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Your mind-set does matter!

By Leesa Gabel

One of my favorite movies is Steel Magnolias. There’s a line that Dolly Parton says, “Smile. It increases your face value.” I say something similar to my kids; I tell them to smile because it immediately makes you feel better. The act of smiling changes your mind-set.

Over the weekend I realized that I’ve had a mind-set change with regards to dieting. I’m not dieting. I’ve made a lifestyle change. Because if I was dieting, I wouldn’t have had pumpkin pie, brownies, Grandma’s red jello, carrot cake or chocolate pie over our family’s 4-day Thanksgiving break.* The best part…when I weighed myself on Monday I had lost weight! I did go for a 3-mile walk Thursday morning, but that’s about as active as I got.

What helped me come to this realization was a small snippet in Good Housekeeping’s November issue (page49, Thick rich, Be thin). I did a little more research and found this:

Too busy to click the above link? Here’s the short version:

  • Objective: To test whether physiological satiation as measured by the gut peptide ghrelin may vary depending on the mindset in which one approaches consumption of food.
  • Methods: On 2 separate occasions, participants (n = 46) consumed a 380-calorie milkshake under the pretense that it was either a 620-calorie “indulgent” shake or a 140-calorie “sensible” shake. Ghrelin was measured via intravenous blood samples at 3 time points: baseline (20 min), anticipatory (60 min), and postconsumption (90 min). During the first interval (between 20 and 60 min) participants were asked to view and rate the (misleading) label of the shake. During the second interval (between 60 and 90 min) participants were asked to drink and rate the milkshake.
  • Results: The mindset of indulgence produced a dramatically steeper decline in ghrelin after consuming the shake, whereas the mindset of sensibility produced a relatively flat ghrelin response. Participants’ satiety was consistent with what they believed they were consuming rather than the actual nutritional value of what they consumed.
  • Conclusions: The effect of food consumption on ghrelin may be psychologically mediated, and mindset meaningfully affects physiological responses to food.

All the nutritional and exercise information I’ve gained over the years has finally started to click. I’ve come to appreciate food for what it’s meant to be – fuel for my body. I still find food pleasurable and I’m not deprieving myself of what I want and crave. It just so happens that my body is craving chicken, not beef and apples, not cookies. Don’t even get me started about my new-found love of Morningstar products (my mouth waters at the thought of the garden veggie burger). I’m making healthy choices, but finding that the healthy choices are still quite pleasurable.

I’m embracing a new mindset… I’m looking for the 620-calorie milkshake in every meal!


* I have to note that the serving sizes I had were small. I didn’t over-indulge. I had enough to satisfy my cravings. Sometimes a bite or two is all I need now of a favorite sweet food to satisfy my desire for it. Because, who doesn’t crave or desire a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream on Thanksgiving?



Magic number 42?

