So aside from just drinking Baileys and realising the calorific content of that isn’t going to help with the master plan of losing weight and looking like Jennifer Aniston by the time Christmas arrives, I decide I must start a diet, given I am now unable to exercise while my glass ankle mends.
This is tougher than it sounds; nobody likes to diet. I’m hopeless on any of these counting points diets because I lie to myself and cheat, or forget I’ve accidentally inhaled a ‘funsize’ bag of Twix’s by myself (side note; how does making anything smaller automagically make it funsize?! What a con! Come on marketing teams, bigger is better). I decide on a well-known meal replacement diet that promises big results. For the first week it’s difficult, but I diligently stick to the branded ‘meals’ only and keep a bottle of water about my person and in my face for the whole week. When it comes to weigh in after the first week I’ve lost seven pounds. YES! And that was without even pooping before I went to my appointment. Buoyed by this result and having received a free gift for reaching the half a stone marker (a keyring, which doubles as a token to put in your shopping trolley instead of the pound coin which is actually really handy because who EVER actually does have that pound coin? This keyring is to be used to visit the supermarket to assist with shopping for non-food related items, apparently!). I leave my weigh-in appointment and vow to carry on with this new found success. Except that now I’m in my second week, only eating what I’m supposed to from the diet’s branded meals feels infinitely harder than it should do. This shouldn’t happen. The body is supposed to adjust after three to four days and go into ketosis, which leads to not feeling hungry. I’m beyond ravenous, which I’ve never experienced before on this diet. Thoughts of what food I can sneak in my mouth consume my every waking moment. I’m starting to crave food I don’t even like: “Mmmmm Brussel Sprouts – well sexual *insert Homer Simpson type drooling noises here*”. I start to think that maybe Aunt Flo, who has come to visit with her hormone minions, has caused this sudden upswing in desire to eat so I decide to placate her with two boiled eggs. I think I’m very clever. Eggs won’t take me out of ketosis, nor will they take me over my 500 calories a day count. I wolf the boiled eggs (heaven) but my muffin shaped tummy sits atop my thighs, rumbling loudly and demanding I appease it further. Fuck! I try googling “zero calorie vegetables” and armed with my new keyring, assault the local supermarket for all manner of so defined vegetables before returning home and having a stir fry with bean shoots as a replacement for noodles, mushrooms as a replacement for any meat and virtually every single vegetable that was on Uncle Google’s list. I hoover this off my plate as soon as the bland, carb-free, sugar-free and fuck it, tell it how it is, the taste-free sauce adorns the dish. Still.really.fucking.hungry. I then go into full meltdown and start grazing the entire contents of the fridge and freezer, eating all the ice cream, a fair few packs of microwave chips and the whole food supply of a small village.
This behaviour continues for another two weeks solid. It was around the third family sized packet of Doritos after all normal meals and far more squeezed in for good measure, one Saturday, that I started to feel maybe kind of sated and a smidge guilty. I know I can’t blame it on Aunt Flo by now, so I think perhaps I’ve just had a relapse because I’ve had a really good week dieting. Maybe my brain just thought it would be a good idea to reward my belly for being so deprived and that I have to reset my leptin after all in order to lose more weight, blah blah, excuse, blah. It was around the third takeaway that I’d brought home in the next week, after completely falling off the diet wagon and eating all day at work after listening to the constant beatboxing of “NOMMMSSS” from my stomach every hour and my next impending weigh-in that made me have a rethink. Just as suspected, I get to my weigh in and I’ve put on all the weight I lost in my first week, plus some more for good measure. I nearly cry because I think my consultant might take my keyring off me as penance. Instead, I get invited to a seminar to ‘investigate why we eat the way we do’. Errr, because I’m fucking hungry all the time, is the answer I say to myself. I’m not an emotional eater; I don’t watch a good episode of Jeremy Kyle and feel compelled to wolf down half the contents of the bread bin in sympathy for DNA results involving some gummy cross-eyed excuse for a father who thinks he has a right to not see a child he tried to sell in exchange for an LCD TV (It was HDTV though, innit though). I’m eating because I’m hungry, alllll the timeeeee *wails*. As if eating all the time and slowly but surely putting weight on isn’t enough, I’ve now developed a wheeze and breathlessness. I get out of breath, quite a bit, just walking 100 yards