Rheumatoid Arthritis – Skinny Fat

I recently got a new Paleo book, The Paleo Miracle: 50 Real Stories of Health Transformation.  It was very interesting, taking 50 different people, most with health issues, and talking about their Paleo Diet experiences.  I noted several of the stories talked about being “skinny fat.”  These people often spoke about having an average body weight, but their body composition consisted of a lot of fat, not muscle.  Paleo seemed to change that for some of these folks.  That got me thinking…. I’m Paleo, and I’m skinny fat.

Don’t get me wrong!  At this point in my journey, skinny fat is awesome.  I was fat fat, which is not awesome.  But that got me thinking even more…. why am I skinny fat?

Part of the Paleo movement also involves exercise.  Many Paleo folks are into Crossfit, which is a very intense exercise program that I long to be able to do.  It’s a goal, but it might not be a reasonable one for me.  I do exercise, but I struggle with it.  My neck keeps getting out of alignment, ending my exercise routines and sometimes necessitating physical therapy.  However, part of what would help my neck is if I could grow some muscles around it to keep it in place.  The very thing I’m trying to do to help my neck also seems to make it mad.  Sometimes RA really sucks!

When I was first diagnosed, back in 1996, I was in college.  My “college job” was working at a large department store.  I unloaded trailers.  I stocked shelves, and I could carry 50+ pound boxes up a 12 foot ladder with relative ease.  I walked a lot.  I was fit.  I weighed about 7 pounds less than I do now, but I was way thinner and way stronger.  Where did it all go?

If you have RA, and you don’t know this term, you should!  Rheumatoid Cachexia.  It seems to be a little known aspect of RA.  None of my doctors have ever even mentioned it to me.  I read about it in a book.  Google it or just click here to read up on it:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12163213

Did you read it?  I hope so, cuz guess what!  On top of everything else we have with RA, we also have MUSCLE WASTING!  Can you believe it?  So now, think about what fatigue means to you, think about muscle wasting, and connect the dots.  What is your body composition like?  I think I have the arm muscles of a 6 year old child.  Seriously.  I know you don’t believe me, so I’ll post pictures below.  And please appreciate that I show you all of my embarrassing flaws!

So, here’s what I think!  I think if you’re not exercising, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.  I know it hurts.  I know it sucks.  Figure out a way to do it.  Talk to your doctor.  Find a physical therapist to get you started if you need to.  But let’s face it, this is an important part of your treatment, whether your doctors talk about it or not.  And if you do it right, it WILL make you feel better.  I won’t scare you with the finer details, but the same book that I read (Strong Women and Men Beat Arthritis) that talked about RA and rheumatoid cachexia also talked about what happens when people lose too much muscle mass, like with rheumatoid cachexia.  You don’t want to know.  Let’s just say you should exercise like your life depends on it.

My arm muscles, like that of a 6 year old <sigh>.