A Tale of Two Titties

It was the breast of times, it was the weightiest of times, it was the age of whole food, plant-based diets, it was the age of throwing scales out the window….

imageMichelle and I couldn’t be more different – one of us is young, the other youngish. One is slender, the other spongy. One has been a mom for three years, the other for three decades. Despite our differences, we share a similar pursuit – improving our health as one of us battles cancer, and the other obesity.

Since this is our last post under our Searching for My Tit mashup banner, we wanted to pay homage to our miraculous bodies. Actually, we wanted to focus on one specific area… our tatas. You know, hooters. Pillows. Cans. Knockers. Melons. Boobies. Breasts. We all have them! Big, small, perky, saggy, real, or plastic. Regardless of what you have been endowed with, they can be a target for cancer, which doesn’t discriminate against age, race, size, religion, socioeconomic status, or gender (yes, men get breast cancer too). And like Michelle’s case, cancer doesn’t care if there aren’t any risk factors, or family history.

We don’t mean for this to be an alarmist piece – quite the contrary – we just wanted to get a few things off our chest and impart a few breast health tips.

Hello my name is…

As an older, plus-sized gal, who has gained and lost hundreds of pounds over the years, my breasts are a little, shall we say, droopy. And as such, I affectionately call them, ‘The Clackers’. If you’re of a certain age, you know what clackers are. If not, allow me to show you what the girls are named after.


Essentially, they’re two spheres (like my boobs), suspended on strings (like my boobs), and when you get momentum they smack each other and make a clacking sound (like my boobs), and if you’re not careful, they can put an eye out (like my boobs).

Putting them in their place

It doesn’t matter if your boobs are the size of mosquito bites, or bowling balls, get fitted for a proper bra. My daughter insisted I get fitted after she barged into my room when I was just wearing my under things, and after she stopped shouting, “My eyes! My eyes!” she asked me when I got my 80-year-old granny boobs. I started to explain the law of gravity, but she shushed me… ME! Her own mother! Then she grabbed my bra straps and hoisted The Clackers up to an elevation they hadn’t been at since Reagan was in office and voilà, instant boob lift! What’s more, I found my waist which went MIA back in ’89!

They feel better too now that I’m wearing the right size. Before, The Clackers were being skewered by the underwire causing pain and spillage… poor Lefty oozed out like Pillsbury dough when you whack the container against the counter 😦

Play doctor… with yourself!

Years ago, I was given a waterproof instructional shower card to remind me to perform self-breast exams. Over time, I became blind to it and stopped performing this lifesaving procedure.  Today, reminders have gone hi-tech. There are handy-dandy apps, like this one called, “Your Man Reminder” which provides you with great tips and prompts.  I’m having so much fun with it, that I’m programming reminders daily!

All kidding aside, if something doesn’t feel right to you, get it checked out right away – and push for the right tests, or screenings.  While Michelle was only 33 when she was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer, her family doctor was convinced it was a blocked duct, but thankfully still requested an ultrasound. When it came back suspicious, she was sent for a biopsy, which revealed it was in fact breast cancer.  After being diagnosed, Michelle was sent for further tests – the CT scan revealed it had spread to her vertebrae, making her breast cancer stage IV, however, her mammogram came back clear!  Mammograms are a controversial topic, but Michelle’s advice is if you are young, or have fibrous breasts, mammograms are not the best at detecting disease.  Just like you should eat a variety of plant-based, whole foods, screening from breast cancer shouldn’t be left to just one test.

Can a whole food, plant-based diet help reduce your risk of breast cancer?

Eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies means you are ingesting a variety of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that support a stronger immune system helping to fight off unhealthy cancer cells.  Not only that, a whole food, plant-based diet helps manage a healthy weight, and can help protect you from other diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Other ways to lower your risk of breast cancer:

  • Limit alcohol
  • Avoid smoking
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Be physically active
  • Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy

Mammary Memoirs

I want to thank Michelle for her support on my journey. She’s been a wonderful coach and we’ve become bosom buddies along the way.

If you wish to read more about Michelle’s breast cancer journey, you can read the beginning on her Caring Bridge site. Later in her journey she began to document her experiences on her blog Tit Happens.


What’s Up Doc?

