I am fat. Well, technically, by body mass index, I am over weight.  I have never been thin, but I used to be significantly less fat.   I was once about 155 lbs, average for my height of 5′ 8″.  I always have had trouble losing weight but about 4 years ago I started steadily gaining weight.  Nothing super fast but about 5 to 8 lbs per year (you do the math to figure out what I weigh now). I could not figure out why I was gaining weight.  I ate well.  I meticulously watched my calories and macro nutrients.  I exercised.  I exercised some more.  I started eating even less.  I still gained weight.

To figure out why I could not lose weight over the last four years I have consulted the following:

  • My General Practitioner;
  • Eight different Registered Dieticians;
  • Three Nutritionists;
  • Two Therapists;
  • A Naturopathic Physician; and
  • A Chiropractor who informed me that despite all my failures that he could help me.

In pursuit of an answer I have spent well over $20,000 (writing that number is beyond scary) and countless hours logging food, traveling to and from offices all the way from New York City and Maine, breathing into gas exchange metabolic test machines, swabbing spit for cortisol tests (yes, multiple tests with different practitioners), freezing feces for analysis, preparing meticulously designed meals and gulping supplements by the dozen.  At one point in time I was taking 12 Paratosin, 6 Biliven, 12 Allotocin, 6 Renovin, 6 HCL and 1 tsp of Max D per day.  Yes, 42 PILLS PER DAY with absolutely no results.  I stopped eating.  I was diagnosed with “Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified” as I was way too fat to be anorexic.  I just kept gaining weight.  I swear that every person with whom I worked thought I was lying about what I ate and the amount of exercise I did.  I figure they all imagined that I snuck peanut butter cups into bed with me at night.  I started to avoid going to the doctor’s office when I was sick simply because I did not want to get weighed.  I couldn’t face what a failure I was.  All these people, all this money, all these methods and absolutely NOTHING worked.  I got to the point that if I saw one more “testimonial” for the weight loss benefits of Shakeology on FaceBook I was going to assault the unsuspecting poster.

Last month things finally changed.  While going through a pre-op physical for my upcoming knee surgery the doctor asked if I had any concerns.  For the 100th time I stated that I cannot lose weight.  I got the normal response about set points and maybe my body “liked” this weight.  I then mentioned that I had been off a birth control for four years and had never been pregnant.  That statement elicited a whole new series of questions — how regular is your menstrual cycle? do you have issues with acne? have you had glucose numbers tested recently?  Rather than leaving with a pat on the back, I left with a referral to a gynecologist.  The appointment with the gynecologist went as all other appointments have gone until she asked me whether I had any other concerns.  Again, I told her I had concerns that I was unable to lose weight.  She then asked me if I had tried diet and exercise.  I literally burst out crying and recited my long list of failures (and this time included that I was unable to get pregnant for good measure).  She referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist.  After an hour of in depth questions by the reproductive endocrinologist and a vaginal ultra sound she diagnosed me with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (“PCOS”).  Essentially I have numerous small cysts on my ovaries.  These cysts interfere with hormone production and cause insulin resistance.  So, pretty much no matter what I eat my body turns it into sugar and then stores it as fat.  Finally, I have an answer.  I’m scheduled for a ton of blood work to determine the best course of treatment.  Perhaps, maybe, now I will be able to lose weight.

What floors me about this entire experience is not how long it took for me to get an answer, but rather than no one actually paid attention to what I was saying.  I repeatedly told medical professionals, RDs, nutritionists, therapists, chiropractors and naturopaths that I was seriously trying to lose weight and that despite my best efforts I kept gaining weight.  I must have been brushed off a dozen times.  I am not shy, I do not cower or clam up in front of medical professionals and I do not mind advocating for myself.  Despite all of this, it took relaying the fact that I have never been pregnant to get taken seriously.  This doesn’t seem right.  I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that the system of health care providers I utilized was not working, here’s hoping that now that I have a diagnosis it may start working for me.

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Kelly Burns Gallagher

mccarter english employment litigator / oiselle team runner / coeur sports triathlete / sonic endurance coach & race director / witsup.com writer / dartmouth '02 / emorylaw '05


Jess · February 2, 2015 at 6:53 pm

Welcome to the club :/ I’m sorry your experience getting diagnosed was so long and arduous. I was diagnosed at age 19, and I can no longer take the medication to control it. I’ve gained a lot of weight since I had to stop taking it, and people don’t understand. I’d be happy to talk to you about my experiences…email me if you want. Good luck!!!

    Kelly Burns Gallagher · February 2, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    I’m hoping I’m a good candidate for medication. Its been an incredibly frustrating journey.

Allie · February 2, 2015 at 6:54 pm

I’m sorry it has been such a long and brutal journey, but I’m so, so happy for you that you finally have a diagnosis. This is potentially life-changing for you in so many amazing ways!

