Tuesday, 20 December 2011


On the list of side effects contained in the Package Leaflet: Information for the User in my many boxes of Prednisolone is a warning that taking the steroid can lead to weight retention. There’s reference to the developing of what the notes indemonstrably call a rounder face. There’s a note on salt and water retention. There’s another that suggests users will have increased appetite leading to weight gain. When you look into these Prednisolone characteristics they emerge as something you really don’t want to happen. Moon face, humped back, weight inflating your belly. Just how you want to be over Christmas.

I asked the GP what she thought. It doesn’t happen to everyone, she told me. I started checking the mirror daily. Could I see fat accumulating around my neck? Was my face like the moon? Not yet. I’d never been really heavy but was slightly overweight when the PMR first stuck. Slightly overweight in my terms, that is. Friends and loved ones said I looked fine. But I didn’t feel at my best. I needed to lose half a stone. I couldn’t allow the Prednisolone to get in the way. What could I do?

Further reading revealed a number of contradictory theories:

  1. That the weight gain came from an increase in appetite
  2. That the steroid led to salt and water retention
  3. That the moon face was the result of body fat moving around from some other part of the body
  4. That you could fight it and win
  5. That you’d never succeed so why not just keep your head down and suffer

Internet. Hell on a bike, it’s never definitive. It’s ever changing. Looking for a complete answer is like searching for a piece of the true cross.

I visited the chat rooms and read what had happened to others. There were stories of people putting on stone after stone, of developing camel backs and faces so round they could go bowling. There were tales of people who had taken to their beds. Stories of some who’d just accepted it all and carried on. There were also tales of people who’d managed to keep their weight level by dint of healthy eating and hadn’t gained an ounce. The problem was that you never knew where the respondents had started from. Were they unfit elderly and overweight anyway? Or were they super-fit runners without any spare fat at all? Did they have the will power to avoid chocolate and cheeseburger? Or did they eat these things daily just to get through life? You couldn’t tell. You didn’t know. You had to make it all up yourself.

I decided that it was time for me to take my eating and drinking in hand. There would be things I’d need to avoid and substitutes I’d need to learn to love. I already owned a set of Wi-Fi scales (made by Withings, a brilliant invention). These would transmit my weight to a special web site where I could keep a recorded track. Stand on the glass top in the morning (recommendation: do this at the same time daily and, preferably, naked), check the resulting graph on the computer later. I’ll beat you weight. That’s three battles I’m now engaged in. PMR, Prednisolone and heaviness. Nothing like fighting the world on all fronts.

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