My senses have been doing the happy dance on the whole food, plant-based diet. Every morsel is bursting with flavour… tangy lemons, sweet pears, pungent arugula, earthy beets, minty mint, zingy ginger, and so on. The colours are vibrant like a rainbow exploded in my kitchen. Oh, and the aroma… it smells like a warm summer’s day in my dad’s garden when I sit to enjoy a meal!

Sounds like a dieter’s paradise, doesn’t it?! It is, until I get on the scale.   It’s not budging, which is a surprise given how much of the ‘inventory’ I move! Elimination has been effortless and plentiful on this plan… up to 3 times a day – whoohoo! You’d figure that would translate on the scale, but nada (meatless) enchilada 😦

So I took to my awesome coach, Michelle of Tit Happens, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, world renowned whole food, plant-based promoter, and author of The China Study, and my supportive naturopath, Dr. Emily Fitzgerald, to find out why.

Michelle Text

Michelle reminded me that she is not a dietician or a nutritionist, so is unable to explain why the pounds are not melting away. For Michelle though, choosing to eat this way had nothing to do with managing her weight, rather she believed this was the best diet to make her body as healthy as possible to fight her metastatic breast cancer. A diet full of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals is just one more weapon in her arsenal against cancer – and can be a weapon against many other diseases. While she is disappointed that my weight loss has been minimal, she is happy that I am giving it a try and in doing so, every cell in my body is being nourished to the max.

In The China Study, Dr. Campbell cites several studies in which obese patients achieved significant weight loss within the first month. One study claimed that, “overweight subjects were told to eat as much as they wanted of foods that were mostly low-fat, whole food and plant-based. In three weeks the people lost an average of seventeen pounds.” Humph! I’m not seeing those results. Why?!

Dr. Campbell explains, “Some people, of course, can be on a plant-based diet and still not lose weight. There are a few very good reasons for this. First and foremost, the diet includes too many refined carbohydrates. Sweets, pastries and pastas won’t do it. These foods are high in readily digested sugars and starches… these highly processed, unnatural foods are not part of a plant-based diet that works to reduce body weight and promote health.” Well, I’m not falling into that trap again Dr. Campbell! I did that when I went vegetarian before, when my only criteria was eating faceless foods. This time I’m only ingesting minimally (if any) refined whole foods, so this explanation doesn’t cut it for me!

He goes on to suggest, “the second reason weight loss may be elusive is if a person never engages in any physical activity.” Hmmm, does walking 10,000+ steps a day count, or is it time to kick it up a notch? Perhaps, after 6 months of testing diets, my body is plateauing and I have to incorporate a structured exercise routine to accompany plans going forward.

He goes on to offer one last explanation, “Thirdly, certain people have a family predisposition for overweight bodies, that may make their challenge more difficult. If you are one of these people, I can only say that you probably need to be especially rigorous in your diet and exercise.” This is where Dr. Emily comes in. She offers genomic testing which will determine “genetic inheritance” and how I can leverage this knowledge to support my journey.

As frustrating as this is, I need to remind myself that 12 in 12 is an experiment, and not a plan in and of itself. There will be months when I’ll lose weight, and others where I won’t. That doesn’t mean the plan is a failure – it means I’m learning what does and doesn’t work for MY body when it comes to weight loss. If this experiment was solely based on how I feel, then the whole food, plant-based diet would be getting high marks. I know that on a cellular level, by body loves this plan, however, as a plus-sized gal, my plus-sized cells need to trim down too.

To view my Week 24 food journal, click here.



About Face

It’s time to say ciao to the Mediterranean diet and hello to the new plan of the month. The Whole Food, Plant-Based diet is as au naturale as it gets – it makes me want to smack on strategically placed fig leaves and join a nudist colony. As a matter of fact, it’s very close to the diet God gave Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, so if you believe in creation like me, this is the oldest diet known to man… sorry my Paleo and Cavemen friends!

This is a radical departure from all the plans I’ve been on so far on my 12 in 12 journey, but I’m no stranger to it. A few years ago, I went vegetarian after my daughter, a ‘weekday vegetarian’, turned me on to a series of documentaries exposing the ugly hidden truths of the food industry and industrialized farming. I binged on those docs like I do on chips and chocolate. For a week straight I was glued to the TV devouring them all: Food, Inc., Earthlings, Forks over Knives, Vegucated, Food Matters, Hungry for Change, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, May I Be Frank, and many more. By the time I came up for air I wanted to stop shaving my armpits, hug a tree, and free all confined animals.

