Body Image Revisited

My blog was just learning how to crawl when I first dared to talk about body image and celiac disease. About weighing 93 lbs and still losing. About wanting to gain weight in a society obsessed with losing it.

Throwback to senior year!

Over a year has passed since that infamous post and a lot of changes have passed with it. I've lost weight, survived a stay in the hospital, learned how to cook, started sophomore year, and, finally, gained. 

In my dad's words, I'm now a "triple digit midget" since tipping 100 lbs on the scale. Like my food journey, my journey with weight has had its highs and lows (like usual, pun intended). Out of everything I've learned, though, two things stick out. 

Midget on a mountain!

First, I never realized just how devastating celiac disease can be on the body. Of course, I saw the bones sticking out in my mirror. And I held my stomach and zombie-walked the week after being glutened. But, until my weight jumped up 10 pounds in one month after a year of plateauing at 88, I couldn't fully comprehend the power gluten holds over my body. 

Fact: Since being hospitalized in September 2014 and now, I've been eating the same amount and the same kinds of food. The foods that my Instagram followers drool over while asking, "Do you eat all that?" 

Fact: I've been kicking butt at a very similar exercise routine (give or take an activity - ahem, running - or two)

Fact: despite not changing any of those variables, my body mimicked a skeleton until a few months ago. 

All the food, all the fun, all the changes!

The only factor I can think to blame? The villi that gluten had destroyed so badly that my endoscopy pictures can be summed up as "smooth and swollen." Now, as I mentioned in one of my recent posts, I'm no doctor. But I do believe that my extremely slow - and then extremely fast - recovery exemplifies the statement that healing takes time. You can take all the probiotics, make all your own meals, and your villi still need a vacation before they can get back to work on absorbing those nutrients!

The second lesson? Change isn't easy. Wanting to gain weight didn't negate my sadness at throwing out my favorite pair of jean shorts, now a size too small. Wanting to gain weight doesn't mean that all of my insecurities disappeared with my bony back. Compared to the average American, I'm still quite skinny. But I'm bigger than before. And - with my mirror still set on "twig mode," that takes time to get used to. 

Part of it is that people don't know what to say. A friend of mine recently returned from studying abroad - leaving when I was struggling in the low 80's - and stared at my new body in shock. And, eventually said, "You look...fuller." 

Gotta have a flexing selfie in here somewhere!

"Healthier," I replied. Because that really is the most accurate word to describe my change. Not more or less beautiful - society's expectations of thinness don't get to calculate my attractiveness by my pant size. Not more or less strong - I was strong before, but now my physical self matches my brain's bench press. And not more or less me - in the midst of my illness and during my health, I'm Casey. Goofy. Food-loving. And as stubborn as my toddler self with a pacifier. 

Body image is a topic that is underrepresented in the celiac disease community even though it affects us, in my opinion, even more than the "average" American. Because, with us, sometimes our body betrays us. The medical issues inside emerge on the outside in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. 

And weird is just fine!

One thing I would tell the high school senior who typed that post over a year ago? Bodies are weird - especially when celiac is involved. Society is weird too. But, no matter what society or the scale says, you are beautiful. For being you, doing you, and owning you every day. 


*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

Have you experienced a big change in weight with celiac disease? What do you think of body image and celiac disease? Comment below! 



Comments

  1. I loved this post Casey and am so happy for you!!! <3 I lost weight when I first went gluten free and it was scary how tiny I was. I have now gained much more of it back, and as hard as it is to see the number on the scale go up, i know I am much healthier and stronger and the number on the scale does not define me.

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    1. Thank you so much, Allie. You're always such a sweetie. It helps to see that other people have struggled with the same issues - you look so gorgeous and strong on Instagram. Keep it up!

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  2. I loved this so much! I don't have Celiac, but I inexplicably lost /a lot/ of weight about 5 years ago. I ate and ate, and kept losing. My weight plateaued a bit, went up a bit, then went down and plateaued again. Once I started college last fall, I lost a bit more. I've been super self-conscious about being a skeleton for years and hated clothes shopping because the smallest size was too big. Recently, though, the scale has been starting to go the other direction, and I realize that maybe it just takes time. My clothes fit a little better now, but one day they might be too small. And while that will certainly mean I'm healthier, and it'll mean I no longer look like the skeleton I never wanted to be, seeing my body change is definitely a little tough sometimes. That said, just like you said, health is 100% what matters, so I'm focusing on that. It's nice to know others are in a similar situation. Thanks! :)

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    1. I'm so glad that your body is slowly healing from whatever it was struggling against. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me - nothing helps worries more than knowing you're not alone. :D

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  3. I don't struggle with celiac disease, but I did suffer from an eating disorder for years that caused me to reach a really unhealthy low weight, and I can definitely relate to some of the body image struggles that come with getting healthier. At the end of the day, though, those are fleeting and far between... and even my worst days now are better than my best days when I was at my thinnest. There really is nothing better than being healthy :)

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    1. I'm so glad you're feeling better, mentally and physically. It can be a struggle sometimes, but you're proof that you can reach the other side of the tunnel. Stay amazing and stay healthy! :D

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  4. I'm very thankful you have the courage to not just go through celiac but post sometimes personal stories on the web. I'm 26 and finishing college, its hard enough to those with autoimmune conditions my age, especially other guys like me! (ugh, just sayin) I can't say enough good things about you keeping a positive attitude beating weight loss, I hover at 135 at the current time (my "norm" had been 165...) and its sooo exhausting to do two steps forward, one step back. Recently I found I may not be able to handle green smoothies/ fruit smoothies. Maybe rough on my guts? i don't know, just like you show you're not alone, I wanted to forward my thanks and say the same thing! I'm not sure how to use your blog but my name is Chris, I think it posts this as anonymous? ha!

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    1. Hi Chris! Thank you for the compliment and for sharing your story with me in turn! It's amazing how difficult being at an "optimum" weight can be - especially when autoimmune conditions get involved. And I also love hearing from a guy's perspective. Stay strong and I hope that your weight journey gets to where you want it to be!

      Casey :)

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