Sunday, 22 March 2009

Getting ‘over the moon’ and weight gain factor

I’ve always had a healthy appetite but when my steroid doses increase I turn into nothing less than a mean eating machine. I am only 5 foot 2 and I often feel I could eat my husband under the table (not literally!): he is over 6 foot and a big lad. Personally, I find it is not exactly hunger though; oddly it’s just more a constant urge to eat. Weight gain is common amongst those taking Prednisone (especially with doses over 10mg) and as I’ve highlighted this includes a fair few ‘loopies’. The reason for the weight gain is that Prednisone causes the body to retain sodium and lose potassium. This combination can result in fluid retention, weight gain, and bloating. Furthermore, an increased appetite is another significant side effect for many.

And, as if ‘unfair’ weight gain (as I see it in these circumstances!) isn’t bad enough in itself, Prednisolone often causes the redistribution of fat, which makes any amount weight gain even less tolerable. The weight gain from Prednisolone tends to be located in the face (‘moonface’), back of the neck (‘buffalo hump’), and the abdomen (‘truncal obesity’). Aren’t these very words alone enough to make you cry!? To give an idea I have showed a ‘before’ (left) and ‘after’ shot (right) to demonstrate a bit of my moonface, but to be honest, I was reluctant to have too many photos taken when things were at their worst!

I continue to struggle, but have so far been relatively successful at keeping my weight down, although there are times when things have been worse than others in this department. Still, here follows the best advice I can give that has so far helped me.

  • Firstly, Coldplay have it right when they croon “♪♪ nobody said that it was easy ♪”. It’s not. I guess this applies to many things in life, but certainly when it comes to trying to keep a waistline when you’re on steroids. So really that is the first lesson. If you want to keep your weight down, it is something that you have to permanently be aware of and act accordingly to avoid it.

  • Then there is the obvious stuff: exercise and healthy diet. Obviously don’t go on a diet. They never work, at least not long term. Just make your personal diet a healthy diet. I don’t really need to spell it out as you’ll have heard it a hundred times before, but just in case I’m talking about basing it on, fruit, veg, beans, fish, rice, noodles, pasta, lean meat, tofu and lots of wholemeal stuff. Of course the odd blow-out and occasional treat here and there is a definite must, but rarity only heightens the enjoyment.

  • And then there is my mantra: breakfast, breakfast, breakfast and especially anything with oats. I’ve said it before; I’ve just said it again. I won’t bore you any more with this
  • No one wants a boring diet and I reckon the key to eating healthily but exceedingly tastily is to ‘chop till you drop’. Odd as it first sounds, if you learn to enjoy chopping it helps enormously, because once it is done you can make delicious food that is not only tasty, but not too bad for the waistline. Then if you find you need to eat a mountain, it doesn’t have quite such visible consequences. The chopping bit used to be what put me off cooking proper food and turn to quicker less healthy options. Weirdly enough, I’ve crossed the pain barrier and now I actually find it relaxing. If I sit and chop herbs, peel and slice veggies and fruit, grate lemon zest, ginger and nutmeg, mix bowls of homemade treats to the doldrums of my favourite music or radio shows I find a kind of inner ‘chi’ (one of the first pieces of key advice at the beginning of this whole Living Well with Lupus thing that you need to find your inner-hippy!)

  • Someone in our research told us that if you have problems with arthritic hands (something I am grateful to have recovered from now but I had it for a while) there are implements to help with cooking and chopping that are worth investing in. For example, I like the look of this stylish ‘easy grip’ utensils set:
  • I find if you a chop and peel a lot of the things you often use in one sitting and put them in the fridge or freezer, it means is easier to make something tasty and healthy on ‘amber’ days, likewise with meals that you make too much of. If you make a whopping fruit salad with only your favourite fruits (illuminate the boring stuff) and leave it in the fridge it is great to have to dip into throughout the week.
  • Try to keep only healthy snacks in your cupboard and on your person so when hunger strikes you can only but satisfy it wisely
  • And here is my personal secret tip: when you get steroid munchies and you can’t help but eat in between meals, eat anything (healthy) that crunches: carrots, apples, celery, popcorn, rice cakes, radishes, sugar snaps, whatever - so long as it’s crunchy. This is just a personal discovery and I cannot claim it is backed by any scientific evidence but it certainly worked well for me in that I didn’t pile on too much extra weight. I reckon it might be because crunchy foods take more effort to chew, so whilst they satiate the compulsion to eat, a certain degree of energy is expended in the process itself simultaneously burning calories and giving the facial muscles a good workout – great for the old ‘moon-face’.

