Why I’m So Thankful To Be Gaining Weight
For many people, gaining weight is dreadful. It can make us self-conscious. Or encourage us to pursue new avenues to slim down: diet, exercise, gastric bypass surgery, or a thousand other remedies.
Because I’ve had Crohn's disease for over 30 years, though, and have rarely been able to gain weight, I look at it as more of a blessing. I believe this can be the case for some IBD sufferers. We don't want to be overweight, and certainly not obese, but given the nature of our illness, many of us could use to put on a few pounds.
Crohn's disease has affected my weight
For most of my life, I often thought of gaining weight as an insurance policy. After all, it seemed like it would be nice to have extra body fat in case I enter a period of active Crohn’s and couldn’t eat much. That said, I was never able to gain a single pound.
That's right. For decades I was 155 pounds. Given that I'm 6 feet tall and have a relatively broad frame, that's pretty thin. It didn’t matter how much I ate, or how high-caloric it was, I stayed at 155.
The fact that I was so skinny really bothered my father. He’d buy me weight-gaining powder to mix in my water during dinner. He’d also encourage me to take in huge quantities of calories. Finally, he insisted I drink Ensure every day in addition to my 3 regular meals. I'd reluctantly comply with these decrees but still looked like a scarecrow. Sometimes, when out on the street in New York City, I even got confused for a heroin addict.
The reason eating more never helped is I always went to the bathroom a ton. Whatever I ate seemed to come out the other end. It was also a product of disease activity and a high metabolism.
Crohn's and weight loss
At one point, when I had two surgeries in a year, and a problem getting any food down – owing to my intestine being stuck in my duodenum, which probably resulted from intestinal adhesions — I went 11 months on a liquid diet and dropped to 110. My diet was basically egg drop soup, Jell-O and ice pops. No solid foods.
Still, even those liquids caused me unimaginable agony. As for solid foods, the pain and suffering were so great that I chose to practically starve since doing so was the better of my regrettable options.
I ate so little over those 11 months that my face was bony and jaundiced. I was incredibly weak. Eventually, I adapted: my stomach shrank and the hunger cravings faded. Still, the lack of nutrients took a toll on me. I'd get so little nutrition I sometimes hallucinated. At other times I'd sleep 17 or 18 hours a day.
After surgery corrected these issues, I went back to 155 lbs. Still, I never forgot it and always made gaining weight a priority. No luck. I stayed 155 for decades.
Finally able to gain weight in remission
It was only in the last few years, on my current medicine, that I went up to 175. This seemed a really positive sign. The extra weight filled me out and others told me I looked healthier. It also provided me some extra wiggle room in case I started getting sick again.
While 175 was a terrific weight, and I enjoyed it for a few years, at my appointment at my gastroenterologist this month I learned I am now 192. Wowzer! This stunned me!
Yes, I'm living in the South now where the portions are larger and yes the pandemic has kept all of us at home more, but gaining this much weight never seemed possible. (The other day I bent over and my butt crack showed while in stretch pants at Walmart, proving once and for all I've fully adapted to redneck culture.)
A sign of Crohn's remission
Part of me is thrilled I feel well enough to have packed on all these pounds. Another part of me, however, is determined to go on a diet. While few of us want to be overweight, however marginally, I consider my new dimensions a blessing. I'm thrilled that I'm well enough now to NEED a diet. This is a true miracle. It’s also a sign that I’m still in remission.
Thanks for reading, and, as always, I look forward to checking out your own weight-related stories below.
Will you take our In America survey to help others understand the true impact of Crohn's and UC?