Dealing with the weight of an autoimmune disease…
Anyone who has been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease, a condition where the body attacks its own tissues and organs, especially during times of heightened stress, knows that one of the many frustrating side effects of the disease is an almost non-existent metabolism. Many of the other symptoms (hair loss, dry skin, sickness and infection) can be regulated with medication, as long as stress is regulated. However, weight gain is one side effect that is ever present and is a notoriously stubborn symptom to combat.
Recently, during my mid-year checkup with my endocrinologist, he told me that my thyroid disease had flared up, my numbers were off, and my body was reacting. Looking over my chart he also noted, “Hmmm…you’ve gone up 10 pounds since you were here last summer.” He peered over his glasses at me and asked, “What’s going on. Why the difference?”
He got me thinking.
Anyone who has Hashimoto’s disease knows that, in order to maintain a lean frame, one has to constantly remain on guard. Our bodies do not process calories or sugars as efficiently as they used to before our diagnosis. We need high-iodine foods to combat the shortage in our systems. And foods that are processed are toxic to our systems. We have to be aware of what we are eating, and when we are eating, if we want to maintain the physique we had before contracting Hashimoto’s Disease.
When I was first diagnosed, I became obsessive about how this illness affected my body. I was embarrassed by my thinning hair, my skin so dry it was flaking off, the large bags under my eyes. I was especially embarrassed by my puffy face and weight gain. I spent my days counting every calorie. I exercised like a maniac (about two hours a day) and I spent much of my time alone, avoiding parties and social events. (Going out equaled unwanted calories and temptation and it was easier to remain in control if I was alone.) And, ever so slowly, the weight began to come off.
I was in good shape physically. But, I was also lonely and depressed. I was not truly living.
Now, sitting in the doctor’s office one year later, my doctor is asking me why I put the weight back on. I take a moment to look at my life and it looks much different.
And yes, I have gained.
I’ve gained friends who have brought endless fun into my life. And cheese. A lot of cheese.
When I realized what I had to give up in order to stay in my size 10 clothes, I realized it was much more than food I was giving up. It was people, and experiences and adventure. It was in that moment that I made the conscious decision to never put my happiness above a dress size. And, since then, I have met the most wonderful people. People who have opened their homes and their hearts to me. People who have toasted me with champagne, cooked me carbonara from scratch and hosted epic dance parties in their backyards.
My life is full.
So, when I looked back at my doctor, I ignored his look of accusation and simply said this: “Yes, I have gained ten pounds. But I have also gained so much more. I wouldn’t go back to the life I lived one year ago, counting every calorie and missing all the moments.”
I am happy in the place, and in the skin, I am in.”