Chronic illnesses can affect the body in an extremely wide range of ways, but the one that seems to get a lot of attention is weight changes. Weight loss and weight gain can severely impact not only the way that we view ourselves but also how others perceive us. When someone’s weight changes due to their chronic illness, it’s very likely that their weight is not within their control. Medicine, birth control, restricted diets, and much more are linked into this complicated situation. Something to note is that this is a common experience for those with chronic illnesses. Whether you lost or gained weight outside of your control, it’s a difficult experience, especially when those around you react in certain manners.
Personally, my chronic illnesses have caused me to lose weight. My mast cell activation syndrome heavily crossed out many foods on my safety list. I have allergic reactions to most foods. My histamine intolerance further decreased that list. My SIBO makes it difficult to even drink water sometimes. My weight loss isn’t pretty or inspirational. It’s a lot of pain, both physical and emotional. It’s being proud that I was able to eat something without any reactions but then my stomach wanting to throw up. It’s eating food that should be safe, but then having an allergic reaction. It’s not being able to go to any restaurants due to airborne reactions that can put me in a flare for a week or even longer. As someone who has dealt with an unhealthy relationship with food in the past, this experience has been extremely emotionally triggering. Those old disordered thoughts of “not being worthy of food” creep their way back into my mind. So when I have someone point out my weight loss, especially as an accomplishment, you can only imagine how much it further allows my mind to creep into that narrative. Whenever this happens, especially if someone knows that I’m sick, it feels as if they’re saying that my worth as a slimmer figure is better than the much healthier body that I used to have. In my heart, I try to explain to myself that’s not the case, but it still hurts. It’s a struggle for me to keep my weight up. It’s a struggle to not faint from lack of calories. I’m trying my best every single day to help my body thrive as much as it can. My chronic illnesses that cause my weight loss aren’t “lucky” or something to be desired. It’s a constant physically and emotionally straining struggle.
For those who gain weight due to their chronic illness, they’re also treated in a way that hurts them. Pointing out something that they can’t control, especially talking about it in a negative manner, is extremely damaging. I took certain medications that I needed to be able to function at all. Guess what? I gained weight daily from them no matter how little I ate. That’s just how some bodies respond to certain medicines. Stop pointing out what you think is wrong about someone else’s body. Even if you’re not doing it to be inherently rude, it’s still likely to come across in a harmful manner. Not everyone is able to follow some sort of weight loss plan, especially when chronic illnesses are involved.
A lot of people deal with chronic illnesses that affect their weight and other aspects of their appearance as well. Weight is an extremely sensitive topic for many people. Calling those whose bodies are forced to lose weight as “lucky” or those whose bodies are forced to gain weight as “not trying hard enough” promotes extremely problematic ideas about the worth of human beings equating to how slim they can become. Your weight doesn’t determine your value. In general, especially when you don’t know the person extremely well, it’s best to not point out changes about their bodies. Allow people to embrace their bodies as you never really know what someone else is going through.