As a child of the 70s I grew up with the constant pressure to be a certain size and look. Starting with my family, I was always subject to derogatory remarks about my looks and weight.
I am sure there are so many women out there who have a similar story. Regrettably.
Back then it was predominantly a female struggle and many women went on to develop life long eating disorders and psychological challenges… So incredibly painful and unnecessary.
Instead of developing strong self esteem and learning how to be truly loved and accepted, many of us didn’t get these messages in our early childhood and it is so much harder to learn later in life. Even harder if you find you are also burdened with an Autoimmune disease.
Having mobility issues, pain when moving, eating struggles and medications that change your hormone levels and metabolism can amount to weight gain. It is far more common for autoimmune sufferers to experience some noticeable weight gain than those who do not.
But what can we do?
Many women of my generation can have a very tough time dealing with this additional emotional struggle and the impact on their self esteem. Some have even decided to stop taking their meds due to the chemical influences it has over their weight. I always feel particularly worried for those who make these choices because I never know what will happen to their health as a result, they can’t know either but they don’t want to address the weight and looks issue. Such a hard choice to make for them.
The painful pressure doesn’t just come from unthinking friends and loved ones! No. It also comes from some doctors who should know better than to speak so cruelly to their patients. For example, I wish I could count all the times I have heard or read stories of fellow fighters who have been told –
You are looking really big now. You will make it harder on your joints and body! You need to exercise more!!
This is particularly cruel when those same doctors know exactly why exercising is so difficult and how the drugs have changed our hormone levels. It is the same as victim blaming and simply isn’t good medicine.
A much better way would be to discuss a plan which might include some diet modification, drug lowering and alternative means of movements and exercising.
No chronically ill person deliberately sets out to make their lives harder or more painful. It would be helpful if this was remembered. In fact, I urge fellow Autoimmunes to seek alternative medical help if they are being mistreated on this issue. A doctor is supposed to be your Allie in health and not your enemy.
Nearly a year or more ago I found myself mysteriously losing weight and having pain in my abdomen, again. Since this is not unusual I simply endured it. My weight has always fluctuated over the past three decades and so I don’t tend pay too much attention, until I couldn’t ignore the pain any longer. I had lost several clothes sizes from a 14 to nearly a 10. It turned out that I was to receive yet another diagnosis! EPI exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. I shake my head when I think of the endless list of issues now. I hardly need more!
I now take creon tablets and must again modify my diet. And now I have noticed that my weight has started to increase. With the addition of several episodes of prednisone loading, I am now nearly a size 12 – 14 again.
In the past I would have been frustrated and saddened by the lack of control and predictability of my weight and in my mind I would have replayed all the tormenting and cruel remarks of my youth… but this time was different.
Earlier this year my husband experienced his own weight gain and he was also brutally teased as a child, since becoming my carer and finding himself completely alone in his challenges he has experienced a great deal of personal growth and changes. I look it him today and he is nothing like the man I first met. He has a strength and depth no one could have ever predicted. So… when he noticed his own weight gain he simply said out loud
I like myself now and nothing is going to change that. Not even stupid pants!
I can still remember his smile as he tossed out the old pair of jeans and looked for something else to wear. I was in awe. Complete awe. What confidence! What self love! I wanted that for myself and It seemed I was going to learn from him.
In my eyes he never stopped being the wonderful, attractive, kind, courageous man he always was, even with a few more pounds. So why have I never seen that in myself? I only ever heard the voices of my family and taunters… it simply wasn’t good enough for me anymore!
So fast forward to today and my increased wardrobe size… today I made my first real steps towards self love and simply smiled and put on something else. These days I see my true value more clearly. Today I recognize the things that really matter. Today I was kind to myself and I hope tomorrow it will be even easier to do.
I won’t deny vanity and social pressure is more prevalent on women and the need to look a certain way has been going on for centuries, but I also realized that I can at least start seeing myself differently and make some personal changes for me today; and I am determined to do it!
With my husbands help we have reorganized our wardrobes. We are throwing out and donating what doesn’t fit, and we won’t feel shame about it anymore. With his help he has shown me what true self acceptance is and I am making headway day after day.
When I look at my friend picture on Facebook I realized that I have always been drawn to look at their eyes, their smiles and then, finally, to see what is happening in each picture. I am looking to see their happiness and their joy in life and not the size of their waist and their thighs, so why shouldn’t I look for the same in my own pictures and my own life?
It’s a new day for me and I will also add that my husband and I also make sure that we eat plenty of healthy meals (salads, vegetables, fruit, lean meats and smaller portions) so we are doing what we know we should in our hearts and minds. Sometimes my health means some meals are beyond my control and I can’t eat or must drink supplements etc, so I do what I must. It’s a day to day process. We almost never eat out or get takeaway and we allow ourselves the odd indulgence because we know it’s important too.
We our nearing 50 and so our bodies are changing. Our weight, Our skin, Our hair and Our abilities have changed but thankfully our ability to love and respect ourselves has only changed and strengthened.