Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Seesaw

People who are "getting healthy" love to talk about all of the things they gain as a result of their "lifestyle changes". They talk about increased energy, feeling stronger, and gaining health. In many cases, it is true that changing your habits will add to your health in appreciable ways. However, it's not all sunshine and roses.

I try to be honest about what it has been like to lose weight, and part of that honesty is talking about the bad along with the good. While the benefits have outweighed the demerits, there have, nonetheless, been things which have been a problem. Sometimes I feel like I'm on a seesaw in which one problem vanishes, and another pops up on the other side. Here is some of what I'm talking about:

  • Walking has largely eliminated my back pain (as has weight loss), but the increased movement has left me with strong and painful knee issues. Before I started walking, I occasionally had knee pain, but what I have now is persistent and troubles me at night when I'm trying to sleep, especially if I lie on my side. Even modest exercise (just regular walking, usually for between 40 and 90 minutes most days) can cause difficulty depending on your age and history, and I have a history of two or three accidents in which my knees have been slightly damaged/twisted.
  • I have not caught a cold since improving my diet and exercise. I have, however, suffered from persistent cold sores on and off (one in my nose at present which I'm having problems shaking). Losing weight is very hard on your body. My husband used to catch a cold shortly after going "on a diet" in the past. It stresses your immune system, even when you are following a nutritious diet. 
  • I have patches of an itchy rash on both of my hands. These are not contact rashes, but due to stress. I've had this sort of rash before in very small spots on my fingers during times of difficulty, but the patches are bigger and in greater number than before. This is because my increased ability as a result of decreased disability has me doing more than I have for quite some time which has resulted in stress. My body is reacting with this rash and in a slightly more severe fashion than before.
  • I have increased stamina, but I still experience fatigue which comes in waves and is stronger on some days than others. This is likely related to age, but it's also probably connected to weight loss since, as I said before, it is hard on your body and immune system. It takes it out of you, especially over the long run.
I'm going to have a very complete physical exam in four days. If there are any underlying issues, all will be revealed. Frankly, I don't expect any serious issues, but rather that this is all a reflection of running at a caloric reduction for a long time. Though my caloric reduction has been quite modest (1500-2000 calories most days, hitting near 1600-1700 more often than not), it's still enough to cause bodily stress. 

When I see a doctor in the next several days, I will mention it, but I expect any mention of my knee issues will yield the advice that I always get, "lose weight". I think a doctor is unlikely to do anything for me until I ring a bell on the scale and "deserve" treatment, but it would be nice if I was taken seriously. Since my expectations of getting any help are so low, I'm trying to deal with the knee issue as best I can on my own. This mainly involves painful exercises in which I attempt to stretch what feels like very tight muscles over the inside of my kneecap and efforts to strengthen supporting muscles in my legs. 

So far, this has resulted in more pain overall as the muscles are so sore and not really feeling any stronger, but better flexibility than before. I've been doing these exercises both in the tub while soaking in warm water and while working (I can stretch and hold muscles under the desk while talking with clients). Over time, it is my hope that there will be a reduction in pain. I've only been at it for about a week, so it's  hard to tell if this is helping. It doesn't feel like it is making it any worse though.

I wanted to make this post because so many people act like weight loss is a form of refreshing rebirth. They underplay other issues, such as poor skin health or hair loss (neither of which I have suffered in any way). On balance, I'm certainly better off now than I was two years ago, but I'm not waking up every day bursting with energy and thinking how great it is to be alive. I'm waking up wishing my knee pain didn't cause me to sleep poorly and that my sinuses weren't screwed up or my hands weren't itchy. I'm going off to work knowing there will be two or three times throughout the day when I'm going to feel so tired that I'd like to lie down. Things are definitely better, but far from perfect. However, it's not like going back to things as they were is even an option. 


Marsha said...

I read that when you cleanse your body and lose weight in the process, your body goes through a healing crisis. So you may get a series of 'weird symptoms' like flu like symptoms, rashes etc...they explain why it happens

screaming fatgirl said...

Hi, Marsha, and thanks for your comment.

The rash is something I've seen off and on (once every 4 years or so) during times of stress, so I think it's not detoxing, but I can definitely identify with the occasional flu-like symptom. It seems about once a month or so I feel like I'm catching a cold, but I'm not.

justjuliebean said...

Not sure in all cases, but I think skin problems and hair falling out may be to eating too little, especially fat. Knee pain has inspired me to lose weight a few times in the past, and is a main reason why I don't backslide now (also because I'm too lazy to buy new clothes) There are a lot of things better for me now that I'm normalish weight, but not nearly as much as I used to fantasize about.

Good luck with the knees.

Shaunta Alburger said...

Hi :) I'm just visiting for the first time, but I had to respond. Fatigue, skin rash, hair falling out and sore joints are all symptoms of gluten intolerance. Have you ever tried to go gluten free? It only takes a few days to know if it's going to be beneficial to you. Maybe three or four. If you are gluten intolerant, you should notice a huge improvement quickly.

screaming fatgirl said...

Hi, Shaunta, and thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

Actually, you may have missed where I said that I haven't had problems like my hair falling out or significant skin problems. I only have two tiny patches of rash on my hands, which resemble bumps I've got when under stress in the past. I appreciate the advice, but it's not an issue with gluten.

The fatigue I feel is situational, and the result of age. I'm 47 years old and I used to be able to stay up all night and now am out by midnight every night. It's really just age. :-)