Body image is a touchy subject. Your body and how you view it is personal. Speaking for a lot of the chronic illness community, we all do not have the best relationship with our bodies 24/7. They go through a lot of pain and trauma based on the situation. But the last thing chronically ill patients need is for people to comment on our bodies. This post is to provide insight to others that you should not bring up body image/weight talk around someone who is sick.
*disclaimer: I have collected these thoughts and feelings from several of my chronically ill friends and myself on how we feel about people’s comments. You may mean well if you say these things but remember it can be a sensitive topic for others. We should all watch our words more :)*
They know they are
Yes, we know we gained or lost weight. Yes, we know that we look puffy from our treatments or we look pale. We are fully aware of our bodies since we see it every day as everyone else does with theirs. I know these comments come from a place of kindness if one is saying “you look thin!” This is how diet culture has trained society to react to someone’s weight loss. But what if you are someone who is sick? Imagine praising someone for being sick. That is what saying “you look so skinny, what is your secret” implies to someone with a chronic disease.
It doesn’t mean or feel the same
Say you are someone who workouts out and eats right and lost a significant amount of weight. Then your co-worker says you look toned and slim. You would naturally feel good about yourself. When someone comments on a chronically ill person’s weight, they do not feel this pride in their self. What they do feel is that person is complimenting what their illness is doing to their body. Hence, making the person feel defined by their condition.
They probably don’t want to feel this way
No one wants to be sick. Even having a simple cold is tedious. When you have a cold, it is common to experience a runny nose and watery eyes. You don’t want to look like you are sick when you are. This is what chronically ill patients go through. Maybe you have Crohn’s and take prednisone. You don’t want to have the classic round face and puffiness. To someone healthy, this could seem like you are gaining your health back due to the extra weight. Or maybe you have gastroparesis and are rapidly losing weight and feel half your size. When someone compliments your appearance as a result of your illness, it is a constant reminder of your condition and body image.
But remember… all bodies are beautiful (inspired by Claire Wineland)
All in all, as a society, we like to have things be only black or white and good or bad. But what about grey? The grey is neither positive or negative. Bodies take this position. Say you are someone who is really sick or someone who is healthy, they can both make the best out of their bodies. Your body is a work of art. Art is not supposed to make you feel good all the time and ready to walk the runway. A masterpiece is supposed to make you think. I am tieing this into today’s post because what someone says about your body is not the whole picture. You are the picture.