Pills for Breakfast: Gaining Weight While in Pain

Pills for Breakfast: Gaining Weight While in Pain

I wish I could title this column, “How I Lost Weight While in Pain.”

I wish that’s what this was about. I wish I had already figured out how.

Unfortunately, all I have right now is the question. How the heck are you supposed to lose weight while dealing with chronic, excruciating pain on a daily basis?

See, the thing is, it’s not like the pain itself made me gain weight. I mean, yeah, soon after it started I gave up all physical activity unless I was running from zombies to save my life. But that alone didn’t equal a higher dress size. In fact, after about three months of laying on the couch in agony, I was pleasantly surprised to see on the scale at my neurologist’s office that my weight was only about four pounds higher than when everything started.

pillsdin300Alas, that’s also right around the time when I got put on every single nerve pain, opioid and regular pain medication that they make, all of which list “weight gain” as a possible side effect.

At first, I didn’t even notice that “weight gain” was right there on the list of possible things that could happen to me. And my silly doctors didn’t bother to take five seconds to say, “Hey, this might make you pack on the pounds.”

So I just started popping all the pills like candy and going about my business. And I swear to you, it was as if I woke up one day 50 pounds heavier.

I’m not even joking. That’s what happened. I gained 50 pounds in like five days. And suddenly none of my clothes fit, I hated how I looked in every photo, and on top of the whole horrible daily pain thing, I also suddenly had to deal with random crazy weight gain.

The problem is, the stupid pills actually do help me. I’m not going to go so far as to say they “work” because it’s not like I have my life back. But I will say that they allow me to live my life with an amount of pain that leaves me less suicidal than I was before I started taking the drugs. Plus, they allow me to continue working without crying in agony.

They do not, however, allow me to exercise in any way. Seriously. Even walking still makes me feel like I’m being stabbed. And don’t even start to say the word “yoga” because that crap might as well be called “twist and turn on a bed of nails” for what it does to my ribs.

The meds also make my feet swell up if I so much as walk a mile. Seriously. The doctor tried to tell me that was impossible, that my feet should only swell up if I’m eating a lot of salt or standing in one place, and it has nothing to do with the meds.

But I promise you that they swell up when I walk, even if I’m downing water and avoiding sodium. And it never happened even one time before I started taking six different prescription medications on a daily basis.

Of course, a lack of exercise alone isn’t enough to make me gain 50 pounds. For that, the medications have a special side effect: They induce hunger. And, now, despite the fact that I spent the first three decades of my life trying to eat only when I’m hungry, all that work is basically pointless. I’m always hungry.

Add to that the fact that I’m pretty sure the meds also slow down your metabolism — and it’s not just impossible for me to lose weight, it’s impossible for me to maintain my weight.

Of course, the world doesn’t know this. They don’t get the nuance. They have no idea that I’m struggling against all these factors and that I really do notice every single pound I gain. They just look at me, scan my body, see that I’m overweight, and judge away.

I can feel it in the eyes of friends and family. I constantly stress that everyone is talking about it the second I leave the room. And I wonder if the people I meet in my professional life are suddenly taking me less seriously.

Even doctors are guilty. I had one doctor who had no idea how to deal with my rib pain, but she did take my appointment as an opportunity to lecture me on my weight. Something about fruits and vegetables and finding an exercise that doesn’t hurt.

I wanted to scream, “IT WAS DOCTORS WHO MADE ME THIS WAY!’

I mean, yes, deep down, I know I’m not completely innocent in all of this. I know that the daily struggle to live through the chronic pain makes it that much more likely that I’ll reach for a chocolate bar or a can of Coke to cope.

But with so many other factors working against me, it’s like I’m doomed to see a higher number on the scale every week, regardless of whether I skip the pop or not.

So, here I am, 60 pounds heavier than I was before I got sick. I wear stretch leggings way too often, I focus in on my face for all my photos, and I have absolutely no idea what to do about it.

I will say though, that the only thing worse than gaining weight, is being in pain without pain pills.

So, alas, it looks like I’m stuck, at least for now.

Crystal Lindell

Crystal Lindell

Crystal Lindell is journalist who lives in Byron, Illinois. She loves Taco Bell, watching “Burn Notice” episodes on Netflix and Snicker’s Bites. She has had pain in her right ribs since February 2013. It is currently undiagnosed.

