Tipping the balance: What an arthritis flare looks like on the scales

As you may know, I recently got back into the gym. It felt like a big step forward and was certainly a positive thing but it did make me think a lot about the last two years – where I am came from, how fit I was vs how limited I am now etc. and I realised how closely linked your autoimmune health is to your weight and general wellbeing.

I went back to my fitness app to see just how much it has changed and what I saw took me by surprise.

I started tracking my weight when I first developed psoriasis arthritis in my 20’s; shortly after the onset of my symptoms, I gained weight. I put it down to antidepressants at the time as alongside the new condition I developed some mental health issues as I adjusted to the changes. Back then I was focusing on getting healthy again and how quickly the weight was dropping off – what I hadn’t appreciated is that how I could potentially see a flare coming perhaps even before I noticed the symptoms, simply by looking at my weight trend.

My weight chart in stones

Let me explain – clearly your weight goes up when a flare hits; pain, stiffness, loss of movement – naturally you are going to put on weight if your activity drops and you don’t adjust your eating habits. In my case, in 2016 I was running half marathons and in 2017-18 I was playing rugby once a week, training twice a week and going to the gym in between that and this is reflected in my weight chart above where between 2016 – start of 2019 I was in between 11.25 – 12.25 stone (and could eat what I liked!).

However, when looking at the chart I noticed something. The two flares on there are obvious – the tail of one in 2015 that lasted a few years and the major one I’ve talked a lot about in 2019, however, if I dig a little deeper, there is more going on here.

Firstly, it shows that when I’m healthy, I don’t mess around and make the most of it. It’s this evidence that I use to challenge my medical team – ‘give me an opportunity to break the cycle and you won’t see me in here for a while’. When the pain or stiffness reduces, the weight drops as my activity goes through the roof, my mood improves so I eat healthier and quickly the cycle of the flare is broken. Just how quickly is demonstrated in that chart.

The next thing you’ll notice is just how aggressive the rise is when a flare hits, which perhaps explains why in some of my writing I talk about how hard it is to adjust to flares. One minute your playing sport with mates, the next stuck in bed – it’s horribly drastic and can’t be good for your wider health or mental wellbeing.

2018

Finally, and the bit that interested and concerned me the most, was that how my weight was increasing in advance of the flare in January 2019. Dismiss the increase in 2017, that was me moving from a long distance runner to a rugby player as I quickly found out that 11.5 stone was not a compatible weight with playing rugby (cue regular broken ribs and ankles)! The bit that surprises me is 2018 – I was super fit then and if anything looked in the best shape of my life so I certainly didn’t notice at the time that my weight was increasing.

The suggestion that something was going on before the switch to Biosimilars isn’t something I make lightly, the evidence that it caused the flare is clear and obvious but it certainly got me thinking. What if my body was flaring and the exercise and sport was keeping a lid on it and the switch to Imraldi opened the floodgates? Intesting? Yes. Far fetched? Probably but given my weight changes so dramatically and quickly with the flares, it’s certainly something I’m going to monitor and gather more data on next time.

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