Sparkles & Stretchmarks: A UK Parenting & Pregnancy Blog: When Being Fat Is Not Your Fault

Thursday, 10 November 2016

When Being Fat Is Not Your Fault



1st March 2016 - I laid my 3 week old baby down in his crib and winced slightly at the pain from my csection incision. I took a deep breath and made my way to the bathroom....I wasn't going to put this off any longer...3 weeks had passed since giving birth, and I wanted to know where I stood...so that I could start to make a change.

I stepped on to the scales, took a deep breath, closed my eyes and waited for the beep...when I heard it, I glanced down...and my stomach flipped when I saw the numbers.

19 stone 7 lb.

I had expected it to be bad...I knew that my size 22 clothes were starting to feel too tight, and I was out of breath so easily just from walking up the stairs...but I hadn't expected to have gained 2 whole stones since my middle child was born, 10 months earlier.

I flashed back in my mind to 1999 - I was 18, and a friend & I were killing time in between college classes...and we decided to get weighed on the new machines in the ladies toilets.

I put my 20p pence and collected my print out....I remember it perfectly...

 8st 13 lbs.

I wore a size 8/10 in clothes.

I'd always been naturally thin. 

I was gangly as a child, and even teased at school sometimes for being a "skinny melink".

So how had I managed to go up a massive 10 stone 6 lbs?!

You'd probably assume it had happened gradually over time...that a mix of extreme over eating, not exercising and a naturally slowing metabolism with age  had resulted in this.

But you'd be wrong.

It didn't happen gradually at all.

It happened quite quickly.

Just a few months after that day in college, I was sitting in the endocrinology ward of Liverpool's Royal Hospital being diagnosed with Graves Disease...an autoimmune disease that affects thyroid function.

The thyroid gland begins to either produce too much or too little thyroxine, mine seemed to swing rapidly between the two...sometimes I was hyperthyroid (too much), sometimes I was hypothyroid (too little) making it more difficult to treat and monitor than a "normal" thyroid problem.

I was put onto steroid based medication to help correct it.

And that was it.

Within a year, with no change at all in eating or exercise habits, I was already up to 14 stone.

It took my some time to realise that it was the medication causing the problem...I tried every diet I could find...Slimming World, Weight Watchers, South Beach, Atkins, Calorie Counting, Hitting the gym everyday...for years I tried it all, nothing worked. Nothing at all.

I could eat nothing but lettuce leaves and I wouldn't lose a pound.

It wasn't until I googled my medication one day that I saw how many hundreds of people were reporting massive weight gains and an inability to lose it,...that's when I realised...the thing was that was improving my health was damaging it in another way too.

Over the years, different medications were stopped and started as my thryoid continued to fluctuate...overactive, underactive, overactive, underactive.... I got older....I  had children...

Symptoms came and went...

The symptoms of this condition are varied and plentiful, the ones that I suffer with include:

*Violent hand tremors
*Heart palpitations
*Pins & Needles
*Intense pounding headaches
*Blurred vision
*Aches & pains
*Forgetfulness
*Brain fog
*Anxiety
*Hair loss
*Feeling hot all of the time

There are tons more symptoms that I have been lucky enough not to experience as of yet - such as protruding eyes, blindness, recurrent miscarriage, birth defects and even death.

I was lucky not to have experienced any of those truly awful symptom thanks to my medication, however it had left me morbidly obese.


Me at 19 and a half stone

But on that day in March...I knew things could be different...because for the first time in almost 14 years, I had been without any medication for almost 24 months and my thyroid had remained normal.

For 18 months of that time I had been pregnant so losing weight was an issue, but now was my chance.

Without the steroidss, and without my thyroid working against me...this was my chance to finally get back in control of my own body and lose the weight that I had never wanted to gain, that had made me so very miserable.

And so all summer long, I was strict and determined.

This week, 8 months later, I logged in to Slimming World online and weighed in as usual...another 2 lbs off, and I got my 3 stone award. 

I was delighted.

3 stone off in 8 months felt like a great achievement, although I still have 3 stone to go before I feel comfortable with myself again...but it felt as though that goal was in sight. 

