RA, MS, and Obesity: Setting Goals for Myself

  • It’s April, finally!!  Spring has arrived and it’s time to start shedding the big coats and bulky sweaters.  The leaves of my lilac bushes are budding and the ground is beginning to look green.  I love this time of year.


    However, I haven’t always loved moving into the clothing which leaves you more exposed.  For the past few years, I had developed a blanket or cocoon of cushion (ie fat) which insulated me from the physical and emotional changes going on within my body.  See, it’s only been three years since I was diagnosed with RA and barely five since MS made itself a permanent resident.

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    But some things have been changing for the better in the past year or so and one of them comes from the support I’ve received in this and other communities of patients online.  That support and acceptance is what has led me to share my weightloss journey in public with anybody who might follow it at MyObesityConnection.com.


    Here in April, we are focusing on Diet and Exercise and how they effect your health conditions.  Well, I’ve already been focusing on that every month this year.  And the result is that I’ve successfully managed to lose at least 18 pounds so far.  Just another nine pounds and I will have achieved a 10 percent weight reduction since January.  A realistic goal for me would be to achieve a 20 to 30 percent reduction, perhaps by the end of the year. 


    In the past month or so, I’ve been making the doctor rounds, seeing each of the folks which whom I manage my various health conditions.  This was the first time I looked forward to measuring my weight on the doctor’s scale.  While at my primary care doctor’s office I even asked, “could you tell me what I weighed last year?”  That’s when I learned that I’ve actually lost 30 pounds since February 2009.  Cool!


    So this time when I saw my rheumatologist, I wasn’t fearful of the severe warnings to lose weight.  She has been on me for the past two years with that recommendation.  I even missed or postponed some appointments last year because I didn’t want to face her yet again without any progress made.  This year was different!!


    After we discuss how I’ve been faring since the Rituxan infusions (which is pretty good) and that I’m ready to deplete some more B-cells on schedule in May, I break the news.  “By the way, turns out I’ve lost 30 pounds since last year,” I smile.  

      “I thought you looked like you had lost some weight.  Good for you.  You know that losing weight will lower the amount of tumor necrosis factor and inflammation in your body and that will positively impact your RA.”

    Side note: Tumor necrosis factor is the substance which the majority of RA biologic drugs are designed to inhibit.  It is produced in abundance in visceral (abdominal) fat along with Interleukin-6 and other inflammatory proteins


    As a person living with MS, I cannot take advantage of anti-TNF drugs because of neurological side-effects.  But reducing the fat which lines my organs will serve a similar purpose in reducing the inflammatory cytokines which increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, in addition to aggravating rheumatoid arthritis.


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    Another benefit will be that my cholesterol levels should go down as more abdominal fat is eliminated through simple dietary changes (basically just keeping track of what I eat).  Recent blood tests showed by my HDL “good” cholesterol is low and that my LDL “bad” cholesterol is high.  Increased exercise (which I still need to focus on more) should help to bring up the HDL levels.


    The nice thing about all of this is that now I weigh just about what I did when I was first diagnosed with RA.  I’ve still got a long ways to go before I’m in a healthy weight range with desirable body fat percentage or body mass index.  But it will come and I’ll return to that girl/woman who has the naturally wide hips, stout thighs, but skinny waist which always creates an interesting wardrobe dilemma.    


    Yep, I’ll say it outloud.  Bring on the out-of-proportion waist!!  Because, it will mean less immune activity and inflammation floating through my body tissues, which can only mean good things for the two inflammatory diseases I face everyday.


    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.

Published On: April 05, 2010