I literally went “cold turkey” and didn’t ingest any animal protein for a year. I was proud to be an informed, ethical, and environmentally responsible eater, and figured I’d lose tons of weight too and exude vitality as a result. Oh contraire! Did you know vegetarians can be unhealthy too? It’s not the fruit, veggies and legumes that did me in, it was everything else I consumed.

I only asked one question before I ate something… “Did it have a face?” If the answer was “no”, then down the hatch it would go. You know what doesn’t have a face? Snickers. Ruffle potato chips. Gummie bears, because no real bears were harmed in the process. Garlic bread. Peanut M&Ms, for the protein of course. Nutella. Veggie nacho platter smothered in globs of processed cheese. Do you see where I’m going here? Technically, I was a vegetarian, but in reality I became a Carbetarian.

In my defence, that’s not how I started. I went hard-core, ate very clean at first and dropped 8 lbs. in just a few weeks. I stopped shopping at the local grocery store, and drove a little further to Whole Foods or Planet Organic. I even bought essential gadgets for a face-free kitchen, like an expensive juicer, which now sits on my counter collecting dust, a fancy-schmancy pineapple peeler, and several types of graters. I was even gifted a Spirooli (a fruit and veggie spiralizer) and a Blendtec to support my efforts.

I even planted vegetables in my sad and barren backyard! Me… the Dr. Kevorkian of plants – my home is where plants come to die, and now I was tending to them. I admit, most of them didn’t survive, but it’s true what they say about kale – they’re a hardy bunch – I think they flourished to spite my ineptitude as a gardener. If they fight that hard to survive, they must be good for us!

Other than having the BEST bowel movements (yes, I went there), my health didn’t improve much after the first few months. It wasn’t the diet’s fault, it was entirely mine. Like any diet, it’s about the choices you make, and I made poor ones. The calories were going in, but the nutrients weren’t. I ate more than I did on other diets, because I digested the foods quickly.

Four months after going vegetarian, I was diagnosed with Premature Atrial Contractions (PACs). The cardiologist asked if I made any recent lifestyle changes. I told him I eliminated meat from my diet and he suggested I start eating it again. But I wouldn’t hear it – the documentaries were still fresh in my mind and my convictions were strong.

Six months later, my condition worsened, and my vitamin D and B12 were dangerously low. Once again the cardiologist recommended putting some animal protein back in my diet, something both my family doctor and naturopath also urged. I agonized over the thought of eating meat again, but my wonky ticker was freaking me out. With a heavy flip-floppy heart, I went out and bought a single chicken breast at the organic butcher – I paid what I would have for a whole chicken at the regular grocery store, but justified it was worth it if the poor creature had a better quality of life before it became my dinner. I must have stared at it for 20 minutes before taking a bite, and when I did, I gagged and cried though the entire meal.

I’ve been back on meat for 8 months now, and my vitamin levels are back to normal. My heartbeats got better for a brief time, but now are skipping worse than ever. It’s apparent that diet doesn’t have anything to do with my irregular heartbeats, so if I choose to go back to being vegetarian after 12 in 12 it won’t influence my ticker one way or another.

So why go down this road again, especially since I’ve been there, done that? This time I’ve got me an awesome coach who is going to ensure I plan balanced meals and avoid the sugar and carb traps I fell into before.

Michelle Riccio is not only my co-worker, she’s my beautiful and courageous friend with an inspirational story. She went on a whole food, plant-based diet after being diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer a little over a year ago and has been advocating its benefits on her blog, Tit Happens.

This month, we are joining forces and co-writing our blogs together – a crossover if you will, and will go by the blended name, Searching For My Tit.


We will feature the many benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet, highlighting not only the weight loss component, but health and prevention as well.

Please join Michelle and I, as we enjoy our first whole food, plant-based meal together at Raw Aura to launch the plan.

To learn more about the do’s and don’ts of Whole Food Plant-Based diet, click here, and you will be directed to the 06. May 2015 tab.

The Result Are In

To find out how much I lost during Month 5, when I tested The Mediterranean Diet, click here, and you’ll be directed to the Measure Up section.