5 years ago, at 230 pounds, I decided to go on a diet. It started off typically: planned meals, calorie journal, joining the gym. Before long, I was restricting myself to no more than 500 calories a day, and exercising upwards of 3 hours a day, 7 days a week. I was biking, running, lifting, doing yoga. I dropped 70 lbs in 5 months. Down to 160 lbs and a size 12 from a 20.
At about the 6 month point, I started having all these aches and pains. First in my wrists, then my shoulders, then my hips. Pretty soon, I was in horrible pain all the time, all over my body.
I went to the doctor to check out what was wrong. I got around 10 seconds to describe my pain. Her response? “That’s what happens to people your size. You’re putting too much pressure on your joints. Try eating less, and start exercising.” We hadn’t talked at all about my food intake or exercise routine. She handed me a flier for an Overeaters Anonymous group that met at the hospital and showed me out of the room.
Flash forward 4 years.
By this time, I was in such pain, so stiff, so tired, I couldn’t exercise anymore. Many days I couldn’t even bathe myself, do basic household chores or go to work. The weight all came back, plus 30 lbs. I had to move home with my parents to have them care for me.
I’d seen dozens of doctors, had MRIs, CT Scans, XRays, every blood test available.Nothing ever showed up, so the only treatment I got was the suggestion to lose weight. And some mentions of gastric bypass.
I finally found a great nurse who realized that what was wrong was that I had fibromyalgia. The first step in the treatment plan was to see a physical therapist.
I showed up for the first appointment, and before asking me any questions about my health, the therapist said, “You know, 30 isn’t too young to have a heart attack. As big as you are, you really need to worry about that.” Without knowing any of my vital statistics, or asking me why I was there, she started laying out a plan that had me exercising 2+ hours a day, with the goal of dropping at least 100 pounds that year.
When I explained that I had FMS, and that light exercise was good, but too much exercise would actually cause a flare and make my symptoms worse, her response was “Well, you’re just going to have to deal with the pain until you get down to a normal size. The fibromyalgia will probably just go away then, anyway. I think most people who get diagnosed with that condition really just are too fat and too sedentary and want an excuse.”
Fortunately, at this point, I’d suffered enough, and knew my body well enough to know not to listen to her and find a new therapist. But if I hadn’t been as informed and willing to stand up to her, I can only imagine what damage she would have caused on my body.