I had hoped to reach that target by next Summer...before our next cruise holiday, so that instead of going away upset about the formal dresses I had been forced to wear after being able to find next to nothing in my size...I could go away with dresses I really loved, having lots to choose from and feeling fabulous in them.


Me now, 3 stone down

But this week, I've been feeling very unwell.

I was physically shaking all of the time...from the time I got up in the morning until the time I went to bed.... I was finding it difficult to even walk down the stairs as my legs felt like jelly and I was shaking so badly that I thought I might slip and fall.

I couldn't button up Sailor's romper suit because my hands were shaking too violently.

I felt hot and agitated all day long.

 And my heart raced constantly...feeling like it was a skipping a beat all of the time...palpitations.

I knew what was wrong. The symptoms are so distinctive.

So I went to the Dr, and asked for a blood test....told him what I thought was going on...

This morning, he called me...

"You were right. Your thyroid has gone haywire again. We need to get you back on medication as soon as possible".

And just like that, once again, my control over my own body has been relinquished.

I can't stop my thyroid from not functioning properly, and I can't stop the way my body reacts to the steroid medication...the way it seems to halt my metabolism completely, the way that no matter how strictly I stick to a diet when I am on that medicine my body not only doesn't shed weight...but it gains it. Rapidly.

And there's nothing I can do about it.

The only alternative medication I could take is known to cause liver damage, and with a blood test earlier this year showing some liver damage already (possibly from my  previous courses of that medication....) I can't take that risk. The Dr won't allow it.

In the past, when I was younger and more selfish, I have delayed taking my medication and just lived with the symptoms of my disease in order to control my own weight...I was in my late 20s at the time and I had spent the summer dieting and exercising hard, managing to get myself down to 13 and a half stone...and a size 14 in clothes.

I felt comfortable and confident which was rare for me...but the symptoms were getting stronger, I felt physically ill every day.....I knew it was dangerous to keep avoiding the medicine, that my thyroid was out of control... but I couldn't stand the thought of gaining so much weight again, after working hard to lose it...so for a good few months I lied to my Drs and pretended I was taking the medication when I wasn't.

They say that thyroid disease patients often develop this habit in order to try to control their weight and that they consider it a form of eating disorder...because you are deliberately putting yourself at risk in order to control your weight.

Me when I was ill again but deliberately avoiding medication, trying to hold on my size 14 figure

Once I started to feel extremely poorly, I gave in and took the medication again...and, just like I knew I would, I ballooned back up in no time....and now here I am.

I can't play the same games this time...I can't and won't delay taking my medication now that I have children to think about....it's too selfish.

Just last year, a young mum in my town died suddenly...due to the same thyroid condition that I have.

Leaving behind a 3 year old little boy, just weeks before Christmas.

Her body went into a sudden thyroid storm and killed her...It's unusual for someone to die from this condition, and it makes me wonder if perhaps she had been avoiding her medication too...or maybe they just didn't get the medicine balance right, who knows.

But regardless...it made me realise that I can't mess with these things...this is a serious condition when left untreated, and I can't be selfish about it for vanity reasons...as much as I desperately want to lose more weight and not have the past 8 months of working to lose it be for nothing, I have to take the medicine.

There's no option.

And there's no control.

People say "Oh just eat healthily and exercise, I'm sure it won't be that bad" or "Just speak to the Drs, ask them for advice, there must be alternatives"...but I've been there before, I know how my body reacts to it. And I know that there are no alternatives right now (surgery or radioiodine treatment to remove or kill my thyroid gland completely in the future possibly, but that brings about its own complications...)

Right now, I am so depressed.

I can't begin to explain how truly depressing it is to feel so uncomfortable with the way you look, and yet have all power and control over it be removed from you.

I know it's not the end of the world...I know it's not cancer or HIV or anything truly life altering...but it doesn't stop it from being depressing as hell.

I know that size shouldn't matter, but let's be honest...it does. People judge you on it wherever you go, and nobody ever thinks that there may be a reason like this behind it....

Even if you do try to explain the problem to people, they don't listen...they assume you're making excuses, assume it can't really be that bad, assume that there MUST be something you or the Drs can do...

