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What I've Learned About Self-Care From Weight Changes Due to IBD

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I used to work out in the weight room during gym class in high school – and working out five days a week was great! My diet still was less-than-healthy and puberty was working on giving me the figure of the beautiful women before me, but I was working my body. I wish I could go back to sophomore year me and tell her not to stress about her tummy.

As an IBD-er I have to keep in mind that sometimes my weight is not my fault, nor is it as big a problem as I make it. Yes, I need to take responsibility for my diet and exercise, but my body’s been through a lot in the past nine months.

selfie of a woman with the eiffel tower in the background

I woke up from a colonoscopy six months ago to find out I have IBD. Inflammatory bowel disease is a term that includes both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease that’s as fun as it sounds. Since the start of last school year, my weight has fluctuated and my bowels have betrayed me, but I’ve risen above.

Last fall, I took a tap class and worked out for about a half hour after the twice-a-week course. My aunt asked me if I was losing weight, because she didn’t think I needed to. She told my mom to keep an eye on me.

woman lying on the beach next to her princess promise sign

See, I gained weight my freshman year of college, then dropped a few pounds after a semester abroad in England that involved fun trips and many, many, many flights of stairs (looking at you, Notre Dame). I was at a decent size for a 20-year-old.

Last fall, I discovered that regardless of my diet, I was losing weight. I just thought my half-hour gym sessions were doing something. Oh my gosh, was I naive or what?

woman meeting snow white at disneyworld

Turns out that “miracle diet” was just my insides tearing me to shreds. Once ulcerative colitis (UC) was found to be the mastermind behind my weight loss, I was put on 45 mg of Prednisone and told to taper off 5 mg a week. In those two months, a few things happened:

1. My body started healing. That’s well and good, but my appetite was still used to doing whatever it wanted under the pretense I would lose weight.

2. Steroids. Need I say more? I can’t, because I’m currently stuffing my face with food.

3. I started infusions of Entyvio – boo, needles, but yay, normal life again!

4. I attended two fancy dances, one of which I was in charge of planning.

5. I stopped steroids.

6. I became my heaviest weight – ever.

woman jumping on the beach with her princess promise sign

That last one hurt – it’s right up there with those infusion IV’s. I was incredulous. I had stopped the steroids, but my weight kept rising. I felt so dejected. So disappointed in myself. The progress I made abroad was gone, and in its place were more pounds than ever before. Even when I went for my follow-up, I stepped on the scale and the nurse commented, “Oh, it looks like you’ve gained some weight.” You don’t think my body-conscious, 20-year-old mind picked up on that?

Although I wasn’t happy with myself, I realize now, looking back at pictures, that I was still gorgeous. I wore a beautiful dress for one of the dances, and I felt amazing in it. I realized my new weight could work.

woman in red leotard sitting in a porthole of a cruise ship

This past follow-up showed my weight had maintained. I’m a couple pounds lighter than I was at my heaviest, but I’m certainly not where I was in high school. That’s OK – after all, my personality and brain (and health, for that matter) aren’t in high school, so why should my body be stuck there?

What I’ve learned is that while you do need to take care of yourself, you need to care about yourself as well. Whether it’s steroids, chocolate chip cookies or both that are causing your seams to tighten, relax – you’re still gorgeous.

Am I thrilled with my body? No, but I have my moments. Am I going to get off the couch and work out again? Well, I just discovered the novels of Jude Deveraux, so maybe not right this second. Eventually I’d like to get back on some kind of track. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a little extra weight, especially after all my body has been through since last fall.

woman lying on the ground in a pink shirt next to a pink banner with the princess promise logo

I hope you feel beautiful. I started The Princess Promise in part to encourage women with IBD, and whether you’re sitting on the porcelain throne or standing on the scale, I hope you have the confidence to know you’re a princess. After all, princesses come in all shapes and sizes.

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Originally published: July 17, 2017
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