Superhero Appetite

Superman SlurpeeFor the past couple of months, Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy has had a standing prescription for Prednisone. My rheumatologist told me to take this corticosteroid for three weeks (10mg x 7 days, 5mg x 7 days, 2,5mg x 7 days) should I encounter a particularly rough period with my RA.

During my last visit, he asked if I had taken any Prednisone. When I told him no, he told reminded me that there is no need to be a stoic in front of the pain, and to please not forget about implementing this this backup plan should it become necessary.

So, following in the footsteps of Barry Bonds et al., I decided to go ahead and start my steroid plan this past weekend. (Okay, I know these steroids are different from those steroids…I’m just having fun!) I figured that not being able to place any weight whatsoever on my left knee and left foot qualified as a green light. My right elbow isn’t a happy camper either at the moment, and my shoulders have decided to join the party as well.

The last time I took Prednisone was a few years ago, during which time I gained a lot of weight. (But it wasn’t the muscle gain that I had hoped for!) As anyone who has taken this medicine before knows all too well, the most common side effects include mood changes, weight gain, water retention, and the infamous “moonface”. (That’s exactly what is sound like – your face becomes so round that it looks like a full moon. Sometimes I feel like I should be sitting at McDonald’s playing the piano.)

Like most people, I am very sensitive to the notion of any weight gain. I think even slightly more so because one of my biggest priorities during the past year and a half has been my bringing my physical fitness and weight down to its ideal state. I have lost a substantial amount of weight during the past 18 months (close to 50 pounds, and almost 5 inches around the waist), and I would much more prefer not having to go back  up and down again. I also don’t think my joints would be too happy having to support any extra weight.

So as my hunger levels skyrocket (once again), and as my metabolism baselines, I have come up with a some action items in hopes of minimizing any weight gain during the coming weeks. (What a change from just six weeks ago, when I could barely stomach anything due to stomach problems…) I’ve got the healthy meals and exercise under control…I just have to take care of the other 21 hours of the day!

Leave It In The Store

My absolute first life of defense when it comes to weight control takes place at the grocery store. Anything that has a lot of fat or calories does not make it into my shopping cart – and since I can’t just easily run back to the store at any given moment, chances are that if it does not come home on the first trip to the grocery store, that it’s not coming home at all. I also make sure to follow the age-old advice of not shopping while hungry. (Who hasn’t done this before, and ended up with a kitchen full of cookies, ice cream, and potato chips?)

Watch It Wiggle

As midnight runs (okay, 2am runs – I often go to sleep right before midnight) to the refrigerator become much more frequent, I figured that I might as well fill it with something healthy snacks (but not too healthy…I’m not going to be eating carrot sticks the middle of the night, after all!) So at any given moment, one shelf of my refrigerator is filled with single-serve glasses of homemade Jell-O. (It’s especially fun to do the multiple layers thing…) Whenever I get the urge to eat something either during the day or night, I go for my servings of Jell-O…guilt free.

Do The Jamba Dance

I must admit, I have never been a big fan of fruit – but throw it in a blender and add some ice, and I am more than happy! (Thanks, Jamba Juice!) Most of my fruit shakes start from a base of fresh papaya, apple juice, and ice. Into this I add mango, strawberries, bananas, raspberries, and blueberries – depending upon my mood. For my own personal power boost, I add some ground flaxseed. Making my own fruit blends at home is easy, fun, and best of all – more inexpensive than the retail option.

Presto PowerPopper

Luckily, one of my favorite snacks while watching television during the evenings has always been popcorn. (I think I get this from my father – it’s very rare that he ever goes a day without eating popcorn.) A couple of years ago I decided it was time to give up on commercial microwave popcorn, as I had read too many health warning related to the oils and flavorings that they use. Childhood memories of tasteless air popped popcorn didn’t seem to appetizing, either. I was happy to come across this Presto PowerPopper, which I have been using since. The results are great tasting air popped popcorn (you can add a dash of butter or oil if you like, but it’s not necessary) from my microwave. Once again, this alternative is nicer on the wallet. (My father is also a recent convert to this microwave popper, which says a lot!)

If you have your own suggestions for minimizing the weight gain that is associated with Prednisone and other rheumatoid arthritis medications, please do share!

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

19 Comments
19 comments
  1. Linda C says:

    Good morning,
    I can completely empathize with you on this subject. (I could write a book on the subject and my feelings, but won’t) First, though you are to be commended on recognizing that wanting to eat might be a problem and think your grocery shopping through. I did not, and am paying for it.

    I was on Prednisone for 6 months, switched to Hydrocortisone in Feb. I take it 4 times a day, and the mood swings, extreme hunger, etc have leveled off some. For me the benefits are much greater than the side effects. I would not be walking if I had not been on this med. Nor would I be able to be on computer and meet all you nice bloggers.

  2. Millicent says:

    Great suggestions all! I am convinced that I’m addicted to popcorn–have it at least 5 days/week…but I do it the old-fashioned way: oil in pan on top of stove–add popcorn–shake until popped–add a bit of salt & hunker down with the bowl!

  3. Cathy says:

    I was pretty fortunate when I was on prednisone, even high doses, not to gain weight! What works for me while on meds or when needing to shed some pounds is to make sure I eat protein at each and every meal. Also, when I cut grains to a minimum not only do I lose weight, but I feel better.

    I hope you feel better soon. Are you having a lot of rain? I had a flare-up in my knee over the weekend and I am now wondering how much all the mold that is sitting outside is playing into this. Who knows??? I am always looking for the cause. Anyhow, feel better soon and I hope the prednisone does the trick. It does have some magic in it. :)

  4. RA Guy says:

    Linda, I’m glad to hear that the side effects have leveled out and that the meds are working for you!

