Nice click bait title, right? #sorrynotsorry I can’t tell you how to lose 40 pounds, I can only share my journey with you. Spoiler: I haven’t dropped it all.
After my fun and active life was brought to a screeching halt due to lupus, 1.5 years of drugs and inactivity has resulted in a solid 40 extra pounds.
Weight gain is an expected side effect of prednisone, a steroid and common drug given to those with lupus (or other autoimmune disorders). Due to both the increased appetite and the body converting, storing, and using fat abnormally, weight gain was unavoidable. In addition to the rapid weight gain, I was also informed that the weight loss would be extremely difficult, more so than the typical weight loss journey.
I’m off prednisone now but it likely lingered in my system for a bit. Once completely out of my system, the body then had to recalibrate my chemical release of cortisol, as prednisone is a synthetic version of it. I’m not exactly in love with my body but it has nothing to do with it’s squishier state. Sure, it’s annoying that my pants don’t fit but what’s been more frustrating is how I’ve been limited in doing what my body used to be capable of. And compounding that frustration is the unknown if I’ll ever be able to engage in the outdoors at the level I once did. Carrying around the extra weight isn’t healthy and although I am working on losing it, it’s not my primary focus. I want to improve my capacities so that I am able to participate in what I love and a positive side-effect of that is weight loss.
I’m not able to push myself into the typical high-intensity zones one does to lose weight. I need to keep things moderate to low intensity until my immune system is in remission. If I push myself too much, I could throw myself back into a flare. I have to be careful not to over-exceed a certain threshold. Unfortunately, there is no definition of an ideal zone in cases such as mine. There is no prescription to “maintain a set heart rate for x minutes, x times a week”. It’s all about constantly checking in with myself while out for a ride or hike and guessing if I’ve done too much (or can do more) and then waiting until the next day to see if I over did it.
My other difficulty with developing a weight loss program is with creating a routine and monitoring my progression. In discussions with a physiotherapist, she cautioned me about using constant improvement as an indicator. Generally, one would try to improve their distance/time/power/strength from the week before. My body doesn’t work like that right now. I may have an excellent ride and time one day and the next time barely manage 1/2 the same distance. I need to be ok with this and not consider it a failure.
There’s a lot of research that exists in understanding physical limits, particularly for elite athletes. In general, the body can push itself an additional 20% when you are feeling at your maximum. You can physically go 20% longer, faster, or stronger and your lungs won’t really explode: it’s all in your head. You can, quite literally, “give 110%” (technically, 120%!). Of course, that’s only true if you’re healthy. I’ve been informed I need to scale back at about 70% of my perceived capacity. When I feel I’m at or near 70%, I need to stop/rest/walk/turnaround
Perhaps I’ll never drop all of the extra weight I put on but that is ok. The scale does not – nor has it ever – dictated whether I can go outside. It does not command you “YOU HAVE TOO MUCH JIGGLE AND THOU MUST STAY INDOORS”. Getting outside makes you feel better. Throughout the worst of my illness, I managed to get out nearly every day. A simple walk to the end of my street and back would wake me up and improve my mood. It would remind me that I’m physically capable of walking.
The scale means so little to me. My success is measured by my improving physical abilities and, more importantly, the feelings of gratification I have for my body’s ability to engage in the actions I’m asking it to.
Whether you’re experiencing an illness, travel for work, or you’ve put on some pregnancy weight, don’t let the scale stress you too much. That doesn’t mean we have free reign to eat everything and do nothing. It just means don’t let the fear of your running shorts, showcasing your cellulite, be the determining factor in getting outside.