Many people have been commenting on and asking me about my weight loss. People in town in the shops I regularly visit. People who haven’t seen me for a while. Friends who’ve noticed things changing in the photos that I post to Instagram or Facebook. And they have a lot of questions. The funny thing is that I have been losing weight steadily for 7 years now but people have only recently begun to get whiplash when they see me.
Essentially, they want to know how I lost the weight. So, I’ve written a comprehensive answer, because it’s not been an easy question to respond to in one line while standing in the checkout queue at IGA.
For me, it’s not terribly interesting that I have shed weight; the far more interesting question is about how the extra weight got there in the first place. I think people probably have a narrow judgement about that, presuming it was from too much food, lack of exercise and a sedentary job. The more interesting answer, though, is that at no time have I consciously changed my diet (either while gaining weight or while losing it), nor have I ever embarked on a new exercise routine to lose weight. Nope, none of that.
I am someone who experienced two miserable, painful, crushing years of disordered eating and, once through it and out the other side, I have never once allowed myself to manipulate food or exercise for any specific weight-related purpose. I cannot do it. I will not do it. It’s like being a recovered addict, I guess. I simply cannot ever go back to anything that resembles food/exercise control, portion sizes, calorie counting, weigh-ins, tape measures or anything like that. For me, diet culture and weight fixation is triggering and deeply uncomfortable. I am always interested in a loved one’s health, of course, but not the perseveration over ‘weight’.
Okay, back to me. What has actually happened? (You can scroll to the bottom for the TLDR section if you don’t like details.)
Well, this goes back a long way (more than thirty years), back to when I was fifteen. That was the year my autoimmune disease began. It’s called ankylosing spondylitis. Like all autoimmune conditions, it’s rather nasty. Its aim is to “remodel” my spine, which means: damage it, break it down, inflame it, fuse it where it shouldn’t be fused, grow bits where there shouldn’t be bits, cause terrible sciatica, fuse the sacroiliac joints… and for kicks and giggles it expands its territory to include other joints and soft tissues as well. Because medical ‘experts’ used to believe that women didn’t get ankylosing spondylitis (gosh… that gender prejudice is an exhausting and repetitive tale of medical woe), I was dismissed. I was gaslighted by doctors for years, told I must simply be depressed, signed up for thousands of dollars of ‘essential wellness’ tools, or told by new age healers that I had chosen this for myself and only I could make the choice to be well.
Then, at forty years of age, a good (female) GP referred me to a different (female) rheumatologist who quickly realised what was going on. Scans were ordered and by now, the damage to my spine from a quarter of a century of this rampantly unchecked autoimmune disease was so irrefutable that I finally received a correct diagnosis and, importantly, the correct medication.
You see, because I had never been diagnosed correctly, over the decades, I had been given all manner of pain modulating medication which, you guessed it, made me put on loads of weight. One of those medications took me four months to wean myself from due to the horrendous withdrawal side effects. It was a nightmare.
Now, The Too-Long-Don’t-Read (TLDR) Summary of My 30kg Weight Loss Story
- I had a serious auto-immune condition that started when I was 15 but I was misdiagnosed for 25 years.
- In those 25 years, I required more and more pain medication to control the damage that was being done to my spine and body. These medications made me put on weight, made me dopey and sleepy and messed with my brain.
- At 40 years of age, I finally got the correct diagnosis and importantly the correct medication. This (practically magical) fortnightly injection does not make me put on weight and it improves my spine function and mobility so I can be naturally more active.
- When I stopped taking the wrong medication, I began to lose weight, with no specific intention (because I refuse to ever again be controlled by thoughts of weight and weight loss). I lost roughly a 1kg a month consistently for over a year.
- Interestingly, for a while after discovering I am neurodivergent, I lost more weight (again, at about 1kg a month) for some time. I have no explanation for this but (half) jokingly refer to it as my ‘Autistic weight loss’, perhaps the result of shedding decades of pain and shame from not knowing my true self. You never know…
- Things got twisty again last year when, for several months, I lost my appetite and couldn’t look at food and felt like I had morning sickness all the time and generally just felt I couldn’t cope. I was also hysterically thirsty (I literally couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t swallow!) and exhausted and I was dropping weight. I had tests to rule out diabetes, iron deficiency and liver function, which were all normal. Both myself and and the GP put it down to the side effects from having started ADHD medication. But we were wrong.
- When I saw a different GP about these symptoms (as I was worried no one was taking them seriously enough), she suggested trialling low-dose hormone therapy… and just like magic, all those symptoms went away.
- I have been eating as usual now since December last year (I no longer feel sick and am not ridiculously thirsty) and my weight has been stable for months now.
That’s it in a nutshell.
You asked… I’ve answered.
(P.S. I have deliberately not provided before and after pics because, as stated, that kind of culture makes me feel queasy and triggers parts of me I’d rather not invoke.)