Overweight People Aren’t Lazy Idiots – Maybe There’s Another Cause (Besides “Genetics”)

Here it is. The death rattle heard ‘round the Internet. People are posting links to this article and either saying it’s disheartening or “another excuse.” And despite my better judgement, I read every comment. Every single one. Full of people who think their experience never gaining weight, their experience easily losing weight, or their experience losing weight and keeping it off negates that there’s an issue. Rather people are lazy excuse-makers. No one sees an overweight person as a person. Rather they’re a sub-human form of life who is disgusting and lacks willpower. I’ll stop you right there if you’re one of those people. I am overweight, and I am not lazy. I am not worthless. I have willpower. I work on projects for work that everyone else has abandoned because they require too much work, too much attention to detail, and too much follow-through. I lack nothing that these assholes are saying fat people lack. I am a very goal-oriented person. I bet I have more money saved than the average American my age. I get delayed gratification. And I am a smart person. I have access to good food. And I eat it. And I don’t eat 6,000 calories a day like many people assume. But I hear you, you judgmental jerks. You don’t WANT heavy people to lose weight. You don’t want there to be more to the story.

In my opinion, this article was the perfect avenue to open up dialogue and brainstorm other potential causes  or approaches. This was a great scenario to consider other things that might be playing into the story. Maybe it’s not as simple as people are eating way too much because they’re glutenous sloths. Maybe most overweight people WANT to lose weight, but they’re struggling. Maybe simply eating less and exercising more really isn’t working. Maybe you can take them at face value and be part of the cure, not the perpetuation of the disease (of fat-hate).

Somehow an article that seemed to me like a suggestion to look at other approaches has pitted those who struggle against those who have never had weight issues or lost weight once and kept it off (even if that time is less than two years, as mentioned in the article – those who have lost weight recently think they’re safe from regain). Hell, a friend called fat people “fucktards.” How is that helping? I’m glad you know every person in the world. I’m glad you’ve experienced every scenario. I’m glad you know everything about everything, ever.

So, as a fat, worthless, lazy fucktard, what do I think?

Well, first I want to say this isn’t a foreign concept to me. One time there was a jerk at work who I hated because he was a narcissistic glory hog. And he was loud. And tainted our otherwise zen work environment with his insecure bravado. He was also a misogynist. One day I was bitching to my sister about him, and about him throwing around his recent (in the last 2-3 months) weight loss success and saying how easy it was and he didn’t know why anyone was fat. They were obviously too lazy or too stupid to do math. And she said, “You will have your revenge when he gains his weight back.” This coming from my sister who had lost and regained weight (like me) a few times. So on one hand, it was sad. On the other, I knew it was true. We have an award at work for people who have improved their lives. And every single person who’s had a big improvement (read: decrease) in weight has gained all of it back. Every. Single. One. And when they were interviewed after they lost the weight, you’d think they were changed for life. So what happens? I think, much like drug and alcohol relapse, we’re scared to ask. We’re scared to hear why an alcoholic drank again. Did someone cause it? Was it a fluke? Was it random? I think we feel helpless and out of control.

I think it’s also important to discuss my roller coaster weight loss journey the past eleven and a half years. I was a too-skinny kid. My mom actually took me to the doctor, worried I was malnourished. I was picky, and uninterested in food. I gained some weight at puberty, giving me bigger thighs and a stomach pooch. But truth is, I was an average size and active. I didn’t eat great, but I didn’t eat terribly.

The first time I gained weight it was because I had my first freedom with food and booze, and I was dealing with some depression from a breakup (first heartbreak can be debilitating, right?). I was eating out ALL THE TIME. Eating crap, drinking sugar-laden frozen alcoholic drinks, and not exercising. I was in college, and although it wasn’t my freshman year, I gained the freshman fifteen (plus forty-five). The sad thing? I wasn’t even really aware of my weight gain as it was happening. I just bought the next size of clothes and went on my way. I went from a 10/12 to a 16 before I paid much attention, and was at an 18 before it was all over.

