Okay, so that phrase seems counterintuitive, right? It is…but it isn’t. During chemotherapy I gained a substantial amount of weight. I needed to gain weight, but not as much as I did. I went from 120 pounds to 195 pounds. Ideally I’d love to hang out around 145. Currently I way 170. That 35 pound drop? Yeah, I got myself down to 190, but the other 30 is from gastroparesis.
So how the hell do I diet. I mean, I want to lose weight, but not because I’m not eating.
There isn’t really an easy answer. I eat what I can, when I can, and I try and make sure that the food I’m eating is easy to digest, but nutrient dense. It isn’t easy. Protein bars, protein cookies, etc., are all options, but sometimes the protein is really hard for me to process. Lately I’ve been doing toast with some butter and honey.
Today I’ve had two pieces of toast with honey, and two little pieces of soft fresh mozzarella cheese.
That isn’t enough. I also wasn’t supposed to be eating the cheese, but I had a moment of hunger, and just went with it. The problem is that I’m so full, and haven’t had much to drink at all. That’s the other issue with gastroparesis (for me) is that I often find myself choosing between food and water. I know I need water, but I also need to keep my blood sugar up. Again, I go to honey. I have hot lemon water with honey. I think I’m just hoping the honey will keep my blood sugar up, while also tasting good and giving me some calories.
Yes, I want calories.
This is where people can go down very different roads. Some people, like myself, want control over intake and output. I want my exercise and calories, to be well matched. I don’t want to lose weight too fast. I know that I need to keep muscle on, and burn fat. If I’m losing too much weight, I’m losing muscle, and telling my body to store fat. Others go down a very different path. They see the massive weight loss gastroparesis is providing, and they lean into it. It becomes an excuse for intentional disordered eating.
If you have a digestive order, and you’re using the symptoms or medications to help lose weight intentionally, please talk with your doctor.
Some conditions and some medications cause weight loss, but you should be working with your doctor and your nutritionist to mitigate the impact of this. Being sick is not a good way to lose weight. I was 120 pounds because of gastroparesis. I gained weight during chemotherapy because of the drugs I was getting, including steroids. I also developed a ravenous appetite for sweets. I would eat a little bit, all day, and I could process the gluten free vegan options…so that’s what I ate.
Look, I’m not going to rationalize my weight loss or gain. The reality is I should have been receiving better care before I got to 120 pounds, but I honestly didn’t even realize I was that thin. I was so focused on the symptoms, and because I didn’t feel hungry, it didn’t dawn on me that it was an issue. Friends would make comments, and eventually I realized that I was wearing dress sizes and pant sizes that I had never worn. Sitting in a dressing room, holding a small and extra small, when you’re as tall as I am, can be a sobering moment. I remember thinking that I’d wanted to lose weight, but being utterly confused how I’d gotten so thin.
I don’t get hungry, so I try to be mindful of my nutritional and caloric needs. I am 100% sure that I’m deficient, but I’m not negligent.
I get infusions of vitamins and amino acids, because I cannot take in these specific vitamins and amino acids, by mouth. I’m also dealing with periodic malabsorption. I have ulcers in my intestines that prevent adequate absorption, and I also have sections of intestines that just don’t move properly, again, contributing to malabsorption.
It’s funny because I have moments where I’m just matter-of-fact about my gastroparesis. “No thank you, I can’t eat. I have gastroparesis, so I’m still full from breakfast,” she says at 8pm. Then there are other moments, where I get defensive. I’ve been told that not eating sufficiently, for x amount of days, makes me anorexic. There was a heated exchange because anorexia has a physical impact on your body, but ultimately it’s a disease of the mind. Gastroparesis can lead to anorexia, or contribute to anorexia, and severe enough anorexia can even lead to gastroparesis (or at least issues similar.) Someone who has gastroparesis, and loses weight because of it, is not automatically anorexic.
I want to lose weight. I do not want to use my illness to lose weight. I acknowledge that my weight loss is unhealthy, and I do everything in my power to slow down the weight loss, as well as to supplement nutritionally and calorically.
We can go back and forth for the rest of our lives, but ultimately the important thing is achieving health. I want to be able to work out. I want to be able to eat salads again. I want so many things. The last thing I want, is my gastroparesis to decide my body shape, and for me to have to go along with whatever the disease decides.