I’ve done a lot of thinking over the last few days, reflecting on why I started this journey, what I hope to achieve and how it is already changing my life. One of the most important things about losing weight is, for me, the positive impact on my health. Although I don’t have any major health issues at the moment, we all know that obesity can cause diabetes, heart disease and, according to some reports, cancer, so obviously I want to lower the chances of me getting any of these. Whilst these are all scary illnesses, I think it can be quite easy to brush the facts and figures under the carpet, and worry about these diseases later – after all I’m only 31, surely I’m in no danger now. Stupid, yes, but easy to do. So here are a few less dangerous but more unpleasant illnesses that can be caused or the likelihood be increased by being overweight.
This is an infection of the deeper layers of skin tissue. It is caused by bacteria that live naturally on the skin’s surface entering the body through small cuts or bites, or even eczema or athlete’s foot. Poor circulation can also cause or exacerbate the condition. One of the most common body parts affected is the lower leg, which will become red, hot and swollen – you may even be able to see the infection spreading. This is something I unfortunately experienced last year, and never ever want to go through again. My leg swelled to the point where each step was agonising – I felt as though the skin on my leg was going to split open. It also causes a fever and all the problems associated with that. My temperature at the peak was 104F, I could barely move or even sleep and when I did I had horrific nightmares. Cellulitis can also cause blisters and abscesses, both of which I unfortunately had, and my final abscess has only just healed 17 months later. Here’s a few photos of how it looked:
Ten weeks later, after having another stay in hospital to have the abscesses drained.
Intertrigo is a rash-type skin condition that forms between folds of skin – particularly where sweat might form. It can cause skin to be itchy, discoloured or raw. It can lead to secondary bacterial or fungal infections, and can cause skin to begin to break down and then emit a foul odour. I have had a mild form of this, and while it didn’t really cause any problems, the itching really annoyed me. Thankfully it did not smell bad, but I think that would have made me very self-conscious – and I was already feeling kind of touchy about it as I knew it was linked to my weight.
This stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is a condition whereby a female’s eggs start to form in the ovaries, but do not mature enough to be released, instead forming cysts. Women with PCOS may have hormone imbalances, leading to masculine traits such as excess body hair or thinning hair on the head, and may have irregular or absent periods. It can cause fertility problems. There are conflicting opinions on whether weight problems are the cause or the effect of PCOS; I am inclined to think that it is a cycle. There is no cure for PCOS, but making lifestyle changes can help to relieve the symptoms. I will write more on this subject at a later date, as it is one of my health issues, but I find it difficult to talk about so it may be a while coming.
I won’t talk too much about depression here – again there is some discussion about “chicken and egg” analogies. Suffice it to say that even if the physical effects of obesity cannot be proved to cause depression, it is clear that the low self-esteem and separation from society that many obese people cope with on a daily basis can certainly lead to depression or other psychological illnesses. This often leads to comfort eating, causing weight gain and so making the issue worse.
These are just a few examples of illnesses or problems that can be caused or worsened by being overweight. They can affect people at any time and have an impact on their lives. So, as well as considering illnesses that may affect me at some point in the long term, I think it is worth remembering these conditions that can and do affect me now.