January Challenge

Good morning and happy new year! Who else is so ready for 2019? I am definitely hoping for lots more positive and happy experiences this year and am ready to get working for them.

December Challenge

I am pleased to say I completed my Instagram photo challenge last month and am rather pleased with my little self! The prompts were great and definitely got me thinking about everything around Christmas. I also was pleased to discover a couple of other great parent bloggers over on Instagram through the challenge. Thanks for hosting The Granthams!

January Challenge

It sounds cliche, but this year I am starting with a fitness challenge. I was definitely wanting to lose some weight prior to Christmas, but thought waiting till after the festivities were over was the best idea!

I have tried not to over indulge too much and have not been a total pig, but after the years of steroids taking their toll, I am heavier than I am happy with and ready to get down to a version of me that I am more content with.

I know many will look at me and say you aren’t overweight, and I understand that, but I am happier when I weigh a little less than I am now and am looking to get back down to 56/57 kilos.

My Weight Journey

For most of my adult life my weight has been pretty consistent at around 50-52 kilos. A Crohn’s flare in December 2013 saw my weight plummet by a stone in just 6 days over Christmas, but at the time I just battled through it as it wasn’t long after my diagnosis and I thought I just had to crack on, as you do! Prior to my ostomy surgery in 2016 I was down to 40kg and severely ill. As I had been poorly for around six months, I didn’t quite realise how poorly I looked during this time. Now I look back at photos and the skeleton shape staring back horrifies me.

The photo on the right is me in April 2016 weighing just 40 kilos and severely ill

Following my hemicolectomy and ostomy surgery, I began putting back on the weight my body had lost and was feeling much healthier. After being used to such a skinny appearance for so long, I struggled with this though too. I remember sharing a photo of me holding my cousins newborn baby and everybody saying that I looked so healthy and so much happier – I felt huge. The constant yo-yoing of weight caused by my Crohn’s Disease had caused me to suffer with BDD.

I HATED this photo for so long and thought I looked massive

What Is BDD?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental health condition which causes you to worry about flaws in your appearance. These flaws are often minor, or not even noticeable to others. Because I had been poorly for so long and had become used to how skinny and underweight I was, the weight gain I experienced post surgery affected me badly at first, making me think I was hugely overweight. In fact, I was around 56/57 kilos which, although heavier than my usual body weight, was actually very healthy and I now look back on that photo and love it!

Find out more about BDD, symptoms and what to do if you think you have it on the NHS Website

The Goal

Since having a couple of bad flares and rounds of IV steroids, I have developed the ‘moonface’ people often struggle with, as well as an increase in appetite which has caused me to gain a lot more weight. My goal is now to get back down to around 56/57 kilos which was my weight post surgery and where I felt most confident and happy.

Diet

To do this I will be ‘dieting’ to an extent. I eat pretty healthy meals anyway but I would like to stick to a healthier schedule of eating and make sure my snacks are healthier. Having a stoma and Crohn’s Disease won’t make this ease, as I struggle with fibre and have to stick to lower residue foods but I am ready for the challenge and also looking into low FODMAP as a potential thing to try.

Exercise

I have really been falling down on my exercise this last year and this is where I am going to make a concerted effort to improve. I used to walk the children to and from school every day and now don’t have that to do, so I have cut out a huge chunk of my normal daily activity.

I found this on Pinterest and loved the fact it was quite relaxed and you could choose different styles of workouts to fit the theme each day. As I have arthritis many of the workout plans posted are entirely unsuitable, or have certain chucks of them that I have to miss out. I will be swapping the yoga sections fop Pilates as this is very similar and something I already do and enjoy.

I grabbed this from He & She Eat Clean and they do have some workouts for the cardio and strength training days if you would like to have a look!

Would love some exercise buddies, so if you want to join in please pop a comment below – we could maybe start a little chat group where we can keep an eye on how we are all doing and motivate one another. I am really looking forward to this challenge, although we will see if that mentality continues to the end of the month… wish me luck!

An Interview With… Marnix Lawrence

I recently responded to a tweet asking for people with IBD to help with some research looking at the perception of exercise among sufferers.  This led to me being interviewed over Skype by the lovely Marnix, who himself has Crohns Disease.  I answered the questions he needed for his research and it was great to talk to someone about the importance of things like this.  I think it is great that someone who has IBD themselves is doing such important research, as he really understands things from a patient’s perspective too.  I asked Marnix to answer some questions to post on my blog which he kindly agreed to.  Read on for more information about his research and why projects like this are so important.

analysis blackboard board bubble

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

1 – Could you give us a brief intro – who you are and what you do?

My name is Marnix, I’m 23 and I’m currently finishing up an MSc in Clinical Exercise Physiology. I studied a BSc in sport and exercise science previous to this. My research is titled ‘Perceptions of Exercise in IBD Sufferers: A Qualitative Approach.

