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The Challenges of Chronic Illness and Society’s Fixation on Weight

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It’s almost mid-January and many people are probably working on their New Year’s resolutions to work out more, or do whatever it is they resolved to do to shed those extra pounds in 2018.

Personally, I never make resolutions. If I did, though, it wouldn’t be to lose weight. Not only because I believe that our society puts too much emphasis on people’s appearance, but also because I had my annual physical a few weeks ago and I already lost some weight. Pretty good, right? Well, not according to my doctor. There was no congratulatory recognition or positive affirmation. Nope. Just some paperwork that said my vitals and diagnoses – one of which said that I was still overweight. It even showed my weight from last year.

I know people assume that men don’t worry about their weight, but that is total bull shit. We have issues around our bodies just like women do.

While I had checked off my annual physical from my list of things to do, I also needed to find a new allergist. I have something called mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) and finding a good doctor to treat it can be really challenging. So when I learned about a new allergist who said he knew about my diagnosis, I was feeling hopeful. We talked about my issues with the disorder and at the end of the appointment he said, “You know, you should lose some weight.” I told him that I recently had. He said, “Well, keep it up.” In my head I said, “Thanks jackass.” Out loud I said that losing weight does not cure MCAS, to which he remained silent.

It seemed like everyone, everywhere I went, was fixated on weight.

Just when I managed to get it out of my mind, I turned on the TV today and saw Megyn Kelly issuing an apology for making questionable remarks in regard to people’s weight.

Why are we obsessed with people and their weight? Did it ever occur to people that not everyone wants to devote all their free time to going to a gym and going on fad diets?

But the biggest thing is that those of us who are chronically ill can have weight issues for a vast number of reasons, some of which are out of our control. Medications and medical conditions that keep you inactive can cause weight gain. Being housebound can keep you overweight. Having an eating disorder contributes.

I have had weight issues my whole life. I have heard it all from all the thoughtless and cruel people out there in the world. I have learned to tune them out, and though it doesn’t affect me the way it used to, it still remains an obstacle in being heard by doctors and accepted in the world. People judge you. They make assumptions they shouldn’t.

So here’s what I’m suggesting. Don’t comment on people’s weight. Don’t shame people for how they look, whether you think it is within their control or not. Live and let live. People who are chronically ill don’t need to hear negative remarks about their appearance. We already are hurting inside about being sick and feeling bad about what we wish we could do. I wish I could swim laps the way I used to. I wish I could be more active and I wish I didn’t have a disorder that makes me take medication that causes me to put on weight. But this is my life. I’m working at accepting it and myself. I don’t need your opinion about my appearance. Just because you lost weight doing x, y and z, doesn’t mean that everyone else should do it, too. It doesn’t mean it will be possible for everyone else to do it.

This all left me thinking that more people’s resolutions should be to mind their business and be a little bit kinder.

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Gettyimage by: Victor_Tongdee

Originally published: January 24, 2018
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