The Weight Loss Benefits of Being Sick

So, I’m sick. Third time in six months, which is unprecedented for me — must be something about this California sunshine that adversely affects me! The bright side? Weight loss.

You know how it is, anyone who has ever been overweight: the joy of being sick, losing your appetite and losing weight because of it. It’s wrong and perhaps a bit mentally unhealthy, but it’s just true. Weight loss is an upside to being sick.

I think it taps into our desire to have weight loss be something that is easy, seamless. The reality, of course, is that it isn’t. But your body takes away your choice in the matter when you’re sick: whether you like it or not, you have a diminished appetite. Today I subsisted on two bananas (one for breakfast, one for dinner), a 100 calorie pack of almonds, two pieces of wheat toast with Laughing Cow cheese and a Yakisoba noodle dish. Frankly, I didn’t even NEED that last  bit, but it’s been in my cupboard for ages and I’ve not been able to bring myself to eat it (every so often I forget how vile sodium packed microwave noodles are) and figured today was as good a day as any to waste those calories.

Of course, it’s not foolproof. That last two times I was sick, I ate almost as normal, and didn’t lose any weight. It wasn’t a big deal, but I did experience slight disappointment. Messed up, right?

What about you guys — do you do the same sickness song & dance? What’s the most you’ve ever lost when you were sick? For me, it was 10 lbs when I was 15 and had the flu. But I put it all back on within two weeks because, you know, that much weight loss in that time period is INSANE and unhealthy.

4 thoughts on “The Weight Loss Benefits of Being Sick”

  1. See, I lose my appetite when stressed, but it’s completely normal when I’m sick (stomach viruses aside, of course). In fact, the one thing I look forward to when I’m sick is making and consuming “sick food” (soup, smoothies, etc, etc.). But I think I might just be a weirdo.

  2. I don’t have that reaction at all. In fact, I’m very much the opposite. Losing weight because I don’t have my healthy appetite and/or digestive patterns.

    Part of this is because I already have anemia and potential nutrient absorption issues (depending on whether my Crohn’s decides to flare). For me, any kind of sick appetite means: 1) I’m at increased risk for not getting enough nutrients due to limited caloric intake + absorption issues; 2) I’m less likely to be able to take my iron supplement (since it gives me nausea on the best of days).

    Another part is that any weight loss I experience is invariably loss of muscle mass because I’m less likely to be working out. It’s very much undesired weight loss and weight I will actively work to put back on** once I’m well.

    **What I really mean is getting back the strength and muscle I had before getting sick, but for my individual body, that does mean weight in practical terms.

  3. I’m 5′ 10″ and 47 years old. In the fall of 2010, father became terminally ill due to several comorbid factors. The beginning of his end began 11/2/2010. I lost about 20 pounds in two months, and continued to drop weight until a few months ago. My lowest weight was 105. It was due to a few factors, some environmental – most of my days became 18-22 hours long, and some emotional/psychological. The point is, for me, the rapid weight loss engendered eating disordered behavior. I did not have all of the characteristics of anorexia, but the whole thing fed on itself. I believe our society gives so much positive re-enforcement to thin and unhealthily thin people that, again in my own experience, I felt compelled to eat less. I never starved myself, or didn’t eat for days at a time, but as I got thinner and the portions got smaller, I couldn’t eat alot even if I wanted too. I have put on enough weight – I weigh 140 now – that I wish I was thinner again! But for me, I just need to start walking and lifting weights again and things will even out. But I will always have that seed of eating disordered behavior whether it’s eating too much, eating certain types of food for long periods of time (tuna sandwiches every day for two months? Sure! Count me in) or eating too little, the very difficult goal is maintaining a balance and variety of healthy food with occassional treats. What I feel the most shame about is that while I’m so focused on what to eat, there are millions in the world who do not have enough food. Their weight loss has nothing to do with appearances, they are literally starving because of poverty, geopolitical issues, and a variety of other reasons.

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