And my decision to lose weight was somewhat triggered by a hurtful statement. Maybe not the best way to try to lose weight, but that’s what happened. Once I got past the hurt, I was driven for myself, though. I was motivated to try new foods, I taught myself to like vegetables, I wanted to get stronger, and to be able to work out longer. I realized I loved working out. I found a community of women who did the same workout. I loved that connection. So while my weight loss was triggered by shame and hurt, I shut that statement out pretty quickly and made the change for myself. Had I kept hearing the shame, it’s likely I would have given up before I started. But I’m getting ahead of myself. How did I approach this?

First, I tried and failed. I tried starving myself and doing cardio. Then my mom encouraged me to try lifting weights. And that was like a magic bullet. It wasn’t instant, mind you. In fact, I worked out for several weeks, getting more and more discouraged every single day, before my mom banned me from getting on the scale. And that was the best thing that ever happened. I worked out regularly (2-5 times a week), and ate healthier because I had just moved out and could no longer afford to eat out and drink expensive sugary frozen drinks. Without even realizing it, I dropped 20 pounds. I didn’t see the weight coming off (VERY similar to it going on – I seem to be kind of disconnected with how my body looks). One day my pants were too loose, and my mom told me to get new pants. And I was all, “Huh? I lost weight?” Got on the scale. Boom. Twenty pounds.

The next ten pounds were similar.

Then the struggle begins. Looking back, I wish I’d been happy thirty pounds down. Even though I’d gained sixty, after losing thirty, since I was lifting weights, I was the same general size 12s I was to begin with. I looked good in clothes, felt strong and confident. But, not confident enough!

Instead, I focused on losing more and more. I increased my activity level, and tried to hone in my eating even more. (If THIS is working, then this much more should work more). Eventually I did lose 10 more pounds and was in size 10 (some were loose for the first time in my life!) clothing. But the diet was restrictive, I was exercising sometimes twice a day, and going at that pace, it’s no surprise I couldn’t’ maintain it. After failing a few times being “perfect” I hit the “if it’s not perfect, I’m not doing it” mindset. I probably would have gained either way, but going from many workouts a week to just a few with a diet that wasn’t fantastic… The weight came back slowly. And I can’t even remember myself gaining (just like gaining and losing in the past).

Then I gained back most of (23-30 of the 40 pounds) the weight.

And lost it again.

And gained it back.

And lost it again.

And I gained it back (this time because of work stress).

And one last time lost again. Only this time I lost it because I got really sick. And I kept the weight loss off for a while by working out, but was never great with my diet (I was drinking a lot and post-drinking eating crap a lot), and I hovered back and forth with about 10 pounds up and down over the next few years. (I lost the weight in January 2007, kept it off through 2008, and had some (probably half) of it back by the end of 2009. And between 2009 and 2014 it’s been a random uptick of weight since. Even with me watching my diet very closely and working out regularly. I’d wake up one morning and be five pounds heavier than the day before. I’d gain chunks of weight between 5-15 pounds over a matter of a few days. Then plateau for a bit. Then the same thing would happen again.

And I felt like shit. Not because I was eating all processed crap (although until I think 2010, there was plenty of that in there).

And when I was FINALLY ready to commit (I believe this was in 2010), I could not lose. For anything. And then the weird autoimmune stuff started. And since then I’ve felt totally out of control in my body. I can’t lose weight for anything. The tired that I felt before is still looming over me like a heavy, wet blanket. I eat better than almost all of my friends. I workout regularly (although I have cut back the intensity, I still workout 4-5 times a week), and a lot more often than most of my friends. Yet, here I am. 5’7” and 215-220 pounds (218.4 as of this morning).

There have actually been times I’ve hoped to get as sick as I got the beginning of 2007 again. Isn’t that absurd? To hope to be so sick I can’t keep anything in my body. That’s probably some sort of eating disorder. I’m convinced if I could have initiated that same sickness, I would have. But it seems so easy. The weight loss was fast, and although it was painful, it was easy. I tell myself if that could happen again, THIS TIME I’d keep it off. This time would be different. (Isn’t that always the way? I sound a little like a relapsed drug addict, don’t I? No offense intended to those in recovery. I know that’s a lot harder than this, but I see a lot of parallels between weight loss and drug/alcohol recovery.)
I never WANTED to gain weight. And I honestly was never really totally inactive. I’d stop working out for a few days or even weeks, then I’d workout again. And I’d eat like crap for a few days or weeks, feel like crap, then adjust and eat well again. I wasn’t a total downward spiral.

