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!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (9)
  • coconnell
    1 year ago

    The prenisone comes as a gift packed in 50lbs of extra weight. I was taking Budesonide for an inflammatory condition in my colon but the steroids also helped me with my joints. However, as a Bipolar, it wrecked havoc with my tendency to lean toward mania. What to do? These are not drugs you can take on a prn (as needed) basis. When my Doctor noticed that I was getting “Cushingoid” or puffy around the face and jaw my vanity kicked in and I made my decision. I am a proud 60 year old I am amazed that my dignity was an issue any longer. I had gained 20 lbs on the steroid and due to a physical inertia due to RA pain I never excersized. I tapered off the steroids, moved slowly into Yoga (found a senior class so it was mostly woman that had some type of arthritis and understood why we were there). I started drinking a high protein energy drink (30 grams protein) and I must say I was quick to notice an improvement. I fully realize I may end up back on the Prednisone, but then it will be a choice I made to help with joint pain. It is so hard, what all of us face and we are the very most brave people that I know Cynthia

  • Anke Schliessmann
    1 year ago

    Congratulations, this is really great! You are such a good example and it is so motivating to read that it is possible against all odds :-).

  • kindermen
    1 year ago

    Was diagnosed June 2017. Since starting on Paquenil,Methotrexate, Folic Acid and weaning Prednisone. I totally revamped my diet, Gluten Free and modified Whole 30 but leaving out all nightshade vegetables and no sugar. It is really restrictive and rather boring. I stick to it 100% because I KNOW it has been a huge factor in me getting my life back. Anyone else on a diet similar to this with any suggestions on getting protein without a lot of meat and using shakes? Toying with the Vegan diet but know how important protein is and I try to get 100 grams a day and that is hard even with eating chicken. I am newbie and open to any and all suggestions. The fear of the flare that I was in for so long before I got help is paralyzing.
    Thanks !

  • Anke Schliessmann
    1 year ago

    Don’t worry so much about your protein intake. Plants deliver proteins as well, for sure legumes are rich in protein, but even potatoes and dark leafy greens provide protein as well. Recent studies make the scientist rethink about the recommended daily intake of protein. Now a value of 0.8 to 0.9 g per kg ideal weight seems reasonable. Please find more details and the scientific background in this video at nutritionfacts.org: “https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-great-protein-fiasco/”. There is even more videos and information available (not just about the protein intake, but all facts on whole food plant based diet). All the information that Dr. Greger provides based on facts from science is free.

  • Carla Kienast
    1 year ago

    You’re so right that it’s a marathon — not a sprint. I’ve seen your determination and I’m thrilled for your success. Just remember that everyone fails, but not everyone succeeds so celebrate your victories (even if you give a bit of them back). Like Rick, I’m really proud of and proud for you!

  • rx82k7
    1 year ago

    You can lose weight, and you’re right – eat less! I am living proof, I have lost 30 pounds since spring. Being on prednisone for about 10 years, I have struggled! Finally I just had enough and was in desperation. My new mantra – eat less, move more! Some days it is so hard, most weeks I only lost 1 pound, but I kept reminding myself it was a loss, so be thankful. I also had to stop beating myself up if I didn’t walk for 1/2 hour every day. If I could only manage 10 minutes walking the dog, at least I was moving! I hope this will be encouragement for my fellow RA warriors. If I can do it, anybody can!

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    1 year ago

    I am so proud of you. Losing weight is so tough. Given RA it is really difficult. I am so happy for you, this rocks!!!

  • Angela Lundberg author
    1 year ago

    Aww, thanks Rick! However…I recently gained back 5 of those pounds! UGH. Up and down, always. But, I’m working on losing it again and I’m determined to do so. As soon as Halloween is over. ha ha.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    1 year ago

    Ahh heck, 5 lbs, 5 shmounds. LOL i bet you have it in your sights already.

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