Scenario #1: “You need to hold off on the French Fries. You’ve got more rolls than a bakery!”
Scenario #2: “Gah! You’re so skinny! What are you, anorexic or something? Eat a burger!”
The above statements are just two examples of a little something I like to call weight shaming. It does not matter what size you are, weight shaming is cruel, destructive and unnecessary.
If you’ve had a chronic illness (such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease) that has caused weight fluctuations, chances are you’ve been the victim of weight shaming.
Whenever I started flaring, I would notice a rapid drop in my body weight. It didn’t matter what I ate (or didn’t eat), I could not for the life of me keep the weight on. I would put on a pair of jeans, button them up and they would fall right off. At my lowest, I think I got down to 89 pounds. Because of this, I got several hateful comments.
One day, I was at work and a lady—who had apparently been watching me—said, “Look at you and your skinny butt. You make me and my fat butt look bad.”
I looked at her and said defensively, “I’ve been sick for four years!”
“Well, you’re feeling better now, aren’t you?! You should be blowing up like me.”
These words cut me. I felt guilty for being skinny… I felt like I had to defend myself for not being more filled out… but it’s not exactly something I can help. I felt ashamed of myself.
Another time I had been on Prednisone for several months. If you’ve ever had to take Prednisone before, you know the horrors of moonface. Prednisone causes your body to retain fluid. This gives you the appearance that you’ve gotten fatter. In some cases (myself included), Prednisone makes you have massive food cravings and you’ll eat just about anything. This actually does cause you to gain weight if you aren’t careful.
Shortly after I was diagnosed with UC and the doctor put me on Prednisone, I was having a particularly bad night. I had questions, so I called the on-call doctor and upon mentioning Prednisone, he went off on a cruel and unnecessary tangent:
“You know what? You’re going to have to get over it. I put all my IBD patients on 40-60mg of Prednisone for six months to a year when I diagnose them. You’re going to get very, very fat. That’s the reality of it. This is your life now. You’re going to blow up and get very fat. Suck it up.”
This doctor went on and on for what seemed like forever about how Prednisone was going to make me gain a whole lot of weight. I don’t even recall asking him about the connection between Prednisone and weight gain, but there it was and I did gain some weight.
I remember what it felt like the first time I tried to put on a pair of jeans and they wouldn’t go over my thighs. Thanks, Prednisone! I also got weight shamed for that!
“Whoa! You’ve gained some weight!”
“You look like a blowfish!”
“Your face is fat.”
To everyone who has ever weight shamed another person: Stop it. It is never ok. It is never kind. People with chronic illness cannot help their weight fluctuations. Their bodies are fighting very hard against them. They cannot keep anything up or down and every ounce of food they eat goes straight through them (or they are unable to eat due to motility issues). The only thing keeping them alive sometimes are very harsh medications. These medications are a terror all their own and in many cases, these drugs will make them gain weight. Either way, they cannot help what they weigh. No matter how hard they try. It’s bad enough their diseases make them feel disgusting and unwanted… your weight shaming just makes them feel worse.
To the victims of weight shaming: You will never please everyone. Not now, not ever. So stop trying. No matter what you do, someone will not be satisfied with how much you weigh, the clothes you wear, how you wear your makeup, what you say, etc., etc. Instead of looking to other people for your worth, learn to love yourself. Difficult, I know, but worth it in the end. Every day, find something you really like about yourself. It could be your smile. It could be your hair color. It could be your long, monkey toes… whatever! Find something uniquely you and love it!
Our bodies are different. We all come in various shapes, sizes, colors, flavors, textures, etc. Don’t be afraid to be who you are. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I believe that everyone is beautiful in their own way. If you ask me, something that truly makes someone beautiful is not the shape of their faces. It’s not their clothing. It’s not how much they weigh or the color of their skin. No, what determines someone’s beauty is their personality. How they treat others. How they treat themselves. Their kindness, compassion, friendliness, etc.
There will always be someone out there who hates you for one reason or another. There’s nothing you can do about that. I would encourage you to be kind, respectful and loving to that person, despite how they treat you. Keep being kind. Look for the positives both in yourself and in the person being hateful. Not everyone will like you, and that’s ok. Because there are a ton of other people who will love you for who you are.
If you feel like you are overwhelmed by your disease or by someone who has been unkind, please know that I am here to listen if you need someone to talk to. You are not alone.