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  • Health and Wellness

    How To Stay Healthy When Your Medications Cause Weight Gain

    Jessica*- a colleague of mine from the Hospital- started opening up to me one day about her frustrations with a recent 40 lbs weight gain. She had recently been diagnosed with “lupus” (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) – an autoimmune disorder that causes full-body inflammation and affects multiple organ systems. Jessica had spent many years of her life without knowing she had lupus. Only recently did all of her symptoms finally get pieced together. She was started on strong medications (to suppress her immune system) and was now battling a 40 lbs (!) weight gain despite careful attempts at watching her diet.

    She had my full attention.

    Jessica shared that she was taking an oral steroid (called prednisone) for the past few months.

    She was frustrated and defeated. She was trying really hard to lose weight, but felt like her medications were preventing her from making any progress.

    To be honest, I wasn’t too surprised she had been struggling with weight gain.

    Steroids- such as prednisone- are powerful medications that dampens our body’s immune system. They are important medications and are intentionally used sparingly. Unfortunately, steroid medications come with a lot of side effects.

    When you are on a steroid, your body can develop an intolerance to carbohydrates. (This was true for Jessica, who had a difficult time eating starchy vegetables such as potatoes and squash without nausea and GI discomfort).

    Steroids also cause your body to distribute fat abnormally and can worsen your blood sugar levels. Most notably, steroids can increase your appetite and cause significant weight gain (we’re talking >20 lbs in 3-6 months)!

    I asked Jessica if she had tried making any modifications to her diet since being diagnosed with Lupus, and if her efforts were being effective.

    Jessica opened up:

    I was QUEEN of frozen dinners and packaged meals. If it was something I could throw in the microwave, I’d buy it at the store. I didn’t think about making any changes to what I was eating or drinking when I was first really sick. All I could think about were my painful joints and low energy.

    But the day I developed a fever >105 and landed in the ICU at the hospital for a few days (with no memory of what happened), I knew I needed to get to the bottom of what was going on with my body.

    When it came to approaching her medical condition, Jessica did everything right. She went to the appropriate specialists and followed all of their diagnostic work-ups. She took the medications she was given as prescribed.

    The one thing Jessica felt was missing was the discussion on nutrition.

    She decided to take nutrition into her own hands and worked diligently on cleaning out her diet. (Oh man, you guys. My heart was SINGING when she told me this!!)

    She prioritized non-starchy vegetables, fruit, and protein (mostly chicken and turkey), and threw away all of her frozen and processed meals.

    She stopped eating and drinking anything with artificial ingredients. (Not an easy feat!)

    She did this for ONE WEEK…

    (drumroll please…)

    … and IMMEDIATELY (!) felt a difference in her body.

    Her joint pain immediately cleared up. Her energy perked up. Most notably, she started feeling sick and nauseous when she’d go back to eating processed foods- making it that much easier to steer clear of them the next time.

    Now, I’d love to continue sharing Jessica’s story and say that all things have continued to be beautiful rainbows and butterflies, but Jessica is the first to admit that she is still struggling with being on powerful medications that are preventing her from losing weight.

    When I asked her what else she is going to experiment with next to combat the pharmaceutical weight gain, she started mentioning building in more movement and activity to burn off some more energy.

    I loved that idea.

    I chimed in as well and suggested honing in on mindfulness too. It was very clear that Jessica’s battle with Lupus was one that had been brewing for years on end.

    That’s years of full-body stress.

    It can really wear your body out!

    I suggested experimenting with new hobbies aimed at naturally alleviating her stress, such as:

    • Journaling
    • Calling a loved one regularly
    • Finding an online support group / social media community
    • Walking or exercising regularly
    • Listening to a meditation app
    • Unwinding with a light & fun book

    Can You Relate To Jessica?

    • Are you on medications and swear that they are stalling your weight loss efforts?
    • Do you need help getting started losing weight?

    Allow me to guide you step-by-step on a journey to a healthier you. Here’s how…

    Do you need help with managing your stress?

    The importance of stress-management cannot be over-stated. In case you missed one of my previous post on stress, you don’t want to miss the major impact that stress has on your body over long periods of time –> Learn how to save years of your life by reducing stress.

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