But, here’s the thing: No one wants to be fat. Even people who pretend like they don’t care, will eventually or privately or after they’ve lost weight admit they hated being fat. Hated it. Hated the self-shame. Hated the media shame. Hated the shame friends and family put on them. They also hated feeling like they couldn’t do certain things, even if they were active. For example, I struggle with some yoga poses because of my gut. INFURIATING (and humiliating)! I also hate how I feel when I run (I jiggle). And my gut gets in the way when I squat, giving me a wider squat stance, which many thinner people say is “wrong.” Even though it’s this stance or no squatting. I also hate how I look in most clothes because it’s hard to find ones that fit and flatter.

Overall, I know I’m still me, no matter what my weight is. And I know I deserve to be treated with respect, and I deserve love. But I also feel like my life is caught in some sort of suspension. Like I can’t fully live until I’ve lost weight. But I also can’t figure out what I need to do to lose weight. I have this horrible sense of incompletion. I avoid being in pictures. I even avoid doing certain things – maybe something that requires a bathing suit, or work events where I know there will be a camera. It’s absurd, really, but any satisfaction I might get out of those events are negated when I see pictures. So what’s the point? I may as well stay neutral than to have the up and down.

I’m a perfectionist, too. I rarely fail at anything. Even if it takes me longer than it should, I find a way to do the things I want to do. Because of that, I feel like a failure, and get very, very, very defensive when people act like weight loss easy, or people who are fat are lazy or people who gain weight back are stupid or lazy or excuse-makers. None of that is true.
And I think that’s the crux of the issue for me. It wasn’t just eating. But it was the crappy food PLUS the stress PLUS the not sleeping. Plus probably other things I haven’t considered. I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I wasn’t even getting in bed early enough to get a proper amount of sleep, and my sleep quality sucked. I was so stressed I couldn’t fall asleep, and my body tried to tell me. I was sleep walking all the time, actually doing stuff around my house while I was sleeping. It freaked my mom out when I told her. I’d go to work and felt frayed and pulled in so many directions, and I couldn’t disconnect from work when I got home.

And after I got sick and lost the weight (which was at the same time school was over), instead of grounding myself, catching up on sleep and working on health, I kept going as hard as I was. I worked all day and all night, a slave to the bathroom. I remember one day walking into a co-worker’s office and had to sit on the ground because I was so light headed. And on top of all of this, I started partying a lot. The weirdest thing in the world was all of my stomach issues went away while I drank. And I avoided eating because food would flare them up. But beer and shots? No problem. I’m not even exaggerating. There were times I’d look forward to going out because that’s the one time my stomach would calm down.

And all of this while I was under the same level of work stress. And still not enough sleep. And to add to it, the only way I could disconnect from work was to drink. A lot. Then eat terribly the next day because I felt terrible.

I’m probably actually over-exaggerating how much I was drinking (it was 1-3 times a week, probably), how terribly I was eating, and how little I was working out. In my mind I’m exaggerating some because I blame this time for where I’m at right now. I blame my stupid, misinformed mistakes. The truth is, I was still occasionally batch cooking healthy meals for the week. Or buying steamed veggies and eating them with whatever I came up with for lunch. I wasn’t on a total death-spiral bender. But I also wasn’t anywhere near healthy. But I looked good, or people told me I did. I also somehow found the energy and time to work out about six days a week.

After going at a breakneck pace for about three years, I finally hit a wall at work, and asked for a demotion. But I was so exhausted. I was grouchy. I’d snap at people for non-snap-worthy reasons. I’d cry a lot. I felt defeated. At this point, I was working out far less. I simply couldn’t muster up the energy. And when I’d force myself, I’d feel so terrible during (muscle cramping and fatigue, sluggish and gross), I didn’t enjoy it and never got the endorphin rush. I was living off of energy drinks the entire over-worked timeframe, and by this point, caffeine wasn’t helping anymore. I also couldn’t relax to fall asleep and continued to get very little sleep. And the sleep I did get was interrupted and maddening. I’d lay in bed thinking of the things I could be doing instead of “wasting time” not sleeping. Although work stress was lifted off my shoulders, I could still feel the stress. It was like my brain couldn’t compute that I had far less responsibilities. I never felt relaxed. My mind was always racing. I felt defeated. I wanted everyone to leave me alone and shut up and stop being stupid. Why did I still feel like I had my old job when I didn’t? Why couldn’t I recover and rebound? Why was I craving foods and feeling like I was starving fifteen minutes after finishing a big meal? Why did I feel like I was hung over every day of the week?