Kathleen · February 2, 2015 at 7:03 pm

Arg – I think my comment got eaten!

This is my official diagnosis too (although for me it manifests itself more strongly into “body refusing to create babies” department rather than with some of its other symptoms). I know several ladies who have had luck taking metaformin, which helps control your hormones. I’ve also heard about diets that can help as well (off the top of my head I remember that things like soy and sweet potatoes should be avoided because of how the body processes them). Now that you have some preliminary answers, hopefully that’s enough to point your doctors in the right direction and you can start to see some changes!

lconn22 · February 2, 2015 at 7:05 pm

Wow, Kelly. What a journey. Good for you for staying at it. I’m in a similar boat. Three and half years of brutal calf pain while running.Three years ago I asked a sports med MD if it could be compartment syndrome. He said, “Uh, nah.” I asked chiropractors, massage therapists, pain management docs, and acupuncture needle people. Saw another sports med guy last month. He said, “Chronic exercise-induced compartment syndrome’. I said, “AHA!!!!” I get the test tomorrow. Big long needle in my calf. Wish me luck, and I wish you much luck as well.

    Kelly Burns Gallagher · February 2, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Good luck tomorrow! Now for the big question — why don’t medical professionals listen?!?!?!?!?

    kellie · February 2, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    Iconn22, I had a similar situation except my left leg would cramp in the calf some days, hamstring and quads on others. In the beginning it was only when I ran, then two years later it would happen when I cycled and swam. I like you visited many different doctors and they kept telling me it had to be my back. Thank God I followed my gut, I just knew it was not my back because I had no back pain. Finally, about 3 1/2 years of dealing with this they figured out that I had exercise induced fibrosis from cycling. I had left iliac artery bypass surgery about two years ago and finally can run again without being in excruciating pain. Hope everything works out for you. Trust your instincts, doctors don’t always know what’s best.

      lconn22 · February 3, 2015 at 6:56 am

      Thanks Kellie. My new doc also mentioned that as a possibility. If the compartment test is negative, that’s the next step.

Deb K · February 2, 2015 at 7:07 pm

So glad you FINALLY have a diagnosis. Hopefully now you’ll be able to get proper treatment, and the results you want.

Stephanie · February 2, 2015 at 7:08 pm

Wow! Well at least you finally have an answer and can go from there! What a crazy 4 years for you! I’m sorry it took so long……

Victoria · February 2, 2015 at 7:11 pm

I got diagnosed with PCOS in 2012. I won’t sugar coat it (’cause we aren’t supposed to even think about sugar anyway), it sucks. I can’t lose weight for anything, I eat hardly anything and train my ass off. I can’t sleep at night because I’m so hungry, and can barely think.

Nita · February 2, 2015 at 7:14 pm

Kelly –

I remember being really moved by your previous posts recounting struggles with your weight. I’m so glad that something finally clicked with your surgeon and that these two doctors were attuned to what you were saying. It sounds like this may be the beginning of more but I hope that it leads to something good for you!

Ambre Carrier · February 2, 2015 at 7:35 pm

Many of the women in my online infertility support group were diagnosed with PCOS. It’s a private/closed group, but if you’d like an invite to check it out, I’d be glad to make that happen. Good luck with the rest that journey. I’m glad you finally have an answer, even if it’s not an easy fix.

Kari Bennett · February 2, 2015 at 7:36 pm

I had the same issues! Finally got so bad that I had a hysterectomy in August. Hoping to finally get back on track. I was on Meridia and it worked awesome for me- lost 40lbs. Now it’s off the market and I go back to the obgyn tomorrow. Crossing my fingers!

Lisa Jamison · February 2, 2015 at 7:43 pm

Like others, I’ve watched your story for years, felt your frustrations, and done my fair share of research on your behalf. I don’t know if this can be chalked up to “it’s a man’s world”. Does one sound like a screechy bat if they complain of unexplained weight gain? Do they roll their eyes and assume you make this shit up as you go along? Why does “hormonal imbalance” throw the medical world into a blank stare? Glad there may be an end in sight for you! I’ll continue watching and sending best wishes for you!

blackntanclan · February 2, 2015 at 8:09 pm

I’m glad you finally got a real diagnosis. Too many people in the medical industry (and society at large) look at someone who is overweight and assume that person is lying about what (s)he eats or how much (s)he exercises. People who don’t struggle with weight assume if you wanted to be thin, you’d eat better and exercise more and you’d be thin. Easy. They see obesity as a choice, not a medical condition, 100% of the time. Without exception. Which can make finding help so very difficult and painful, when a real medical condition is an underlying cause in one’s weight gain.