from parking my car, to work. So breathless and wheezy a work colleague asks if I’ve got asthma. I don’t have asthma. I look in the mirror in the ladies loo at work and concede that I do indeed look like a fatter version of myself. So this is what fat women look and sound like then. I also constantly feel like I’ve got something stuck in my throat, so every time I’m trying to chuck all the food in the world that doesn’t move when I cross its path down my neck it’s getting stuck, causing me to choke. I slow down when I’m eating, thinking I must be the walking definition of gluttony, with perhaps maybe a side serving of hay fever because now, enjoyably my body seems to have thrown in a blocked but runny nose too. I have never suffered from hay fever before in my life, but you know, hey maybe my body thought one morning, “surprise, you’ve never had this before, I thought this would be fun for you”. I start taking over the counter decongestants, which alleviate the nasal symptoms slightly (maybe), but then I notice that every time after I take them, I feel dizzy so I stop taking them and if I take the “surely inspired by glue sniffers” nozzle up nose sniffy meds, they cause me to have nose bleeds. I’m thoroughly bored by this point, am convinced it can’t be flu or a cold because it’s gone on too long and I haven’t even had the satisfaction of sharing this with anyone else at work or at home to have them lament the same symptoms with me to make me feel better, so I make an appointment to see my local doctor.
Anyone who knows me will understand that I must have really been at the end of my tether because the utter faff of just trying to get an appointment and be listened to is sometimes just not worth it and I save going to the local surgery for when I feel like I may be a little bit dead, instead of just ill (which is rarely). I go to the doctor and tell him all my symptoms and he prescribes antibiotics on the basis that he believes I may have an upper respiratory tract infection after talking to him for five minutes. I dutifully collect my prescription, leave and go down to the pharmacy to fill it. The tablets sit on my bedside cabinet and over the next two days I take my one a day before leaving for work and for the next two days I get to the same place during my morning drive and have to pull over to vomit at the roadside. Awesome. Get home and read the leaflet in full which decrees that this is a side effect which may be alleviated by eating beforehand. Perfect, eat more food than I am already, why not?! After antibiotics for a week, nothing has changed, in fact I feel worse. I’m not sleeping properly and am tired all the time and still have all the other symptoms I had. Kill me now. A thought crosses my mind that perhaps the new symptoms may be due to antibiotics, but these carry on after the tablets should have left my system and I’m now even more breathless and really struggling with drinks. I’m trying to drink still water (not even fizzy pop) and it’s getting stuck in my throat to the point where I feel like I’m drowning. This is a whole new fear. Food getting stuck is obviously due to me being a piglet when I’m fully getting my nom on, but drinks?! Nope, not right. Back to the doctor. The doctor has another five minute chat or so with me and prescribes me with decongestants despite my telling him I’ve already tried them, over the counter. He seems to think the new ones will be better somehow. I’m not happy and leave again feeling like I haven’t been listened to and don’t bother to fill the latest prescription as I know decongestants make me feel worse. I know that this is not going to go away with decongestants because I’ve already tried that, but he doesn’t seem overly concerned with any of my symptoms including my difficulty with eating, drinking and breathing. I soldier on and continue with my normal day-to-day stuff; still eating the equivalent of meals for a family of four in one week, still putting on weight, still feeling rubbish and still wheezing like an over-toothed dog toy with its squeaker ripped from its unsuspecting mouth for disturbing Saturday night dog owners’ entertainment.
We’re now fully into the British winter, yet I’m content to wander around without a coat on. Colleagues in my office complain they’re cold and want to turn the radiators up, whereas I think it’s really warm and feel like I’m boiling from the inside out when they do so. I start dressing for summer and wearing linen suits to the office. I get funny looks outside on the street, but I don’t care. I can’t do this any other way. My ankle is now healed, but I conclude that I must have been favouring against walking a lot whilst it mended, coupled with the extra weight I’ve put on and I must have tipped some kind of body ratio scale somehow as I find it very difficult to go down stairs without an extreme shake occurring in my thighs. I curse my inability to feel well enough to get back to the gym and just sort my fat blob of an arse and myself out.
