The Unexpected Consequences of Weight Gain

I’m frustrated and fit to be tied over media endlessly pushing misguided, mixed messages in my face about being overweight. For example, most health articles and television advertisements are aimed at women losing those unsightly pounds and stepping out of the ugly fat suit to reveal the babe lurking inside, struggling to emerge like a butterfly in a chrysalis. Presto, instant self-esteem, vitality, and a decreased risk of death – as though we’ll live forever if we maintain a swimsuit-rocking size. (Hey advert dudes, everybody dies!)

Not actually about health

Someone bought me a subscription to Women’s Health magazine and each month, I see a cover photo of a fit babe showing me her abs, arms, and a$$ while gazing suggestively at the camera. The magazine should be titled Women’s Glam, or T & A, or something equally not-about-health. But the most blatant and amusing example is the Lipozene commercial in which Holly Robinson Peete, clad in a one-piece bathing suit and wraparound shawl skirt hawks glucomannan capsules and points to her even more scantily clad husband, Rodney Peete’s weight loss. Let the sexism begin; he needed to lose weight as prep for surgery and to avoid developing Type 2 diabetes. His motivation was health, so far so good. An attractive and stylish woman, Mrs. Peete then touts the glucomannan regimen for herself as a means to get into a sexy beach number. There’s an unwritten rule that selling a product must involve devaluing a woman’s current appearance and then offering a solution that restores her f^%kability. Girls, looking old and fat will only get you in a BEFORE photo on a weight loss commercial. Guys, take glucomannan to stave off diabetes and heart disease.

Chronic illness increases sedentary behavior

Well, I’m old and fat. Sixty-one, 5’ 2” and 175 lbs. The increase was probably more of a gradual accumulation over a long period of time, but it’s hard to track with all the disease symptom distractions I’ve faced and becoming more and more sedentary from having MS and spine issues. In 2018 I crossed the line (on the BMI) from being overweight to obese. But, even though I dig a little deeper to find articles focused on women’s health (as opposed to glam and sex appeal), I wasn’t prepared for the challenges I now face.

Being at this weight and age makes weight loss more difficult now than it was ten years ago. Calorie reduction doesn’t work the way it used to. The SBMI (Smart Body Mass Index) literature says I am now prone to more weight gain and advises that I concentrate more on keeping a steady weight than on weight loss. I can see why. I get desperately hungry when I reduce calories and then binge on starch.

Leg edema

I’ve learned to focus more on regular exercise. At this stage and my particular circumstances, I’m now battling foot edema and massive loss of muscle mass. Stretching, muscle resistance, massage and cardio have kept the lymphatic fluid flowing up and eliminated my need to wear compression socks day and night. Building muscle mass will increase metabolism for when I start trying to lose a little weight. Weight gain has brought on other unexpected problems, too.

Obstructional apnea

Obstructional apnea is starting to be a big problem. It worsened after I gained 18 lbs after which I developed a blocked salivary gland that was relieved by antibiotics but which left me with a swollen restricted feeling in my airway. The literature says weight gain is a major contributor to sleep apnea and weight loss can be a tremendous help.

These problems tend to crop up in our later years. I didn’t have apnea and fluid retention in my youth when I could take off 10 lbs in three months just by eliminating starch. The unexpected consequences of weight gain have made me better informed about focusing on exercise and calorie maintenance. It’s hard enough living with MS symptoms without adding more challenges from weight gain.

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