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TW: Mental Health, Body Image, Disordered Eating
I’m ready to begin my journey of body positivity. For a while now, I’ve been following an Instragam account called BodyPosiPanda who inspires me to make peace with my body, rather than waste any more of my time and energy pulling it apart in the mirror every day.
As thyroid patients, we often gain and lose weight, sometimes rather quickly, too, and this can be hard for us to adapt to or come to terms with, in a society so obsessed with weight and body image.
We start beating ourselves up for something that is totally normal (body shapes changing over time) and can quickly begin to obsess over calories, food, scales, dieting and mirrors. I know I have. I’ve denied myself food when my stomach was rumbling in bed at night. I’ve refused to eat when I felt dizzy and faint from low blood sugar. I’ve downed a bottle of water and chewed gum in an attempt to take away the hunger pangs.
But I am done.
As someone with chronic health conditions that affect my energy, metabolism, weight, mental health and more, I’m done with spending so much of my energy obsessing, worrying and beating myself up over something that is absolutely normal and makes me no less worthy of love; my weight and my body. It’s time to make peace. It’s time to recover.
Body positivity is the idea that you learn to look positively at your body, rather than negatively (such as focusing on areas or features that you don’t like about yourself) and instead learning to love your body. It’s about growing confidence within your body and how you look and being able to say ‘I rock!’, whether you fit societies expectations of the ‘perfect body’ or not.
I posted about this on my Instagram page and straight away, received comments from someone totally missing the point. Implying that any thyroid patient who decides to take the route of learning to love and accept who they are, instead of focusing on their weight and exercise regimen is ‘giving up’. I was astounded.
Many thyroid patients aren’t giving up if they don’t exercise as much as they’d like to. Many are bed-bound, many are housebound or otherwise don’t have the energy to push themselves physically. Or perhaps they somehow do, just like how I used to make myself work out every day until my legs were weak, wobbly and unable to take me up and down the stairs. Because I was obsessed with losing my hypothyroid weight and put it above my actual, physical health, I was worsening my health conditions by doing too much.
Now, I do agree, that exercise is very important, as is good diet, nutrition etc. We can’t rely on medication alone to treat such a complicated disease/health condition. But this person was missing the point that not every thyroid, adrenal or chronic fatigue syndrome patient CAN exercise as much as is ideal to.
Some, like me, even over do it and push themselves to exertion because of the pressure society and people like this particular Instagram user, put on them to maintain this ideal body standard, despite the fact that we have a health condition (and often, we have others that come hand in hand with hypothyroidism) that directly impacts metabolic function, the burning of calories and energy levels. There is such thing as balance. And we have to be understanding that we can’t compare our own case of Hypothyroidism or illness to another’s. Diseases and chronic illnesses can present with different symptoms and varying degrees in each patient. It would be ignorant to not recognise this.
I have pushed my body physically, to train for 5k’s, play badminton regularly, attend weekly dance sessions, walking a couple of miles to and form work each day and I’ve restricted calories, cut things out my diet and harmed my mental and physical health further (on top of what my health conditions have already done) due to this need to aspire to a very specific and unrealistic body shape. And this is it.
This is what I’ve realised:
Life is too short and I need to cut myself some slack.
Don’t get me wrong, trying to challenge these thoughts and habits will be difficult and reaching the point of body positivity is a long journey, but I know it will be worth it.
Lowering calorie intake in a bid to shift a few pounds only lowers active thyroid hormone and worsens my health conditions and therefore physical health. Instead of dieting, obsessing over my weight on the bathroom scale and beating myself up about weight gain which, is not only normal to experience but is way more likely with an underactive thyroid, I’m going to focus on eating well, following my doctor’s advice regarding working on my gut health, exercising when my body is happy to but not getting angry at myself when it can’t and then however my body looks is just how it looks. It’s often a reflection of whats going on inside and what I believe is more important to focus on is our actual, physical health.
I want to wake up feeling refreshed. I want more energy. I want less brain fog. Less migraines. The acne to clear up. In other words, I’d rather have that than shift some weight I’ve gained by dieting and making myself feel worse from not eating enough and having anxiety over calories. I want a healthy mind, that accepts what it sees in the mirror. I need to make peace. I need to begin recovery.
Weight does not define you and there are so many more important things.
Do you worry about your weight?
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Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology. She is well-recognised as a crucial and influential contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her books include “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism”.