Okay so this is not entirely true. Multiple Sclerosis in and of itself cannot make you fat. But it does sound plausible doesn’t it? There are a lot of factors involved in gaining weight and I dare say that having this disease can contribute to those factors. This has been my personal experience anyway.
This is not the first time I have gained weight due to a diagnosis. When my son was diagnosed with autism some years ago, I reacted by gaining over thirty pounds. The thing was, I was not even conscious of it happening. I was so immersed in helping my son that I totally lost awareness of myself. Over the months and years of caretaking I did not place any priority upon my own health or personal well being. I felt I didn’t have time to eat healthy and relied more upon calorie laden convenience foods. I no longer shopped for clothes and when I did, I chose loose garments or pants with elastic waists. I cut my own hair with sometimes disastrous results. I no longer looked into the mirror. I simply didn’t care what I looked like or how I felt. I had one mission in life and that was to help my kids.
It was seeing a video tape of me doing play therapy with my son which finally got me to see how much I had let myself go. I was doing a method called “floortime” where you basically get on the floor and interact with your child to elicit communication and connection. My son’s therapist wanted to video our sessions so she could coach me. And there I was on camera with a great shot of my big fat butt. It pretty much dominated the entire television screen. It was then that the bells went off that perhaps I should get off my butt and do something to lose the weight.
And I did. In about a year’s time I lost all the weight though exercise and diet. I began to care more about myself physically and emotionally. I feel that part of the reason I gained the weight then was that I was suffering from depression but I could not admit this to myself. When I finally dealt with the underlying emotions of sadness and despair, then the real transformation took place. I felt proud of myself that I could change.
But you know how life is. You are still dealing with one thing and something else comes along to rock your world. As the late Rosanna Danna might say, “If it is not one thing it is another.” The other thing to happen to me was called Multiple Sclerosis.
I was diagnosed in the fall of 2007 and it didn’t take long before I was gaining weight. It seemed that in no time at all I was twenty pounds heavier. But this time I was more conscious of the process as it happened.
It wasn’t too soon after my diagnosis of MS when I had days that I could not exercise. Previously I was working out 5-6 days a week. But then muscle spasms, feeling off balance, and fatigue hit me. I was angry that my body seemed to betray me and especially after I had worked so hard to get healthy. One day as I was attempting to work out at home my right leg became stiff as a board and pain shot up through my calf muscle. I fell to the floor cursing and then crying. It was one of the first times I felt like I was truly in a battle with my MS. I would like to say I won that round but I didn’t.
I became more timid about things I have always taken for granted. I like to roller skate, for example. But with feeling off balance at times, this seemed like a risky pleasure. On most days I was fine to do everything I normally had done but on other days it was like I was a toddler just learning to walk again. On any given day I had to re-learn my physical capabilities and stamina. I could take nothing for granted.
It is easy to feel like giving up when you have this disease. There are some days where I think to myself, “Why bother?” or even “I now have the perfect excuse for letting myself go.” But these statements do not hold up well to scrutiny. It is all the more imperative that I do care and do try. I know I will be better able to deal with my MS if I am strong and in good physical health. Perhaps even more importantly, I don’t want to suffer the mental anguish of giving up all that I have worked for if I don’t have to.
This time I was conscious that I was becoming depressed. This time I understood when I ate things just to find some emotional comfort. And this time I stopped myself before sinking too far into a pit of apathy and despair. I recognized the road I was on and decided to take a different route.
I have to tell you that this time around is a lot harder than the first time I lost weight. I am not always able to do all the things I want to do. I have had to adapt to my situation by doing different things like stretching instead of vigorous exercise or resting a whole lot more between sessions. I have learned to pay more attention to my body and to heed any warning signs of impending trouble.
So far I have lost ten of the twenty pounds I had originally gained. I am taking my time. It has been a slow process but I am getting there. What is more important to me than losing weight is to become stronger and to have more energy.
I was just reading about a study reported in Science Daily that: “After 35 years, they found that the people with MS had a decreased overall risk of cancer by 10 percent compared to people who did not have the disease.” One of the reasons given for this is that people who have MS quite often go through a lifestyle change after their diagnosis. I can understand this. My Multiple Sclerosis has made me wish to give up at times but it has also given me a reason to try harder. I can no longer take my health for granted. Exercise and eating healthy have become priorities in my life. It is no longer just about losing weight. Now I am trying to up my odds for living a longer and healthier life.
So how about you? Has MS caused you to gain weight or to forego healthy habits? Or has having this disease caused you to become more health conscious. Tell us your story We want to hear what you have to say.
I am a mother, a writer, and now an MS patient