It’s time. Actually, it’s way past time, if I’m really honest. Spring is here once more, bikini-season is looming, and I feel like I am the size of a whale. Maybe a small baby whale, but a whale nonetheless.
You see, along with a heavy emotional weight, my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis brought some literal weight: 15 pounds of it, to be exact. I have often joked about it on my blog by calling it the RA freshman 15 and likening it to some kind of obligatory hazing ritual for the newly diagnosed. But, in many ways, I think it is. It’s not uncommon for people to gain weight following a devastating diagnosis, particularly when that diagnosis is for rheumatoid arthritis.
Think about it: RA physically limits your ability to move, so exercise regimes go out the window. And, if the pain doesn’t keep you from exercising, the fatigue almost certainly will. Many people experience depression after their diagnosis, which can add to the pounds, and several commonly prescribed medications for RA can cause additional weight gain as a side effect. How lovely. While the prognosis of RA is certainly bad news for you, it is essentially an instant death sentence for your metabolism.
Add to that sleepless nights due to pain and anxiety, and there is pretty much no way for even the stealthiest of metabolisms to keep on keepin’ on. So not only do you get RA, you also get, well, fat. Or at least fatter than you were or wanted to be.
This is not fun for anyone, regardless of age, profession or location, but imagine that you are post-diagnosis, 29 year old, single me, stumbling to work on the busy and unforgiving sidewalks of New York City. You pause at the corner waiting for the little green man to signal your turn to walk, silently thankful for the opportunity to rest because your feet, which are clad in boring, no-fun, no-glamour flats, hurt like hell. You look down at them, assessing how swollen they are that morning, only to notice a kick-ass pair of sleek, sexy four inchers next to you. Filling in those fabulous four inch heels is a pair of long, endlessly skinny legs that culminate in the one thing that could possibly make you feel even worse than you already do: a supermodel.
That’s right, when you walk the streets of New York City you are sharing the pavement with a bunch of models, or at least want-to-be models or could-be models. This fact really sucks when you are only 5’4’’ and are feeling woefully out of shape and rather like a cow thanks to the debilitating disease that has taken up residence in your immune system and indirectly caused your thighs to inflate and wag back and forth when you walk. It’s enough to make a good day bad.
But, all vanity aside, there are some legitimate concerns to deal with when it comes to weight gain and RA. As some new ad campaigns for NSAID’s are so fond of telling us, each additional pound of weight adds additional stress to our already taxed joints. And, given the current statistics of heart disease rates for people with rheumatoid arthritis, paying attention to what we eat and making sure we stay trim and fit is even more important.