2 – Tell us about your IBD diagnosis – your symptoms, how you were diagnosed, what you have etc

I was diagnosed with Crohns disease when I was 19 in the summer at the end of my first year of university, but had been experiencing some symptoms from around the age of 17. This started out as extreme abdominal pain when I drank too much alcohol, but this turned into more frequent pain, diarrhoea, fatigue and severe weight loss just before my diagnosis. My mum was concerned about my weight loss (around 15kg in a month) and sent me to see a consultant fairly quickly, who diagnosed me instantly. I did however see a consultant a year before for some perianal symptoms I was having, and this consultant misdiagnosed me. According to other consultants that particular consultant was an idiot for not noticing the symptoms I was experiencing.

3 – How do you manage your IBD now?

My IBD is managed by strong medications. Due to the severity of my Crohns disease I was placed straight onto Humira, a biologic medication almost immediately. My condition has been fairly controlled since, apart from the occasional course of steroids when things are less than ideal.

4 – Why are you interested in the effects of exercise on patients with IBD?

So the first rather obvious point regarding this is the fact that I have IBD myself, so taking an interest in it seems like a fairly logical thing to do. With regards to exercise specifically, my MSc course is focused towards exercise so that interest was there, and it was a case of simply pairing them together. My interest expanded past this however when looking into the research further. Research into IBD is currently at an interesting stage where there is quite a large amount of promise for the potentially positive effects of exercise. This is due to the biology making sense (exercise is known to reduce inflammation, and IBD is all about inflammation), and some papers speaking of its all around positive effects, with some stating some reductions in disease activity after 12 weeks of exercise. Despite this, and some more high-quality research being undertaken right now, it’s still a little unclear what effect exercise actually has, as some results are rather mixed. Due of this, IBD sufferers have no guidelines around exercise, so information about what we should be doing and why we should be doing it. This sparked my interest, as I wanted to contribute to this growing area so that perhaps guidelines could be made in the next few years.

5 – What exercise do you take part in?

I participate in resistance exercise 3 times a week for an hour per time, and 1 session of high intensity interval training (HIIT) every week.

6 – Does exercise impact on your health do you think?

It certainly helps me keep my cardiovascular fitness in check, as well as positive effects on my muscle development. I don’t think it has any particular effect on my disease activity, as my disease is well controlled at the moment. It may stop it from flaring back up, but I wouldn’t know that for certain. However in my opinion its very important for IBD sufferers to exercise regularly. Alongside all the positive effects healthy members of the population will experience, there are two main factors specifically for IBD sufferers:

1. We are susceptible to osteoporosis, a condition where your bone mineral density is lower, and you have an increased risk of bone fractures

2. We are more susceptible to colon cancer.

What most IBD sufferers don’t realise is that we are both susceptible to these conditions, and that exercise has a direct positive effect on reducing the risk of these conditions. Most people don’t know this however, because we have no exercise guidelines. But that is one of the big reasons I stick to a regular exercise programme.

7 – Was your diagnosis the catalyst for the type of research you do?

I think I would likely be doing research regarding the effects of exercise on a different chronic condition if not for my diagnosis, but I certainly think the diagnosis meant I did research in IBD specifically

8 – What do your colleagues think of the work you do? Do they know you have IBD yourself? What do they think of that?

My colleagues have been supportive of the research I’m doing. My supervisor and other researchers I’ve spoken to are confident the research can be published because there is a need for more information in this area. I have one that has Crohns disease too, who has been extremely supportive and has helped with recruitment. Without them, I’m not sure this research would have been successful.

9 – What do you aim to do with your research?

While research continues to find out what exercise is beneficial, and whether or not it has a positive effect on disease activity, the thoughts and feelings of IBD sufferers goes under the radar. With IBD comes a large amount of worry and concern, and with little exercise information, many IBD sufferers are apprehensive about exercise, thinking that it may perhaps worsen their condition. What I hope to do is summarise the thoughts of IBD sufferers, and apply that knowledge to give advice into how exercise should be prescribed to IBD sufferers and what information should be readily available. Other factors to be considered might be how active a person’s disease may be, provisions such as proximity to the nearest toilet, whatever it takes so that people are comfortable exercising, and not worrying about XY and Z

10 – Why should patients get involved with research? Why is it important?

Behind everything in the medical world, research is the driving factor. That medication you take which keeps you stable? Had to go through clinical trials. The fact that we all know exercise is good for your heart? This information is readily available because of research proving it to be the case. Taking part in a piece of research could be the difference between guidelines and legislation being made that may directly benefit you as a person, or other people experiencing the same issue. If you have the opportunity to take part in research, especially for a medical condition you have, I would recommend that you contribute. It could very well influence a change that impacts the lives of thousands of people.

 

A huge thanks to Marnix for answering these questions, I hope you found this an interesting read!  Have you ever helped out with any research before?  Let me know in the comments below if you have.  I am looking forward to the outcome of this research and the changes it could make to our ongoing care and treatment.  I will be sure to let you know when I have more information from this to share.

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