When Gaining Weight Because of Chronic Illness Is a Common Story

Editor's Note

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Even before I was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), I always found it hard to love myself and my body. Low self-esteem and body dysmorphia contributed to a generally negative perception of myself, particularly my weight. Over the years I tried to manage this by staying healthy. I have been vegan for nearly four years and was vegetarian for five years before that. I joined a local gym and enjoyed going a few times a week to keep fit and healthy.

When I was hit with glandular fever and subsequently developed ME, this ability to exercise in an attempt to feel better about myself became impossible, and I quickly became engulfed in negative thoughts about my body now that I could no longer exercise.

There’s a reason why I’m taking you on this disheartening trip down memory lane. How I initially felt about myself four years ago and how I feel now are two very different things. The road here has been very turbulent and I’m definitely not going to pretend that I’m completely confident and content with myself. However, over time I have been able to look at things in different ways in order to come to an understanding with myself that I don’t need to change because of others’ (and my own) perceptions and expectations.

Gaining weight when you have a chronic illness like ME (which sucks all your energy and stops you from being able to exercise) is a very common story. Being someone who has struggled with weight and food in the past, I tried to get past this by changing my eating habits, trying diet pills and supplements, anything that might be able to change my body, now that I could no longer do it the normal way. It wasn’t healthy, and frankly, it wasn’t working. Your diet can have a big impact on your energy levels and I quickly found that disturbing my diet had as much of a negative impact as exercising did.

Essentially I was stuck. I couldn’t change my weight. That much was pretty much set in stone. My only option was to change my mindset and how I felt about my weight. The only way I could go forward was to accept that how I am is how I’m going to be for the near future and possibly much longer. I had to come to terms with the fact that I likely won’t be able to go back to the size clothing that I used to wear.

Though it’s been a difficult road emotionally, I would definitely say that gaining body positivity and an acceptance of myself, no matter what size, has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. My weight does not need to affect how I feel about myself.

Your size doesn’t make you a better or worse person, a healthy or unhealthy person or the “wrong” size. Despite the constant social pressure to be skinnier, to be more toned, to be more tanned, to be more perfect – that is not something that I or anyone else needs to conform to. Ultimately, as long as you are happy with yourself then it simply does not matter what size or shape you are. I say this for people who, like me, are limited by their body’s inability to be active. We have enough problems without creating new ones for ourselves by believing the lie that we must all look a certain way in order to be accepted.

I can honestly say that becoming more at peace with myself and my body has made a huge difference to how well I deal with being chronically ill. I may be “chunky,” but that doesn’t mean I’m any less funky.

Getty Image by Sergey Peterman

This story originally appeared on Chronically Lou.

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