When I was placed on steroids back in November 2017, I was terrified about the effect they’d have on me. I’d heard many great stories; ‘oh god, you gain so much weight! oh god, you get such a moon face! oh god, your bones become so brittle! oh god, you get diabetes! oh god, you could DIE!’ It turns out, of course, that those facts are all true, minus the dying bit, obviously. Or maybe that part is true too? Anyway, I looked my consultant in the face as he delivered the news of my new prescription and said ‘oh god, I’m going to gain weight, aren’t I?’, as if I wasn’t seriously bloody ill, vomiting three times a day and in desperate need of some actual treatment. Get your priorities in check, Seren!
I’d previously, desperately hoped that what I had was some disease that didn’t require steroids. What would happen to my perfect, smooth, hourglass shaped figure!? I mean, I’d had a rough enough time growing up with depression and anxiety, now this bloody autoimmune disease had been thrown in the mix, I didn’t need any more issues like weight gain and consequential self-esteem issues to be thrown on top. Well, tough luck to me, because the pinch in my hourglass figure has filled out to make my torso resemble a washboard, my body’s water retention factor has skyrocketed, and my already prominent underbite has softened enough around the edges to create a double-chinned, moony visage. Not to mention, I have enough cellulite to keep Heat magazine in circulation for another 4 years.
I have been hugely down on myself in recent weeks in light of this. In fact, it’s been downright depressing. Whilst I haven’t been suffering the full, undiluted wrath of my vasculitis, I have witnessed my body change in some pretty undesirable ways. However, the support of my boyfriend, Charlie, has been inconceivable in getting me through. When I’m looking at myself in the mirror and moping, he’ll call me lovely, wonderful things. Throughout the day, he’ll tell me how beautiful I am. When I’m looking at all the unhealthy food in the supermarket, he’ll gently steer me away, even if I get grumpy with him, because he knows it’ll stop me getting grumpy with myself. He’ll also remind me that he’s been through exactly the same; at the age of 12, he was on a very intense course of steroids in the treatment of his IBD, which constantly reminds me that I’m not in this alone. It really pays to surround yourself with people who are understanding; if they’ve been through it before, that’s great, but if they haven’t, they should at least be supportive!
Let’s face it – steroids are a funny thing. They are there as a ‘quick fix’ for many autoimmune conditions – Charlie, as I said, took them for quite a long time to treat his IBD. I take them in treatment for my vasculitis. Their primary role is to suppress your overactive immune system, but they also make you really, really hungry ALL. THE. TIME. I have always been blessed with the ability to eat countless sweets and chocolates and not gain weight – now? Not so much. I’ve had to work hard in cutting out the crap and instead fill myself up with fruits and healthier snacks such as skinny popcorn.
On the outside, it may not make much sense. You could just argue this with, ‘well, why don’t you just eat healthily, fatty?’ My answer would be, ‘who calls anyone fatty these days?’ and secondly, steroid use literally drives your water retention up AND redistributes your fat. This is why I have cellulite for days, a moon face, and a ‘fuller tummy’. No matter how much fruit, veg and low-calorie foods I eat, I’m still going to have the weight gain in those areas. So please don’t comment on it!
If you’re on steroids and you’re feeling down about yourself, the best thing I can recommend is healthy eating. I am such a grazer – I’d rather eat little and often than save myself for three big meals. If that’s the case for you, then swap out the fatty, sugary treats for healthier, low fat, low-calorie options. Of course, that’s just my advice, and I’m not a dietician, so don’t take my word for anything! (That’s me shedding all responsibility, classic move.) However, that’s how I’ve made myself feel a bit better about things. Of course, everything is important in moderation – you don’t have to cut out the fun treats entirely, because I know I definitely don’t, but if eating well makes you feel good, then I’d definitely recommend it.
At the end of the day, I’ve realised something important during my time on steroids. If the steroids are treating your illness, then weight gain is NOT the end of the world. Gaining weight does not make you a bad person. If people comment on your weight, tell them to mind their business. Your health is the most important thing, so if you gain a few pounds, who cares? I’d like to say that I don’t judge anyone for their weight, so why should I judge myself for mine?
#autoimmunedisease #autoimmune #eatinghabits #prednisolone #steroiduse #healthyeating #vasculitisuk #steroids #prednisone #eating #vasculitis #ukblogger