How Can Pain Cause Weight Gain?  

For years the assumption has been that “obesity” leads to pain. Many patients have had the experience of looking for explanations of pain issues, only to have the problem never investigated and told to lose weight instead. Then years later, find out that their pain was actually the result of an underlying issue, made worse through a lack of early treatment. You might have seen a comic or visual joke involving a visibly injured patient and the doctor saying “have you tried losing weight?”

In my book, Young, Sick, and Invisible, I discuss how this same trope was directly responsible for my own autoimmune conditions being ignored long enough to cause long term and severe disability and damage.

In a recent post, I had responded to an intentionally insulting comment with a long explanation of how their assumptions about my use of a mobility aid and my weight was influenced by a series of misunderstanding about obesity, pain, and disability. Included among this explanation was the statement that “obesity” or rather weight gain, can often be a symptom of chronic pain rather than it’s cause.

In response to this statement I received a question, and while the phrasing made it clear the comment wasn’t actually a legitimate inquiry but another chance for the commentor to engage in fat shaming, the underlying question sparked my interest.

Heavily edited, the question was this:  

“I understand how obesity can contribute to pain by putting stress on joints, but I don’t understand how the opposite can happen. Can you Please explain it to me and help me understand? How does Pain cause Weight Gain?”  

To begin, the concept of “obesity” is widely misunderstood and is oppressive in and of itself. As a knowledgeable friend recently explained it –  The word is based on the Body Mass Index scale (BMI) where the ratio of height and weight was determined and everyone who scored within certain parameters was considered as having a healthy BMI while anyone whose BMI was above this range was deemed obese. A person who had very little body fat, but was very muscled, especially in relation to their height, would be classified as obese. In fact, since muscle tends to weigh more than fat, a body builder is more likely to be classified as obese than what most people consider to be representative of an “obese” person.

The concept that obesity is synonymous with fatness is a misunderstanding that has become accepted as a standard, and is used by doctors to excuse their own medical negligence when it’s the result of internalized biases regarding fatness.

What’s more, more and more evidence suggests that body fat percentage is not actually a reliable indicator of an individuals health, nor is there actually a reliable standard as to what fat percentage can be considered healthy and which is unhealthy. That rather fat distribution and percentage is really just a variation in body type much the same way that shape, height, etc. are.

The attempt to pathologize fatness ultimately makes as much sense as claiming that a certain eye colour is an indicator of overall health. Contrary to popular belief, just being fat is not in itself unhealthy.  A fat person can be just as healthy as someone who is considered slender. What is unhealthy is when there is a sudden significant increase or decrease of body fat percentage outside of regular growth and development. In the specific case of an increase in body fat levels, what is unhealthy is when it is spurred by malnutrition, stress, and immobility which in addition to spurring weight gain also have a measurable negative impact on blood pressure, blood sugar, and arterial plaque. Even in this case, it’s not the weight gain in particular that is of actual medical concern, but rather the specific effects on those measured stats.

The medically accepted myth that fatness all by itself is unhealthy is another example of the fallacy that correlation signifies causation. Additionally, this accepted fallacy has had significant impacts on our social understanding of body size and health. 

A more accurate way to look at the connection between a high body percentage and pain would be that it can contribute to pain when an underlying problem exists, and when the specific individuals natural body fat percentage is significantly lower than what it is now. There are many people out there who are fat, who not only experience no pain whatsoever, but also have perfectly healthy stats.

In fact, the social convention of proper weight is so distorted, that the little abdominal bulge many women spend years trying to eliminate, is actually not the result of fat but is actually their internal organs pressing up against their abdominal wall.

Weight on it’s own, doesn’t cause pain. Rather, in an event that someone has an underlying condition that may cause pain, carrying more weight than their body naturally would under optimal conditions, can put additional stress on the injury site and make pain more intense. The impetus for the pain however, is still the initial underlying injury or condition.

What many ignore is that pain and its related symptoms can actually be the cause of accelerated weight gain and that the best way to address both is to treat the underlying cause of pain and to treat the pain itself.

How can this be?

Continue reading “How Can Pain Cause Weight Gain?  “

How Can Pain Cause Weight Gain?  
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Stolen Freedom

Last year, I received one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. A kind family donated their departed matriarch’s wheelchair to me, after I had previously been told that my pain and inability to stand or walk far distances was not valid criteria to qualify for the accessibility device program.

Having access to the chair opened up worlds to me that I had long been unable to experience. I was able to go back into nature again, to explore my neighbourhood, my city, more thoroughly and comfortably. I was able to enjoy the outdoors more thoroughly than I had in years. I could even play Pokémon Go, without having to be the passenger in a slow-moving vehicle.

I met many of my neighbours and became an actual part of my community.

