It’s a Weighty Issue

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about chronic illness and body weight. Being chronically ill can exert a huge impact on one’s weight. Medications used to manage symptoms of chronic illness may directly cause significant weight gain. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are frequently used to manage the inflammation of chronic illness. Although potent, prednisone is notorious for weight gain. I personally have openly wept (more than once) when witnessing how my previously thin body balloooned when I needed to take large doses of prednisone, for a period of several years. Dealing with debilitating fatigue makes it difficult to be more physically active, which also impacts the ability to maintain an ideal body weight. Symptoms of chronic illness may impact mobility, which creates challenges for engaging in regular physical activity. Feeling depressed as a result of chronic illness may reduce the motivation to remain physically active, further impacting weight management. Food may be incorrectly used for emotional comfort, as opposed to merely satisfy feelings of hunger. Sleep patterns may be adversely impacted by symptoms of chronic illness. Extended periods of insomnia are increasingly recognized as a causal factor in the development of obesity. Living with a chronic illness is typically very stressful, which may impact cortisol levels; high sustained cortisol levels further contribute to unintentional weight gain. Like others, those with chronic illness also experience reduced metabolism with advanced age. It’s important to remember that there are multiple factors that impact weight management in those who are chronically ill. Experiencing a significant weight gain during the development of chronic illness is not uncommon. For the majority of individuals, this results in a new set of adjustment issues. Body image, and self-esteem, may be negatively impacted by weight gain. Please be gentle with yourself if you’re facing weight changes due to the development of chronic illness. Try to refrain from simplistic explanations about why others with chronic illness may have gained weight, assuming that they simply lack willpower.

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