Shimmies and Body Image


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.

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6 Responses to Shimmies and Body Image

  1. Do you have problems with gluten do you think? I know Soooo many people that have eliminated it (or wheat, not as hard as eliminating gluten) from their diet, and are in much less pain because of it.
    The weight *isn’t* your fault! Stupid illnesses! It’s a result of your health, not the cause, as you say. Wish the dr’s would be more open to that concept! You have no idea how many times I’ve had to tell myself and my friends this, and they’ve told me over the years. You’re in no position to ‘diet’, but you can eat a healthy diet. Above all, eat! It takes a lot of energy to move a larger body around, and your body is struggling already because of the illnesses. I myself think you should be eating grains – just not wheat ones. (eg quinoa). I have seen, again and again, people improving in their health because they have eliminated at least wheat from their diet, (not necessarily going the whole way and eliminating gluten itself). This isn’t ‘books I’ve read’, it’s the chronic illness forums I read every day.
    This is a sensitive issue – I hope that I’ve come across in the right way 🙂 I’ve had IBS for 17 years, have 4 other intestinal conditions, and can blabber on about diet for hours.

    • Drs DO need to be more aware of the concept. Have you looked into the HAES (Health at Every Size) movement?

      Actually, I’m on an anti-inflammatory diet that helps immensely. And while I don’t test positive for celiac, eliminating wheat entirely, and limiting both rice and fried foods greatly improves my pain issues dramatically, as did adding the supplement of Sam-E. (So did going back to weight training this month, but that’s a story for another day…) When I’m on the thyroid meds and the anti-inflammatory diet, I melt away, making some friends immensely annoyed with me. Mostly I’m worried that when I get back to where I OUGHT to be, my ballet mindset will kick back in and I will go back to very bad habits from those days, because I will no longer identify myself so much as “fat” as “If I just lost that last 35 pounds I’d be perfect.” Which, of course, isn’t the case at all, but leads to all sorts of eating disorders…

  2. I discovered grains were the cause of my IBS, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading about it since then–from all that I’ve seen, you don’t NEED grains for a healthy diet. Just the opposite, actually! Grains were only introduced to the human diet about 10,000 years ago, the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms. And the grains we’re eating today are genetically very removed from the grains our grandparents ate.

    • Ain’t it the truth, though. Sweet corn has been hybridized to the point where it is just starch and sugar. Which annoys me greatly, ’cause I liked the stuff 40 years ago that my grandmother grew. 🙂 I was listening to an article the other day talking about the changes in the grains. If I remember correctly, they’ve raised both the sugar and the protein content of them, and lowered the fiber content… not to mention the GM issues with adding tuna genes or other things to “help them grow better” (and react strangely to our bodies…)

  3. I just knew that if I said anything, someone would kick me. It’s SO individual. Quinoa is an ‘ancient’ grain, btw (if you didn’t know) so for a carb energy source, which we do need, it’s a good choice if you are going to include grains.
    Dratted ‘ballet mind set’!

    • LOL! No kicking from me. Although I did kick my ballet mistress once while she was correcting my grand battement – when I tried to tell her she was in the way, she said, “just do it and stop whining.” So I kicked. My pointe shoe collided with her shin. Hard. I shouldn’t still be smug about that, but I am.

      We’ve replaced a lot of our grains with quinoa – I’m working on a quinoa instead of wheat tabouli (LOVE tabouli!) Yum.

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