Crystal writes about it on her blog, The Only Certainty is Bad Grammar.

The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that!  It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.

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It’s so crazy when you read something and you completely relate to it. I hate the pain meds but there a must for me to get threw the day I went threw so many different pain meds because most of them would cause edema thankfully My Dr understood. I broke my C-2 and my odontoid about 15 years ago likely the great Dr’s where able to heal me with traction and a halo but about 6 years ago things started falling apart apparently I had damaged my cervical spine more then thought but I was so young at the time it didn’t show up I was thrown out of my car threw the sun roof as it rolled seven times and then landed on top of me with the exhaust pipe laying across my chest I received a fourth degree burn on my chest which the halo had to go over it was a crazy mess but years down the road “No Pun Intended” I find out I have a bulging disc at C-5-C-6 and herniated disc at C-4 to C-5 the Dr fused C-4 to C-6 and was told I have pretty sever spinal stenoses a year and a half after that I find out that i need to have the hardware removed and get another fusion at C-3 to C-4 because the old fusion was failing and I had a pretty big spur under C-5 and C-6. I started having problems with my right eye wandering completely to the right so I was sent to some crazy Neurologist how first diagnosed me with MS and sends me to a Neuro-Ophthalmology and come to find out I have always hand a little bit of a lazy eye and what was happening was my pain was so bad that my brain could not control my eye because it was trying to control my overpowering pain the worst thing was that guy I saw that said I had MS put me on a super high dose of predison for over a month that I went from 175 to 270 I have tried everything to get the weight of I eat very healthy I always push my self to be as active as I possibly can without hurting myself and after two years I have finally got to 235 and still trying the best thing that has worked for me is swimming its the one thing that really relives my pain not having the pressure on my spine just floating is the best pain reliever I have found. I will never give up It took me along time to get to a positive place after all that’s happened and now there telling me that my last MRI is showing uncovertebral hypertrophy and left sided disc protrusion that is causing localized ventral cord compression in addition to moderate left sided foraminal narrowing. I hate the meds but I will never let them rule me I will lose this weight and Im not going… Read more »



I had a similar experience. However, I was actually eating super healthy and exercising 3 x per week when I gained 40 pounds in 6 weeks time. Even after that I was eating extremely healthy and intensified my workouts. Now, I know some people absolutely cannot exercise through their pain. But please don’t think I wasn’t in a lot of pain. I was. But I was desperate to lose the weight. I would do 70 minutes on an elliptical and just about kill myself with pain. Guess what? After months of this I did not lose 1 ounce.

I have to believe that the meds completely changed my metabolism. I think that is more a root of the problem than inactivity and diet. It would be difficult for someone to purposefully gain 40-50 pounds in a few weeks.

Now I realize that I was probably putting my body into stress. When you have chronic pain already, your body is in a constant state of stress. Add strenuous exercise to that, and I think my body thought it needed to hold on to every calorie for survival. By all the “experts” accounts, I was creating calorie deficits. Calories in, calories out, right? Wrong for me!

I write this to let people know that they can take some of the guilt off of themselves. I still struggle with my weight and my image. But I have actually been told by doctors that something is wrong and that I should lose weight.


I can totally relate to Crystal’s column about weight gain. It seems like every medication that promises a chance at relief comes with added pounds.

I don’t think it is fair to make someone choose between weight gain or living in pain. There is a lot of stigma around obesity. People think you are lazy, stupid, or jolly when you are fat. They wonder how you could have let yourself go, and gossip about it when they don’t think you are not in the room.

I lost the medication related weight, but my body will never be the same.

I totally enjoyed reading your article. It is “my life” to the fullest. I too have gained weight, take numerous medications, live with daily chronic pain, hhave been schooled by doctors for my weight. I even went through a program to have a “sleeve gastroectomy” after going through all visits, test, approvals and mainly lots of money spent I was awaiting a surgery date when they called me to say the surgeon whom I had met with earlier had refused to perform the operation because I was on pain medication. I had lost 20 pounds in preparation for this surgery but after going through all of that and getting turned down I got depressed and have grained the 20lbs lost plus some. I don’t do much of anything now. I take all of my medication and remain in bed doing nothing the majority of my days. When I do try to get up I can only move so much due to the pain so I have to do a little and sit a little. I find myself depressed, feeling worthless and drowning my sorro ws in food. I too only like head shot photos if I must be in one at all. I feel your pain and I enjoyed your article it makes me realize I am not alone in this painful journey


thank you Crystall. this too has happened to me. first it was birth control, then antibiotics, then amitriptyline, then flexeril, then Hormone replacement, then muscle relaxers and migraine meds and I am now 160 pounds over my ideal weight. Since my car accident in 1996 I have been put on 105 different prescriptions. and I have spent 97K of my own money on top of what the insurance company has spent.

