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When People Judge Me Because They Don't Understand How Illness Affects My Weight

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Weight changes can be a struggle, whether you have a chronic illness or not. But if you face changes in weight because of chronic illness it can be an even bigger struggle. People often judge others’ weight without even knowing why someone is at a certain weight.

I remember that people would often comment on my weight during the time I was still undiagnosed. How could I be at a normal weight or even overweight while being chronically nauseous? It did not make sense to people. That was really hurtful to me, as I could not explain this either.

Before I started to show symptoms of nausea, I used to be slightly overweight, and it stayed that way for a year or so, even after I started to eat less because of my nausea. Not only friends, but family members and acquaintances would comment on this. Doctors (shockingly) did this as well. I did not have a diagnosis yet, so I was seeing doctors to try to find out what was wrong with my health. My internist at the time told me he thought my weight did not “add up” with me claiming to be chronically nauseous. His image of someone who is chronically nauseous was an underweight person.

I believe many chronically ill people have probably experienced this as well. People, even doctors, sometimes don’t seem to understand that the equivalent of being ill is not always being underweight. Or maybe to better put it: chronic illness does not always go hand in hand with weight loss. For example, some people lose the ability to exercise or even move around properly which causes them to gain weight. Also, some forms of medications have weight gain as a side effect. Gaining weight or losing weight is not always something someone has control over. And that can be very frustrating and hurtful. Imagine how much worse that frustration and sadness can become if people start to judge you for your weight.

My weight is constantly shifting. I have not gotten back to the weight I was at when I did not have a chronic illness (so I lost weight altogether), but my weight does go up and down. When there is a period of time that I feel better, I will automatically gain some weight. The same goes for when my health acts up: I’ll lose some weight because of the nausea and loss of appetite. I got a serious infection that caused sepsis just some days ago, for example. I was sent to the ER and they put me on strong antibiotics. Antibiotics often cause nausea and they do that to me too, not too surprisingly. The antibiotics were given intravenously and in high dosages because sepsis is a very serious illness. I had no appetite at all and only ate yogurt for some days, which caused some weight loss. I’m still on antibiotics at the moment so I am still losing weight probably.

How should we chronically ill people deal with weight changes and people’s ignorance surrounding the topic? That is hard to say. There is no right or wrong way. It all depends on personal preference and the situation you’re in. I often try to explain to people that my weight changes sometimes and there is no stable weight for me, only a certain weight I circle around, basically. If someone is very ignorant and says hurtful things I tell them they are being rude and it’s unnecessary. If they still behave in a way that hurts me, I will just avoid the person and situation.

Getting angry is the first response, but that does not really solve anything. I admit, of course I get angry and I want to show that anger. And sometimes I do get angry, but I try to get out of the situation as soon as possible in that case. Some people are not worth your time. Try to explain to them what they don’t understand and if they don’t want to understand, it’s their loss. Sometimes people are genuinely curious and want to understand, and I love to educate people. But sometimes people are purposely ignorant.

Never feel like you have to prove yourself – you don’t have to! I know that is hard and I struggle with that as well, but keep in mind that only you know what life is like for you. People have no right to judge you.

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Originally published: October 11, 2017
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