More thoughts on body image (and some thoughts on illness)

I’ve been writing about body image more lately, and that’s because I’ve been gaining weight. At first, I chalked it up to growing from my “teen” to “adult” body. Then I said it was because of starting new medication. And now, it might be because of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). But really, I don’t know why I’ve continually gained weight over the past few years. And I never will have exact reasons. I’m also aware that it shouldn’t matter. Yet it does.

It matters to me that I’m no longer as thin as I used to be. I know I write and talk over and over about body positivity, but I sometimes get quite upset that my body has changed. I get upset that my body is still changing. The uncertainty of what my future body will look like is terrifying. There, I said it. At the same time, I do believe in body positivity and self-love and the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement and that diets don’t work. I believe in all of that. But nothing, especially not in mental health, is that simple. Believing doesn’t solidify it in your mind.

I made this image for February of the Not Alone Notes calendar.

I found myself upset the other day and asking why I couldn’t have a different illness than PCOS (back to trying to find a concrete reason to blame for weight gain). If it wasn’t an illness that caused weight gain, it wouldn’t be so hard. If it was, for example, like my vitiligo, then it would be easy, right? But that’s just plain not true. I got upset as a little girl when I found new spots where I had lost pigment. I was self-conscious when other kids stared at my exposed, patchy stomach at the pool or dance competitions. At least, for the first several years. Now that I’m an adult, I don’t mind my spots at all.

So then I found myself thinking back about how PCOS came on so suddenly, and maybe that’s what makes it difficult and unfair. But it’s not like I’ve had vitiligo since birth either. It too seemingly randomly appeared, around the age of six. In many ways it’s random arrival is similar to PCOS, just that PCOS was more recent. Really the main difference is that the vitiligo started twenty years ago, so I’ve had considerably more time to adjust and accept it. Illness is hard, no matter how or when it appears. And though time doesn’t heal everything, it does affect our perception of the illness and our ways of coping.

At the end of the day, no matter how much I preach loving bodies in all shapes and sizes, that doesn’t mean I always love my body. A part of me still wants to be thinner, and that may always be there as a voice in my head. It’s all so out of our control. I want to be skinny, but I can’t control my body. I truly want to not care about my body size, but I also can’t control my feelings. Those feelings are very real and very valid. Ignoring them won’t make them go away.

And sometimes, I do love my body. Truly and fully love it, just not as often as I’d like. It’s an imperfect process. And maybe that’s the lesson: it’s a process. I’m not sure yet. I’m still trying to figure it out too.


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