“Oh, Fanny, you’re so lucky.
You don’t have to worry about what you eat and working out.
You just have a perfect body.”
Of course I can’t fault anyone for saying that to me; they don’t know my circumstances. Of course it sounds nice to say. But damn if that doesn’t sting every time I hear it.
Unfortunately, many CF patients are malnutritioned and their growth is stunted to some degree because their bodies have difficulty absorbing the nutrients and calories from food. While the respiratory symptoms are fairly well known and easily identifiable the same mucus that clogs the airways also clogs the digestive tract. It’s not as easy as just “eat more”. Our pancreas doesn’t make enough (or any) enzymes to aid in digestion and the mucus prevents absorption from even happening, so in some cases, it doesn’t even matter how many calories you ingest – 2,000 a day or 4,000 – it won’t put weight on. Everyone can sympathize with those struggling to lose weight – it’s a sexy cause to support because it’s more relatable (yeah, I said sexy). But what about those that can’t gain enough weight to run basic physiological functions? Full circle back to my original purpose: you can’t judge anybody because you don’t know their circumstances.
Here’s a bit of my background in terms of body shape and size:
I was fortunate enough not to have much of a growth issue growing up. I was only mildly afflicted with CF. I grew up to be 5’6″ and all throughout my pubescent years I developed normally. I maintained a steady weight of about 130 lbs for over 15 years. Let’s see, how do I remain tactful here…I was actually amply ‘blessed’ in body proportions. I was thin, yet still defined and ‘voluptuous‘. And, let’s just say, that I wasn’t embarrassed to showcase it either (much to the chagrin of my parents), right high-school friends (oh, the perks we all enjoyed in downtown Windsor as a result, eh?!)? Ok, minds out of the gutter, let’s re-focus…All things considered, I didn’t suffer from self-esteem issues or any other body image problems that teenage girls wrestle with. I was always confident and felt great about myself.
I was happily pregnant and looking forward to putting on weight during the normal course of growing a human being in my body. My body, however, had different plans. I gained about 10 pounds (I made it to 143 lbs!) and then by the end of my 5th month of pregnancy my weight plateaued. From thereon out, I began losing weight steadily. Now, 143 lbs doesn’t leave a ton of wiggle room to lose weight for a pregnant chick. I was hospitalized with pneumonia right before I was to travel back to my home town to attend the baby shower my mom and siblings were throwing for me. So they had to cancel it on the advice of my physicians. My sisters-in-law were gracious enough to throw me a baby shower here in Chicago a few weeks later. They knew I wasn’t well so they asked me if I wanted to cancel it and I said “no, I’m fine.” When I wasn’t; I thought I was being a warrior by pretending to be fine. I thought I could keep a wraps on the severity of my situation and that no one would know – I was so delusional. I looked ghastly but because we were living it day-to-day we (and by “we” I mean myself, my husband and my mom) didn’t appreciate the shock value of my appearance. At the time of my Chicago baby shower I was 124 lbs. At the time of delivery, just 2 weeks later (I carried him to full term) I was a hefty 122 lbs (when we conceived I was 135 lbs, just for reference). Less than 6 weeks after I delivered my son (naturally), I tipped the scales at a whopping 102 lbs. I was so skeletal. Looking back now, I looked scary; terrifying. I honestly looked like a pale corpse with caked on makeup, a desperate attempt at trying to hide the dark, sunken in bags under my eyes. My skin was hanging off of my body. You could count my ribs and the vertebrae in my back. My once voluptuous curves were flat and sagging. Every part of my body was rail-thin; my fingers were so skinny that my wedding & engagement rings would just slip right off. Every part.
That’ll take a toll on someone, ya know? I’m still adjusting to the ‘new me’. I’m still adjusting to not being 130 lbs of curvaceous juiciness, but rather thinner and less voluptuous sometimes. I go through ups and downs (more on my GI complications to come) where I’m happy with the way I fill out my clothes but then I lose 10 pounds almost immediately with one hospital stay and I’m dejected and embarrassed by my body shape once again until I gain it back and the cycle starts again. When I’m down to 110-115 lbs and my clothes are all hanging off of me I wear the push ups and the pads and the tape and the extra layer just to try to feel like myself again (how hard did you laugh when I called you into my hospital room to show you my padded ‘fanny’ undergarment? Yeah, you know who you are! 😉 I always try to find the humor in my predicament so I embraced the article of clothing I bought that was labeled the “Kim Kardashian”!). Yup, I grew up with a healthy sense of self. But accepting myself as I continue on this roller coaster is still a work in progress.
In conclusion, I don’t have the perfect body because ‘perfect’ is not an objective measure. We need to all remember that. So, please stop telling me to just “eat a cheeseburger and fries”. Because I do. Trust me, I do. I eat more than your 250 lb man most times. And I wonder…what would the reaction be if I walked around telling people that it’s “just as simple as putting that pizza and coke down. Less caloric intake = lose pounds. Simple. Why are you having such a hard time losing weight, sweetie?” But I wouldn’t. Because I can’t judge anyone. Oh yeah, sure, there are plenty of times that I want to speak up and voice my obnoxious opinion (“put down that drink, you lush!”, “spend more time teaching your kid”, “discipline that kid!”, “why is your kid so filthy?”, “how dare you wear those shoes with that skirt?!” etc., etc, etc…) , judging everyone for decisions that are completely inconsequential to my life just like everyone else does in their inner dialogue. Then I stop myself. I have an opinion about everything (yeah, yeah…I know you know) but honestly, if what you do doesn’t affect me I have no comment to make. I just don’t care enough to make it (sorry if you’re vain enough to think I do). Don’t get me wrong, if you come for me, I’ll clap back, possibly harder than you can handle (and then I MAY get carried away…I’m not perfect here people!). I’ll operate on defense, for sure. But I won’t spontaneously criticize or judge someone – not my business, not my place to tell you what you’re doing wrong.
Whether you’re overweight, underweight or perfect weight we’re all just trying to feel comfortable in our skin. Join me in accepting everyone else as they are but more importantly, join me in accepting ourselves just as we are. Sure, you may want to change the way you look (health reasons, vanity…whatever) but you can’t just change physically. You shouldn’t want to change because you hate yourself. You should make better decisions (whether it’s food or exercise or relationships etc.) because you LOVE yourself. You have to love and accept yourself before you can expect others to do the same. You are enough. And once you value your own strength, then you can choose how you want to better yourself. Excuse the cheesiness here, but it’s true: accept yourself, love yourself. I am enough. I. Am. Enough. I need to constantly remind myself (sometimes to no avail) that no matter how my clothes fit, or what the scale says I need to keep things in perspective: I’m alive, strong and here to raise my baby. I went ice skating with my husband and son today and we raced (I won, by the way. I used to be an all-star, professional rollerblader if I do say so myself). It’s just difficult to remember that all the time…you get it, don’t you? Let’s all agree when we’re extra-hard on ourselves and hate the mirror so damn much, take a step back, put things in perspective and just… (you guessed it) breathe.
*This pic was taken a few hours before I delivered my son. It doesn’t do the condition I was in any justice but there are very few pics of me during that time (and those that know me know how much I love taking pics – I’m always the annoying “c’mon everyone, get together, gimme a smile!” everywhere I go). Not very many people have seen this pic at all because it makes me so extremely emotional when I take a long, hard look at it. But look how happy we are awaiting the arrival of our blessing…*