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When I Became Consumed With Losing Weight While Dealing With My Chronic Illness

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I really can’t pinpoint when the shift was. Throughout all of high school, I remember (as far as my not-so-hot memory allows) being fine with my body image, despite living with a chronic illness that I didn’t even know I had until halfway through my junior year. I was a bit heavier, sure, but it never really bothered me. I dressed how I wanted to, in my sometimes-quirky style (I do remember a time in middle school when even my friends poked fun at me for sporting a dress that I absolutely loved, calling it Maddie’s “Prairie Dress” — it was Free People via TJ Maxx… c’mon… hip!), I ate what I wanted (until my diagnosis). I just lived freely.

It might have been my Lyme disease diagnosis in 2012, it might have been me feeling an extreme loss of control over life in general — my health, Dad’s health, a home that was just so chaotic and stressful due to all of that — it might have been society/media’s output of women and our bodies in general, accompanied by my late teens. Or a melting pot of all of the above. But something did shift, and not for the better.

Because of my Lyme, I began eating gluten- and mostly dairy-free at first (back in early 2012). I cheated all the time. I was very resistant to change. Eventually, however, I got a handle on my diet. And much to my surprise, completely unintentionally, I managed to lose 10 pounds after starting my new lifestyle. From there, and most certainly after people started recognizing my weight loss (and commenting on it, how good I looked), I began to hold on to that — to strive for the weight loss, probably neglecting the focus and gentle attention my body needed to heal. Perhaps there was some methodological and subconscious change within me, some part of me trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” so to speak — sure, I look beautiful on the outside, you tell me, so I need to keep up appearances to conceal the fact that I live with this hidden illness (of course, there is certainly no blame or guilt I wish to hand out in saying this. I am simply searching for some kind of root cause).

Over time, I became consumed with losing weight, with exercising (even when not physically well enough for it), with weighing my self-worth (literally) by the scale, chronically stepping on that little sucker, fighting with myself everyday about eating too much, suppressing what I ate, getting angry at myself for eating, feeling guilty… you get the idea.

My weight was what I could control. I couldn’t control my illness, as I kept (and continue to keep) having relapses/flares; or dad’s illness; or the world (I mean, I need at least two of me to take on that bad boy)! My image consumed me, I lost touch with who I really was at my core — my values, my wants, my true needs. My illness stood in the wings, allowing this obsessive, compulsive idea of perfection to overshadow it. The scrutiny I laid on myself, the negative thoughts I had about myself — I was fighting with two conflicting forces: on one side, the flawed, negative image I had of myself, and on the other side, this body that just craves love and positive attention and nourishment.

Though experiencing symptoms over the last several months has been anything but a happenin’ time, I have been afforded said time to do an incredible amount of soul searching. To feed my body properly, to establish an appropriate relationship with food, to eat when I am hungry, to make sure that my body receives enough fuel, to listen and to understand and to respect myself. To remind myself to follow my path and to not let the mayhem around me influence my actions. I am not perfect; believe me, I am one hell of a work in progress!

Growing up is rough stuff, living life with chronic illness is rough stuff, trying to conform to some idea of perfection can be the roughest of all the stuff. So, I leave you with this tender reminder: Please give yourself a hug and remind yourself of how loved you are. You are so totally and completely enough.

Originally published: July 8, 2016
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