T Nation

Always Stand Up Again - An IBD Sufferer's Journey


#1

Hi, I wanted to share my story so far with you, and also have a question or two at the end. This is gonna be long, be warned, but if you want, bear with me.

I am turning 30 this year and have been suffering from Crohn’s Disease since the age of 15, diagnosed at 17. Needless to say I have always been skinny since this disease fucks with pretty much your whole digestive system, and was the most active in the small intestine in my case.
There have of course always been phases with little to no acute activity of the Crohn’s, but nonetheless the most I ever weighed was 75kg (165 lbs), and that at a height of 1.90m (6’ 3’’). And that was only for a short time. In my worst time I was at a dangerously low 45kg!

I had never lifted weights until early 2015, when after recovering from a long period of illness I decided to make a change, just to prove to myself that I can. I wanted to become stronger, I wanted to become muscular. I wanted to tell my bowel: Bet you I can!

So I started to train, and forced myself to eat. Eating has always been my enemy. I don’t know how familiar you are with Crohn’s Disease, but it can really crush you. Constant pains, no energy, no appetite, are just a few of the things it does. And just imagine having inflammations all over your small intestine where normally all the nutrients get metabolised…

Anyway. I did have some success. I did mostly full body 3x/week, but as any newbie of course I fucked around with switching to routines I read about now and then. Things certainly could have been better, but I was making gains, and liked it. I climbed to aforementioned 75kg over the course of roughly 6-8 months, started at 68. Not great, not too bad for my standards.

Then my old friend Crohn’s hit me again. But I stood up again. But because my dosage of immunosuppressives was upped, I now got ill just from looking at a sick person, so my training got pretty inconsistent and I didn’t eat enough, so I didn’t make any more real progress. Around mid 2016 my training stopped altogether.

But I wasn’t done yet. Sometime in late 2016 I read about high doses of Vitamin D supplementation and its effect on general health and positive effects on IBD patients in particular. So I asked my doctor and tried it, and what can I say, it had a great impact. I was not sick all the time anymore and could enjoy life again.

Then, after several people told me how skinny I had become again, I realised that they were right. Everything I had built up had vanished again. When hopping on a scale it was clear: I was down to 64kg.

So, you may have guessed it, I decided to stand up again. For me, lifting weights and gaining weight to at least a normal healthy level has become sort of my personal vendetta. Whenever my disease tells me “no you can’t”, I shove it back to it saying: “You don’t get to tell me what i can. Don’t you ever think you will win. You can make it as hard on me as you like, but you will never break me!”

I started training again at the end of december (no, this is not a new years resolution). This time around I decided on a PPL split, in part because I felt I always had problems with recovery on the 3x/week full body routines I did in the past, and in part because I just wanted to do a little more than just the basic compounds. I bought a multivitamin to further aid me, some whey protein just for the convenience and started light, with only one exercise per musclegroup, easing my way to higher volume.
And then something magical happened. For literally the first time in my life since my very first cortison therapy back when I was diagnosed, I suddenly couldn’t stop EATING! During the whole time I worked myself up to 75kg in 2015 I still had to basically force myself to eat and felt terrible eating 2800 calories, I was always feeling stuffed, my digestive system didn’t like it either and it felt totally unsustainable.

Now it’s different. I am eating a 1000 calorie breakfast and am still hungry. My body virtually screams for food, and I am more than willing to supply. Especially on leg days it almost feels like I have to restrain myself. In short, it feels great! I don’t know what exactly caused this, if it’s the way I train or the vitamins, or a combination of several things, but it’s been this way since the first day I restarted working out. Eating enough never was so easy for me.

At the moment I am doing pull/push/legs/rest and focus on one main compound exercise per muscle group with 3 sets of 5-8 reps, adding weight every session or two, supplemented by 1-2 accessory lifts per muscle group for 3 sets of anything between 10-20 reps. So far progression is very good, I can add weight or reps every session.
I started at the mentioned 64kg (measured on the 11th January) and am now, after not even a month, at 72kg.

Which leads me to my questions: I consume between 2800 and 3000 calories on average per day. This can get higher up to 3500-3600 on intense days. A calculator told me I should consume around 2700 calories to gain about one(!) kg per month. I am clearly gaining way more, although I don’t eat that much more. And from a visual standpoint I am still very lean, as I have always been and can clearly see muscle gain on my body. How do you explain this? Is this muscle memory from my previous endeavours, or should I cut back on the calories a bit, because I will gain too much fat in the long run if I keep it as it is?

Second, of course, although I am adding weight every workout, I am still very weak from any objective standpoint. My front squat is at 42,5kg x 5, my bench at 41kg x 5, my Pendlay row at 39kg x 7, my Push-Press at 30kg x 5. Not impressive at all. But this is about at or slightly higher than what I ended up with in 2015, so not so bad for me personally. Would you recommend I stick to my current routine as long as I can progress with it, or should I run a purely strenght focused beginner program for a short period first, to bring my numbers up faster? Maybe a stupid question, but you know how it is with all this conflicting info you get.

So this is it, that’s my journey so far. I just wanted to write this up, as I hope it may be a good read for some who may have bad things in life thrown at them from time to time and who struggle to keep on pushing, to stay positive. Never give up. I will continue my journey, and if my disease throws me back to the ground, I will stand up again. And again. And again. I will always win.

PS: Mods, I hope this somehow fits into this subforum. I didn’t know where else to put it. Feel free to move the topic if you see fit!


#2

Good work, keep it up

all I can really say is that if you are feeling good, gaining size, at a good place with your condition and appetite and also progressing in the gym then don’t change a thing!


#3

Thanks, that’s what I thought as well. I was just suprised by how fast I gained weight and not sure why that was the case, or if I should slow it down a bit.


#4

I would say it’s probably because you was not in a good place to start with, if you was underfed and at a lower weight than would be healthy you can gain weight like mad just to get to a healthy weight. Like you say, bouncing back to where you have been before.

Keep doing what your doing, I would be amazed if you managed to replicate the weight gain again now you have reached a healthier weight, things should slow down unless you are really really overeating, but even then that would be a difficult task in a month. Keep an eye on the mirror as well as the scale, if you get man titties then you went too far!