They Complimented My Weight Loss, So I Ignored the Other Symptoms


In middle school, I started losing a lot of weight. It came out of nowhere. I didn’t change my diet, I wasn’t exercising more than usual and to be honest, I probably spent most of my time on the couch watching TV. Still, I lost about 20 pounds in only a month. I was always a chubby kid — healthy, but never super skinny. Then all of a sudden when I magically started losing weight, I dropped from a size 5 to a size 1.

To be honest, I was pretty excited about it. It’s a good thing to lose weight, right? People would comment on my weight loss but always positively. I don’t blame any of them, of course. They had no idea what was really going on.

Because the truth was, while I was pleased with the weight loss, I was ignoring a variety of symptoms that had begun popping up. Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea — all symptoms I experienced and ignored for a long time.

Maybe it was a form of denial, or maybe I was just scared, but I know the effect the symptoms had on my physical appearance influenced my reluctance to find out what was wrong. It’s so bizarre to think about how from the outside I probably looked great, while on the inside I was anything but. On the inside, I was slowly deteriorating. 

Eventually, when the symptoms became so severe that I had to go to the doctor, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a type of IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease. It’s also an autoimmune disease; the inflammation is caused by the immune system attacking the digestive tract. Your body gets its nutrients through digestion and Crohn’s messes all of that up, so you don’t absorb nutrients as well as you should. This meant that my weight loss was not only attributed to loss of appetite, but the fact that I was actually malnourished. It‘s terrifying when I think about it now. Here I was, so thrilled to be losing weight, and it was because my body was actually lacking what it needed to maintain a normal body weight. The doctor was surprised at how severe the disease had become. Looking back, I wonder if it was my hesitation of seeking treatment that let it become so bad.

A major part of my recovery was g aining weight. With the help from medications, I did. I was put on a drug called Prednisone and gained back every pound I lost while I was sick. One of the side effects of the drug is called “moon face,” which causes your face to swell to a round, or moon, shape.

It was a really emotional time for me. My previously sky-high body confidence had shattered to a million pieces. It took a long time, I’d say nearly a year, before I was really healthy again.

Today I’m a size 8, and I’m really happy about that. I actually hope I’m never a size 1 again. The last time I was a size 1 was the worst time of life. Size 1 me was not healthy me. 

Now as a size 8, I’m happy and healthy, and I couldn’t care less how much I weigh or whether people think I’m fat or skinny. All that matters is is how I feel.

A version of this post originally appeared on Syracuse University’s Active Minds blog. 

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