Spoonie Body Image Issues and Feminism and The Whole Glorious Mess

I Like many women, I spent many years being too fat.

I was too fat when I was in junior high school.

I was too fat when I was in high school.

I was too fat as a young adult.

I was certainly too fat after my children were born.

I was even too fat after I lost all of my baby weight plus some and could wear a girl’s size 14.

This pic stands out in my memory because I was wearing my 7 year old daughter’s Dora the Explorer t-shirt – and still trying to lose 20 pounds.

Regardless of my weight or size at the time, I just knew I should always, always, always be smaller.

In fact, throughout my twenties, a deeply stressful time in my life, I was willing to do whatever it took to be thin, with no regard for my health.

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My disordered eating definitely improved in my thirties, especially after I met my husband, but I, like many women, continued to place a great deal of stock in maintaining my arbitrary ideal weight.

My last RA and Lupie-free birthday

However, when my autoimmune issues hit me, the whole ballgame changed.

Like most spoonies, when my symptoms first began, my doctors didn’t know what to make of them so they did what all doctors do under those circumstances – gave me steroids to see if my body would respond to them.

Of course, my body did, which was indicative of an inflammatory process.

As we’ve slowly unraveled the mystery, other meds have been added as well as complementary therapies but I have never been able to completely stop the steroids.

Cue the weight gain.

Regardless of what one eats, a long term steroid user can expect to gain at least twenty or thirty pounds. And that is if they are lucky enough to take a low dose.

A new, more curvy normal after several years of the Pred.

For the first few years of my autoimmune disease, with the exception of needing injections and tapers to break flares, I was on pretty a pretty low dose of Prednisone so I experienced the dreaded weight gain and then kind of leveled off.

But then. . .

In the past year, I’ve really had a bitch of a time with my RA.

And my tapers have all run together into staying on a higher dose of Pred all the time.

And the “moon face” – the round face associated with high doses of Pred – hasn’t gone away. Instead, it’s blossomed.

And I’ve realized that a size 14 is no longer “until I stop the Pred” – because that’s not happening – but rather it’s just my regular old size now.

A wonderful, glorious day with my bestie. The moon face is here to stay.

So. . .

I recently took myself back to school for nutrition, not for weight control or anything of the sort, but to learn about health and how to feel my best, and then teach others to do the same.

I believe good nutrition, and all that comes with it, are the key to lifelong health, and learning and teaching it are one of the things I’m passionate about.

As I’ve been reading and learning, I’ve changed to a plant based diet and added more walking and yoga to feel better and stronger.

I’ve also begun taking a long, hard look at this languange of body hatred that I, and many other women use, as well as all of the things we are willing to do to ourselves to achieve or maintain the “ideal body.”

And, while I’m not even going to pretend that I’m okay with these extra pounds right now, I am working on it in several ways.

First, I am doing away with “fat.” When I wrote the beginning of this post, I realized that, not only would I never call another woman fat, I truly never think it. I am huge supporter of the body positivity movement. I love, love, love seeing more plus models everywhere. I think we should insist on more diversity in every way from the companies we are supporting. When it comes to other women, I truly believe curves are beautiful and I would never use such harsh nasty judgement towards anyone else.

I only do it to myself. And that is unacceptable.

Second, I am choosing to remember my value above and beyond my body. Again, as a feminist, I am astonished – and embarrased – when I realize how much of my self worth I’ve placed in my dress size. In addition to being a wife and mother (which makes me pretty important to my family whether I’m a size 4 or 24), I’m a seeker, a reader, a student, a nurse, an activist, a writer, a friend, a whole person with much to offer.

All of those things are infinitely more important than weight.

Finally, I’m working on other things. As I’m going through my nutrition program – and moving towards my goal of being a health coach – I have stacks of books about nutrition theories and different approaches to body image issues and holistic anatomy and many other topics to learn about. I also have a full time nursing job, a bustling household, and several fun trips and activities I want to squeeze in this year too.

I would rather use my limited energy working on my higher goals.

In the big picture, I hope to spend this year in nutrition school getting healthier and stronger, physically and mentally, so, when I begin my own health coaching practice, I can help other women focus on the same.

I won’t be a health coach that is only concerned with helping “lose those last ten pounds.”

I won’t be helping a size two beat herself into a size zero.

I won’t be a part of this “fat” mindset in anyway, any longer.

It’s about health.

It’s about self-love.

It’s about caring for our bodies so we can bring all we have to offer – and it is much – into the world.

We are all so much more than numbers.

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