This is the first time I read about adrenal fatigue.

I bought a few supplements, and they didn’t work, so I stopped worrying about adrenal fatigue because many people said it wasn’t a real thing. I assumed I was making excuses. But still felt like I’d been run over. I hated being in my body because I was so worn down and negative and irritable. I couldn’t ever sleep myself un-tired no matter how long I slept on the weekends. And I was convinced it was because I was fat. Because isn’t that the root of all problems? No matter what my problem was, I blamed it on being fat. Not that the problems themselves were maybe contributing to my inability to lose weight. Nope, I told myself I felt like this because “this is what fat people feel like.”

And at this point, I CAN’T lose the weight. I try on and off. And finally I switch to paleo. I don’t know if I blame paleo, or just my body in general, but a few weeks after going paleo was my first autoimmune reaction to eggs. I have a really hard time figuring out how this all started. It’s possible the reaction was there for a while, and I simply didn’t notice it until I started eating a lot more eggs. Or it’s possible at this point is when my body started reacting. All I know is I’d never had a food allergy in my life, and suddenly I can’t eat eggs.
Then I had an autoimmune reaction to peppers. And that definitely wasn’t there before. I ate peppers (hot, sweet, didn’t matter) all the time. I added bell peppers to almost every meal I made. I loved trying all the varieties of hot peppers at the grocery store. I love salsa as a low-calorie condiment. And spent a lot of time tinkering with homemade salsa recipes. And suddenly I can’t eat peppers? What is happening to me!? My body is screaming at me, but I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t figure out how to undo what I’d done.

And that has been my story for the past 4 years. Fighting autoimmune problems, trying to focus on them. Trying to nitpick every single thing that goes on or into my body. Trying to eat a perfect diet sent me into orthorexia, and it didn’t help anything. At this point I’m so consumed with autoimmunity, I’ve forgotten entirely about adrenal fatigue. I thought autoimmunity was far more pressing.

But now that I look at it from a, “What might be causing this in the US?” perspective, I wonder if that’s the root of it for so many Americans. It starts as adrenal fatigue. And you feel lazy, but you aren’t. Your body has done what it can to undo your outrageous levels of stress and disdain for sleep. Because for the first time in my life, that’s how I felt. Lazy. And not like I was being lazy when I had the energy todo stuff. I just felt lazy. Lethargic. Exhausted. And my emotions were out of control. I was so irritable, I didn’t care about what I ate, because eating well didn’t make me feel better (at least not instantly). And eating convenient food was easier because I was tired. So tired. Working out no longer gave me the endorphin rush, and mostly made me dread it rather than look forward to it. Even when working out was hard when I first started, it was a challenge, and I didn’t hate it because finishing a workout felt so good. Now? The act of working out sucked, and after, if I even finished, I felt terrible. This became a topic of shame. Especially when I’d miss a week’s worth of workouts.

Is it possible this was all caused by adrenal fatigue? Maybe the adrenal fatigue was what caused the autoimmune disorders to start with. And everything started piling on after that as outward warning signs that things weren’t copasetic in the castle that is my body.

And as I’m saying all of this, I want to be very, very clear. I don’t want an excuse. I’m not making one. I don’t want you to extend me one. I want something to make sense. I want to be healthy. I want to lose some weight. And I want to feel alive and happy and like I can be stressed for a few days or week, but I can bounce back.

