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.
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.
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.
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."
"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.
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!