Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Trouble With My Weight

Let's face the truth right from the beginning, shall we? I wish that I was thinner. I just hit the big 3-0 and my body does not look like it did when I was only 20. At 20 years old, I was 115 pounds. Mind you, this was after I had VanGoghGirl. Before my pregnancy, I usually hovered between 107 and 110 pounds.

When my mother married my step-father, he was convinced that I had anorexia nervosa because of how thin I was. It took years of watching me for him to be convinced otherwise. That's okay, though, because I appreciate his concern. Looking back on things, I think it was a reasonable suspicion for him to have and if I did have an eating disorder, then I know he'd have been the first to recognize it and made sure I got help right away. That's the benefits of having a dad who already had six daughters before he even met you. I have never met a man from his generation who was more comfortable with discussing the functions of the female body and how to keep one's "plumbing" in good working order.

I was used to people remarking about my weight because I'd been ├╝ber-skinny my entire life. Mostly the remarks fell into two categories. Women who mentioned it tended to make comments regarding how lucky I was to be so thin without having to diet or how they wish they had my body type. Men of color, would almost invariably tell me that I would look even better if I had "a little more meat" on my bones.

When I got to be about 25 years old, I finally started to gain some weight. At 125 pounds, I was curvier but still slim enough to be happy with how I looked. So, I should have been satisfied, right? Unfortunately, things are not that simple for me. On the surface, this may look like a clear-cut case of body image issues, the extent to which I've bought into society's unreal expectations regarding what a woman is supposed to look like. I'm sure that's probably a factor in this but it still wouldn't account for everything.

While I'm living in a society filled with lots of women who are obsessed with being thin, I'm also living in a body that has lupus. One symptom of this disease is a loss of appetite. This isn't a problem for many of those lupies who are on corticosteroids like prednisone because they tend to increase your appetite to the extent that a lot of users have to go on diets to because of all the weight they gain.

As a child, I was always a picky eater. If the choice was between eating something I didn't like or going to bed without dinner, I gladly chose the latter. The exception was breakfast. I simply had to eat something in the morning. My mother had convinced me that horrible things happen to those who do not eat breakfast before they start their day (Edit: She was right!) . I guess that was her way of making sure that I didn't go the entire day without eating at all. Looking back on things, I think that my ambivalence towards food was probably related to the fact that I had lupus back then even though I hadn't yet been diagnosed.

When I first started seeing my rheumatologist, he put me on prednisone to help with my flare-up but I didn't experience any of the weight gain that's commonly associated with it even though I took the drug for several years. In fact, the weight gain I experienced when I was about 25 only occurred after I was diagnosed with cancer.

During the period when I was receiving radiation treatments (also known as "the sunburn from hell"), I was given a liquid nutritional supplement (e.g. Boost, Ensure) to drink every day. Because my throat and esophagus were getting irradiated too, it hurt to swallow anything, even saliva. At first, I used an over the counter antiseptic spray to numb the pain but it didn't help much. I began to loathe eating because it was so painful that it brought tears to my eyes.

The German became my very own superhero and it was through his efforts that I even managed to gain weight during this period. He created all sorts of shakes and smoothies and crepes containing the nutritional supplement. And he insisted that I ate every single day. He kept me alive.

Fast forward to this last year. During this time, my weight just kind of crept up to around 155 pounds, sometimes a few pounds more or less. I know because they always weigh me when I go to the doctor. This was the heaviest I'd ever been in my life. When I was weighed on my last obstetrician visit before I had VanGoghGirl, I was only 145 pounds, so I was wondering whether it was something I should be concerned about. I'd never actually been on a diet before and I wasn't sure how to go about it if I should be on one, so I talked about it with my oncologist and my rheumatologist. They said that it was just fine and nothing to be worried about.

That was the state of things up until the past month. Now, I think I may need to go and talk to my doctors again. I don't get on the scale in my bathroom very often. Most of the time it just sits there taking up space. However, I tried on some jeans the other day that usually a pretty snug fit. This time, they were so loose that I had to put a belt on with them. When I put on the belt, I had to set it on the last notch and if I was willing to poke another hole in it, I could have made it even tighter. That really surprised me so I got on the scale that night and it turns out that I have lost A LOT of weight. The scale read 138 pounds.

I haven't even been thinking about my weight after my doctors told me it was fine. Now, I'm worried about why in the world I've lost that many pounds in one month. Looking back, I know I haven't exactly been eating more than usual but I certainly haven't made any real efforts to cut back either. I hope this isn't a sign that something awful is going on with my body. I just don't need that kind of news right now.

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