What if we have it wrong? What if all of the fat-haters out there (and I think this includes a large portion of society, including those who are or were overweight) are wrong? What if it’s always all been wrong? What if the one of our issues is adrenal-related? What if everyone keeps saying it’s the American diet, and really it’s the American lifestyle (I’m NOT subbing the word “lifestyle” for a forever-diet, I mean our lifestyle of running until we can’t, then running more, doing everything we can, worrying about stuff other countries don’t have the luxury of worrying about, being enabled by fast and convenience foods, being considered successful if you sleep less, or work hard, play harder – in general over-extending ourselves, and worrying very little about our bodies handling it)? What if it’s all the running we do, all the over-working and worrying and competing we do? And it’s all of this stuff that exhausts us and makes things like skipping workouts/becoming inactive and eating for convenience happen? What if it’s the adrenal fatigue that makes us crave sugars and salts? And what if, instead of eating less and working out more (which taxes the adrenals further), we focus on supporting and healing our adrenals by:

  • Eating a healthy/healthier diet – a diet that decreases inflammation and supplies our bodies with vital nutrients. Sugar has been shown to cause inflammation. So have many of the unhealthy oils and processed salts. So it would stand to reason that making your own food would go a long way toward limiting inflammation, which is generally a cause of autoimmune disorders. And the adrenals play a part in fighting inflammation, so weakened adrenals mean more inflammation. Eating better naturally reduces the inflammation – leaving overall less inflammation for your body to fight off.
  • Drinking salt water – since fatigued adrenals make less aldosterone, and aldosterone controls salt, and our bodies deplete salt when there’s not enough aldosterone, which also impacts things like magnesium and other electrolytes. I’ve found the salt water has also cut my salt cravings way back. I still like salty foods, but I don’t crave them like a fiend.
  • Sleeping – More sleep. Better sleep. Healing your sleep cycle. This is my biggest challenge. And I have no reason for it. I don’t have children. I don’t have as stressful of a job anymore. But I cannot turn off my brain at night and shut down. It seems to be permanently stuck in anxiety-mode. I finally get in bed (an hour later than I tell myself I will), and my brain keeps going. Then I wake up a few times a night. Fortunately, this is an improvement from sleep in the past. But there’s such a long way to go, and it’s so frustrating. But I have improved my environment so my room’s completely dark at night. I have made sleep a bigger priority, and try to limit nights out way too late that throw me off for weeks. I can’t do much about waking up, but I try to avoid light when I do. And I don’t feel lazy when I nap on weekends or aim for ten hours of sleep (rarely happens). Sleep has been my biggest patience wearer. But I keep working on it. And feel like when I get “there” (wherever that is), I will have improved my health so much. Getting enough sleep doesn’t make me weak or boring or old. It makes me health-conscious. But I see people all the time (including me in the past) wearing lack of sleep as a badge of honor. Or a piece of glory in their lives. The truth is, 2-4 hours of restless sleep a night isn’t enough. Sure, you can caffeinate all you want and feel like your brain is functioning. But the rest of your body is struggling. When you don’t sleep, your body doesn’t have time to heal.
  • Limit and eventually eliminate caffeine – This is also a struggle. Someone not sleeping enough depends on caffeine. But caffeine makes things worse. I’m working toward eliminating caffeine. And think when I get there, I’ll also improve sleep more.
  • Limit and even eliminate alcohol – I love alcohol, and I think when you suffer from any of this, especially the inability to “shut down” alcohol is a great way to get away from that. I don’t drink until I’m drunk often at all anymore. But in the past, this was the only way I could relax. And it had the added benefit of improving me socially. I’m very introverted. A few drinks helped me relax enough to socialize. And a few more helped me finally disconnect from a stressful day. But it’s a tax on the body. Another toxin.
  • Exercise less – This was a really hard one for me. I used to love pushing my body, seeing what it can do, working to get stronger and faster and more efficient cardiovascularly. But the truth is, especially when your life is over-worked and under-rested, it’s just another tax on our adrenals. Some people say to stop exercise completely for a month. I am starting in a different place, with exercises that I can recover from or that don’t raise my blood pressure too much. Yoga is an example that I think I get more out of than I lose. It ties into spirituality (an item below), and makes me feel strong and connected to myself without raising my heart rate too much. An aside, I DO get light headed and sick to my stomach during yoga when we do too much head below to head above the heart transitions. So maybe this isn’t the best decision for me, but I love it. The only other workouts I do are 1-2 days of lifting for no more than 45 minutes, and a few days of walking, preferably in a park (nature has been proven to help with stress and cortisol). In the past I was doing five or six strenuous workouts a week. Higher intensity cardio, including running or HIIT workouts, fast transition circuit training, an hour and a half or more of heavy weight training. Everyone’s body is different, but after a while, I couldn’t recover from any of the workouts listed. This is a much less strenuous approach, and my body doesn’t take days to recover like it had been.
  • Spirituality – I have had a really hard time with this. But there’s proof connection to something bigger helps you heal. I am working on meditation as well, and am hoping I’m making small but useful strides.
  • Supplements – I am supplementing a variety of things – B-complex, vitamin C, vitamin D, magnesium, probiotics, fish oil, occasionally some vitamin A and E. And I really work to supplement my diet with good choices in meats, fruits and vegetables.

