on body acceptance

body acceptance

One of the tricky things in my life lately has been dealing with the way my body has changed as a result of chronic pain. Some of these changes have been welcome. Having access to regular treatment options such as massage, yoga, and meditation has meant less muscle tension and improved posture. Paying closer attention to my body in general has meant a level of self-love and care that I have only cultivated because of this disease. On the other hand, the limitations placed on my body by pain have meant changing the way I eat, exercise, and ultimately have meant gaining weight, which has come with some difficult mental challenges.

Just like many of you, I have internalized the incessant pressure to be thin despite my efforts to reject mainstream notions of beauty. On top of being bombarded by these images daily, the thin=healthy myth has been more-or-less successfully embedded in my psyche from all angles. I think this influence is virtually inescapable, and that people who reject it successfully work damn hard on a daily basis to do so. I’m giving it my best shot, my first line of defense being the regular maintenance of a pinterest board dedicated to showcasing “every body”, but still, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to immersion in a culture of fat-shaming, food-guilt, and normalized eating disorders.

People with chronic pain and all variety of medical conditions have the added pressure of losing weight to supposedly ward of illness. Surely there are connections between carrying extra weight and exacerbating certain health conditions, but losing weight is not the fix-all answer that it is often purported to be. I’ve come across several chronic pain self-help guides that claim EXERCISE is the simple, overlooked answer to all types of chronic pain! This is pretty offensive considering chronic pain actually prevents some people from being able to exercise at all. This can be hard for able-bodied people to imagine, especially of people with invisible illness, but sometimes exercise (yes, even swimming) is not an option.

FTS.

In the past, if I found my pants getting a bit tight, I would visit the gym a bit more regularly, avoid snacking between meals, and lay off the sweets for a bit until my pants fit better. Vigorous aerobic activity several times a week was the norm for me anyway, and aside from what I recognize as a somewhat unhealthy obsession with my weight, that exercise did feel good, and contributed to my overall wellness and happiness.

Now, vigorous aerobic activity is a sure-fire way of triggering a severe pain attack, and eating (albeit healthy things) all day long, like, every two hours, is essential to warding off pain. Also, fatty and sugary comfort foods are one of the only things that can provide a bit of pain relief or pleasurable distraction for me during an attack, provided the nausea isn’t too awful. I can not properly stress the amazingness of this discovery. Where heavy-duty narcotics totally fail, delicious food temporarily helps. (Luckily no one has tried to get between my chocolate ice cream and me during a peak migraine time, because that would not be pretty.) So despite my pants being a bit tight, upping the exercise, reducing my food intake, or changing my diet drastically are just not things I am able or willing to do.

Oh yeah, and one of the side effects of my preventative daily medication is weight gain.

So… What next?

There’s one option left as I see it, and that is to accept the fact that body size is not a simple equation of calorie intake + fitness + will power. It’s so much more complex than that. Especially for people with chronic pain. I will just have to accept that gaining a bit of weight is not any kind of personal failure, just as I have to work harder to accept all the things that come with this condition.

I will remember that challenging my own internalized fatphobia is an ongoing process, and I will regularly visit sites like this and this and this and this.

And I will buy new pants. And I will wear them on my rounder-than-before behind with swagger for all the aforementioned reasons, and because

chocolate better than skinny

10 comments

  1. Swagger away, woman, it looks good on you, and don’t you forget it. (Fatphobia, and age-phobia: hand-in-hand. I try everyday to accept what I’ve got, know that it’s better than fine, and then go off and spend money on potions, makeup and electrolysis. Chocolate also helps with the post-electrolysis discomfort. 🙂

  2. lynnesherman · · Reply

    So hard to fight those ubiquitous images of thin women…keep up the fight, you gorgeous woman! Luckily, (?!), my puking migraines keep me thin, but it’s a hell of a way to maintain it. Yep, I’d rather be fat and migraine free!

