Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Body Image

When it comes to having a healthy body image, I think I’m doing pretty well. Yeah, I know, it seems unlikely since hardly anyone out there is actually happy with their body. Sure, I have moments when I wish my hips were smaller or my boobs were bigger, and there are certainly still a number a photos I delete for having too many chins – but they’re just moments. Most of the time I’m happy with the way I look. Most of the time the time I think my boobs, hips and chin(s) are fine just the way they are.

Being sick affects my weight in quite dramatic ways. When my joints were really bad, I gained a lot of weight from inactivity and steroids have the fun side-effect of making you want to eat everything in sight. With coeliacs, I’ve been known to loose five or six kilos in a few days if exposed to hidden gluten, and my nausea can get so bad that I just stop eating.

One of the strange things I’ve noticed about being ill is that the days I feel the worst are often the days when people tell me I look good. For a while I thought maybe The Universe was being kind and just trying to make me feel better, but then I realised there are reasons why I get compliments when I’m sick. As my doctor said to me today, the version of the butterfly rash I get is actually a fairly “pretty” one, and when I’ve got it only mildly it’s usually mistaken for “rosy colouring.” I’m not a huge fan of make up – largely because I’d rather sleep an extra half hour than wake up to “put on a face” but if my skin is particularly rashy or I have huge dark circles under my eyes, I’m more likely to make the effort. Similarly, if I’m loosing my hair from illness or meds, I make the time to go to the hairdresser to get it tidied up or spend more time at home trying to make it look presentable. I live in Wellington (a very windy city) so on most days I go for a convenient but not-terribly-flattering bun hairstyle, but if my back and arms are flaring, I’ll wear my hair out.

And then of course there’s the weight loss.

A few years ago, I was on a combination of medications that really did not work for me. My kidneys stopped working properly and my blood pressure skyrocketed. I wasn’t nauseous but I wasn’t hungry EVER. I got palpitations, couldn’t breathe and passed out every time I climbed some stairs or even just took a shower. It took months for kidneys to come right and by the end of it all, I’d lost A LOT of weight.

I was in the supermarket few months later, and ran into someone I hadn’t seen for a while. She commented on the weight loss, and when I explained what had happened she joked: “Oh, what’s the medication? I need that kind of weight loss.” More recently, someone commented on how good I was looking lately then added: “almost worth having lupus.”

Um.... exactly how fat and ugly was I, that it’s worth having lupus to look “better”?!

These kinds of comments upset me. Yes, I know they’re jokes. No one really wants their kidneys to stop working, or to be diagnosed with lupus so they can loose a bit of weight, but it still frustrates me because it comes from a mentality of: Skinny is always healthy. Even more so: Skinny is always better. I hate this mentality. This mentality says it doesn’t matter how bad you feel, or what torture you have to put yourself through, as long as you’re thin at the end of it. This mentality says looks are more important than health. This mentality invariable says: You are not good enough.

I refuse to subscribe to this. I am good enough whether I am overweight, underweight, or somewhere in between. Most likely my weight will continue to bounce up and down as medications and illness wreak havoc on my body. Yes, I will probably lament any weight gain – I won’t lie and say it doesn’t upset me. That does not mean I will celebrate any weight loss if it comes at the price of me feeling like utter crap.

What I will celebrate is any signs of returning to good health, whatever weight it comes at.

Thanks for reading

Little Miss Autoimmune

1 comment:

  1. This is an important message in todays society....and you can't say it too strongly!
    I cannot stand peoples automatic assumption that they can comment on weight loss as a positive greeting. Hi You look good have you lost weight?
    A personal comment about body shape is offensive if you stop to think about it. Hair, glasses, shoes, colors that you are wearing... fine... but body shape No.
    I watched a friend try to kill herself through anorexia and her obsession with body shape...it has made me really vigilant in what I say and I try to tactfully(sometimes not) let others know that a body shape comment is offensive because it implies that there is only one correct body shape...
    Rant away...more people need to think about word impact!