In the last two years, I’ve lost over 80 pounds. That works out to about .7 lbs a week, which, according to experts, is considered healthy. People who lose weight slowly and methodically — around one to two pounds a week — have been shown to keep it off because the weight loss is usually due to lasting lifestyle changes.
That, however, is not my story.
In 2018, I lost my first 40 pounds, just over 17% of my body weight, in about six months. That’s around 1.6 lbs a week, which is in the healthy zone. I went from a size 18 to a size 14.
This year, however, I lost the other 40 pounds in three months. That’s nearly four pounds a week. In May, I was a size 14 and by July, I was a size 8. It was a tad dramatic. Every morning I’d wake up with what felt like a new body that had changed overnight. Clothes that fit one week would be huge on me the next. It was hard to keep up.
And I’m still losing.
I swear, I’m not trying to lose weight.
My weight loss isn’t intentional. I’m not on a secret diet, and I haven’t been working out excessively. It isn’t due to lasting lifestyle changes. Nope. For me, it’s weight loss brought to you by nausea and fibromyalgia.
When most people think of fibromyalgia, they usually associate pain as the main symptom. And while that’s true, it’s estimated that between 40 and 70 percent of people with fibro also suffer from chronic nausea and vomiting. It can be as mild as gagging every so often or as intense as vomiting at the smell of food. It can strike without warning and can last a day, a week, or even months.
My experience with nausea flares runs the gamut. They come on out of the blue, hang around for months at a time and then suddenly disappear only to return weeks or months later. Usually, right around the time I think I’ve finally got this thing beat. It’s like a lover you can’t seem to get over because just when you do, he comes back to sweep you off your feet with promises that this time it’ll be different. Deep down, you know he’s lying but you can’t seem to stop yourself from letting him in the door.
For two years now, I’ve been nausea’s little bitch. I’ve gone weeks with mouth-watering, on-the-verge-of-puking nausea from the time I wake up until I go to sleep. Other weeks, I only eat one meal a day because I dry heave for hours afterward. And then there are weeks when I’m able to eat a meal or two a day because it’s only annoying, but manageable nausea.
Ever the optimist, I will admit there are definitely some pros to losing weight quickly, regardless of the means.
When I’ve lost weight in the past, it’s been gradual and never more than 20–30 pounds. With such a dramatic and rapid weight loss, I’ve been shocked at how intensely the change feels physically.
When I walk the dogs, I can actually feel a difference in how light I am. It feels noticeably easier to move my body but especially my legs. It takes much less effort to cover the same distance that used to require superhuman force. I’m less out of breath, even when I walk at a fairly brisk pace.
It’s been wonderful. After years of feeling like I’m lugging 60 pounds of luggage attached to my ankles, feeling almost weightless has been a gift. One I’m treasuring.
My new face
I recently saw a picture of myself from three years ago and was stunned. I couldn’t believe how big I’d been. I don’t think we really see it when it’s a gradual gain or loss. But seeing my old self and new self side-by-side in photos, it was clear as day. My face is noticeably thinner. It reminded me of my younger years. Given that fibro makes me feel old and decrepit, it’s been nice to feel like I don’t look it.
At size 18, it was difficult to shop in my favorite stores and honestly, I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin let alone my clothes. As a size 8, I can shop anywhere. Especially in second-hand stores, which suits my financial limitations. These stores are a treasure trove of deliciousness for size 8 people.
The Other Side of the Coin
While many people with a twinkle in their eye ask how they can get on the nausea weight-loss train, I can assure you it’s not the ideal way to lose weight. Not to mention, rapid weight loss comes with its own slew of health concerns.
Fatigue, dizziness, and depression
All of my fibro symptoms are exacerbated by the lack of calories and nutrients. Dizziness strikes every time I stand up. Feeling faint and having to grab onto something every time you stand gets old real quick!
My pain has shot through the roof, which means I exceed my daily allotment of prescription NSAIDs more and more often. I have serious and warranted concerns about the health impact of taking high doses of these drugs longterm.
I’m so weak, dizzy, and in pain, I do little more than lay in bed day after day. The fatigue is bone-crushing and motivation left two years ago.
This might sound like good news for my writing given I’ve got nothing better to do than type away all day. Sadly, the brain fog, aggravated from the lack of calories, is now like a zero-visibility blizzard. What used to take a couple of hours to write and edit now takes two or three days. My ability to focus and concentrate ran out the door with motivation, so writing is an exercise in self-deprecation. I feel like a bumbling idiot, taking hours to form sentences and find words.
But I keep at it. I refuse to let this illness steal any more than it already has.
And while you’d think I’d at least experience the feeling of joy and happiness at having this smaller body, I can’t help but be plagued by overwhelming sadness. According to researchers from the University College London, this is pretty typical. In their study of 2,000 overweight individuals, they found those who lost at least 5% of their body weight were 78% more likely to experience depression. They hypothesized this was because people pinned all their hopes and dreams of a better life on getting thinner. When it turned out getting thinner didn’t make all their problems go away, they sank into a depression.
I can relate. Getting thinner hasn’t improved my fibromyalgia. If anything, it’s turned it into a bitter, pissy old lady.
My severely restricted calorie intake has left me nutrient deficient, which means I bruise easier and heal slower. With a one-year-old, 60-pound dog at home who loves to cuddle and crawl all over his mom, I am now covered in large, ugly purple bruises and scratches that take weeks, if not months, to heal.
But this means I get the pleasure of playing a little game I call “let’s count the bruises” when I’m in the bathtub. My high score is 33. What’s yours?
The tight abs, lean arms, and strong legs we dream of when we think of getting a thinner body isn’t a reality when the weight melts off you like butter in the microwave. Because I lost mine so quickly, I didn’t just lose fat but also water, lean tissue, and muscle mass. That means while I don’t have a lot of excess hanging skin, I do have a considerable amount that’s crepey.
My upper arms, thighs, hamstrings, butt, and side boobs all have these large sections of skin that, well, ripples. No amount of moisturizer will fix it. Trust me, I’ve practically soaked in coconut oil. Cosmetic surgery is out of the question. That leaves the final option of building muscle to see if I can shape the tissue underneath it. Yeah, like that’s going to happen when I’ve got this fainting, dizzy, fatigue thing going on.
Instead, I lay in bed watching TV, playing with the folds of skin that now gather around my neck while I wait for bath time, so I can play another round of “let’s count the bruises.”
Becoming skinny almost overnight might sound like a dream come true, but I assure you it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. Not even close.
My recommendation is to love and respect the body you have, right now, whatever its shape and size.
And if you decide that losing weight is a priority for you, I urge you to have the patience to do it slowly and with the greatest of respect for your health and wellness. It may take more time and energy, but I can guarantee you’ll be far happier with the results.
Because trust me, this nausea-induced rapid weight-loss diet is not one I put my stamp of approval on.
Anne Hartt is a writer, blogger, dog mother and fibro warrior. In her mid-40s, she’s learning to navigate midlife with a chronic illness and an exploding libido. With a degree in journalism and nearly 20 years in corporate communications, she writes about self, sex, love and living with an invisible chronic illness. She is from a small town in Eastern Canada where she lives with her hubby and three crazy dogs.
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