    1. Fat and migraine free sounds healthier to me! Where do I sign up?

  3. You know, if it’s not one thing it’s going to be another, really. This idea that bodies don’t change or shouldn’t change is crap. Crap that you can believe when your 20, 30 even… But the reality is that bodies are organic, they shift and change and sometimes transform dramatically. That’s what makes them GOOD! you don’t have to join hands in a circle with every hippy you meet, chant, and love every change your body goes through, heck no, complain away! But complain while knowing that staying the same was a futile quest anyway. I was pretty miffed when I gained like… 30 pounds carrying my first born (thats the leftover AFTER the child emerged so delicately from my loins). And it’s true that I don’t love the extra weight even now. And there are also the stretch marks from said child that are pretty dramatic… And my feet are a half size larger too. Last week I had surgery, now I have some abdominal scars to add to the mix. My point is that, yes, bodies get marked up, changed, by all sorts of things, these are the visible signs that we have coped with and adapted to change. And let us not forget that good ol ageing is coming for us all. When my first born was months old, and I lamented to my mother about my new rounded body. She looked at me with compassion and said “yes, you’re young, it’s hard to come to terms with”. And I thought, you know, she’s right. It was super comforting to believe I could get to a place where I might not care, or care as much, about something as silly as my belly…. And as time went on and my life filled with so many things and so many sources of joy, stress, busyness, and calm, I found to my great relief that she was indeed right. Like I said, I don’t love it… But I sure don’t care like I once did. Here’s to letting go and moving on.

    1. Sesch is so right. Our stories are written on our bodies – stories that take years to develop and grow and change. Even at my advanced age, I’m still learning to ask ‘what’s the story?’, to be more observant instead of judgmental of bodies, mine included.

    2. Yeah!! What’s this expecting our bodies to stay the same crap! I wish we lived in a place that honoured the aging process instead of shaming it.

      I do find myself a bit less preoccupied with the superficial stuff as I get older too. Here’s hoping I can continue the trend.

      Hope the recovery is going well Sesch ❤

  4. Do you realize that you aren’t just talking to the needs of women with this? I’m a 50+ y/o man who has had to deal with chronic migraines for nearly 15 years. I’ve gone from full-time employed to unemployed, from a trim 185 to a decidedly whale-like 245, and now have arthritis in most of my major joints.

    The only good thing about all of this is that I’ve started getting caught up on all the tellie shows I used to watch pieces of – I’ve now seen every episode of about 40 tellies courtesy of Netflix instant streaming. Oh, and I got my first platinum trophy for playing video games on the PS3. I have #2 nearing completion. But I’m nearly a shut-in – my family never visits, so it’s just me, my wife, and our 2 cats.

    1. Hi Vernon,

      Of course this is an issue for men too. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m just beginning to grasp the complexities and pervasive misunderstandings surrounding chronic pain and body size. The “just exercise and you’ll feel better” mantra is everywhere! Glad you can look on the bright side… I do way more reading now due to more time spent in bed.

      1. I “used to” do a lot of reading – there was one summer when I was in junior high that I read over 50 books!

        Unfortunately, being that prolific of a reader means that I’ve exhausted everything available on the stuff I’m interested in – and I’ve read enough true classics to not be satisfied with most of the bile being dumped on paper these days. That’s why I play video games now.

  5. I really like your blog. This is in response to a few of your blog posts. As an occasional migraine sufferer, I don’t know how I would cope if they were more frequent. I have other health issues and have heard the well meaning but utterly pointless advice from people without the condition. Only eat organic food. Go on the alkaline diet to turn your body alkaline (can’t be done. All it does is turn your pee alkaline not the rest of your body. Avoid stress (how do I do that with 2 young teens in the house)? You have to eventually turn the voices off or they will drive you crazy. Do what works for you to get some relief even if it is temporary like eating fatty or sugary foods. More power to you for taking control of your thoughts and your life.

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