Having social anxiety already makes things harder, because I fear judgement anyway...and feeling so unconfident with my appearance makes it all the worse. I dread going out incase people throw insults at me or look at me funny.

I worry about going to blog events incase people are shocked by how fat I am, or judge me based on it.

And of course that would be hard enough if you were someone with a "normal" weight problem who felt uncomfortable with their size...but when it's so out of your control, it's awful as you feel the desire to change your appearance every single day...you have every motivation to do it, but you're not able to....it just doesn't work....there is no control.

Everywhere I look I see people around me sharing their weight loss achievements and being congratulated on their hard work.

I see people being fat shamed, having jokes made about what they must eat and how lazy they must be.

But the thing is...sometimes it isn't about your lifestyle at all...And sometimes it doesn't matter how hard you try...sometimes your body and the medicine it needs works against you, and there's just absolutely nothing you can do about it.

People don't want to believe that....they want to think it's not that easy...that it MUST be something you allow to happen....that you MUST be making excuses...that you MUST be eating wrong or slobbing about all the time...that you cannot POSSIBLY be truly trying, doing everything you're supposed to do, and STILL gaining weight like this...

But they're wrong.

And knowing that people think this way makes it all the worse for people like me....people who would do anything to make it go away, people who are desperate to have some control back, people who want to feel good about themselves again....but can't.

So please...next time you find yourself judging someone for their size, or thinking you know the score, or assuming they're just not trying hard enough, or thinking how much better and in control you are than them because you're thin...don't.

Because sometimes your body just stops working as it should and it can happen to anybody.

 The 8 stone 13 lb Me never thought she'd be here, looking like this, feeling so self conscious and ashamed every day, and not able to do a thing about it.

But here I am.

And It fucking sucks.

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7 comments:

  1. That's a brave post. I am overweight mostly through binge eating. But no one seems to recognise that different people have different metabolisms. It's the one thing I hated about Slimming World. If you don't lose weight then it's your fault, you're doing the diet wrong. That's just not true!!!!! hope medical science improves and finds a way for your metabolism to work properly. In the meantime ignore the fat shamers. You're a mum. That's the most important thing.

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  2. I have always been overweight since a teenager. But I feel healthy, I have a very active day job where I'm on my feet for 9 hours a day and my husband loves me the way I am so i do feel comfortable. I am going to start eating more healthily. I just need chocolate in moderation! You are a beautiful mum. It must feel so frustrating for you I can't imagine. Sending hugs xx

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  3. http://www.scarymommy.com/mom-bod-swimsuit/ I hope this works, I am trying to include a link to an article that I thought was really beautiful, and although not related to weight gain through illness, it did make me think of all the lovely things you do with your children and how this is how they will always see you rather than how much you weigh. You are a fantastic mum, and that is what ALWAYS counts. Jane x (this comment will appear in my OHs name as I seem to be in his google account!)

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  4. This post makes me sad :-( look at how much fun you have with your children, look how immaculate all your clothes are and how nice your make up always is. You make an effort and to me that's what stands out about you. Not your weight Xx

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  5. I am overweight at the moment, but through no reason other than I've not been exercising lately. I know that I could fix it if I just get off my bum (which for one reason or another just isn't possible right now - I know, excuses, excuses!), and I can imagine it's that lack of control that is the most frustrating thing. For what it's worth, I've always thought you look great in your photos - happy, content, and clearly a great mum. And like Laura said above, that's the thing that stands out. Thanks for joining us again at #SharingtheBlogLove

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  6. Oh Hayley this is so sad to read! You are a beautiful person and always looks happy and gorgeous in your photos and your videos. I don't see an overweight person. But, I know that its easy for me to say and it must be incredibly frustrating to be on the path to something that you want to achieve and have it taken away like that. Sending hugs x Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove x

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  7. Google 'Health at Every Size' (or HAES as it's sometimes known); it's a body-positive movement that focuses on living your best life in the healthiest way you personally can without focussing on basic aesthetics or judging people's life and health based on their size. I can't recommend it enough.

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