Over the past 3 months, I lost 8 pounds I was not expecting to lose. I am, though, pretty darned happy that I did,
this pic was taken in 2006, before I knew all the conditions I have–and believe it or not, this is what I weigh now. Surprising and amusing!considering that after I left my last retail job I gained back the 10 lbs I lost working retail, plus 5–which put me at my all-time highest weight ever. Yet I never really considered going on a diet because all those tests that are supposed to tell you that your weight is bad–cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure specifically–gave no indication that my weight was causing me significant health problems. However, as my weight was creeping up to the big 2-0-0 (and I’m only 5 ft. 3) I started to get concerned about my ability to find clothes that I would not need to have altered, my declining ability to wear high heels, and another layer of pudge around my chin line.
Maybe this all sounds like vanity to you, and that I shouldn’t worry about my weight if the rest of me is O.K. Thing is, there were things about my health that were not O.K., and they had nothing to do with my weight. What they did have to do with were a number of undiagnosed conditions–some that I may have had since childhood–that had gone untreated. How could I have gone so long with childhood conditions not getting treatment? Well, lots of reasons–one of them has to do with the improvements in medical care and diagnosis; the other has to do with the old-fashioned “just cope with it” strategy that no longer worked. Hence, I needed to stop coping and accept that I needed medications for various conditions I never knew I had.
Now, I figure that there are probably more women out there than me who learned that “just cope with it” strategy, and who may have either developed conditions or have undiagnosed conditions. So before you start running to Weight Watchers or indulge in further acts of verbal self-condemnation (or fits of the “I’m fat’s”) here are the five health conditions you may want to consider first. **
This should be the *very first* thing you think about if you find yourself with the inability to lose weight. According to the American Thyroid Association, women are five to eight times more likely than men to develop thyroid problems, and one in eight women will develop thyroid problems. Those are some pretty high stats, so check your thyroid first.
2. Dairy Allergy/Lactose Intolerance
This is an insidious one. It could come on like gassy gangbusters and be diagnosed as “lactose intolerance”–which doesn’t necessarily cause you to gain weight. Dairy allergies can cause weight gain. However, sometimes it’s hard to know if the lactose intolerance preceded the allergy or vice verse. It may do you some good to treat lactose intolerance like an allergy and do what you can to stay away from dairy products–or use lactose enzyme supplement and an antihistamine allergy pill. I’ve found a non-drowsy one like Zyrtek takes care of it pretty well.
3. Other food allergies or sensitivities
Food allergies might not manifest in tingly lips and a closed windpipe that can be treated only with a short from an epi-pen. Food allergies could cause a stuffy nose, or a swollen tongue or itching. Food sensitivities could cause gas or itching, or other discomforts. If you start to cut out/control your exposure to dairy, and have other problems, you could be dealing with multiple food allergies. Time for an allergist!
Believe it or not, not being able to breathe properly will really mess you up on so many levels. I may have had asthma as a kid, or it may have been adult-onset caused by growing up in a house with a heavy smoker and living with a heavy smoker later in life. I was diagnosed with asthma this year–better late than never! –and I’ve been learning to cope with it and a new medication routine. Along with the medication routine, I became aware of a sensitivity to sulfites–which also occurs among asthmatics who use certain kinds of medications. Sulfites are common preservatives and are high in pickled foods, so this became another class of foods to avoid. This PDF from the University of Florida IFAS Extension on Sulfites gives a fantastic, detailed list of what kinds of foods contain sulfites which should be avoided. There are other respiration/perspiration conditions that occur with asthma that could prevent any exercise you do to lose weight to be less effective.
5. Alcohol Consumption
Ah, we all know that a glass of wine with dinner might be good for your heart. But maybe not 4 or 5. Even if they are spread out over several hours AND you have other conditions that require medication. Alcohol alone though contains a whole lot of empty calories and contribute to an expanding waistline even in individuals who do not have any of the above conditions. However, alcohol also interferes with the absorption and efficacy of lots of medications, and, subsequently, might be one more reason why you may have trouble losing or maintaining your weight. So, reduce your consumption considerably to help your medications do what they should do. And for all you know, you could have an allergy or a sensitivity to alcohol (sulfites in wine and beer, for instance) so avoiding alcohol most of the time is a good idea.
Of course I have to mention the Big M–Menopause! Every menstruating woman’s boogeyman. Yes, as we get closer to menopause–whenever the heck that is in our lives–our metabolisms slow down, and we tend to gain weight around our middles. Exercise definitely helps this, but if menopause is going on along with other conditions, it may cause you to lose weight more slowly. For that matter, every ten years past your 20′s your metabolism slows, so simply get used to the fact that unless you go for some kind of surgery, go on the strictest diet ever, or have a truly crazy exercise regimen (I have friend who’s a marathon runner–for her, and her health, it works) you probably won’t be a size 0 again. That’s pretty much me in a nutshell–not a crazy fitness freak so I’m just going to get used to the fact that a size 0 ain’t going to happen. Perhaps, though a size 12 or 10 could be in the offering….
So, now that I know all these things about my health–including taking into consideration that my metabolism is slowing down even though I’m going into peri-menopause only now–I have made provisions and cut certain foods out of my diet. I try to avoid refined sugars, so I eat more whole grain pastas,breads and unrefined sugar. However, if I am going to eat, say, whole wheat bread or bagels, I will usually go for fresh-baked. Those in the bread aisle are a sulfite risk. I drink soy milk because other “milks” contain oils that are sulfite-sensitivity risks (I’ve experimented with several and the reaction was not fun.) I eat less red meat and more cold-water fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies,) along with other fish, stay away from cheeses for the most part, and butter by using a butter-olive oil blend. I have meatless meals like curries and masalas. I eat pretty much what I want, don’t deny myself sweets if I feel like having them–but I do anticipate and consider the consequences. For me, there are consequences to everything that isn’t a fruit, a vegetable, or a fish. And because I’ve got a handle on most of what I should avoid, and why, I diminish as much consequences as possible.
Overall, this must be what’s leading to the weight loss. It’s not dramatic, and it’s slow. Which is for the better, I’m sure, and far easier on me than a strict, schedule-type of diet and a rigorous exercise regimen. I’m happy with it. So I’ll keep at it until, perhaps, something changes. If it does, I’ll be looking first for clues to a potential change in my health first and not beat myself up for that extra muffin or the double donuts with creamy coffee.
**Please note that any advice I give is based on what I’ve learned from dealing with my own conditions and what I have discussed with my doctor. You might be different. So it’s best to talk to your doctor if you think any of these conditions might be yours as well.