By Craig Gabel

Today is my 41st birthday. I am actually welcoming the day as my 41 year was a tough one. I reached my personal endurance goals and was left somewhat confused on what to do next. I reached the pinnacle of endurance sport…Ironman. 140.6 miles of pure physical and mental concentration focused on reaching that finish line. I never ever thought I would or even could accomplish such a feat but I did. I thought once I started down this path I would not only become a better athlete but I also figured I would become healthy and lose weight… far from it!
After my 40th birthday celebrating with my best friends I had high hopes of continuing down some training path that would help me shed some pounds and feel better but it never came to fruition. After the holidays it was time to get ready for the Lake Tahoe ride once again. Leesa and I both signed up only to find out a few weeks later that Leesa was relapsing and her CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia) had returned. It put us in a precarious situation since I was a team mentor and was obligated to continue with the training and ride not only for the team but for myself as well. It was supposed to be a great time in our life to celebrate the end of Leesa’s cancer and spend time together getting healthy. Over all training went well and we had some good times with old and new friends along the way. My head was never really in it 100% as something was missing. Leesa was not there and it never felt complete. I had been having some gall bladder issues for a couple months but seemed to be on the mend. I was eating well and feeling great. Then the day before we were to leave for Lake Tahoe my doctor called. I had an ultrasound on my gall bladder just to check things out and he noticed what appeared to be a mass in my gall bladder. That’s all the info I had! Was it cancerous? Was it migrating to my pancreas? Was it nothing at all? It was a real toss up on whether to go on the trip or not. It seemed very serious but maybe not urgent to have it removed immediately. My doc said take the trip but let’s get that gall bladder out as soon as you get back. I took the trip with the family and had a great time building family memories that will last a life time. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. So upon my return home, long story short, I had my gall bladder removed, the mass was apparently a shadow or something on the ultrasound and there wasn’t anything there…so that was good…but I later realized that I may have had it removed for nothing. Fast forward to today and I think I may still be a little bit bitter over having a probable unnecessary surgery but I bring myself back to reality with the internalized “better safe than sorry” argument. I was really bummed at the time since I missed half of my son’s Boy Scout summer camp and was laid up for several weeks recovering. I was miserable and slight pissed off. My thoughts kept reverting back to the day Leesa got the news of the return of her cancer and then all the stuff that happened through the spring and summer…frankly, turning 40 just sucked! Then things took a turn for the better…
Leesa conquered her cancer with 5 months of chemo and is now just past her 6th month of total remission. That makes me happy! Plus, back in September Leesa and I started taking a nutrition class. It seemed like the right thing to do since we are both stuck in a rut with weight loss and healthy living. Obviously you it is possible to training for and complete an Ironman all while still eat like crap and being 60-70 pounds overweight. That just proves some things really are very much a mental battle more than a physical one. Anyway, the class has been going great. I am down 30 pounds this week. We are eating so much better and are now so much more aware of what we put in our mouths before it goes in. It’s not a diet… it’s really a lifestyle change. I am in weight loss mode and right now protein shakes are working very well for me. I never in a million years thought I would be looking forward to a Strawberry Cheesecake protein shake on my 41st birthday but I did and it tasted awesome! I have been walking/running and cycling of late once again and it feels great to be training for a goal. My goal for my 42nd year is to see my lovely wife reach 18 months of remission and for me to complete another Ironman many pounds lighter than the first time around and hopefully I can shave some time off. Time will tell….stay tuned!



Yes, Virginia, there is….

By Leesa Gabel

…hair on my head.

I don’t know Virginia, but if I did I bet the first thing she’d say to me is, “Wow, Leesa, you’ve got hair!” As if I wasn’t aware of this fact.

During the past three years, I have lost my hair on three seperate occassions. The first time was rather traumatic. The second was more so for the kids than me (especially when my eye lashes and eye brows fell out too). The last time was no big deal at all. We all had come to accept that hair loss was a normal thing which just meant that the medicine was working; not that I was any more sick. But in between treatments, I kept my hair short….like pixi-cut short….just in case. This last time I made a promise to my daughter that when my hair started growing back in, that I would let it get long. So right now my hair is the longest it has been in three years.

I don’t like it. It’s in that awkward grow-out stage that I can’t really do too much with it. But….my daughter is happy….so I will ‘just deal with it’.

I wish others could let it go unnoticed. I know they got used to me with short hair or maybe they hadn’t met me before I lost it the first time to know how long it was. But leading a conversation off with ‘Wow, your hair is so long‘ is getting old. It ranks up there with, ‘Wow, you look really good’ (for someone with cancer is rarely said outloud thankfully, but I bet it’s always thought).

So to set the record straight….. I’m growing my hair out. Not for vanity reasons, not because I’m in remission and want to return to the old me, not because it’s easier to care for (it’s not), but because I made a promise to my daughter. For all the stress and emotional roller-coaster ride that having a parent battling cancer can put on a young child….dealing with the process of growing long hair from scratch (that’s basically what I’m doing) to make her feel better is the least I can do to repay how much support and strength she has shown me during the last three years.




By Leesa Gabel

It’s November….and contrary to what you may be seeing on TV….it’s Thanksgiving time!!

Last night, my family and I got to experience the Victory Suite at the LIVESTRONG Sporting Park during the Sporting KC soccer game. It was Ah-mazing!!

I was asked to sit in the special Yellow Seat. It’s the only yellow seat in the stadium…reserved for Lance Armstrong and, on night’s when he isn’t there, cancer survivors. It was such an honor! I never knew that sitting in a cushioned chair could be such an emotionally rewarding experience. There was a special announcement before the game. There I was larger-than-life on the big screen. And my name was spelled correctly!!

I know I’ve said this before and probably not many people understand why I would say it, but I’m thankful for my cancer. I had a good life before cancer. But I was just moving through life. But then cancer came and my life changed. I became more engaged, more aware, more active…..I became a new person.

Learning you have cancer is like coming to a fork in the road. Go left, cancer takes the lead. Go right, cancer never sees what’s coming.

I went right!!