The body image ISSUE

The body image ISSUE

posted in: Health | 23

 

Most of the influential women in my life either thought they were fat and said so day in and day out, or exercised obsessively, or both. My childish logic told me that if all these fabulous women were fat, then I must be too. Until high school, these thoughts didn’t manifest as anything other than thoughts, but with the pressure of adolescence I began to severely restrict my food intake and work out obsessively. This phase lasted for almost two years and I managed to make myself really skinny and unhealthy. I ate less than 1000 calories a day and would “run off” more than that. Luckily I liked running so much that I joined the cross-country team (read more about my relationship with running here), where I was more worried about performance than weight loss. Many people feel pressured to lose weight in competitive sports, but for me it was the opposite. Starvation wasn’t going to win me any races, so I began to feed myself with the purpose of running faster. The girls on my team had healthy body images in general, which helped a lot.  Surrounding myself with people who are comfortable with their bodies has improved my own self perception and how I feel about my body.

 

With my high school cross-country friends...can you see me?
With my high school cross-country friends…can you see me?

 

While my struggles with body image have diminished greatly, (I am grateful that my body is still working and fighting for me to stay alive) I still have moments of self-criticism. As women, there is usually a nasty, little voice in the back of our brains telling us “I am sorry, you are just not good enough.”  Women in the US are taught from a young age that being small is equivalent to being sexy and even healthy. We are surrounded by positive reinforcement when we lose weight. When I first got sick people would compliment me on my weight loss and I wasn’t a big girl to start with. I remember feeling frustrated that people thought that I looked good, instead of seeing that I was suffering. I told my husband at one point that I wished my bleeding ulcers were outside of my body so that people would understand what I was going through and believe that I was really sick.

 

In both pictures you would probably think that I'm healthy
In both pictures you would probably think that I’m healthy

 

Having Crohn’s disease has caused me to shift up and down in weight a lot. As I explained in my health history post, I have gained and lost the same thirty pounds multiple times. For a while I was skinnier than my wildest adolescent dreams and it was no fun at all. When my mom came to help me shower at the hospital, I remember looking down at my skinny legs and feeling alienated by my own body.  I  began to cry inconsolably. Where were my muscles?  When I started to recover, prednisone caused me to gain weight in the most uncomfortable places. My face and stomach became swollen and the rest of my body remained malnourished. In my periods of relative health, I quickly gained weight and again felt uncomfortable in my own body. Yo-yo weight loss and gain is hard on a psychological level whether it is because of dieting or illness.  It is hard to be comfortable in your own skin, when your skin is constantly changing.

 

Here you can see the contrast between my "normal" weight and my "sick" weight
Here you can see the contrast between my “prednisone” weight and my “too sick for the prednisone to work” weight

 

The way that I have coped with these negative voices in the past was by exercising. I loved working out (running, hiking, lifting weights, yoga…you name it, I love it)! Seeing what my body was capable of doing made me feel proud and not so worried about my weight or size.  How could I criticize something so amazing?  Intense exercise became a healthy, joyful hobby rather than a means to an end.  At this point in my healing however,  I can’t do many of the aforementioned activities to the level that I used to enjoy. I have been struggling with this a lot recently and wanted to share my current thoughts with you. Right now healing is my priority.  I refuse to compromise my health to fulfill an ideal that was imposed on me by others. I am determined to become comfortable in my own skin. All of these things are really easy to say, and not so easy to do. We really have to believe them, because those “last five pounds” are in our heads. Having been both “skinny” and “chubby” for my own body, I can tell you that the voice in your head won’t be quiet no matter what the number on the scale says. What we have to do is learn to value ourselves no matter what.

After being abroad for a few years my mom came to visit me. I was able to look at her objectively after not seeing her for so long. All of a sudden I realized that she wasn’t fat at all. I only had this image of her because she herself did. This is the root of our problem. We think these negative thoughts so hard that we convince ourselves and everyone around us that they are true. We become what we think of ourselves.

 

My sister, beautiful NOT fat mother and I during their visit to Brazil
My sister, beautiful NOT fat mother and I during their visit to Brazil


Tell me something amazing about yourself, or your body!

