Body Shaming When You’re Chronically Ill

Hey pals,

 

I’ve been hearing a lot about fatshaming in the medical industry and also general body shaming and certain standards people are expected to meet online recently. I have a long, complex history with my body and other people’s relationship to my body so these topics have brought up a lot for me I wanted to discuss.

 

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I don’t talk about my weight online, not in specific numbers anyway, because everyone changes their opinion of me once they hear the number. It doesn’t matter if its the weight on my scale or my BMI, people make a judgement they didn’t initially have. My BMI is currently in the ‘overweight’ category leaning close to ‘obese’, and I’m not trying to be up myself here but how am I nearly obese? I am an average mid-size person, but the NHS BMI calculator is saying I need to lose 26.5lbs (12kg/almost 2 stone) to be in the healthy weight range (not mid-healthy i mean barely in the range).

About 6 years ago I was two stone heavier and I received enough fat shaming from my NHS health team to make me want to die. I had to be weighed for my contraceptive pill and I had purposefully been avoiding the scale and said, “as long as you don’t tell me.” and stood on it. I did really well not to succumb to the temptation of looking all for my doctor to just outright tell me anyway! Of course as soon as I hopped in the car I googled the number into ones I understood. I always worked in lbs. And that night I wanted to die.

Before I had gotten to this weight, I was probably roughly the weight I am now maybe 10lbs lighter, and I’d finally decided to go ask for professional health with my disordered eating. I’d told him all the things I had done and been doing and how I was trying to stop doing them, and even though my behaviours fit best with Bulimia, he told me I had Binge Eating Disorder (BED) ignoring all of the self destructive things I was doing from starving myself to purging, I barely even binged, my binged were minute compared to other bulimics I’d met or other binge eaters. I was astonished. Part of his advice is what lead me to gaining so much weight so quickly and sending me even deeper into depression and triggering me more. All of the note books he gave me were for binge eating, not starving or purging or any of the other things I did. All because I was ‘overweight’ by BMI standards.

I’m disabled. I suffer with a lot of chronic pain. I have been told countless times to lose weight because that ‘will make it better’, without thinking about anything else going on with me. I suffer with so much fatigue I barely function 90% of the time. Exercise wipes me out for DAYS. But we should all exercise for 30 minutes a day and if you don’t YOU’RE LAZY.

 

At this point in my life, I am dealing with a very unstable IBD. As I write this, I feel nauseous and cannot eat my dinner and had a couple of bad episodes on the toilet because I accidentally ate something triggering to my stomach yesterday and now just have to suffer. I have barely moved from bed today. I also have an abscess in a VERY uncomfortable place which means I can’t do most of the exercises I’ve been recommended and felt able to do: walking sometimes aggravates it, I can’t sit on a bike seat so can’t get on my exercise bike for 15 minutes, I can’t really leave the house to go to the gym or a yoga class coz I might suddenly be in so much pain I can’t participate and may not be able to drive myself home. But I’m lazy for being overweight. I’ve fiddled with my diet constantly, partially coz I’ve had to cut out foods that trigger my IBD flares, but also trying to get the right nutrients into my body without fucking starving.

I’m bad at feeding myself, coz either I’ll forget and suddenly be so starving I feel sick, or all I do is EAT. I’ve been put on steroids that make you want to eat. At one point, I couldn’t stop eating even though I was so full I wanted to be sick. With an IBD, weight loss is BAD. Either your gut isn’t getting enough nourishment from your food or you’re shitting so much of it out so quick there’s no time for your body to absorb it. So, I guess at least they worry if I’m looking more trim lol.

 

“Just go for a walk,” they say, “anything to raise your pulse,” they say… but anything I like doing I’m not ‘allowed’ because of my disability so OF COURSE I’m not consistent with exercise you tell me I can’t do stuff I enjoy. One doctor even told me I only enjoy those things because I am good at them, because of my disability… is that a crime? Am I not allowed to enjoy things I can do? Ballet and yoga don’t hurt me as much a circuits or zumba (which gave me shin splints btw). I also found out recently I can’t even swim anymore because of muscle problems in my right arm, it’s too painful to actually swim… the number one recommended activity (which I also don’t really like but now I can’t even do)

 