Now, just for some even more super fun times and to add to all the symptoms I’m currently enjoying, I get the mother of all diarrhoea. Not just “oopsie, somebody ate something a mere shade past the best before date on the packaging didn’t they? We’ll be better in a day or two” diarrhoea, I mean full on “holy mother of god, liquid molten lava is spewing forth from the depths of my bowels at an unprecedented, unpredictable rate which isn’t allowing me to venture very far from the porcelain throne. No signs of stopping, it’s been four weeks so far – such fun!” diarrhoea. Seriously, you try running for your target splashdown area with what feels like asthma and weak thighs on a regular basis. I thought somehow I was being pranked and would wake up to someone telling me I’d unwittingly been entered into a brand new version of the “Crystal Maze meets Hunger Games – NHS Edition” or that I was starring in the reality version of the sequel to Contagion. I even searched eBay for a commode for work, it was that bad. I must add that with all of these collective symptoms I was feeling the worst I ever have done in my life including worse than when I had the three day hangover from celebrating my 21st at university because no one told me that I shouldn’t drink if I had glandular fever. Throughout all of this and despite it being very difficult, I kept up with all my obligations (except maybe some social ones) and maintained my 100% attendance record at work. Huzzah! Feeling crap, fat, unfit and unattractive whilst doing it? Not so huzzah!
Anyway, back I marched to my local surgery with my new found symptom only to be presented with a sample jar in which to collect the heinous contents of my bowels that were currently spilling out of me at a great rate of knots and sent for blood tests too, before I left. Blood testing was standard and routine. The sample jar for the stool sample was not what I expected. For a start, it was the same width and size as a urine sample bottle, which may as well have been a thimble for the scale of the problems I was experiencing, except attached to the underside of the lid was what I can only describe as a mini spatula type ice cream spade device. I consider myself to be a well-educated woman but this had me perplexed. Taking my somewhat ‘fluid situation’ out of this, I’m not saying I’m presenting my toilet with King Kong’s finger on a normal day, but women poop! How is a normal sized and formed ‘jobby’ supposed to find its way into that ill matched aperture without a fight? Would it not make more sense to make these receptacles more like the bottom third of a jam jar? They don’t cover this at school and doctors don’t really go into very much detail about collection of samples, but I’m pretty sure I could have done with this as a whole module in ‘Life Skills’ or at least someone, somewhere should have done a YouTube instructional video on this by now; I can’t be the only one confused. Is the ice cream spade the ‘pie slice’ or am I looking at the ‘helper inner’ or ‘presentation plate’ for the sample here? I asked the doctor for a pair of plastic gloves to assist me in my sample collection and she looked at me quizzically before handing me a pair. This only confused me further, but I manned up and attended the nearest toilet upon returning home with said gloves and an empty, clean snack bucket receptacle (of which said snack can never be eaten in my house ever again due to its new found association) to collect the sample. All tests sent off and now the waiting game, which I would argue is actually worse than the wait for exam results in some instances because in the interim you’re not imagining that you’ve failed, which is something you can fix or workaround, but instead involves you harbouring the belief that you’ve got Ebola, SARS or something so horrific they haven’t even named it yet. You’ll become infamous as your name is used to define it in history forevermore and every little sneeze is further proof you’re going to die a horrible death.
