Thursday, October 13, 2016

Fat, muscle, weight, CF.... all things Body Image

Disclaimer: These are just MY observations regarding weight and body image, I realise it's not the same for everyone... even some other CF patients may not necessarily agree with my views.

Today I watched a documentary called "Thin"... it follows the story of a few women in an eating disorder rehabilitation clinic. It's not a new documentary/movie, I think it came out in 2006. It was so interesting and sad to see the way these girls saw food and their bodies and how it absolutely ruled their lives.... Ultimately the one lady passed away at the age of 33 due to her eating disorder (anorexia I think it was). Their world is/was sooooo different to the one I mostly grew up in, where I was always encouraged to eat, and weight gain was largely seen as a good thing.

There were times though as a teenager (during some really healthy years) where I felt fat too and tried to lose weight as well, so I haven't spent my whole life trying to gain weight. I probably also gain weight easier than the average CF person from what I've seen and heard. Back when I was 16/17 years old I felt "fat" (I think I weighed about 56kg back then... that's 123 pounds). I went on an all natural diet, cutting out all processed food and sugar and even a lot of fruit and vegetables per the advice of some sort of alternative medicine lady who thought I would have less lung infections this way. (I didn't change any meds, so just tried to supplement my medication with a different eating plan.). After following this strictly for a few months, I DID manage to increase the gaps between antibiotics by a week or so, but at a terrible cost. I lost quite a few kilo's picked up pneumonia or a bad flu or something and lost more weight, along with lung function. I ended up losing like 10 kgs in total. At that point my parents were feeding me anything that I was willing to eat. Even though I was happy about the initial weight loss, my body and lungs took quite a knock from the whole episode, and I never managed to get my weight up that high again pre-transplant, no matter how much I ate or how much Ensure I drank.

The point of that story is that I realised that for me (and this is what those eating disorder girls didn't see) weight = HEALTHY. Looking back at my life, I've clearly been the sickest and weakest when my weight was at its lowest. And there is a reason why you need to be a specific weight in order to be listed for transplant... it means you are stronger. And your body needs to be at a certain weight in order to function properly. I've also generally been physically fitter at times when I was fatter. So at the end of the day EVERYTHING has been better when my body has some extra kilo's to play with.

I've seen friends with CF BATTLE to gain weight. They have feeding tubes inserted surgically in order for them to get night feeds and extra calories. They go through a lot of pain and discomfort just in order to gain a few precious pounds. This is of course on top of taking enzymes to digest the food every time we eat and giving yourself insulin shots if you have CF related diabetes. Reaching that goal weight can be a full-time job.

Other people often joke and say CF people are lucky that they can eat more than normal people and not gain weight (or not AS much), but when you're that desperately trying to gain weight it really IS harder than losing weight! I will admit that I HAVE often enjoyed the fact that generally I don't have to ever restrict my eating (usually only when on high dose steroids and sugars are acting all out of whack), so yes SOMETIMES it is nice. But that is normally the exception. I have also hated having to FORCE my self to eat (or having a parent do it) when you can't even breathe properly, have zero appetite and eating makes you more out of breath - as does a full tummy, and your life literally depends on you gaining weight. So no... it's generally more unlucky than lucky I would say.

So then apart from people glorifying unhealthy skinniness, in the last few years I've seen THESE types of annoying memes/jokes/motivations do the rounds:

This makes me SOOOOOO ANGRY on so many levels!!! Firstly, who the f%$k decides what "real men" like? A bunch of bored women? And are they implying the naturally thin  girls or girls with health issues or who are skinny for whatever reason are only fit for dogs???

Can society please start glorifying ALL body types that are normal and trying their best at being healthy? How cool would it be if STRONG was something women aimed for instead of skinny. What was also messed up in that movie I watched was that the girls weren't allowed to exercise for fear of them losing more weight. How about getting them to build some muscle rather and gain weight in the process too? Teach them that strong > skinny.

In conclusion.... this post might be a bit all over the place and random, but I'm jotting down my thoughts and observations regarding the topic. Right now I'm probably the "fattest" I've ever been, at about 59 kg (130 pounds). So my BMI is 23. (I'm 1.6m tall). On the higher end of normal (apparently normal is 18-25) and I'm proud of it! It means I'm stronger and have more reserves in case of an infection, and I will survive longer. So I LOVE my fat rolls and my muscles (they do as much as they can with what my lungs allow them to) at this point in my life!

So what I hope people will take from this, is: if your body is healthy and happy, don't wish you were prettier or thinner, change your thinking to being STRONG. If you DO weight too much, getting stronger by getting fitter will automatically result in losing weight... although everyone knows muscle weighs more than fat... proving my point. And obviously this is just physically speaking... this post not about intellectual stuff or feminism etc etc. Getting off my soapbox now!


Marilee Chananie said...

I think you look great. And I agree with a lot of what you said. We should all aim for healthy and not society's idea of what is attractive & will sell products (yes-everything from clothing to diet supplements and the so-called catch phrase "lifestyle"). I technically was over the ideal bmi pre-spk transplant but I'm strong too. My weight isn't just the cubbies - it's muscle & I've worked hard to build it. I'll continue too even if it means biannual iron infusions.
Love your blogs -keep them up!��

Alice said...

Thanks Marilee! We both look strong! BMI is also a bit of a silly measurement because it doesn't take into account if weight is muscle or fat!

Anonymous said...

Well said!