"Weightloss is not a cure for everything"

About: Bath and North East Somerset PCT Bath Mineral Hospital

(as the patient),

For over ten years I have been suffering from fibromyalgia, arthritis, and now am being diagnosed with lupus. Before I was ill I was a bodybuilder. Now as I find walking painful and my metabolism is rubbish, I've gained quite a bit of weight. It took me years to get doctors to bother to look into my symptoms, and even though I now start to get closer to diagnosis, my GP still believes everything will be cured if I just drop some pounds.

It never ceases to amaze me that I am never asked how much I eat - I always have to offer this. I haven't had a takeaway meal in over a year, I haven't been to a fast food place in a decade. I probably know more about nutrition than most doctors, and there was a time even at 180lbs I had less body fat than my trainers. However, whenever I inform a doctor that even though I want to lose weight, I have to keep my eating down to 1,200 or I balloon, they just stare at me and make a noise which immediately tells me they think I'm lying and just eating donuts all day long. I was at the peak of fitness when I started to get ill. I want nothing more than to get rid of the weight I have on, but that will NOT happen when I flare with symptoms every three months, end up being hospitalised in that time, find walking so excruciating I am in tears after a few hundred yards, and my hands swell to the size of sausages.

I know there are people out there who don't understand why you can't eat fried food every day, but that person is not me. Nor do I think losing weight will be a miracle cure as I know many people who aren't my size and yet are even more ill than I am. That is a future I am trying hard to prevent, and I have become infinitely weary of being dismissed as a fat-middle-aged-whinger of a woman rather than someone who has watched her life disappear. It's well documented my heart is in very good shape, my cholesterol is quite low ("for someone your size") as it was put to me rather charmingly, but I feel that no one bothers to figure out why walking is so painful, why my metabolism doesn't respond to exercise, why I am sometimes covered in rashes which take weeks to clear, why my skin now reacts to sunlight even in February, and why my hair is falling out. The answer is always "just lose weight".

I would appreciate less looking at my post-code and making assumptions, and more actual engagement. This isn't an issue of "self-care" (I do considerable self-care already...but again, no one asks what or how it works). This seems, first and last, the typical response someone with a chronic illness gets from the health profession: we are the "heartsink" patients, and therefore aren't worth listening to.

As a person with a chronic illness I have grown used to having to take care of my health by myself because in my experience no one else would be overly bothered. If I called my GP every time I had a symptom like many other patients, I'd see them three times a week! Therefore, when I DO start getting symptoms I cannot explain, I would appreciate it if those symptoms were taken seriously and not just dismissed. I soldiered on for years, gritting my teeth without even so much as asking for pain medication, I allowed myself to get so ill I was in hospital three times in one year, because I have grown so accustomed to being ignored I didn't seek help sooner.

Weight-loss would maybe help my condition, but it won't cure it. I am indeed now putting myself through my former bodybuilding fat-stripping diet. Is it safe? Hardly. But I have learned that doesn't really matter as long as I LOOK like I'm losing weight. As long as I'm thinner, no one cares how I got there. And I feel like that's the only way I'll get a doctor to listen. But it should not have to be that way.

Giving up bodybuilding was the worst day of my life - I gave up a part of me which I will never get back again, all due to illness. It insults me for a GP to think I made a choice to sit around all day long, it insults me to have them assume I'm just lazy and unmotivated. It's time to stop thinking that everyone who comes to visit a GP is just a fat slob who doesn't want to fix themselves. Especially if you're a woman.

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