Whilst I was waiting for the diagnosis to be made, my significant other and I had planned a dinner party for two of our friends. Full four course meal planned together, with everything that goes with it. We like food, well we all know I do by now anyway, so I was really looking forward to it. I sprang out of bed on the morning of the event and started busying myself with making the table look pretty and cleaning the house etc., whilst simultaneously discussing the menu and shopping list. I felt a bit funny and lightheaded but I brushed it off and carried on; feeling unwell at this point is kind of my life and normal for me. Like a boss, just get on with stuff. We bombed out to go to the shops and we were both doing our usual dashing round down the different aisles looking for the bits we wanted. I was starting to get a bit hot, so I took my coat off and carried on, not noticing I was still getting hotter. I got to the checkout in the shop and I started to feel worse. My significant other chided me for not having any brekkie before setting off; of course, low blood sugar type stuffs. Made sense. I stood concentrating on my breathing and relishing the moment I could step out into the winter air, sans coat. When I got into the car to drive, I got terrible tunnel vision and felt like I was about to pass out. It was at this point I asked my other half to drive. We drove to the other shop, while I just concentrated on my breathing and feeling better. We got out of the car, went into the supermarket and dashed around again, with significant other grabbing a sugary fizzy drink on the way through, but yet again at the checkout I felt really ill. So ill they scanned the drink for me and let me open it before paying for it; the manager hovering thinking he may get a bit of excitement not normally seen around these parts by way of calling an ambulance. Apparently I’d gone deathly white, although as an avid moon tan fanatic with a background of being anaemic, not altogether so unusual for me. Boyfy bundled me and the shopping in the car, drove us home and presented me with some food as we got through the door, urging me to eat, which I did. I felt slightly better, but not the kind of better I usually do when I’ve exerted myself without eating and subsequently fixed my blood sugars (think doing the evil bleep test at school when you’ve forgotten to have brekkie, unwell). Tough! Got a dinner party to plan and carry on I did. I felt gradually worse throughout the day, despite staying hydrated and well fed and right as our guests arrived, I was forced to sit outside in jeans and a t-shirt in minus temperatures, in a bid to feel cool again. My heart was racing, I couldn’t think straight and I could quite happily have curled up and gone to sleep outside on the deck swing without a blanket or strategically placed cat.
What I didn’t know at this point (but what was to be diagnosed shortly after) was that I had hyperthyroidism and was probably about half an hour away from experiencing what is called a “thyroid storm” and needing an ambulance called for me, possibly ending with me in a coma in hospital. If I hadn’t sat outside in those drastically cold temperatures with no layers on, doing nothing but concentrating on slowing my breathing, I may not be here today regaling you with this tale. Thankfully, doctors finally worked this out shortly after from my test results and the next visit to the doctors I had treatment for this life-threatening condition. Hyperthyroidism isn’t something I’d heard of before I was diagnosed. We’re not sure why I have it or what caused it, because although it runs in families, obviously I’ve decided to be special and be the only person to be diagnosed with it or show any symptoms in my specific gene pool. This did raise my hopes slightly, but I have been reassured that this definitely does not mean that I was adopted.
Hyperthyroidism (can also be referred to as Graves’ disease) is a relatively common condition in the UK, all stemming from a butterfly shaped organ that sits at the base of your neck. The condition can be treated with tablets, but also, unbeknownst to me, it is treated by Radioactive Iodine treatment (RAI). I, like many, probably thought the cool type of radioactive superpower bestowing treatments were saved only for those with cancer, but apparently not (not that having cancer is in any way cool, nor more preferable, but you get me). It’s been a whirlwind of symptoms, treatments – including an instance where I had to go into a little bomb proof type room with a woman dressed like Homer Simpson from the opening sequence of the Simpsons where he’s in the nuclear plant and trying to drink the treatment (yes, radiation as a drink! It tasted like weak orange cordial) through a straw from a cup; none of which I was allowed to touch. Literally one of the most difficult things my brain has had to process in a while, including sorting out the stool sample. It’s like someone is asking you to regress to being a toddler – it feels totally alien to drink and not hold your own cup! More visits to lots of doctors, specialists, professors even and finding out information, which I’ll choose not to share on at this point as it’s all readily available on the T’interwebs. Plus, I started this series of articles to talk about my weight loss experience and whilst finding out I’d become ill was very much part of the process, it’s not the focus. I’ll admit to finding it difficult to be positive, upbeat and approach being ill with a life changing condition, with humour, which is partly why this instalment of this series took a little while to come about.
It’s also taken me some time to ultimately wrestle with the irony that during my trying to lose weight, I ended up with a condition that speeds up the metabolism and for a large majority of people, causes weight loss of epic Kate Moss type proportions. Instead, because it made me overeat, I simply maintained my weight instead of losing any, even with the epic toilet trouble thrown in for good measure. So, what’s a girl to do now she’s been treated and is getting to grips with her next set of treatments now her thyroid has been ‘turned off’ by the healthcare professionals? She gets off her fat ass, gets the weight shifted and keeps you all updated as to what’s next, that’s what. So the rules have changed? Ok, challenge accepted. No excuses. Game face on fatties. Who’s with me?…