Content warning: talk about weight loss and body image.
About two weeks ago, I wasn’t feeling so great– less peppy and more draggy walking around and going up the two flights of stairs to my office. By the weekend, I was clammy and nauseated, with abdominal pain on my left side. It didn’t get better, and I found myself reluctantly heading to the hospital emergency department on a Sunday morning.
At the end of five hours there (including lots of testing, waiting around, and generally watching the show which is an ER over the weekend), the doctor wasn’t sure what was wrong, but had a concerned urgency in his tone that I must say I didn’t like. He insisted I go to the GI specialist the next morning.
Long story short, I have a mild-ish case of pancreatitis, with no clear cause. There are some very clear risk factors for it, but I don’t have any of those. I happen to fall into the 20% of cases classified as “misc other.”
Great, I’m officially in the junk drawer of medical causes… Sigh.
It turns out that the main treatment for pancreatitis is not eating food for a while. Three doctors explained the technical details like this: “the pancreas needs to rest”. Well, okay then. Let’s be very quiet. Shhhhh…
I was on a liquid diet for 3 days, transitioning to jello, popsicles, and finally– apple sauce! By day 5, I could have chicken noodle soup. Oh joy! One key feature of this diet is severe restriction of fats. Much fat intake would cause me abdominal pain (I discovered this when I accidentally ate some ramen noodles, which apparently are high in fat. How did I not know this?)
As you can imagine, I soon noticed that I had lost a little weight. I don’t weigh myself, but I could feel the difference in the way my clothes fit.
Despite the medical circumstances and the knowledge that this weight drop is temporary (it’s water weight which will come back when I start eating properly again) I felt a small thrill. Oh boy, weight loss! Oh boy, looser clothing!
I also felt a rush of irrational hope: maybe now, maybe this time I’ll really lose that extra weight I’ve been dragging around. Maybe I can keep this going, and who knows how far I can go?
Yes, it’s understandable that I would have these feelings. I have been unhappy with my body off and on (more on than off) for almost as long as I can remember. This is so sad, and I wish it weren’t true. But it is true.
When I was 13, I had mono. I went from 115 lbs to 105 lbs in a few weeks. Of course this wasn’t good for me. But boy did I feel like I’d gotten this huge gift– a slightly lighter body, which to me looked and felt transformed. Of course it wasn’t transformed– it was undernourished and dehydrated. Over the next month I gained the weight back as I regained my health.
This time I’m paying closer attention, and I’m on to these beliefs– that this sickness-induced weight loss is a sign of what I can/should/will do to change my body weight.
These beliefs are a cheat and a con.
These beliefs are not reflecting anything true about my body. They’re reflecting my continued struggle with body image and self-acceptance.
For the next month or more, I will need to adhere to a low-fat diet. It’s possible that I will experience more weight loss. That’s fine– it won’t harm me to weigh less. What does harm me, though, is the weight I give to these small changes in my body– what meanings they have and what power they wield over my feelings of well being and self image.
These messages I send myself are a cheat and a con. Why? Because I know that my weight goes up and my weight goes down. I am still here and I am still me, in my gloriousness of intelligence, disorganization, enthusiasm, friendliness, beauty, procrastination, athleticism, and vulnerability.
Everything changes. Including weight. I don’t want to be held hostage to fluctuations, regardless of whether they cause panic or glee. So I’m sharing it with you all. Thanks for reading.