I’m having a bout of body-image issues recently. As I try to deal with them without resorting to old behavior patterns, I am digging a lot of old baggage out of my psyche. Things I’d forgotten – like a favorite great-aunt telling a 5’7”, 135 pound, size 9 athletic girl that she was well on her way to being “fat like her mother.”
The issues stemming from ballet are obvious. When all I wanted to be was a classical ballerina, being told “you are a beautiful, healthy girl, but if you want to dance professionally you need to lose 20 pounds” is obvious and, frankly, expected, although sad. Me as a 15 year old athlete heard, when told this: “You are too fat. You are a failure because you cannot meet these body expectations, even though we know they’re unreasonable.” In college, at 5’8” and 150 pounds I made the jazz team, but “only if you lose 35 pounds over the summer.” I starved myself to make that goal, and was denied a weigh-in in the fall anyway. That loss put me at the healthy weight for my 5’1” heart-sister. It’s no wonder I was sick for the first half of my sophomore year until I had gained the weight back. I didn’t realize the part my family had played in my psyche until recently. Even my wonderful, supportive father managed to put in a well-intentioned nail – he had always been overweight and didn’t’ want me to suffer the same stigma.
So that brings me to now. Although not celiac, it appears that an intolerance to grains and some sugars is what has been causing my joint pain and arthritis-like symptoms – since my 20s. The NSAIDs they put me on encouraged my body to gain weight and raised my blood pressure. I suspect, with no scientific evidence, that along with a genetic predisposition, they also conspired to trigger my thyroid issues.
I am trying to disengage my thinking about my weight from my thinking about my overall health, as the weight is a result of the health, not a cause of it, despite what some in the AMA might try to tell me. It’s difficult. Watching a number on the scale is a lot easier than judging how much pain I’m in. And when the pain goes down, so actually does that number. (Note: this is NOT the case with every person. Just mine.) What I’m really afraid of is that as my weight gets down to where I have to start adding grains and other things back into my diet to maintain my health that my eating disorders will kick in again. I already see that if I slip up and eat a piece of toast (or heaven forfend, a cookie!) – not only do I suffer pain in my joints for two days afterward, but my subconscious tells me that one slice was a “binge” and I should go purge it.