“I wish I had Crohn’s so I could be thin.”
“You’re so lucky you don’t gain weight!”
“I wish I had Crohn’s so I could eat whatever I want.”
“You don’t need to workout, you’re already so little.”
“I know Crohn’s sucks, but at least you look amazing.”
While my loved one’s meant no harm with these “compliments”, phrases like such can be extremely damaging to one’s body image, mine included.
Through my adolescence and young adult years, I feel fortunate to have been able to maintain confidence in my physical appearance. Sure, I’m not perfect and I’ve picked on my looks in front of the mirror, like I’m sure many of you have; I’ve have bad haircuts, worn regrettable t-shirts, my teeth are crooked and my skin sometimes breaks out. Yet, these are not the body image issues I struggle with deeply.
Upon looking in the mirror, I’m happy with what I see; dark blonde beach waves, deep brown eyes and a faint smile. Now, lift the veil. I’m still standing there, but the reflection has changed.
I see pale, bruised skin hugging my body; I see my hand hanging so limply from my sling after my shoulder inevitably subluxated for the third time that day. I see scars scattered like stars on my belly. My once defined abs, are lopsided from surgery and bloated consistently. I see the disappointment and anger as hot tears roll down the cheeks of a young girl whose only dream of playing college soccer was demolished. I see thinned hair and brittle nails from my medications. I see a body that hates me so much it wants to kill me.
“I wish I had Crohn’s so I could be thin.” Well, I’m not thin. My body is constantly starving and malnourished. This deprivation led my doctor to believe that I had an eating disorder. The only issue with this diagnosis is that I didn’t have an eating disorder. Yet, she negated my truth, dismissed my symptoms and continually gave me pamphlets and resources for ED support. Crohn’s doesn’t make you thin; the pain, medications, surgeries, scopes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, fatigue, depression and more make you thin.
“You’re so lucky you don’t gain weight!” And YOU, my friend, are so lucky you can gain the healthy weight you need. About 6 months ago, my doctor explained to me that I was underweight and needed to put on some pounds; well, unfortunately since then, I’ve lost another 25 pounds. I haven’t weighed this much since I was 13. I would love to gain a little bit of weight if all it meant was some warm and happy bites of pizza, followed by a little movement later on. Part of why I don’t gain weight is because of my extended hospital stays. I am currently writing this from my hospital bed, unable to eat and unable to partake in all the yummy Thanksgiving food tomorrow. So, am I really so lucky to not gain weight?
“I wish I had Crohn’s so I could eat whatever I want.” All I have to say to this one is, what the fuck?! I don’t know where you acquired your IBD knowledge, but this disease typically eliminates a lot of different foods from your diet; especially your favorite sugary and fatty snacks. You can’t eat whatever you want without risking extreme pain, diarrhea, ER visits or a bowel obstruction. So again, what the fuck, dude?
“You don’t need to workout, you’re already so little.” Being thin is not my goal for working out, and I don’t believe it should be anyone’s goal. I think the goal of exercise is to be healthy. I workout because it helps my arthritic joints, relaxes my knotted back muscles, quiets my anxious brain and resets my headspace. Working out and being healthy/fit is way different than just being thin.
“I know Crohn’s sucks, but at least you look amazing.” First of all, you actually don’t know that Crohn’s sucks. Secondly, under the make-up, slim figure, curled hair, and lip-gloss is the same old sick girl that would rather have her health than her looks, any day.
To put it plain and simple, the grass isn’t always greener, my friend.
While I’m not here to propagate, nor negate the validity of “thin privilege”, I just want to bring awareness that there are many factors that influence your weight. Whether a person is underweight or overweight, we don’t get to judge. I am too thin because of an illness; yet there are so many other diseases out there that cause you to gain weight instead. We are so quick to diagnose a female like me with an eating disorder, and we are too quick to label a person who is overweight as “lazy”.
It is not our place to put these labels on one another. You never know what someone is going through.
So today, while you are sitting around the dining table, inhaling glorious mashed potatoes, warm turkey and pumpkin pie, remember the “thin” girl in the hospital, without her family and who’s unable to eat.
Thin isn’t always a privilege.