Woman looking in the mirror, feeling self-love

Changing Your Mindset About Body Image

As someone who has lived with ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease, for nearly 20 years, my weight and appearance has changed drastically. Because of this, I developed disordered eating and suffered from body image issues which I have shared in numerous articles.

Finding gratitude for my body

While I am hardly perfect, I have spent the past couple of years really trying to look at things differently. I have stopped being so hard on myself and realized just how thankful I should be for my body.

After all my body has endured over the years, I am honestly surprised I am still alive here to talk to you guys! I have adopted a new mindset where I actually appreciate all my body has done for me, as opposed to getting down on it because of weight, stretch marks, scars, ostomy, etc.

The struggles of body changes with UC

I know so many of you reading this can relate to the struggles that come with accepting our ever-changing bodies. Between medication side effects, flare-ups, surgeries, sleep deprivation, inability to eat, emotional eating and so many other things, our bodies often look and feel different way more than your average person. It is easy to despise the need for clothing in various shapes and sizes. It is natural to look at scars and other things on our bodies with either disgust, hatred, shame and/or embarrassment.

I know I did for a very long time. However, a couple of years ago, things started changing for me.

Emotional eating and lack of exercise

When I gained 25lbs from emotional eating and lack of exercise, I was at a very low place emotionally. I also HATED the fact that I gained so much weight and didn’t feel like myself. Not to mention, comments from other people and doctors just added to the situation. This made me get down on myself which in turn caused me to turn to food to self soothe. Vicious cycle.

I remember I had a public Facebook Live event to do and told myself that it was good motivation for me to lose weight. But in the back of my mind, I also told myself that even if I didn’t, it wouldn't negate all that I had to offer. My size wasn’t going to impact how intelligent I was. It wasn’t going to change all the good things I was doing to help others. It also wasn’t going to influence anyone’s opinion of me.

Being kind to myself and my body image

I didn’t lose weight for that event and while I didn’t feel as confident as I would have liked, I wasn’t harsh with myself like I had been in the past. This was huge progress for me. It also made me realize how many of us understandably struggle with our body image so much. How could we not? Seriously. We all go through so much as IBD patients.

I am now thankfully at a point where I try and turn negative things in my mind around. For example, when I would self soothe with food I would repeat to myself “I am sorry you are having such a rough day.” Instead of getting down on myself, I show compassion. If I am having a day where I hate my ostomy, I remind myself that it saved my life. It wasn’t a choice and thank God for it because I wouldn’t be alive today. Things like that.

While it isn’t always the easiest thing to do, please remember how much you’ve endured and how strong you are. We all have enough demons and battles to face. The least we can do is go easy on ourselves. It takes practice but it is worth it.

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