I wish I could title this column, “How I Lost Weight While in Pain.”
I wish that’s what this was about. I wish I had already figured out how.
Unfortunately, all I have right now is the question. How the heck are you supposed to lose weight while dealing with chronic, excruciating pain on a daily basis?
See, the thing is, it’s not like the pain itself made me gain weight. I mean, yeah, soon after it started I gave up all physical activity unless I was running from zombies to save my life. But that alone didn’t equal a higher dress size. In fact, after about three months of laying on the couch in agony, I was pleasantly surprised to see on the scale at my neurologist’s office that my weight was only about four pounds higher than when everything started.
Alas, that’s also right around the time when I got put on every single nerve pain, opioid and regular pain medication that they make, all of which list “weight gain” as a possible side effect.
At first, I didn’t even notice that “weight gain” was right there on the list of possible things that could happen to me. And my silly doctors didn’t bother to take five seconds to say, “Hey, this might make you pack on the pounds.”
So I just started popping all the pills like candy and going about my business. And I swear to you, it was as if I woke up one day 50 pounds heavier.
I’m not even joking. That’s what happened. I gained 50 pounds in like five days. And suddenly none of my clothes fit, I hated how I looked in every photo, and on top of the whole horrible daily pain thing, I also suddenly had to deal with random crazy weight gain.
The problem is, the stupid pills actually do help me. I’m not going to go so far as to say they “work” because it’s not like I have my life back. But I will say that they allow me to live my life with an amount of pain that leaves me less suicidal than I was before I started taking the drugs. Plus, they allow me to continue working without crying in agony.
They do not, however, allow me to exercise in any way. Seriously. Even walking still makes me feel like I’m being stabbed. And don’t even start to say the word “yoga” because that crap might as well be called “twist and turn on a bed of nails” for what it does to my ribs.
The meds also make my feet swell up if I so much as walk a mile. Seriously. The doctor tried to tell me that was impossible, that my feet should only swell up if I’m eating a lot of salt or standing in one place, and it has nothing to do with the meds.
But I promise you that they swell up when I walk, even if I’m downing water and avoiding sodium. And it never happened even one time before I started taking six different prescription medications on a daily basis.
Of course, a lack of exercise alone isn’t enough to make me gain 50 pounds. For that, the medications have a special side effect: They induce hunger. And, now, despite the fact that I spent the first three decades of my life trying to eat only when I’m hungry, all that work is basically pointless. I’m always hungry.
Add to that the fact that I’m pretty sure the meds also slow down your metabolism — and it’s not just impossible for me to lose weight, it’s impossible for me to maintain my weight.
Of course, the world doesn’t know this. They don’t get the nuance. They have no idea that I’m struggling against all these factors and that I really do notice every single pound I gain. They just look at me, scan my body, see that I’m overweight, and judge away.
I can feel it in the eyes of friends and family. I constantly stress that everyone is talking about it the second I leave the room. And I wonder if the people I meet in my professional life are suddenly taking me less seriously.
Even doctors are guilty. I had one doctor who had no idea how to deal with my rib pain, but she did take my appointment as an opportunity to lecture me on my weight. Something about fruits and vegetables and finding an exercise that doesn’t hurt.
I wanted to scream, “IT WAS DOCTORS WHO MADE ME THIS WAY!’
I mean, yes, deep down, I know I’m not completely innocent in all of this. I know that the daily struggle to live through the chronic pain makes it that much more likely that I’ll reach for a chocolate bar or a can of Coke to cope.
But with so many other factors working against me, it’s like I’m doomed to see a higher number on the scale every week, regardless of whether I skip the pop or not.
So, here I am, 60 pounds heavier than I was before I got sick. I wear stretch leggings way too often, I focus in on my face for all my photos, and I have absolutely no idea what to do about it.
I will say though, that the only thing worse than gaining weight, is being in pain without pain pills.
So, alas, it looks like I’m stuck, at least for now.