If you get caught in the rabbit hole that is Internet adrenal fatigue research, there are additoinal things you can do to combat adrenal fatigue. My point isn’t to be all-conclusive. But rather to consider what might be causing weight gain in America besides people being gluttons, and the steps I can do rather than saying, “Oh well, I can’t lose weight so why even try?”

I refuse to believe laziness or lack of will power is the cause for 2/3rds of the nation being overweight. In fact, some of the overweight people I know eat better than many thin people I know. And most people who gained weight did it over a period of time where their eating didn’t change drastically. Or they’ve lost through a lot of willpower (that can’t be maintained forever) – eating far too little and exercising at a rate no one can maintain. Then finally hitting a point where they realize they’d rather be “less heavy” than “perfectly thin” and despite committing to an average workout routine, they gain all the weight back and more.

I just don’t buy that people are lying to themselves and everyone around them. The only time I’ve felt like lying to anyone is when people are being so aggressive and disrespectful to overweight people as a whole. There’s a lot of generalization an self-centered opinions. YOUR experience isn’t everyone else’s experience.

People saying, “I did it so anyone can do it” are ignorant. They are using n=1 and extrapolating it across billions of people. People they’ve never met. People whose lifestyles they know nothing about. Is there an issue with food quality? Sure. But I don’t think that’s the only thing. There are also issues with doing too much all the time. Many people have multiple jobs and children they cart all over the place. But this is the norm, and everyone seems to want to think their life is harder than everyone else’s. This is the most absurd trend I’ve ever seen, but it’s definitely a thing. Everyone wants to be better than everyone around them. Busier. Or more humble. Or more connected to “the 99%.”

Sixty years ago, most families had one stay at home parent who did the running around with the kids, the errands, most of the housework, and most of the cooking. Now you have two parents that work, usually full time. Sometimes even more than full-time. And children are in more extracurricular activities than ever. Each parent (or single parent) is working full time, keeping up with the children and errands and doing all of the housework. It’s over twice as much to do on one person’s plate.

Jobs are stressful, and while I can’t compare work now to sixty years ago, I can say most people sixty years ago didn’t take work home, tethered to it at all hours of the day and night, sleeping with their phone, working until they pass out. I was that person for about four years and it burned me out fast. I don’t know how people have done it, thriving, for twenty or thirty years. Sure, I went from an average work week to 80-100+ hours plus grad school. But there are people who regularly work that many hours and have a family. Maybe some people are built to handle that kind of stress, and I’m not. But I honestly doubt it. If they aren’t outwardly overweight (apparently the only sign of low-health in America – that’s sarcasm, folks), they are probably addicted to stimulants (I was, although just caffeine in my case), not eating enough (many people stop eating under stress, I crave more junk when I’m stressed and under-slept), have high blood pressure, or other internal signs of strain. Some people appear perfectly healthy on the surface, then drop dead of a heart attack. Sometimes we’re lucky our stress manifests itself outwardly. It finally gives us a breaking point.

I’m not sure what I think as far as is a calorie a calorie. But I do think bodies will deal with different things differently depending on how optimally your system is running. For example, if I had lost the weight initially, and really focused on keeping it off, maybe I never would have gained it back. However, the weight loss wasn’t particularly hard, and other things became a priority. (Mostly, convenience became a priority, the work of maintaining the weight loss is harder than the convenience of not making all of my own food or finding time for a workout.) However, I don’t know for sure what would have happened when I hit that stressful point in my life. When I feel like my adrenals finally had enough and shut down. If I had been eating better, would my body have been able to handle it? My guess is I would have kept going at that pace UNTIL I hit adrenal shutdown. I didn’t know adrenal fatigue existed, or that the human body had limits like that. Maybe I would have maintained the weight loss (like I did) relatively easily (like I did) and then hit the adrenal fatigue stage regardless, and gained weight, stopped exercising, etc. That’s the frustrating part. There are so many unknowns. It’s not, in my opinion, as simple as calories in versus calories out when there are other negatives going on. And in my case, I likely wouldn’t have listened to anyone who told me to slow down (it happened a few times) because I felt like I was fine. The “shutdown” moment felt like it hit all of a sudden. I suddenly felt exhausted and frustrated and irritated. And I felt overwhelmed and couldn’t do as much with as little as I had before. I was still in my 20s and felt much, much older. I DIDN’T respect my body, but honestly, I didn’t realize there was an end point. I was going hard and feeling pretty good the entire time.