Although I was facing the fact that my marriage was falling apart, that I was facing even more financial vulnerability and hardship than I had already dealt with for the past seven years, I felt better about myself than I had in a long time.

I felt more a part of the world than I had before.

Continue reading “Stolen Freedom”

Stolen Freedom

GUEST POST: Why It’s Hard to Reveal My Disability to Strangers

By Kella Hanna-Wayne

A dancer on a dark background with title of post in white

CN: ableism, chronic pain

With every new person I meet, I have to gauge just how much to tell them about my disability. I try to be as open as possible about my health issues because I want to reinforce the idea that people who look like me- young, relatively fit, no noticeable limitations- can also be disabled. But being open about my disability means opening myself to potential scrutiny of my body, my diet, my medications, my exercise routine. Any decision I make about my physical health becomes fair game for intrusive questions. Until I get to know a person better, I have to assume they will default to treating me as if my health history is in the public domain.

Continue reading “GUEST POST: Why It’s Hard to Reveal My Disability to Strangers”

GUEST POST: Why It’s Hard to Reveal My Disability to Strangers

Guest Post: Disembodied

CN: Mentions of death, suicidal ideation,

Think of someone you once knew.

A co-worker. A friend. A family member. Someone you loved. Someone you knew intimately.

Remember the details. The colour of their hair. The tilt of their head as they turned to smile at you. The sparkles of laughter in their eyes.

Close your eyes, and feel their arms around you. The arms of someone who cared. Who held you in your darkest hours. Who protected you, catching you even before you knew you were falling.

Remember how much you loved them. Try to remember the spark of hope you felt when you were with them. Feel within you how loved they made you feel.

And then bring yourself back to reality.

Return to the sad, grim, fact, that they are gone from your life. And no-one can tell you why. Because years ago, they vanished into thin air. Never to be seen again. And there are no answers to be found.

They are just… Gone. And no-one knows why, and no-one can say where. And no-one is looking. The trail has gone cold, and there are no clues left.

Again, bring your heart to remember the feeling that they brought to you. Focus on it. Own it. Hold on to that feeling.

This will be important. Because it is the only way that you will be able to see them long enough to find the answers. Continue reading “Guest Post: Disembodied”

Guest Post: Disembodied

Guest Post: From quack to quacked, Quark to quarks: A journey to invisibility.

(Note from Ania: This post by Sophie was written with the assistance of a speech to text tool. There may be some typos, which I haven’t been able to correct yet.  I will come back and edit them as soon as I have the spoons to devote to it.)

We live in a world of experts. Scientists. Astronauts. Doctors. Computer programmers. Politicians. Teachers. Husbands. Wives. Parents. Men. Woman. All the people. Everyone you see around you is an expert in their field, even if we all haven’t gone through higher education to obtain a degree.

But you don’t need a degree to be considered an expert in your field. In a lot of cases, the people who will know most about a thing are the people living with and dealing with the thing. And for the most part, people accept these masters of the universe in their own chosen specialty.

Parents are masters in parenting.

Women are masters in being women.

Men are masters t understanding men.

Even children are masters at understanding children.

Social justice warriors are masters at navigating the system and assisting people in distress because of the system.

Marginalized people are masters at knowing what it means to be oppressed because of who you are, or what you believe in.

I am sure that you, reading this, are a master in your chosen domain.

But I cannot speak to what it’s like being a part of that domain. And it’s not why I’m here today, writing this. But I did want to make sure before I began that you understood that I SEE you. You are not invisible to me. And I am quite certain that you will have experienced some or many of these things that I want to speak about. I know that your pain is real. But I must focus my thoughts and speak of the things that I personally know, which unfortunately isn’t every single person on earth, much as I wish I could sometimes.

So let me try this again, from the beginning.

Each and every one of us is a master of our own domain. We don’t all have university degrees to tuck in under our belts, but we do all have our passions, and qualifications. Today’s words will focus on one particular subset of the human culture: Being disabled, and the invisibility that too often comes with it. Because while it isn’t the knowledge I would have wanted for myself, it’s what I have become educated on, by means of the circumstances I’ve been thrown in.

It is in that light, in that guise, that I introduce myself to you.

Sophie, Ph.D.
Partially human, Disabled.

Continue reading “Guest Post: From quack to quacked, Quark to quarks: A journey to invisibility.”

Guest Post: From quack to quacked, Quark to quarks: A journey to invisibility.

Guest Post: Who Needs Social Justice Warriors Anyway?

CN: For medical details, descriptions of pain,

As early ago as two years back, I’d never heard the term “Social Justice Warrior.” The first I heard of it was from a friend. He made those “Pesky SJWs” out to be horrible things, worse than Klingons out for revenge. I didn’t really understand it, and so had no opinion on the matter. But given that I am a non christian liberal and he’s a conservative christian, I felt there might be more to it than meets the eye.

