In this video, around time marker 3.32, she reveals her history of struggling with her body image, how it was affected after having lost weight due to medical issues, and how it's factored into doing what she does. At the end she mentions how she is finally embracing where she is physically but hopes to be able to get healthier again. In just a few phrases, I realized I wasn't alone out there. Sure, it sounds odd, but in the world of "lose weight fast" and "get yourself model skinny" diets, I felt like the odd woman out with having lost my weight due to medical issues. That's when I realized that maybe this post was needed, so that others could have a connection as well.
Weight and I always had issues with each other for as long as I can really recall. The largest size I ever wore was an 18. I tried various ways to get rid of the weight and watched the scale move up and down, but the smallest size I ever got into was a 10, which was my target goal size. In fact, the second to last time I found myself in a 10 was when I was a fitness instructor for about a year. It was also when I felt my healthiest in terms of mood, energy level and strength. Simply put, I was happy there. (The last time, I was in a 10 for maybe 3 weeks.)
But then things changed. I had to step away from being a fitness instructor, our growing family needed to find a larger home, and in process of moving into said home, I blew out a disc in my back thanks to an old, improperly diagnosed injury. This wasn't just a little bulge, I mean lost a full inch to my height blow out. The process to get through this injury was mind numbing, discouraging and crippling. The first few months were spent on major painkillers and muscles relaxers, then onto painful steroid shots that only worked for maybe 3 weeks each time, and resulted in laparoscopic back surgery and physical therapy. Overall, I was on those strong meds for about 9-10 months.
When I finally felt well enough to be active again, another dangerous curve showed itself on the road of life. All those medications ended up having an adverse effect on some of my internal organs, especially my gallbladder. Unbeknownst to me, the medications were causing it to stop functioning properly. I began getting very sick after meals. I would spend many nights doubled over in pain. What should have been a light "safe" meal caused me digestive distress. I began to fear eating any food at all. The weight wasn't just slowly coming off, it was rapidly shedding away at a rate that terrified me. Even after having been debilitated with a herniated disk that literally left me crippled while it pushed on my sciatic nerve, I can honestly say this point of my life had to be the most terrifying. I was watching myself truly disappear.
I sought out a GI specialist when I hit the 30lbs lost in 2 months mark. Thankfully, and I mean with tears in my eyes thankful, he moved quickly to determine what was going on and get things fixed. A few tests later, the problem revealed itself, a lazy gallbladder. My body wasn't able to digest properly because my GI tract wasn't functioning the way it should with a gallbladder that wouldn't empty properly. It was almost a fight or flight reaction for the rest of my GI tract with the inability of my gallbladder to function. Since I had just recently gone under surgery, my doctor encouraged me to do more of a diet change and medication approach first to see if we could fix it without a scalpel.
With a majorly modified diet, and medications and supplements I need to take daily, I am happy to say that I not only am I able to function again, but the weight stopped slipping away and out of control. Slowly, things are healing and getting better. Yes, I still have episodes and am now left with IBS due to the damage the pain meds left in their wake to my digestive tract. But, it's under my control and as long as I am careful, I can maintain and do things.
What I didn't expect to experience from all of this, though, was a "wolf in sheep's clothing" existence.
I know I wasn't as small as I am now. If someone told me size small would actually be too big on me in some cases, I would have laughed and wondered if they forgot their meds that day. But as I said before, when I was working out and eating well and in that size 10, I was happy and proud of how I looked. Now that I'm wearing anywhere between a 2-6, thanks to the varying standards of designers, I can honestly say I am constantly struggling with how I look. There are days I don't actually see me and have to take a picture to be sure, days where I panic because my rib cage is now visible, days where I need to walk out of a store in search of clothes because my mind still hasn't caught up with the sizes I need to wear, and not what I want to wear. Online stores have become my new way to shop since I know what size I have to buy based on my measurements and their size charts. Hard to argue with numbers. Of course there are other days where I can look in the mirror and be ok with it. But they are not the norm for me at the moment.
Along with my own personal battle with my image, others, who may think they were helping, have contributed to this confusion in the long run. I hope that most of them were unintentional "foot in mouth" cases, but some were truly insensitive and vicious. I'm just going to share a few things that were actually said to me while I was losing the weight and after I finally reached a point where I could maintain it....
"Bet that back injury was the best thing to happen to you then...well you know because you got so thin."
"You look so much better! What did you do?"
"Come on, tell the truth, you really got a lapband deal thing right? It wasn't really back surgery."
"You don't have to prove anything. You're skinny enough now so just stop."
"How long before it comes back on, though?"
"Tell the truth, you have an eating disorder don't you..."
To sum it up, No. But I really didn't feel like I looked that awful. Yeah, cause back surgery is SO much easier to fake. NO. If only it were that easy. Well hopefully some might so I don't feel so weird in my own eyes. No, but some days I would love nothing more to just eat what I'd like without fearing the aftermath of pain. And for the question I am sure more are thinking, "Why not just get the gallbladder removed?" is even easier to answer. It won't fix the problem. Yeah, the painful attacks will stop, but I'll still have a body that doesn't digest certain foods easily like it used to be able to, and it needs time to heal. I'll stick with my new diet and lifestyle and hope I can keep that scalpel and anesthesia at bay for a few more years (decades) if possible.
My point to writing this is simple. Unless you know what caused a person to get to their new weight, please be aware of what you are about to say to them. It may seem like a compliment at the time, but it can actually cause someone to question their own self worth, again, especially if there was a struggle with body size and image beforehand. Trust me, if this had come about with working out and eating well, I probably wouldn't even be writing this right now. I'd be crowing from the rooftop my accomplishment with pride and satisfaction sharing my healthy weight loss story. But, for the people who are dealing with illnesses that cause drastic changes in their physical body shape and size, just know you aren't alone out there. Who you were before, and who you are now is still you, and just as important and valued in my eyes, and the others who understand your journey.