    Millicent, I too used to have popcorn almost every night but now it’s down to about 2 times a week for me.

    Cathy, thanks for the advice. I’m glad to hear that weight gain is not a foregone conslusion.

    I am learning that the constant signals of hunger are just a side effect of this medicine and that I need to not succumb to them. My current plan is also for just three weeks, last time around I was on it for months. Hopefully this will help minimize the side effects.

    No rain here, although we are heading into the coldest days of the year (I’m down below the equator right now…) The Prednisone is already working though, as I can now put some weight on the knee and ankle.

  5. WarmSocks says:

    Great ideas. I’d second the protein idea. I keep devilled eggs on hand for snacking. Olives, too, even though they’re a fat; fat helps you feel full.

  6. Karen says:

    Hi, Not true for everyone…I’m always on and off Prednisone..on it right now..and I dont gain much weight..I get a lil puffy..but it goes away…it really depends how long your on it.

    Medrol on the other hand…wow..forget it..I gained a ton of weight!!

    K~

  7. RA Guy says:

    Karen, I’m glad to hear that Prednisone hasn’t caused you to gain weight…I hope to be a member of this exclusive club this time around!

  8. Robin says:

    I’ve been on Prednisone sine last October (up to 4mg/mo.) and it hasn’t caused me to gain. I’ve actually lost weight through mucho exercise!

  9. Rachael says:

    I take 25mg of Prednisone everyday and haven’t had any weight gain, but I certainly can’t lose any weight either! It sounds like you have a good plan to avoid weight gain. Best of luck and stay strong.

  10. Mur says:

    Sounds like a good plan. I am trying to stay off. I have gained a ton of weight and have probs with exercising…I am doing ‘weenie’ exercise just so that I don’t go totally insane. I am waiting to see if I can start Remicade. At the moment waiting to see if insurance will cover…keep your fingers cross for me!

  11. Mur says:

    Me again. I am so glad (ok, wish we all DIDn’t have this in common) to meet others who know what it’s like living like this.

  12. Connie says:

    I was on prednisone for three months, I never slept, and gained about 25 lbs. I will never take it again, I hated the feeling.

  13. Mikel says:

    I’m still on Prednisone, started on high doses 18 months ago, but now down to 2mg per day plus a weekly dose of Methotrexate.

    I did gain weight alot at first, but as the dose dropped so did weight (a little). I’m not back down to what I was, but then I do not exercise as much as I did. Funny thing – joints tend to ache and get really tired. :)

    Overall, I get to live and work a fairly normal day, so I’ll live with it. It’s a trade off, but one that’s worked for me so far.

  14. Rebecca says:

    I’ve been on 10mg of prednisone for about 8 months now and have had no weight gain. My hunger did increase, but somehow I’ve managed to not increase the amount of food I eat. Let’s just say that I do go to bed hungry quite often! I have had some minor facial hair growth (so lovely on a woman!), but that’s about it.

    You’re smoothies sound a bit healthier than Jamba Juice’s – some of their’s are 700 calories!

  15. Diane says:

    AAAHHHHH The love/hate relationship with prednisone. It gives me relief but is bad for my bones….it gives me increased energy but gives me insomnia…it makes me have a ravenous appetite and swells my belly and face up – but helps my swollen joints! Back in the 80′s – it was one of the only meds out there to help. They would start me out on a really high dose and then wean me down to 5mg-10mg per day. Lots of weight gain during those periods….and my head looked like an over blown balloon about ready to BLOW! I now DREAD when I have to take it but I always try to keep it to 5mg a day and for short periods of time. I try to drink TONS of water and excercise more when I’m on it. Good luck my RA friend!

  16. Deborah says:

    I’ve never been on prednisone, but I have struggled with metabolic issues for a long time, to the point where now it seems I may have nerve damage… I’d love to find someone who can help me specifically with metabolic issues, my rheumy is clueless…

    PS – RA Guy – have you considered the Biologics? I know it is a scary step and there can be side… Read More effects, but when they work they really work – I was in remission on Enbrel and felt fantastic, but had to go off due to neurological problems. No weight gain from Enbrel either!

  17. Connie says:

    I am on Enbrel only now. Other than some stiffnes and always “achy” I am exhausted all the time and my hair is always falling out. Is this from the Enbrel or the RA? or am I just getting old?

  18. denise says:

    stan,
    Yes the necessary evil of prednisone. I’ve been on a high dose for 3 months tapering off now. 25 pounds later. I hate it but I have to be able to move my hands. And other joints LOL I’m just hoping that once I’m off it I can lose the prednisone weight if not well at least I can move. Healthy snacking is so smart. My dr told me the prenisone will make you want to eat the wallpaper off the wall. I thought he was joking not. Well I hope this short series won’t be too hard on you.

    Ps any rain yet?
    Denise

  19. Chelsea says:

    Hi RA Guy! I’ve been on prednisone for ten years now. Only a few times did I go off it and only for a couple months at a time. I’ve never gone over 20 mgs, and most of the time kept it at 7.5 mgs or lower. I did gain weight. Lost about 20 lbs of it when I went down to lower doses, but never got the other 20 lbs off. More exercise and better diet might help that though. Not sure I’ll ever get my adrenal glands working again but I’m still walking. I didn’t have knee or ankle problems though for many years and only in last year or so have my feet started becoming a problem with some ankle aching, but no bad swelling. You can still get damage in the joints even if they aren’t noticeably swelling. I will need feet and wrist surgery I’m sure in the next year or two. Can’t afford to try the biologics yet and had held off in the past being leary of them. Trying to maintain as best I can on methotrexate all these years. Will follow your blog with interest.

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