Up and Down: Weight Loss & RA

I've written about my frustrations of trying to lose weight before, especially while dealing with exhausting RA pain and the side effects from taking steroid medication (prednisone). Prednisone is notorious for causing weight gain; it causes bloating and water retention, increased appetite, and an increased craving for refined carbs (sugar, bread, pasta, etc.). Feeling too pained and lethargic to exercise and wanting to stuff my face with chips and cookies and every good sugary thing that exists in this world constantly--weight loss feels impossible.

Weight loss with RA might seem impossible

But it's not! And I'm here to prove it. While slowly and agonizingly tapering down on prednisone by one milligram a week (and sometimes having setbacks), I've somehow managed to lose about eight pounds over the summer! I have a long way to go, but the fact that I did recently lose weight has given me hope that it's actually not impossible. I've truly thought for a long time that my metabolism was broken, or almost nonexistent, and that I'd never lose weight again no matter what I did. Vegetarian diet? Nope, the fat's still there. Vegan? Yep, still hanging around (literally, ugh). Gluten-free? The gut is not gone. So frustrating.

What worked for me

So how did I manage to finally start losing the stubborn pounds that have attached themselves to my body after years of prednisone use? Well, I am still trying hard to follow a vegan diet (no animal products), to help with my RA inflammation. I'm also trying to be gluten-free as much as possible. Regarding both, I do slip up and "cheat" (accidentally or not) more often than I'd like to admit. I think just being conscious of what's going into my mouth all day (and night) helps me not consume a lot of high-calorie and high-fat junk food. Sometimes you just have to eat a bag of baked Cheetos, however. Not that I would know anything about that (cough, cough).

The thing that has really helped me start shedding the pounds is simply eating less food. Crazy idea, right? I cut way down on my portion sizes and I cut out mostly all snacking until bedtime. I also started going to bed earlier, instead of staying up late lying on the couch in front of the TV while mindlessly shoveling chocolate into my mouth. Good sleep helps so many things; it improves your mood, increases energy, decreases pain, decreases food cravings (especially junk food), and physically stops you from sticking your head into the fridge every five minutes. Get more sleep! You'll feel better and look better.

I'm probably making my weight loss seem easy and like a piece of cake (don't talk about cake!), but it's anything but easy. It's really hard and a constant battle, especially while steroids course through my body making my brain and stomach want food 24/7.

When I first discovered I had finally lost weight, those 7-8 pounds earlier this summer, I was elated and excitedly blabbed to everyone about my success. But then, of course, I suffered a setback and gained back nearly everything I had lost. Did I jinx myself by celebrating too soon? Defeat and devastation overtook me. I had worked so hard, why did I have to gain it back so soon? I felt frustrated and demoralized. And fat. Living with RA pain alone is a roller-coaster because you never know what to expect and there are so many ups and downs, flare-ups and periods of improvement, that can drive a person crazy. Weight fluctuations with RA is another ever-changing "ride" that I'd love to get off of for a good length of time.

Right now as I write this, I'm happy to report that I'm back on track and I've started losing weight again. How? Paleo-vegan-starvation-grapefruit-juicing-tree bark diets? No. Less food, healthier food, and a lot of pep-talks. I try to keep the pep-talks going because I know that my RA, my body, and my self-esteem will thank me for this.

Best of luck to those of you out there who are also struggling trying to lose weight with RA and while taking prednisone. It's extremely difficult, but it can be done!

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