Lupus Plus Steroids Equals Weight Gain

Darla Gay avatar

by Darla Gay |

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I’ve been overweight most of my life. In high school, I thought I was fat! Looking back at pictures from that time, I wish I was that size again. Before my lupus diagnosis, I was 20-25 pounds over my ideal weight — I thought I was huge. Today, I would be happy to be just 20 pounds overweight. 

Lupus comes with pain

Having lupus means that I’m in pain most days. I have muscle spasms in my arms, legs, and back. I’ve had spasms in places that I didn’t know had muscles. Because I also have fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, my hands, knees, and hips have almost constant aches. 

All these aches and pains are affected not only by what I do but also by things I have no control over, like the weather. It is always worse when the pressure changes, but cold, rainy days are miserable. 

Steroids help, but they come with a price

My pain management doctor introduced me to steroids. He told me that he could stop the pain in my knees for several months at a time with just one shot. I jumped at the chance to be pain-free without taking strong meds that made me drowsy all the time. 

It wasn’t until the day of the procedure that I heard the word “steroid.” Of course, I had heard of steroids before, but I didn’t know much about them. I mainly associated steroids with athletes, as something they used to improve their performance. I was so desperate for relief that I signed the consent form without a second thought. 

The shots helped so much that I agreed to let him inject my hips, too. The pain disappeared almost instantly. But then I started researching steroids and I discovered why they have such a bad reputation. The shots masked the pain and allowed me to do a lot more than I could otherwise. The downside was that I overdid it and my legs were so sore that I couldn’t walk the next day. 

I feel like I am always hungry

Along with masking the pain, the steroids made me hungry all the time. I was not just snacking between meals; I wanted snacks between my snacks. While working, I’d grab a box of cookies, and before I knew it, the package was empty. All the signals that should’ve told me when I was full had quit working. It was mindless eating at its finest. I could blow through a package of cookies or a huge piece of cake and not even remember what flavor it was. 

Trying to reverse the weight gain

I am working on paying more attention when I eat. I’ve slowed down and I make sure to taste every bite I put in my mouth. And I don’t buy cookies anymore because I can’t trust myself not to eat them all at once. Now I keep grapes and strawberries for when I want something sweet. 

I’m also trying to cook healthier meals, mostly lean meats with lots of vegetables. It’s a struggle because I have a lot of old habits I need to change. I’m not perfect by any means. I still have bad days when I feel sorry for myself and think that chocolate will help, or special days like my father’s 85th birthday when I splurge and eat more than I should. But those are the exceptions now, rather than the rule.

By taking time to plan meals and snacks and sticking to my plan — nothing drastic, but small changes that I can live with — I am making progress. Little by little, I know I’ll get there. 


Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.