It's common for those of us with chronic illness to struggle with our weight - whether it be to gain weight or to lose weight. Exercise is often difficult to maintain when we don't feel well and everyday is unpredictable. Eating healthy may not be as easily accessible to others be it due to financial burdens we face on account of our medical expenses, limited income related to ability to work, or because of health reasons such as diet restrictions from what our bodies will tolerate or what tastes good in the moment. Our bodies often don't absorb nutrients properly and medications have side effects affecting weight. Mental health can influence weight - we may be hungry or not at all, we comfort ourselves with unhealthy food options, and we may lack the motivation or energy level to engage in physical exercise.
My weight yo-yoed over the last 4 years since my divorce, which wasn't healthy or helpful for my metabolism. I lost weight at times due to healthy eating and other times due to illness. Last year, I gained weight to my heaviest again. I started this year exercising regularly and eating healthier in an effort to improve my health and shed some of the extra weight. I realized I didn't need to lose all the weight but instead wanted a happy medium between being under weight and my present weight. I failed to realize though that the changes the body undergoes with age has caught up to me. My metabolism is not anywhere near to what it was in my 20s when I first started focusing on eating healthy and exercising. Now, the combination of eating healthy and exercise only changes the scale by less than 10 pounds. To make matters worse, after losing that 10 pounds, I ended up gaining 20 soon after - that was an additional 10 pounds that I hadn't been at before.
These changes in my physical appearance have been difficult to accept at times. I longed for how my body used to look. I shied away from full body pictures of myself. I was so used to what I previously looked like that I hadn't accepted the changes in my appearance. I kept thinking, "I'll lose the weight". Negative thoughts about myself would race through my mind whenever I looked at pictures of myself or saw myself in the mirror.
Now, I realize that my weight changes may not seem to be significant especially in comparison to others. But this shouldn't be a comparison to others nor should it encourage body shaming. All bodies are beautiful and no one should ever feel ashamed of how they look. And no one should judge another person for their appearance nor should someone be judged for their own self-image regardless what others think of that person's physical appearance. My weight changes, however, are significant to me and the change I saw in myself was difficult to come to terms with.
With time, I became to understand why others said I was "too skinny" before when I was underweight. My doctors tell me it's good "to have some extra weight as reserves" for when I become sick so that I don't lose too much weight like I have in the past. With time, I've come to accept my new body. Sure, I would still like to lose weight to be at that middle ground between to the two polar opposites. But I've realized I may not reach that middle ground level. And that's okay. I can continue to exercise and eat healthy not for an outward change but instead for the internal benefits. With this acceptance has also come a happy medium with exercise as I no longer push myself to exercise every day and instead aim for 3-5 times a week as allowed by motivation levels and how my body feels each day. Sometimes when I look at myself in pictures, I feel that initial shock again of the weight I've gained but I remind myself that my body is not shameful and I can continue to my efforts to help maintain a healthy level of eating and exercise for myself, not for the scale.
|Jenny - May 2020