And again, don’t send me a lecture, because I’ve heard the argument: being fat is a risk for the post cancer woman because then she’ll just die of a heart attack, if not cancer. Gee, thanks. Health nuts get their panties in a twist about this one all the time, I know it, I understand it. Now, can I have a piece of cheesecake to enjoy?

Sigh, guess I just have to file this problem under the “life’s not fair” section, and muddle on.

But maybe my real point, in all this fussing, whining, and moaning I’m doing here today is this: I have a sneaking suspicion that cancer has made me afraid of enjoying some of the simple things in life I used to like. I wanna go outside; nope, pesticides. I wanna go to the beach; nope, sun = skin cancer. I wanna dye my hair magenta again; nope carcinogens in beauty products. I wanna eat something good; nope, I’ll get fat. It’s like I live in a world full of “nope” now. No, I’m not being so drastic or extreme as to suggest that for all the limits on my life now maybe I should’ve just given up when I got cancer. Not at all. Just sayin’ real simple-like, I know a life-long health-nut guy who stopped eating sugar and his Lymphoma keeps coming back. Remember—no guarantees. All I’m saying is, I could take those twigs on TV a little better if they’d just admit they want the cake, rather than putting their noses in the air, piously waving the sweet treat away and then downing a glass of something that looks like liquefied crap that came out of the lawn mower.

plate

A friend sent me a quote once about not just wanting to survive, but wanting to live. If I can get 10 to 20 more years, well, by golly, they will be ice cream-filled years. Now that is L-I-V-I-N’.

Can We Not Have A Teachable Moment Just This Once

You’d think after that eruption I had a couple of weekends ago I would have stopped following the “Time” magazine health blog. But apparently my idea of fun is hitting myself upside the head with a 2 x 4. I kept getting their posts on my reader, until yesterday. So what pushed me over the edge?

Last Wednesday evening when I heard James Gandolfini died of a heart attack I was at first sad; although I was not a big fan or anything, he was a great actor who happened to be very famous for creating an icon (in my humble opinion, famous people who act for their profession are often NOT very good at it, but he was, let’s get that distinction out there, clearly—and also acknowledge that the best actors are often not famous). Bottom line, I did admire his work if I saw it, but gave him little thought otherwise. I hated the thought I had a split second after hearing the news: oh man, when are they going to start talking about his weight, relating it to his death?

Sure enough, a few hours later talking head doctors are all over the news programs like flies on shit. The next morning, all the morning shows (why the hell do I keep turning these things on? I could remove my risk factor for stroke and nervous breakdown by not watching these shows) had their on-staff health reporters talking about Gandolfini’s past with substance abuse and of course, his weight. I started writing this post on that day, but luckily, all the chatter died down (or I was just outdoors enjoying summer more, out of touch with TV and internet), so I put it aside. Then yesterday I check my WordPress reader and I see a post from “Time” tying Gandolfini’s weight, and his death, with the concept of “the Family” (read: mobsters), and how everyone has the obligation to take care of the self as a part of taking care of their own family/”Family”; a humorous (I guess) nudge that even the mobsters reading the post need to get fit, for the sake of others, you know, if they won’t do it for themselves. The post was weak and silly and said nothing new.

The worst part of the post, however, was a claim that all the other coverage of this event ignored Gandolfini’s weight, contending that commentators sidestepped the topic, saying if an anorexic starlet had been the dead person in question, the health concerns of being too thin would’ve been talked about immediately.

Say whut?

The blog post’s author was apparently not watching/reading the same stuff as I, in which THE WEIGHT was a BIG talking point. No one was being “coy” (author’s word, not mine). In fact, one of the points I wanted to make when I started writing this post—before trashing it last week and reviving it now—was the subtle implication that when someone dies of heart attack (or gets some other disease, like cancer) and they are the least bit overweight, well, gosh darn it all, they’re just asking for it, and they got themselves into this fix because they are fat lazy slobs. Just the fact the on-staff medical reporters were immediately dragged in front of the cameras the morning after to talk about heart disease prevention was, to me, a quiet indictment of Gandolfini, a gentle finger point: this could have been prevented had he eliminated his risk factor (as in, slimmed down). Oh sure, they make sad faces and express sorrow over the treasured celebrity’s death, but in saying “you can prevent this from happening to yourself” while they pull the sad face, they are saying/not saying, “he brought it on himself”. One talking head doctor actually said the phrase “if any good can come out of this” when saying this event is an opportunity for viewers to start becoming aware of their own risk factors. The insensitivity shocked me, but why? Having cancer my own self taught me that some people, when confronted by the sick person, start calculating their own risks, assuring themselves that their diet is better than the patient’s, so they’re “safe”, all the while expressing sadness and comfort to the patient’s face. I remember practically being able to see the wheels in some folks’ heads turning this idea over and over, while they spoke to me, and asked me about my sugar intake.

