HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.
Writing this feels like getting back in touch with a long lost friend. It's been months and months since I've metaphorically put pen to paper and published a blog post, and there have been numerous reasons as to why... but ultimately the core of it is that I just haven't felt like myself. These past few months I've not felt very 'fitspo'. My diet hasn't been its usual healthy meal-prepped and macro-calculated self, my mental health has gone through quite a rough patch and at the beginning of December my physical health took a turn for the worse when my anaemia returned. With so many health worries to be concerned over, BLOGGING JUST WASN'T MY PRIORITY. It's something that's hard for me to admit, as this blog was once the thing in this world that I was most proud of... but if truth be told, it's pretty hard to maintain a persona of a fitness, lifestyle and wellbeing blogger with the motto 'Health, strength, positivity', when you actually don't feel like any of those three things.
That being said, I want to delve in to the true reason behind this post and outline the things people don't tell you about living with Anaemia. Having suffered on and off for the best part of 4 years (with iron levels dropping as low as 3 within this period), it's safe to say I have a fair bit of first hand knowledge of what Iron Deficiency Anaemia is, how it makes you feel and the things you can do to help yourself. I know from my own extensive googling that although there is a wealth of information on the internet about 'common symptoms', 'usual recovery processes' etc etc etc, I have actually found very little information that has given me a first hand account of how it ACTUALLY feels.
001. You're going to be exhausted -
And by this I don't just mean sleepy... I mean EXHAUSTED. Every single muscle in your body is going to feel like you've put it through a 5 hour HIIT session after doing the simplest thing like walking up the stairs or tidying the kitchen. One of the most frustrating things about suffering from anaemia is how vague so many of the symptoms feel... most 'normal' people will feel tired, fatigued or lack concentration on a fairly regular basis, meaning often people don't fully understand the extent to which anaemia can debilitate your daily routine. The exhaustion caused by anaemia feels vastly different to coming home from work and collapsing on the couch due to the stresses of your long day and is far more synonymous with the feeling of having so much pent up energy inside you but a physical inability to do anything with it. I often lie on the couch feeling incredibly restless and itching to go to the gym, and then struggle to take the lid off a water bottle and remind myself that physically my body is completely drained of any energy whatsoever.
002. You will crave the strangest things -
And by this I don't mean peanut butter and chocolate at 2am (I'll get on to this in my next point). It's actually very common with Anaemia to develop something called 'pica', or the cravings to eat strange objects such as paper, ash or cardboard. Luckily, my cravings have never gone this far but I do get extremely strong cravings to eat ice cubes... Strange right?
003. Weight gain and energy imbalance -
There's no two ways about it... for your waistline anaemia is a bitch. Why? Well firstly your metabolism is going to slow riiiiiighhhhhtttt down simply because you just aren't moving your body as much during the day, significantly lowering your TDEE (total daily energy exposure). This decrease will also be emphasised by lack of training if you're someone who usually trains in the gym. If the slowing of your metabolism wasn't enough though, you will also find yourself craving high sugar foods (and a LOT of it). It sounds strange that your body is going to crave more food when you move it less, but the fact is that your body is so lacking in energy that it wants to store as much energy as possible... and where does it get that energy from? Food. And what food will give it that energy the quickest? Sugar (albeit in a very short term and unhealthy manor). In this bout of anaemia alone I've gained over half a stone. Something that makes me feel terrible to think about. I've gone from training 6 times a week and eating healthy, primarily home cooked natural meals to not training at all and fuelling my body with less than optimal nutrition... and as a result....
004. You're going to feel really really really down -
On paper anaemia might feel like a dream come true... taking days off work, having an excuse to lie in bed all day, eating what to what to give your body energy... but in reality it's truly heartbreaking. I struggle to describe the feeling of going from full health, eating healthy food, maintaining a lean and toned body and feeling so in control of myself and so PROUD of the effort it took me to get there to feeling unhealthy in every aspect of your life. To feel like in just 3 months you've lost everything you worked so hard for. And thus a vicious cycle of mentally damaging thoughts begin.
005. You're going to be cold. ALL. THE. TIME. -
The skin has a tendency to become extremely pale and more see-through when iron levels drop, to the extent that when I'm cold my hands and feet actually start to look blue. Iron deficiency anaemia means that your red blood cells are not efficiently carrying iron or oxygen around your body, which ultimately has a huge impact on your circulation and ability to keep yourself warm. This cold feeling can actually get so bad that often when I stand up at work after sitting down for an hour or so I get huge shooting pains up my legs from where my feet have gone numb due to lack of blood supply.
006. Heart palpitations -
Possibly one of the scariest lesser known effects, but luckily one that I only experience every now and again. as your body struggles to get sufficient red blood cells to all areas of your body, your heart tries to pump blood faster, which can result in palpitations and chest pain. As my iron levels began to drop my resting heart rate rose from around 60-65BPM to 75-80BPM, and is still hovering around the 75BPM mark. Doing the simplest of tasks can send my heart-rate through the roof and make my chest feel tight and uncomfortable.
007. It may not seem it, but you WILL feel better -
I've now been on my strong iron medication for just over a week, and the good news is I already feel a lot more energetic, with the hope of beginning my brand new gym training programme tomorrow (easing myself back in with three days a week - wish me luck!)... It's time for me to take back control of my health and not only get back to my best, but surpass it. On January 2nd 2015 I made a pact to myself to make health my absolute priority, and I succeeded. Here's hoping 2018 can do the same!