23 Responses

  1. Wow, this is a brave post! I think we all think about these things and avoid talking about them. Thanks for showing your vulnerable side, and giving an interesting perspective on a challenging issue!

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      Thanks Ellen! I think that it is a really important issue, and sometimes just sharing can help us deal with it 🙂

  2. Kate Golden

    I’m so proud of you, Mikaela.

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      Thank you! and thanks for reading 🙂

      • Kate Golden

        Hi again Mikaela, In my last comment I neglected to say that I’m so sorry you’ve been sick. Your writing is so engaging and honest, which is what prompted me to write that I’m proud of you. I hope you keep writing. I wish you the best life. Love to you.

  3. You have always been amazing with your words…still waiting to publish your poem book 🙂 I’ll never forget those hospital visits with you. Thanks for writing this so that people will cherish their own health as a gift instead of tearing themselves down.

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      Thanks, that was exactly my goal. Our bodies are amazing, and are doing their best to survive with the tools that we give them! Haha I am dreaming of a book deal….maybe after I get published someone will want to read my poetry….

  4. Wow, Mikaela! I Thanks for directing me to this site. I did not know the extent of what was going on with you. Thank you for being so forthright with your thoughts and feelings. I am sure it will be helpful for many. I love that picture of you, Sophie and your mom – I haven’t seen the three of you together for years. Blessings on you! Love, Neal Mobley

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      Thanks for reading Mr. Mobley! and thanks for the positive comments…..hope all is well with you!

  5. That I’m able to life more and that my thighs and buttocks are the strongest parts in my body. 🙂 Good post, Mikaela.

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      Thanks Marianela, I am glad that you are feeling good about your body! Thanks for reading 🙂 I have been checking out your blog, you take beautiful photographs….

  6. Wow, Mika! This post really hits home with me! Prednisone itself can cause some very interesting body image issues. I so remember the compliments I would get when I was extremely malnourished, some would even say they were “jealous of my Crohn’s diet.” Love your honesty and openness! Amazing post, as always!
    P.S. your mom and sister are so beautiful! SO true, we become exactly what we think we are!

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      Thanks!!!! hahaa you just reminded me…one time a nurse in the hospital said “well you are lucky, you are so thin and will never have to diet!” you would think she would know better!

  7. Wow Mikaela! I admire you very much. I started to think about the girls that are looking for a “perfect body”… You’re an overcomer. Really good post. Miss you.

  8. I found your blog a couple days ago and I can definitely say that I admire you. You’re an amazing person, brave, honest and with very healthy attitude to yourself and body. I’m so sorry that you’re sick and I keep my fingers crossed for you and your recovery! Warm hugs from Poland!

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      I am so glad that you are enjoying my blog 🙂 Thank you so much for the support and encouragement….hugs right back at you from Mexico 🙂

  9. Oh, this hits home! I was diagnosed with lupus in 2005. Since then, I’ve gained and lost 60 lbs. That’s a lot on my 5’3″ frame! Right now I’m just starting out on AIP, as my weight has hit rock bottom. The last time I weighed this much, I think I was 12. This skinny isn’t desirable, it’s painful. Both physically and emotionally because of all the things I can’t do. The running, hiking, enjoying activity. Thank you for reminding me I’m not alone.

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      I am glad you enjoyed reading Jessica…. the weight yo-yo is another difficult aspect of autoimmune disease. I hope that you start feeling better soon and that the AIP gives you the solution you need!

  10. Wow. This article is exactly what I needed to read. I’m currently in the “skinny” phase of a debilitating crohn’s flare and I hate it when people tell me I look great. If they could only see what it’s doing to me! And the dreaded prednisone weight gain and acne.. Thank you for writing this. Focusing on healing and not on my looks.

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      It is so hard to deal with the drastic changes (for me even more than being on either one end or the other of my personal “normal” weight! I hope that things start getting better! Keep up the good work and remember to rest 🙂 I hope you feel better soon!!!!

  11. Thank you for writing this! It was what I needed to hear today.

    • Slightly Lost Girl

      Thank you for reading 🙂 Your health is the most important!!!! Hugs

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