I can’t go back in time and not do what’s already been done. I can’t regret my decisions so hard I will have not made them. All I can do is take the limited information I have and work with it. What do I know?

I know losing weight the first couple of times was relatively easy. Not super-easy, but easy enough. I enjoy working out. And I don’t mind “healthy” food. I also love cooking, and like trying new foods. I don’t have a horrible sweet tooth, and as long as I’m not starving, eating well isn’t an issue. I also know trying to lose weight now isn’t the same. Before I’d eat around 1600-1800 calories with a decent wiggle room for social events (alcohol or eating out occasionally). Now I can drop to 1200-1300 calories, lose 2-4 pounds, plateau, then eventually gain that weight back and more. At 1200-1300 calories. While I feel like I’m starving. And if I jump back to the previous 1600 calories, forget it. I’m gaining 10+ pounds. So I’m better off NEVER starving myself.

  • I know before exercise was fun. I enjoyed the challenge. I enjoyed the endorphin rush during workouts and the serotonin increase after. Now? I workout hard, feel like crap the entire time, and feel terrible for days after. This isn’t normal.
  • I know before I’d sleep fairly well. I’ve always been a night owl, but used to fall asleep and stay asleep fairly easily. Now? I struggle to will myself into bed, often times lay there for hours before I fall asleep, and find myself waking up multiple times a night for no reason.
  • I know before, I wasn’t a super-patient person, but I also wasn’t about to fly off the handle all the time. Now? Stupid things set me off. I hate it when something unexpected happens. Or people complain about things that seem so simple. I get more frustrated than a situation warrants. And I feel a little out of control with my emotions.
  • I know before I did well explaining stuff. I was commended for my ability to bring technical details down to a non-technical level. I was patient and thorough. Now? I get caught mid-stream in a thought, forget where I was, or go off on a tangent. I feel like I’m in a constant brain fog, and have a really hard time expressing myself.
  • I know I used to be able to hone in and focus. Noises around me didn’t really bother me, and I could tune everyone out. Now? Noise drives me insane. And pulls my attention away. When I’m trying to focus and there’s noise around me, I become irrationally frustrated and can’t focus until the noise subsides.

These are the things I know about me. The things that have changed. Many people flippantly say, “This is what it’s like to get old.” Just as people flippantly say, “This is what you do to lose weight.” But I’m NOT old. And I’ve lost weight before, and this is different. I know people far older than me who have dropped weight easily. Or who have lost and regained weight far many more times than me. Or who have been on the diet cycle their entire lives, whereas I didn’t’ go on my first diet until I was almost 23. Or people who have endless patience or focus. I know I can’t have everything, but these things feel like they changed so drastically in such a short period of time, all tied to the high stress, low sleep events in my life. Rather than giving up – which appears to be my only option, I want to find a better solution. So I’m taking the information I have right now, and trying something new.

Obviously, you should do your own research. I’ve spent the last four years fighting this autoimmune stuff (which started after giving up on the adrenal fatigue stuff). And now I realize adrenal fatigue might be the root of the entire problem. The root of the AI stuff, but also the initial root of me being unable to shed a few pounds (at that point, I wanted to lose about 20-25 pounds, now I’m closer to 50 pounds). If I work to resolve the adrenal fatigue, maybe the autoimmune stuff will resolve itself. Maybe it won’t. Maybe my weight will resolve itself. Maybe it won’t. I keep reading about how people ran themselves down THEN gained weight and THEN started having AI reactions. Maybe if we all started healing our adrenals and taking care of ourselves beyond the singular goal of weight loss, we’d have a lot easier time losing and maintaining a healthy weight, improve our focus and patience, and undo the internal damage we’ve done to ourselves.

