“Holy Shit, You Got Fat”: The Side Effect of Chronic Illness

Now, I’m not about to sit here and wax lyrical that my illnesses have been the sole contributors to my weight gain. I fully believe that a lot of people aren’t honest with themselves about why they’ve gotten a little more chunky than is really funky and I’m not saying that as a criticism because weight gain/loss is complex, challenging and a highly individual process. What I will say though is that until you call yourself out on all your shitty habits and repeated dropping of the ball, nothing is going to change in the long term. When I chat about my weight situation with a very select few people, I finally admit the truth and say:

Half of it’s down to illness and the fact the the symptoms are so painful in themselves and then force you to have a pretty sedentary life on top of that. You’re on your ass, in agony, on a plethora of meds that try and fail and your body doesn’t know what’s going on so it makes you a cosy little fat jacket for protection. The other half? The other half is 100% down to me “rewarding” myself for getting through the pain. My most common rewards have always been sticky toffee pudding, a cream cake from a local bakery and Galaxy Cookie Crumble *rubs thighs*.

But how much have I gained? Well, here’s the brave part. I’ve never said it out loud to anyone other than Anthony and I’ve certainly never typed it for viewing by any old Norma. I’m not ashamed anymore though. I’ve gained in the region of 5 stone (or 70lbs) since September 2015.

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I grew up witnessing extremely poor attitudes to food on my mother’s part. Don’t get me wrong, she made me extremely nutritous meals. I wasn’t a kid who had sugar in their cup of tea because I was a kid, if someone automatically slathered my veg in butter I wouldn’t eat it and I was allowed a small bar of chocolate twice a week. Sounds fine doesn’t it? Well the other side of this was a mum who dealt with her own diet demons and would do what I recognise now as bingeing. End of a hard week = piles of unhealthy food. Something bad happened = piles of unhealthy food. Celebrations = piles of unhealthy food. I remember once seeing my mother eat Sugar Puffs out of a massive Pyrex casserole bowl wondering why she would do that to herself if she knew it was so bad for her. I never said anything because I guess I really understood, even subconsciously, that there had to be something deeper going on.

I challenge anyone to say they’ve never comfort eaten or eaten in response to an emotion even once in their life. A bit of it is normal, as far as I’m concerned. Finishing a 60 hour week working in retail and being pissed off at the world makes it pretty damn understandable that you might want to eat Chinese food in your pants on your only day off. Did your boyfriend shag your sister? You can have a packet of crisps doll. If you got that promotion you’ve been spending your entire career working towards, of course you’re going to go out for steak and cocktails. These are all healthy responses but the problem creeps in when you’re facing challenges 24/7 and treating them in the same way.

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My pain, regardless of which ailment it comes from, is a 7+ out of 10 at all times of the day. It’s been this way for years now and was exactly the same before I gained the weight. The trick to consistently eating healthily around it all? Well, I haven’t quite mastered that one yet. I’m utterly determined to find my feet though and I’ve never given up, nor will I. I’ve tried every possible solution and in the end, nothing slots into my life in the way I need it to around my pain. So, I keep trying. I keep trying to meal prep, keep trying to research even more about the nurtition that I require, keep trying to push past the pain some days and keep trying to be kind to myself. This weekend, I spent hours upon hours putting together a spreadsheet of foods that are suitable for my PCOS. If it isn’t low on the Glycemic Index, it isn’t on there. I’d unwittingly been eating buckets of healthy foods that are in fact horrendous for PCOS sufferers such as carrots, parsnips and roast sweet potatoes. Now, I have much more clarity and a reference point when I’m making the online grocery order and I can grow this list into quite the bible.

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I deliberately made this a sort of multi purpose diet reference sheet because two other factors that are really important to me in my food are that it’s high alkaline and low cholesterol. These are both personal choices after much…much…much research and I’ve added them to the following categories: digestive system; endocrine system; immune system; lymphatic system; muscular system; nervous system; reproductive system; respiratory system; skeletal system and urinary system. This way, if I feel one area is really flagging after a flare up or I think something needs a boost, I don’t have to waste my life trawling the web again.

If I’m honest, my primary focus in all of this isn’t actually weight loss. Instead, I’m trying to get every bit of my insides to function to the highest of their abilities and once each and every part is doing that, weight loss will come as a pleasant side effect. The difference is, no more crap. There isn’t any other way to put it. I know what I need, I’m a smart girl and know how to do it and I’m hoping the contunual learning will help my mind concentrate on something other than wanting chocolate.

I gained 5 stone and I’m not ashamed. I am changing so it will change. I’m still standing, still fighting. All of that is good enough for me.

Emma

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