But, well… Too much life happening, and no spoons to research it. And besides, it doesn’t matter. I don’t need someone out there telling me what to do and how to do it. I’m an adult, right? Even when I don’t feel much like adulting.

Continue reading “Guest Post: Who Needs Social Justice Warriors Anyway?”

Guest Post: Who Needs Social Justice Warriors Anyway?

Making Peace with my Body

CN: This Post includes mentions of assault, drug use, and body image issues

On May 14th, I finally managed to get my first tattoo. Ever since I was a kid, I had an obsession with drawing pictures on myself. Whenever I was able, I would get henna tattoos of various sorts. I loved the idea of wearing art on my own skin.

Growing up, my parents would appreciate the art, but still disapprove of the whole concept of tattoos. They believed them to be irresponsible, silly, and a waste of money. They made the jokes that have become a social trope, about the hilarity of aged skin and what those tattoos would look like on a senior. It’s not uncommon to hear boomers of all sorts complaining about them and about the people who get them.

Until I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis and lost major functionality in my legs, I expected to grow up to be a doctor. If not that, I at least expected to be a professional of some sort. I knew that I would be doing myself if I got a tattoo somewhere visible, and so I made myself a deal: I wouldn’t get a tattoo until I turned 25. If I still wanted it by that point, then it was something I truly wanted and could find a way to make it happen.

Continue reading “Making Peace with my Body”

Making Peace with my Body

Dismissed By People like You

CN Spoilers for Grace and Frankie, NSFW, Discussions of Sex, Consent, Mentions of Rape

Note: The bottom quote does not include some of the text, but has been edited down to contain the relevant parts of the discussion.

Grace: What are we doing? I’ll tell you what we’re doing. We’re We’re making vibrators for women with arthritis.

Frankie: Yes! Vibrators! Brilliant!

Grace: Oh, grow up. Older women masturbate too.

Frankie: And we have vaginas.

Brianna:  I highly doubt there’s a vibrator market for geriatric women with arthritis.

Grace: There is. I’m in agony.

Frankie: It takes a lot longer for us to get off, Sol.

Grace: She’s right. Our blood doesn’t flow as easily – and our genital tissue is more delicate. I did some reading. The more effort it takes to orgasm, the more you irritate it, and the more it inflames your arthritis. And I mean shouldn’t older women have it better than that?

Mallory: How do I explain to my children that their grandma makes sex toys for other grandmas?

Grace: I’ll tell you what you can tell them, honey. We’re making things for people like us, because we are sick and tired of being dismissed by people like you.

So ends the second season of Grace and Frankie. The line “We’re making things for people like us, because we are sick and tired of being dismissed by people like you.” Seems to me like a perfect summary of the first two seasons of Grace and Frankie. Nominally the show is about two older women relearning how to live on their own after their husbands leave them for each other.

More than that, the show is about two older women realizing the extent to which they have been taken for granted, and the extent to which women past a certain age get treated as invisible and irrelevant. The level to which women’s identities are subsumed into that of their families and especially their husbands.

Continue reading “Dismissed By People like You”

Dismissed By People like You

PSA: Don’t Touch Accessibility Devices

Accessibility Devices are, for all intents and purposes, a part of our bodies and should be treated as such.

DO NOT touch an accessibility device WITHOUT CONSENT. In case this is not clear, I mean the consent of the disabled person.

Do not touch a wheelchair without the consent of the person in it.

Do not touch a walker or a cane without the consent of the person using it.

Do not move a walker or cane out of the way, even if the person isn’t using it right now.

Do not push a wheelchair without consent, even if you are just trying to help. Even if you just want to make it easier for them to get up a hill.

Do not put a cane where the person who needs it can’t reach it. It is not funny.

Do not take a person’s prosthetic. It is not funny.

Do not push a person’s wheelchair out of your way, or to make them go faster. If you wouldn’t shove someone out of the way, then consider pushing someone in a chair as the equivalent.

Do not take a person’s hearing aid. It is not funny.

Do not try to make a person’s hearing aid produce feedback.

Do not push someone wearing a hearing aid into a pool, or spray them with water.

Do not touch a service dog. Doesn’t matter how cute it is. Doesn’t matter how small it is. If the dog is wearing his vest or currently working, DO NOT TOUCH THE DOG. (Or Any Other Service Animal)

Do not talk or stare at a service dog – dogs are social and if they are paying attention to you they are not paying attention to their job. They’re trained, but they’re still animals who CAN get distracted.

 Do not put a walker or a cane somewhere else, even if it is not currently being used.

DO NOT try to help by lifting their walker or the person themselves unless asked. If you offer, respect their no.

Continue reading “PSA: Don’t Touch Accessibility Devices”

PSA: Don’t Touch Accessibility Devices