Or maybe we wouldn’t. I don’t know. I’m not a scientists. And the problem is, no matter what studies are done, there are naysayers on the sidelines saying people are lazy and lying about what they eat. Or people are over-simplifying a complex issue. The only thing *I* know is what happened to me. And even that understanding is sketchy because I can’t remember everything. I can’t remember where I was when certain things started happening. Even though I feel like I can pinpoint my first AI symptom, maybe I can’t. Maybe it manifested itself strongly enough at that point only because I was eating more eggs. Maybe eggs bothered me for three years before that, but I rarely ate them or didn’t eat them in enough quantity to notice the problem.

All that said and no conclusions jumped to, this is my goal now. Nothing else has helped with the weight loss, and I’ve seen limited improvement with AI symptoms. So I have nothing to lose. This is what I’m working toward. Come along for the journey, if you’re interested. If you have adrenal fatigue symptoms, join me! I’d love to have a crusade of people instead of just me. Then we can all give our feedback and input with what’s working and what isn’t. I’m interested in proving diet and exercise alone aren’t the answer when you’re stuck – and hopefully that will work to shut up some of the small-minded haters.

Think of it this way: You’re trying to climb a steep hill on a bike, but you’re standing still. Maybe rather than trying to pedal that bike up the hill, it would be easier to get off and walk for a bit. Sure, walking seems like a downgrade, but is it really? If what you’re doing isn’t working, even with the best intentions, maybe it’s time to try something else.

Don’t let anyone shame you. So what if you originally gained weight because you ate terribly. I did. Most of my initial weight gain was in response to being sad, really, really sad. I was filling a hole from a breakup that now seems silly to have been so sad about. But that’s how a first broken heart is. It seems insurmountable, and everything else seems like it doesn’t matter. So I ate. So what? I know people who jumped into a drug or alcohol bender. Is that any better on your body? What if it resulted in addiction. There’s no point in judging my response. No heartbreak since has been as bad, as most never seem as bad as the first. But I can’t go back and not feel sad or not eat to fill the gap. It’s part of who I was.

Just like now I know I eat when I’m stressed. I am working on that. Even yesterday I got into a stressful, socially-charged work situation. I ate terribly. I didn’t even realize I was stress eating because it wasn’t a typical kind of stress for me. I’m doing so much better NOT stress eating in a typical situation, I didn’t even see this stress eating coming on. Now I’m aware those situations are also a trigger for me. But it was only one day. And not a huge deal.

I can’t undo the past. I can’t un-make mistakes. I am where I am now because of ALL of my decisions, good or bad. On one hand, had I not pushed myself so far, maybe I’d be thin, but I would have lost my job or wouldn’t be as valued as I am. And maybe I’d be thin but regret my decision not to push, not to work as hard as I could, not to go back to school, not to take on huge projects at work. You never know what a different decision in the past might mean. It’s not as simple as, “I would be thin.” Maybe I’d be thin, but at the cost of something else. Thin isn’t the only thing. And I can’t regret my decisions. I did the best I could at the time. And I’ve learned and grown.

And maybe I can still have it “all.” Maybe I can drop a bit of weight, feel great, AND reap the rewards of my hard work (over-working, over-stressing, making strides in my career). Or maybe I can’t. But right now, this is what I know. This is what I suspect. I know me the best. I don’t need some presumptuous asshole who’s had an easy go at it telling me I’m lazy.

elling me I’m lying about what I’m eating. Telling me I’m not good enough. I AM good enough. I’m worthy of taking time on to heal. And I deserve to be healthy.

I won’t give up. I refuse to believe this is my fate. Join me in finding another way!

Has anyone healed their adrenals? Anyone still reading out there (it’s been a long nearly 7,000 words!) who is interested in figuring out an approach to healing? If you’ve done it already, what’s your advice? If you’re joining in, what steps are you taking first?

For me, my first steps are:

  • Sleep – Oh man, the sleep. I need more of it. And it starts by getting to bed on time.
  • Meditation – It’s actually really helped me. Keep doing it at least three times a week.
  • Yoga – I love yoga. It makes my body feel strong and connected without wiping me out.
  • Salt water and supplements – Support my system from the inside out.

 

 

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