Steroids (of the glucocorticoid variety) make you hungry. Not a hunger that’s easy to ignore, it’s there pretty much all the time and doesn’t go away. It feels like your stomach is being eaten from the inside, it gives you terrible cramps and makes you really, really angry (or hangry). It wakes you up at night and doesn’t let you go back to sleep. It can consume all of your thoughts if you let it- imagine a time when you’ve been starving and how out of sorts you felt. Then imagine being told that you can’t eat for another 2 hours for whatever reason. You’d feel pretty miserable, except the feeling never really goes away for me. It takes a lot of willpower and energy not to give into the cravings and to eat like a ‘normal’ person.
Steroids also make you put on weight, regardless of whether or not you give into the hunger. Obviously if you eat whenever you’re hungry while on steroids, you’d get doubley heavier twice as quickly. So you have to learn to ignore the hunger- being overweight reduces the effectiveness of the steroids, but it’s the steroids that are causing a lot of the weight.
Steroids mess with your blood sugar. So you have to learn when it’s the hunger that you can ignore or the hunger which means you have to eat right now because you feel faint. But the hunger that you can ignore can turn into a horrible stomach ache which means you’re having to force food into yourself when you’re feeling really nauseous so that it doesn’t become the hunger which makes you feel faint. The trick is to keep slightly ahead of it- it’s a game where the goal posts move a lot.
Steroids have lots of other horrible side effects like weakening of your bones and muscles, potential problems with eyes and teeth, possible changes to your mood and increased susceptibility to infection. But steroids are also the only thing that keep me alive.
Steroids are clever drugs and I’m grateful for what they replace which my body can’t make. But having taken them for 2.5 years now, steroids still make me really hungry, and at the moment it takes a lot of resilience and strength to ignore it.