145. Illness, Body Image, and Why I Eat the Way I Do.

Strawberry Shortcake Muffin, Flourless, Oatmeal, Added Sugar Free

For a while I didn’t quite believe I was getting heavier. I was like, There’s no way God would make me sit in a wheelchair AND make me get bigger. Yeah…There was a way. And in the grand scheme of things my weight is the least of my issues. My doctors generally don’t prioritize it since it doesn’t look too bad, while my balance and gait are obviously problematic, so they are the first targets for healing. To clarify, I have gained more than 1/3 of my pre-AVM body weight. Let me draw you a picture:

Weight Post AVM Drug-Induced Weight Gain

I do not look like I’ve gained as much as I have. The reason for my gain is probably a combination of a) habitually eating beyond satiety so I could reach my mandatory minimums in the hospital, b) not being able to walk and c) medication. “C” is the clincher – we figured out that it wasn’t just A+B when I gained 7 lbs in one week. We would’ve figured this out sooner but I hid my scale for a while bc I didn’t want to worry about it and my mobility issues made standing on one difficult.

I have made reference to my drug-induced weight gain but have never written about it at length. The primary reason is that I have been scared of hurting anyone’s feelings. If you’re my friend and think, oh my, she must be scrutinizing my size and shape every time she sees me – you’re wrong. I read somewhere that it’s a widespread phenomenon for people to think that their friends are very good looking. So if you’re wondering why you’ve got so many fabulous looking friends it’s because you like them. It’s true for me – I’ve got friends who all look different and all look great.

The other reason is that I didn’t want people to think, Wow, that girl is SO unhealthily preoccupied with her weight. Well, I don’t have much to say in my defense. I DO think about it a lot. At RIO (3rd Hospital) I was largely in la-la-land but I was extremely concerned that I was heavier when I was discharged than when I got sick. There was a scale built in to the bed and my nurse told me my weight in kilograms, and although I did not know if she was real I had no trouble converting the kgs to lbs in my head.

I think about it so much because I thought about it a lot before I got sick, too. I went through a “thin” phase in my early-mid twenties, when I was actually underweight since I worked a lot and was rarely hungry. The thing is that I liked being thin – it was easy to buy clothes and I knew how to dress myself. I then went back to school and gained a LOT of weight and lost most of it when I went back to work (this time in Oregon). My weight loss was not intentional – it was a byproduct of my new lifestyle. I was happy that I was finally fitting into some of my clothes from before I went to B School, and then I got sick.

The main problem with me getting bigger (aside from the aesthetic/vanity issue) is that it’s yet another thing that’s different from what I was used to. I was busy learning how to walk – I really didn’t have extra brain power to spend on learning how to clothe my larger person. It’s a good thing we didn’t bring many clothes home from OR since I can’t wear any of them anyway. I’ve also bought like 6+ sets of “Rehab” Pants (soft yoga pants) since I keep outgrowing the old ones. This is expensive! And I understand that one shouldn’t dwell on appearances too much, but I refuse to go around in immodestly tight clothes.

I have ceased taking all prescriptions but have not been able to lose the weight I gained. My body is still going crazy from what happened to my brain, and not being able to exercise as much as I want to doesn’t help. I do try to eat well, which is why you see strange recipes I think are delicious on my blog. I try to eat fewer flour-based things, which matches the requirements of my gluten-free and celiac friends, and my family’s history of diabetes makes me sugar-wary.

For the record, let me just point out that stereotypes work both ways: Not everyone you see who you think is heavier than they should be is a) heavier than they should be and/or b) that weight due to their life choices. Also, not every thin person you see has an eating disorder. In the event that you come into contact with someone who IS dealing with a weight issue due to life choices or an eating disorder, I recommend just trying to be a good friend – you don’t know all the factors that are feeding into their relationship with food. A lot of people eat the way they saw people around them eat when they were growing up. Others don’t eat as a form of taking control over one part of their life since all the other parts are spiraling out of control. Remember that eating well and living fit takes time and money – it was easy for me to eat fresh/raw/whole and exercise a lot while I was living independently because I had no one else to care for in my household.

I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks about these issues. Both women and men can have body image issues. Add illness into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for discouragement. But I did this once before, and I’ll do it again. This = redefine my relationship with food, be very aware of the kind of fuel I put in my body, and just submit this whole issue to the Lord.

One of my favorite recipe-idea sources is Pinterest. That’s how I found The Dashing Dish. I clicked on “My Story” haphazardly and read about the ups and downs of Katie Ferrell’s (the founder’s) weight. Imagine my surprise when I read the following: Everything finally started to change when I took this to the Lord in prayer. I knew I wanted to glorify Him with this body that He gave me to take care of. I came to the Lord and asked Him to help me. I asked Him to reveal to me what His plan was for me and to show me what I needed to know in order to treat my body right.

Strawberry Shortcake Muffins Dashing Dish Learning How

Wow – that’s just what I needed to hear. Also, I was pleased to find that the Dashing Dish offers not only encouragement, but recipes for things I’d like to eat! Example: I made these strawberry shortcake muffins. The only changes I made were 1) no sweetener and 2) I blended the strawberries into the batter and just garnished the top with a few slices (once I found our egg slicer). I also “frosted” the top of one for my sister since we LOVE to eat cupcakes together.

Strawberry Cream Cheese “frosting”

  • Equal parts Greek Yogurt and cream cheese
  • Splash of vanilla
  • 2 strawberries.

Blend it all (I used an immersion blender). You might want to warm the cream cheese ever so slightly in the microwave to facilitate this. I added some chia seeds to increase the gelatinous nature of the “frosting” so it would sit on my cake better. Since this contains strawberries (a seedy fruit), the chia seeds did not weird me out, but I would not recommend frosting all your cakes at once. In fact, I like these warmly toasted, split in half and then smeared with the “frosting” better.

PS. If you’re a subscriber (thank you!) and did not receive an email with yesterday’s post, please read it! 143. The Listener’s QT

PPS. I really do think my friends are very good looking, indeed. If you disagree, Leo would like to “talk” to you.

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3 thoughts on “145. Illness, Body Image, and Why I Eat the Way I Do.

  1. I know I eat poorly, but since I only eat when hungry and only until I’m full (and don’t have many snacks around – not by purpose mind you), my weight gain has been minimal over the years despite my lack of activity. I guess it’s a blessing, but it kind of hides my unhealthy eating habits which isn’t so good.

    The funny thing is, for some reason I must subconsciously think I’m bigger than I am when ordering pants, because many times I order them 1 size too big and have to return them. In fact, I have a large box of pants right now that needs to go back. Not sure why my mind hiccups like that, but it’s aggravating because it costs me shipping money.

    • Shipping charges drive me nuts – but when online shopping is so much easier sometimes it’s worth it – but I have not mastered the online return. I order things that are too small so I just keep them and plan to shrink myself.

  2. Wow, Ning, I didn’t know The Dashing Dish existed, but just so enjoyed watching her little “about me” video. What a great testimony.

    Thanks for be so open about your own thoughts/struggles with this issue… it’s not something people often talk about, but I think it would help a lot of people if it were more easily discussed.

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