In today’s world, negative body image is unfortunately very common. Research has shown that this trend occurs in women and men, both as children and adults. It affects all types of people, regardless of their state of health.
Sadly, it is particularly common for those living with rare and/or chronic conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis (MS), and Crohn’s disease. They may look different than their peers, they may have to follow a certain meal plan, and they may have certain physical limitations. They are therefore at a higher risk of developing depression, anxiety, or eating disorders.
Those with chronic diseases at greater risk for developing a negative relationship with food; it can also be especially dangerous for these individuals. When patients stop their proper care management due to body image concerns, the outcomes can be detrimental. For instance, if you are living with Crohn’s disease and you don’t eat what is right for your body, you may end up needing surgery.
Anna Sweeney has been living with MS since she was 15 years old. She explains that she fought her diagnosis and she didn’t use the walking aids she was supposed to be using. Anna says she had preconceived notions about what she would look like and she didn’t want to accept that this diagnosis was her new reality. Since then however she has learned how to accept her body and take care for herself regardless of how she is feeling each day. She knows she has to prioritize herself and love her body for what it is and what she can do.
Stacey is a 38 year old who was healthy all her life…or so she thought. She was prone to infections as a child but it wasn’t until the year she was married when things took a downturn.
She suddenly gained 60 pounds even though she had been thin her entire life. She wasn’t able to run one lap around the block when previously she was training with her personal trainer.
Stacey gained diagnoses and simultaneously lost her confidence. But she now runs a blog where she shares her journey with chronic illnesses and her path toward self love.
Below are some tips created by those living with chronic and rare conditions for ways to improve your relationship with your body.
Tips for Improving Body Image
- You have to allow yourself to feel everything you feel. It’s okay to express your feelings of frustration, resentment, and anger. If you don’t allow yourself to feel these emotions, you will never be able to process them. It’s not fair to yourself to force yourself to feel happy when you’re not. You’re human, and you’re allowed to feel.
- Know that every day will be different. Some days your body image may be great, other days you may struggle to choose an outfit. But even though there will be highs and lows that you can’t control, you can control how you handle each of these moments.
- Understand that beauty doesn’t only lie in one’s appearance. Take the time to recognize the beauty others see in you. Societal standards do not have to be your own.
- Celebrate who you are and what you can do as opposed to comparing your looks and abilities to others. You are incredible.
- Surround yourself with people who support you, uplift you, love you, and make you feel good about yourself. These people could be members of a support group for your condition, family, friends, or a partner. Find these people and hold on to them.
- Appreciate your good days. Appreciate what you can do. Don’t undervalue your resilience and your strength. You’ve gone through so much and risen above it. That in and of itself shows your beauty.
You can read more about this topic here.