Being Judged for Gaining or Losing Weight as a Woman With IBD

Today is the fifth day of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week. I’ve been browsing the boards and reading some posts of my favorite bloggers. The theme of the day? “But you don’t look sick.”

If only I could see all my fellow IBD’ers now! Eyes are rolling.

We live in such a superficial society – especially for women. One of the many effects IBD has on the body is weight loss or, yes, weight gain.

When I first got sick, I had emergency room nurses tell me I should thank my lucky stars I wasn’t 80 pounds. Basically they told me to suck it up because I “couldn’t be that sick if I wasn’t underweight.” I left feeling defeated, and from that point on, I compared myself to others with Crohn’s disease. Maybe she’s right, I thought. Maybe I’m not that sick since I’m not seriously underweight. This is a dangerous way of thinking for someone with IBD.

That experience played into my fear that I wouldn’t be taken seriously if I wasn’t a walking skeleton. When I did lose weight, I got so many compliments – even strangers told me how great I looked.

When I was put on steroids and started gaining weight, just like that… all the compliments stopped. They were replaced with, “It looks like you’re feeling better.”

No! No! Not even close.

But I was so embarrassed by the comments about my weight gain that I’d just nod my head and say, “Yup, feeling great.”

The medicine used to control the inflammation can make you gain weight so quickly, and you have no control over it.

Imagine: not only have you lost control of your bodily functions and energy levels, but now the medicine that is supposed to help you feel better is also changing your body and probably giving you mood swings that would give any teen a run for their money.

You may look OK on the outside but your insides are on fire. Every joint in your body hurts and it takes every ounce of energy you have just to get out of bed.

In the past year alone, I’ve watched my weight go up and down more times than I can count. I have three different sizes in my closet, not including the clothes for days I’m too distended to wear my normal wardrobe.

It’s hard to adjust to what you’re seeing in the mirror and everyone treats you differently because of outward appearances.

A few tips if you have a friend with IBD:

  • Don’t mention their weight. Trust me – we know if we’re losing or gaining.
  • Don’t assume they’re feeling better if they’ve gained a little weight.
  • Don’t ask how they could possibly be tired without having done anything.
  • Lastly, never tell them they don’t look sick.

Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week is December 1st – 7th. I am #IBDVisible.

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