body image · fitness

More progress on the body image front: weight loss is *not* an “upside” of food poisoning

Grey cartoon figure standing and holding stomach in first image, then kneeling in front of the toilet vomiting in the second. Sweat emanates (indicated as blue drops) from brow in both frames.
Grey cartoon figure standing and holding stomach in first image, then kneeling in front of the toilet vomiting in the second. Sweat emanates (indicated as blue drops) from brow in both frames.

OMG I have been so incredibly ill for the past 36 hours, ever since I ate something that I had qualms about even as I ate it (the body knows these things). I had to leave work early yesterday, and by the evening I was throwing up (I hate throwing up). That continued into the early hours. And oh did I feel sick. Groan out loud sick. It’s food poisoning or the norovirus or some equally brutal thing that has moved into my system to take me down.

Needless to say, not only did I lose my lunch and even the water I’d sipped on, but I truly couldn’t even consider eating anything. When I did start to feel like an attempt at something might be in order around 24 hours after the last meal I’d eaten, I tried a banana, a few dry crackers, and some clear tea.

Back in the day I, or one of the friends whom I complained to about my affliction, would have thought or said something like, “at least you’ll lose some weight.” Now, this is a ridiculous thing to say, I realize. But back then it was assumed that weight loss was an ever present goal in the life of every woman. I’m pleased to report that it didn’t even cross my mind. And that fact makes me very happy because losing weight, even if you do lose weight, is not an “upside” of food poisoning. It has no physical upside. None. It’s a horrible thing that is thoroughly bad in every single way.

The last time I scored a notable body image win that showed a major shift in attitude was a few years ago when I joined my first “learn to run” clinic. They were going around the room asking people why they joined. I said something about wanting to find some people to run with and get some tips about how to run smarter.

What only hit me later was how incredible it was that I didn’t even think of weight loss as a motivator. Back in the day, when I was obsessed with weight loss, I would not embark on any sort of program of activity unless I felt sure it would contribute to weight loss. In fact, as a graduate student almost 30 years ago I literally gave up swimming, an activity I adored and that made me feel amazing, because I read somewhere that it wasn’t an efficient way to lose fat (oh how many layers of unpacking are needed to get to the bottom of what’s wrong with that claim in the first place).

Well I felt the same when I realized I wasn’t seeing anything positive about this bout of food poisoning that had to do with weight loss. Score! So maybe that’s one positive – it has reminded me that I’ve come a long way in how I relate to my body. Maybe even one more – it’s forced me to rest, which is not something I easily do. My tendency is always to take on just a little more than I’ve got the time and energy to do.

So I’ve made progress but I know there are people out there who see weight loss as a silver lining in things like stomach flus and food poisoning. I’m glad I don’t think that way anymore. I would love to want to and to be able to eat more than I ate today. And that’s a good thing that tells me that weight loss is no longer integral to my body image.

Have you ever considered weight loss to be a positive side effect of otherwise negative temporary conditions like food poisoning or stomach bugs?


6 thoughts on “More progress on the body image front: weight loss is *not* an “upside” of food poisoning

  1. I’m sorry you’re so sick, Tracy — I had the worst food poisoning in Uganda three weeks ago and it was just plain agonizing. I feel your pain. I’ve had people say things like that to me about being sick in the past – but I’ve never thought it. I’ve had a form of emetephobia my whole life (phobia of vomiting) so I just view the whole thing as an utter horror. Poor you ;-(.

    1. Thanks Cate. That must have been awful. So sorry to hear it. It’s bad enough being in the comfort and familiarity of my own place feeling this way. To be anywhere else would be that much worse. I’d never heard of that phobia. That just must add another dimension of terrible to an already horrible feeling. I hate vomiting and usually put it off as long as I can.

      1. It is actually a form of anxiety apparently — when I was a kid I would literally run screaming out of the room if another kid in my class vomited. I’ve spent my whole life trying to avoid people being sick as well as avoiding it myself. I have the thing where I always know the exact last time I vomited — which, you know, no one else cares about, lol.

        I hope you feel better soon, and yay on the body image front — that IS progress.

  2. Thank you for sharing this because for many (too many I fear) weight loss, instead of health, is still an ever present goal in life. Hope you are feeling better.

  3. Ah! Food poisoning is the worst. It really interesting when we finally notice the narratives in our head have changed. It takes a long time and a lot of rewiring. I will admit out loud that I still sometimes have those thoughts pass through but I pay them no mind. It’s one of the reasons I got rid of my scale. I didn’t like what I thought every time I got on it. There was not one good or healthy reason to check for me. Feel better!

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