Anyone tries the crunching method I’d be really interested to know how it works for you. Also, any more ‘hints and tips’ you can post would be most welcome by me and others I am sure.


LFA said...

Hey there ... my name is Wick Davis and I'm with the Lupus Foundation of America. I came across your blog and wanted to say hi. I'm in the process of reaching out to other lupus bloggers. I was wondering if you'd be interested in exchanging links to one another's blog. You can read the LFA blog here I have already added a link to your blog on the LFA blog, in the section called "Lupus Blogs We Read." I would love to talk more with you. You can reach me at I hope to hear from you. best, Wick

Daisy Seale-Barnes said...

Hi Wick

I'd be more than delighted to add your link to my blog - I've just had a look at and I only wish I'd discovered it sooner! It is also good to see how many other lupus bloggers there are too- I'm going to have a good look through.

I'll be in touch.


Paul Blake ND said...

Hi Daisy,
Noticed you talked a lot about medication but very little about the naturopathic side of healing. Here is a thumbnail sketch let me know what you think.
Lupus is a message from your body saying it is not happy with the way things are going with diet life style and toxicity. Your Lupus is an autoimmune disease of course and these diseases are interesting and scary there are approximately 80 to 100 with another 40 waiting for a name. Medical science cannot explain why and has not found a cure for even one. You can trigger one of them just by having an auto accident, taking aspirin, medication or by starting a new exercise routine, even too much stress says latest research. Naturopathic medicine says, "Look for the root, it is in the basics beginning with what is on your fork, what toxins are in your body, what exercise do you do, what stress is in your life, what is your spiritual base". Scientific arrogance has led us down the wrong path we better stop and take a close look at what is happening. This month 144 new chemicals which are part of the Lupus problem will be added too industry with no oversight control at all. Autoimmune disease is the worst kind of contradiction; for an Lupus sufferer you are attacking your skin with your immune system, a world upside down. God bless you in your search Daisy.


Daisy Seale-Barnes said...

Hi Paul

Thanks for your comment and your best wishes. It is always interesting and valuable to hear different perspectives.

Kind regards


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Anonymous said...

Hello Daisy. I came across your blog after searching for some other patients who use prednisome and are experiencing some of my frustrating side effects. I began the treatment for dematomyositis taking 60 mg of the drug for almost two months. I did not gain much weight in the beginning, but now I'm not very proud of the 20-plus pounds that I've accumulated. Plus, this moon-face side effect has to be one of the worse ones! There are days that I can't even look at myself in the mirror and it makes me want to flush the bottle of the medicine down the drain! But, like you said, it's not easy...and why give up on the treatment that has worked so efficiently, right?

Well, than again for sharing your experience and your tips on how to keep the weight down.

Best Wishes,


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Anonymous said...

Nice post about Getting ‘over the moon’ and weight gain factor, in these days weight gain is more common and people have to try to be careful with their health for example I spend much money in buying generic viagra only because I need it.

Sheena G. said...

Hi. I just came across your blog and I am very inspired. For two years, I have been struggling with depression and insecurity caused by the side effects of taking my loopie medicines especially prednisone and just as I am gaining back my confidence, here it comes again. I am back with a flare, and I am sure to have that moon face again. I am a naturally thin person and I don't gain that much weight, but my moon face is so depressing. I look at myself in the mirror and think of myself like a lollipop. A have this very thin body with a very round moonface. It just makes me break down and cry. I'm glad you you are doing very well. I hope someday I can learn to cope up with this like you do.

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