So you may be thinking to yourself, why is the ol’ Curmudgeon bitching about this? Of course heart disease, being overweight, and substance abuse are dangerous and we all need to take care of ourselves. I get it, being overweight causes problems; I don’t need convincing arguments. I’ve no quarrel with any of this. Yes, we do need to take care of ourselves and I have no objection to creating new healthy habits and taking better care of their bodies—I’ve done it myself. My stupidest example? I LOATHE tomatoes but eat them anyway because they are supposed to be great at preventing cancer.

But why does it take a celebrity event for the public to become aware of health threats? Is there really anyone out there thinking, “OMG, James Gandolfini can die of a heart attack, so maybe I might too?” C’mon, do you really need Dr. Pretty Hair Know It All On TV to tell you this stuff? I learned about health and nutrition in school and high school graduation is now an over 20-year-old event for me, so it’s not like teaching it is new. Are they no longer going over this stuff in school? Was it not covered when the Boomers were in school? But somehow I doubt Boomers are still ignorant of basic health knowledge. I mean, look at the cover of every periodical in the grocery store, rambling on and on about this protects you from cancer, this causes heart disease, yada yada. Info about weight, exercise, not drinking, and all the usual suspects, is the topic of so many news items on TV, so many daytime programs, on the cover of so many magazines, to me it seems impossible to avoid knowing the basics (this is not to say the headlines and abbreviated segments on the news really give in depth coverage of these health topics, I’m sure misinformation and misinterpretation thrives, but the basic message–lose some weight–is there). Messages about proper diet and exercise are everywhere, how the hell are people missing it? Why are talking heads acting like this is all brand new info?

I guess there are a few reasons I’ve not thought about until now. First and foremost is that since the health messages are so plentiful, they have become white noise. I know I tend to tune out every time I hear about some new health property about a mundane food…I’ve heard it all before, and if I hate that food, it could make monkeys fly out of my butt, I still ain’t gonna eat it. (Ha ha, that is a lie, I just admitted to the tomato project. But still, you can tell me yogurt could turn me into the Queen of England, and I won’t eat it. That crap might as well be flavored snot for all it doesn’t appeal to me). I probably register only about 10% of the messages that bombard me; yet the few I do hear annoy me enough to write this post, (maniacal laughter)!! Maybe everyone is distracted by shinier topics: who cares if blueberries can prolong life, because OMG, a Kardashian did something and Miley Cyrus is smoking weed with Snoop Lion! (That sentence alone should make one realize that celebrities should NEVER be role models). Maybe everyone in my demographic already HAS the message, but the messengers have yet to figure out how to reach the other target audiences (yes, I’ve covered this issue before), so they just keep repeating it into the ether, hoping the message will land on the right ears, eventually. And maybe, just maybe—and listen up, this is my favorite idea—we know what is good and bad food, and we just keep eating the bad food because it is yummy. Ooooo, that topic is a whole other blog post (stay tuned).

Side note: I recently ingested a tidbit, not sure where or how (read it, heard it, saw it on YouTube), about how doctors don’t discuss healthy diet and exercise with their patients, and that is going to change in the future. But given the messed up state of health care, not sure how it will help since the people most in need of hearing the message can’t afford to go to the doctor unless it is an emergency type deal. Just sayin’.   

stefon

The other problem with weight is that it such an easy target for those people who get attached to a concept I call “The One Thing”. Allow me to channel SNL’s Stefon for a moment to explain “The One Thing”:

It’s that thing, where people get all hung up on one idea and think it’s the only thing causing all the problems. This concept has everything: simplicity, the luxury of ignoring other ideas, single-mindedness, DJ Baby Bok Choy.

Ha ha, just kidding on that last one (if you’re unfamiliar with SNL’s Stefon, give yourself a time-out laugh and look up one of his sketches).

The best/worst example I saw of “The One Thing” kind of thinking was in some comments about AJ’s Big Announcement. The commenter thought AJ’s action unnecessary because according to this person, the root of all ills, especially cancer, is second-hand smoke (not even, you know, just smoking, whew!), and went on and on and on for several loooong paragraphs about that and ONLY that, to the exclusion of any other idea. My reaction (and I bet others did this too) was to kind of back away, going “ooookkkaay”. Kind of like another SNL character, Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started Talking To At a Party (or whatever her name is). Guess that BRCA thing was just incidental in this person’s mind. Weird. But the catch is, some health or medical professionals get into that rut too, and I get a little worried that by focusing on “The One Thing”, other factors are getting missed. It seemed as the day after Gandolfini died wore on, I heard progressively less about his past substance abuse, and eventually only heard about the weight factor.

created by bogswallop
created by bogswallop

Back to the guy who inspired this post: Gandolfini. I never again want to talk about him (or any artist), in combination with heart disease, health, risk factors, or drug abuse or especially weight. I want, from this moment on, to always and only, talk about him like this: great actor, great contributions to art, to the American cultural landscape, to pop culture, his portrayal of that most American of icons, The Mobster. I can’t learn any lessons from his death because it did not teach me anything I did not know (read this in Frankenstein’s voice: “overweight—bad, smoke—bad, exercise—good”). Just this once, can we honor an artist without making an example of the life outside of art? Do we always have to learn an important health lesson?