Like you I spend every second of my life and every breath in pain. From the top of my head down my neck to the bottom of my feet and every joint and muscle in between I hurt all the time and there no form of exercise I can do that doesn’t hurt. Like you, my doctors look at me with disgust. Unlike you I call the doctors on their behavior. Unlike many people I don’t see doctors as gods on a pedestal. When a DR behaves badly in a appointment look them straight in the face and say the following ” Doctor the judgemental look on your face and the condensending tone in your voice is very unprofessional. I am in pain and the pain drains me both physically and mentally. You doctors are doing nothing but stringing me along and making me spend thousands of dollars for minimal care. Maybe I should go find me a witch doctor or an indian medicine man maybe they are motivated enough to do what is necessary because you surely are not.

Crystal, there are so many of us in the same place and for the same reasons. How do we lose weight when there is zero physical activity and tons of side effects from meds? For me, it was quit trying. I just quit trying. But at the same time, I stayed very busy in my chair surrounded by things I do now, because of my illness, to stay productive. I write a lot, draw a lot, do computer stuff a lot, play music a lot, receive visitors a lot…I guess I’m so busy I don’t think much about weight, either way. It’s like it found its own level, about 20 lbs overweight and just stays there. But a huge difference in me, that I hear in your words, is the way I think about it compared to how I used to think about it. I was on the road for a couple of years, having become homeless due to medical crap, and went days without eating, then got a bag of donuts donated to me, then go days again without eating. Not only should I have lost weight, but I should have gotten very sick and died from it. But I didn’t, and I learned to fully respect food, enjoy food, never take it for granted, ever. I’m so happy to have food and shelter that I celebrate it, like every day I get to eat, is a holiday.  I no longer fear food, any food. I no longer fear it…or them. Funny how everyone saw me gain weight and become “lazy” and unemployed and stuff, but only a few were there for me during the really bad times, and they are still with me, during the “chair phase”. They never said anything bad about me and tried to understand the pain thing as best they could. They knew something I had to learn, that I was a good person, a hard working, intensely physical person who was going through a bad time due to illness. That I was trying to become handicapped, learning not to walk, something the others never bothered to understand, and something they had me convinced of. Their way of thinking of me. I spent so much time trying to convince everybody that I was sick, but I was still cool, that I became what I feared and what they thought of me. Homelessness taught me a lot, a whole lot. Don’t take anything for granted, food, shelter, being able to move, and especially the meaning of real friendship, and being my own friend. I like myself, I trust myself and I enjoy myself. And nowadays, no one will ever take that away from me again. Because I’m dying, dammit. I’m dying! I don’t know when. It seems that the day of death came and went. Probably because I’m too busy enjoying life!  The doctors at that time wee astounded. That was 5 years ago.  But I was just too happy and too busy to get sick,… Read more »

Thanks for this post. The new med my doc recently put in my pump is making me feel like I am starving 24-7 and when I even look at food I gain a pound. Endlessly frustrating. Please comment if you have found any solutions.

Tanya Young-Womack

I started reading your story and thought “How does this woman know me?” You wrote my story. Right down to taking photos that focus on my face (aren’t selfies great?!). I don’t know what to do either. I hate looking like I do. I know people are judging me all the time. Everyone in my family is very health conscious. My mother-in-law asks my husband if I’m “ok” because I’ve put on so much weight. And my husband is really into fitness & healthy eating. He’s joined a hiking club. It started out with just one hike a week but now he goes 2 days a week after work regularly and at least one full day on the weekend. Oftentimes it’s more than that. That’s great for him but I feel like he’s trying to spend more and more time away from me, the dead weight. Oh and did I mention the ratio of men to women is skewed? Usually a lot more females are on the hikes than males. So, I really related to your story. A lot!