2020 has been a blur, hasn’t it? So much has happened and I can hardly believe it’s all been packed into five months! While our nation and the world is in all kinds of chaos, there are certain things that have not changed. Chronic illness stops for nothing. So, I will continue to support you by bringing you some new insights and information as I find them.
This month’s topic has been near and dear to my heart for over twenty years as I’ve struggled with my weight, diets, and exercise that all promised great results but delivered bupkis.
I’ve been steadily gaining weight since I had my son almost 21 years ago and I began my perimenopause journey. However, a little more than three years ago, I had a total hysterectomy and that’s when my body decided to make up for in width what I lacked in hight! Since I was mostly a healthy eater and had no issues with cravings, stress eating, or portion control, I was at a loss to find something that actually worked for me.
As I mentioned before, limiting calories to 1200/day had not worked AT ALL for me because left to my own devices, I was only eating 900 – 1000 calories/day. So, my attention next turned to exercise. BUT…there’s a HUGE problem with exercise for those of us with chronic illness. Here’s an excerpt from an article I found online:
“It’s basic physiology—when you feel sluggish, unmotivated and fatigued, getting up and doing some exercise causes changes in your body that boost your energy. Exercise also releases endorphins in the brain, and endorphins are great pain killers. So when people say those of us with Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome would feel better if we got “more exercise,” there’s something to it, right? Actually, no. In normal, healthy people, yes—exercise creates energy. Problem is, we’re not normal and healthy.”
And what are these endorphins people speak of? I’m pretty sure they don’t have those on my planet. My husband always told me that he feels GREAT after exercising and taking a shower. I never had enough energy after exercise TO take a shower. The best I felt after a “work out” was slightly more tired than you normally feel when you have the flu!
In my experience, even as a teen in high school (after eight months of doing two back to back 30-minute aerobics tv shows), I couldn’t get off the floor to take a shower and go to school. As I got older, it only got worse. In recent years, I have never gotten past two or three weeks of “gentle walking” on the treadmill without having a flare and giving up for a month…or several.
The dangers of exercise for chronic illness sufferers are flares and injury. Doing too much can cause a flare in your pain and/or fatigue and that flare can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks or longer for some. Injury is a concern even for those who don’t have a chronic illness but don’t exercise regularly. After walking on the treadmill a while back for as much as three weeks, I injured my foot requiring six surgical procedures!
The most difficult part of this for me is knowing when is too much. I can have no problem for weeks and suddenly, in a matter of a few seconds, I’m done! I’m exhausted. No warning. Nothing telling me it was coming. Anyone have this? And further, when something is too much, I have no idea how long my recovery from a flare will be. Sometimes it’s a few hours. Sometimes it’s seven weeks.
I have no way of knowing, but some people can feel it coming on. Some can tell when they are going to need to stop and some know that doing X will likely cause Y amount of time to recover. Some know when it’s too much but have no idea of how long recovery might take. I have no indication of either.
If you can start slow, build slowly, and you can find what works for you, there are many benefits of exercise for chronic illness. For some, exercise is a way of feeling healthier or building strength or even easing some of their pain symptoms. For some, the goal was weight loss.
I was never able to exercise enough to contribute to any weight loss. I was way too fatigued to do enough of it to yield any weight loss results. After gaining 50% of my weight in FAT, I thought I’d never lose it.
Everyone gave me lots of ideas, but nothing worked for me. I heard about the Keto Diet but found it too complicated even for those who lost weight with it to explain it to me in four sentences or less. I had all but given up when I found a health coach that was able to tailor a plan just for me and tweak it along the way when things went sideways. And that’s how things work on my planet so that happened a LOT!
I think most of the issues we, as chronic illness folk, have with traditional programs of any kind are that we aren’t your typical, average person. We may not even be typical for whatever diagnoses we have! I know I’m not!
Just like I was blessed to find a doctor who not only understands my chronic illnesses but who is willing to listen and tweak my treatment, what made all the difference for me was my health coach. I found one that knows her stuff and also is open to listening to the issues I was having that weren’t normal. If someone had told me what the average person needs to do to lose weight and left me on my own to figure it out, I’d have quit after my second week!!
After losing 15 pounds, I finally began to notice an improvement in my fatigue, sleep, and a decrease in the number and severity of my flares. Fatigue is still the BIGGEST issue I deal with even more so than the pain. It’s no where near gone, but there is a noticeable improvement!
Each one of us has to find what works for our individual needs. My coach, Mary, has been such a blessing! At the time I’m writing this, I’ve lost 15 lbs and 17 inches so far. If you’ve had a tough time losing, check her out. She’ll talk to you about how she can help with no obligation whatsoever! If you do, tell her JoJo says hello!
What diet, eating program, or exercise have you found works for you?
Make sure you check back next week when I’ll be sharing some insights I found about food that has proven very interesting to combat fatigue!