How Shopping for Bigger Pants Set Me Free

An NMO patient counters weight gain from steroids with self-love

Jennifer van Amerom avatar

by Jennifer van Amerom |

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While most of us try not to judge a book by its cover, we inevitably still do it at some point. Society has conditioned us to judge people by their physical appearance first, and then their personality.

Additionally, people usually only recognize illness when they can see it. When we patients are prescribed medications that lead to weight gain and we start packing on the pounds, it’s like we’re telling the world we’re sick.

Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) patients like me are often prescribed steroids. Unfortunately, one of their side effects is weight gain. Every time I’m on steroids, I slip into minor depression because I know what they’ll do to my body.

First comes the moon face, as my cheeks puff out and the stress wrinkles fill in. Next, my stomach bloats, creating stretch marks that weren’t there a week ago. As my skin tightens, I can feel my mood drop. Finally, when the water retention has nowhere else to go, it fills the space between my shoulder blades, creating a humpback.

Every time my weight fluctuates, I beat myself up about it. I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I don’t understand how my husband is still attracted to me. I throw temper tantrums in my closet that end with piles of clothing that I don’t want to throw out but also can’t stand looking at. I can tell you all the parts of my body I hate, and only a few that I can tolerate.

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A new mindset

Last week, I had to return to work in the office. I worried about what I’d wear because nothing I owned that was appropriate for work would fit anymore. The pandemic certainly hasn’t helped my plight. I now have an impressive collection of designer sweatpants and frumpy tops that cover my love handles.

So after the past couple years of self-loathing, I did something unexpected: I bought bigger pants.

My shopping trip followed a moment of quiet resignation because I couldn’t wear any of my favorite suits hanging in the closet. Once I stopped obsessing over the size of the pants and selected clothing that made me feel good, I started to enjoy myself again. And people are starting to notice my change in attitude.

At a recent family event, my mother complimented me, which took me by surprise. The thing is, I felt good even before she said something. Before leaving for dinner that evening, I put on a new pair of copper-colored slacks and my favorite cashmere sweater. Standing in front of my full-size mirror, for once I wasn’t disgusted with the reflection staring back at me. I hadn’t tried to fit into something that was too small, and then awkwardly worried all night about my wrap or pulling up my pants when no one was looking.

It’s not a secret that I’ve put on some weight, but what I didn’t realize until recently was that no one cares except me. I still plan to lose the extra pounds, but for different reasons. This has also changed how I view working out. Instead of dreading physical activity, I can’t wait to fit 30 minutes into my day, just for me.

If you’re a patient like me who has dealt with weight gain after diagnosis, come join my revolution. Buy new pants and set yourself free.

Note: Neuromyelitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Neuromyelitis News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).


Mary Medrano avatar

Mary Medrano

I have also been experiencing weight gain. I am amazed that my husband isn’t disgusted with my appearance. I was diagnosed with NMO at the age of 72. I am just beginning to be more mobile. I donated so much of my clothing, it’s disgusting. I finally gave to wearing the larger size pants. Thanks for sharing.

Jennifer van Amerom avatar

Jennifer van Amerom

Wow! 72?! You might be the patient who was diagnosed the latest in life. Did you have symptoms prior to your diagnosis? If yes, for how long before your diagnosis? Thanks for reading, Mary.


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