Allison · February 2, 2015 at 8:09 pm

I am soooo sorry that you had to go through that experience. I have a friend who went through the same thing. Once she saw the endocrinogolist, she was actually able to address the weight gain issues, and her daughter is about to turn one! Good luck with the next steps in the process…it’s such a relief to actually have an answer!

Erica · February 2, 2015 at 8:14 pm

Literally my exact story as well. Shameful so many doctors simply ignore weight gain. I’ve gained 60 pounds over 4 years and training through 3 ironmans and yet somehow I was always told to eat less and exercise more.

Shira Flowers · February 2, 2015 at 8:21 pm

Kelly, You’ve told your story so bravely and candidly. Sending you a huge hug. Please know what a great inspiration you are to me and so many others.

blazemanmom · February 2, 2015 at 8:34 pm

Kelly, I can only imagine the relief you must feel finally knowing what is wrong and after the workup is finished I hope for you an effective treatment…
I have always loved your writing…very inspiring! Love, Mary Ann, Jon’s mom

Kathy · February 2, 2015 at 9:07 pm

Kelly, thank you for continuing to be so brave and open by sharing all of this – I am sure you are helping many others with the insights and encouragement to persist in advocating for answers. I really hope this sets you on the path to feeling healthier and more in control of your body – cannot even begin to imagine how difficult the past few years have been.


Julia · February 2, 2015 at 9:29 pm

that just simply AMAZES me. I have had endometreosis which brought me to an OB/GYN and one of the first things they did was US and more than one,. my point is that its crazy you havent been assessed for this yet.
I am so sorry it took this long but i hope you can get some actual guidance now. You have been thru the ringer here and as many have said im sure you have helped others. I hope mostly that you get some peace and resolution Kelly.

lucylovesspaghetti · February 3, 2015 at 7:17 am

After following your story for so long, it is positive that there has finally been a diagnosis and then, hopefully, steps towards a resolution. You trusted your body, and you knew it was trying to tell you something. Keep listening to it Kelly, you got this 🙂

Tim · February 3, 2015 at 11:02 am

Typical guy here just throwing in a solution but you should consider a ketogenic diet. The link is a small study but read discussion and look at other resources. http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/2/1/35

John Torres · February 3, 2015 at 11:44 am

I wish you success now that yo may have an answer.

kellydomara · February 3, 2015 at 11:42 pm

That’s crazy. Doctors stress me out and I’m always worried they’re not really listening to me. A similar thing happened to my mom where she kept saying she was getting really bad cramps and they were like ‘oh no, that’s normal’ and then it turned out she had cysts in her ovaries too. But, like, NO ONE believed her that it wasn’t normal for a really long time.

Darlene · February 4, 2015 at 11:09 am

I feel like something called me to read your blog today. After jumping on the scale this morning which I rarely ever do because it hates me. I see the number creep up again by 3 pounds. I had a breakdown before leaving the house for the gym. The gym that I question why I’m still going 5-6 days a week because it doesn’t help me..I just keep gaining weight for the past 3 years! I’ve been to doctor’s and keep getting the run around. Thank you for this post…

    Kelly Burns Gallagher · February 4, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    I totally feel you. The most frustrating part of the experience is that I felt that no one was actually listening to me. You know your body best and I think medical professionals should be more respectful of that fact.

erin · February 6, 2015 at 8:31 am

You’ve had such an insane journey… 42 pills a day?! I’m so glad you finally have some answers, Kelly, and no doubt you have helped other people who are experiencing something similar. Onward and upward and I hope steps toward a resolution!

AR · February 9, 2015 at 12:35 pm

I don’t know you, but I was reading through the comments on Mary Eggers’ stomach post and found your blog.

It makes me sad to know how many women have health problems – especially ones that cause weight gain – based on gynecological conditions we never thought to ask about because there seems to be shame and secrecy around them. Since they’re not openly talked about, we don’t think to ask our doctors about them.

I haven’t raced in a couple years because a chronic hip issue turned out to be related to a giant fiborid that caused weight gain and appendicitis among other things that made it very hard to workout. Throughout my struggle to figure things out, I kept wondering why I looked pregnant – something that made me feel embarrassed next to other runners. While I’m not nearly as dedicated as you, it made no sense…and I didn’t find out about it until it was too late.

I guess what I’m saying is thank you for posting this. I have a few friends who have been impacted by PCOS, and at least one of my friends was not able to lose weight until she put herself into chemical menopause. Whether it’s PCOS, or endo, or fibroids, or any other array of hormonal imbalances, many of us don’t realize what can happen until it’s too late.I’m sorry you went through all this, but speaking up will help promote awareness. And once more women are aware of these problems, maybe we can speak about them openly and help others get past the embarrassment. (At least that’s what I tell myself.)

Good luck!

    Kelly Burns Gallagher · February 9, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    Thank you! Too many things fall into the category of “girl problems” and we need it to be ok to talk about all of them.

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