We constantly see skinny people selling us health and size as if it’s easy to reach without a 6 figure paycheck, a personal chef, personal trainer and surgery tbh. And the ‘normies’ of the world who don’t have a disability or chronic illness that takes a toll on your energy and activity level like to cram it down our throats that we just aren’t doing enough. There’s 24 hours in a day, you can use 1 for exercise. But… I sleep 10 hours on average, some days more, I’m slower to do things, I have to remember to take 1500 pills morning and night, doctors appointments and how I’m going to get there and be emotionally prepared for what they are going to say, or wow I need to cook myself dinner but I can’t bring myself to stand in the kitchen nor think of a meal I could make… Check out the spoon theory if you need more explanation.

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Not everyone can walk their dog, or get to a gym, or AFFORD A MEMBERSHIP, or have you ever thought about the process of getting ready to swim and then getting ready to leave from swimming? Most changing rooms are hot and you’re sweaty and you can’t dry off and you can’t get your clothes on and now you’re dizzy and you might be sick! It really just goes on.

 

Most people, including doctors, do not think I am ‘overweight’ when they look at me. I carry my weight around my middle mostly so occasionally I jokingly call myself ‘skinny passing’.

 

Here’s a great experiment: Me, my mum, and my gran. Different heights, I’m 5’7, my mum 5’4, my gran 5’2. Carry our weight differently, mine is mostly my stomach and upper arms, my mum is mostly her bum and stomach, my gran is almost entirely her chest. Poor little woman with great old nunga-nungas. We are all very similar clothing sizes. My gran needed a size 18 to fit comfortably over her boobs. I’m roughly a 16/18 on top for broad shoulders and ribs and 14-16 on bottom for my skinny legs but wide waist. my mum is around 14-16 on bottom but she has issues with the waist being too loose or the calf area too tight. I moved into wearing more men’s clothes coz somehow a small will be tight fitting like a 14 in t-shirts but there’s not shame in wearing a men’s large or even extra large… because there’s no number. Men’s trousers are still a fucking mess if you ask me the waist size isn’t accurately in inches, I’ll tell you that for free.

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My fat friends don’t go to the doctor unless they really have to. They aren’t believed when they think something is seriously wrong, it’s all put down to weight. Skinny white women struggle to be listened to as it is in 2019. Imagine being anything else, poc, disabled, chronically ill, queer, trans, fat, no one listens to us and we have to learn to be a self advocate or bring a trusted person with us to help advocate when it’s too much. I have been spoken to like I’m a fucking idiot and been told how to wipe my own arse on more than one occasion by the same man (a surgeon btw, surgeons have zero social skills) as if I haven’t lived like this for a long time already. I am also belittled by other sick people who have had their disease longer than I have and tell me my case is mild when the last year of my life has been nothing but suffering.

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I’m just tired and angry at the able people out there making assumptions, and the doctors and nurses out there deciding they know what’s happening to my body before I finish telling them everything, and the other sick people who think they are better and more knowledgeable than me because they’ve had it longer or are older than I am. I’m angry for myself and I’m angry for my friends and I’m angry for my community.

I got enough to deal with, kindly, fuck off.

 

~ Artie.

Check out this video where I finally get rid of my ‘skinny’ clothes!

Check out this post by Zipporah Arielle on getting comfortable talking about Crohn’s as there are many ways body shaming can sneak into your life as a disabled person.

3 thoughts on “Body Shaming When You’re Chronically Ill

  1. I’m so angry for you about that doctor who was adamant that you’ve binge eating disorder and not bulimia. You know your mental health and body more than anyone else. I struggle to get my doctor to take me seriously because I’m “too young” and also because she’s been my GP so long she dismisses me based on the fact that I’m a big hypochondriac, I can’t imagine how much worse it is for people who are “overweight”, and chronically I’ll when that kind of medical negligence has literally killed people

  2. Yes I know I really was angry at the time and it still does anger me. It’s funny now things have flipped on their head coz if I di dramatically lose weight my IBD team get worried rather than telling me good job lol

  3. I actually read recently the original chart was different and more accurate but they changed it because of the round numbers or something mad! I’m glad you liked this post! A lot of my friends have been talking about this topic recently and I really wanted to put it out there! X

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