Pain & Body Image

Four body shapes of females.
Four body shapes of females. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My body has betrayed me, by giving me pain, changing is size, shape and appearance. I didn’t appreciate my body the way I should have. I regret that.


All my life, I have been active and busy. My Mother has said I never sat still and was always on to the next thing. My eldest is like that too, so we understand each other. Before I had my first baby, I travelled all the time, did yoga, gardening, swimming, walking (lots and lots of walking), dancing and goofing around. Eating, however, was not a fun thing for me, still isn’t. I eat to sustain life, not for enjoyment. I LOVE to cook and experiment with food, but if you could just give me something else to fill me up, that would be great!


When I got pregnant the first time, I gained 57 pounds. I was eating all the right things, but my baby was hungry….at least that is what I use as the excuse for eating chocolate like it was my last day on Earth. Pregnancy has been the only time I have enjoyed eating. 4 months after she was born, I was back in my skinny pants. After my second baby, I was back in my wedding dress and my formal dress from 1987 (which is always good for a laugh – ahhh big shoulders and baby blue satin). Slowly, I noticed that my waist was expanding. I didn’t know why. Skirts started to become tight, my butt started to get bigger and I felt my shape just slipping away.


After 2 years of my disability, I was limited in my mobility. I knew that this was a contributing factor to my weight gain, and I started to do some excercise. I have to be careful how I excercise as it might set my pain spirals off. The exhaustion of the pain took its’ toll on me too, moving became such a brutal thing. I couldn’t do sit ups as one of my injuries is in my C-spine and I couldn’t do push ups because of my right arm.


I researched diet and low fat options. Processed, prepared and fast foods were almost entirely eliminated from my diet. I replaced Ice Cream with Frozen Yogurt, chocolate chip cookies from a bag with Oatmeal/Choco cookies w/ Flax, Wheat Bran, etc., Banana Bread w/ applesauce & canola oil, flax, etc., homemade chicken stock, replaced butter or oil with parchment paper and well the list goes on. My familys’ regular diet was always low fat meat, chicken and fish; lots of veggies (barely cooked), fruit, whole grain bread (no white), etc. Portions are small, as I find having a lot of food on my plate, automatically makes me nauseous.


Insomnia began about 2 years in; I started sleeping about 45 minutes to 2 hours at a time. Pain wouldn’t leave me alone in any aspect of my life. I used to be the smallest girl of the group now I am the biggest. I weighed 115-120 lbs at 5’6″ and it was a struggle to keep that weight on. Sizes used to be Extra Small to Small and now I am in Large.


The worst times are seeing people who haven’t laid eyes on me for a few years. The automatic response is as follows: glance at stomach, furrowed brow, eyes widen, expression starts to solidify to not betray horror, cue the obvious look away from my abdomen while they start to gain composure. My abdomen protrudes right below my chest. I now have boobs, never had those before (pregnancy &  nursing excluded). Here are a few comments that have been hard for me to take.


  • “Oh, congrats, I didn’t know you were expecting again!”. I walked away saying no I am not pregnant and this person, literally chased me down the street saying. “Are you sure, you must be pregnant, I mean look at you. Don’t try to hide it.” I kept walking and said “I am NOT pregnant”. Believe it or not, she asked me again. I wanted to crawl into a hole.
  • I was at the playground with my children talking to a personal trainer. The topic was my weight. I said “I don’t know what to do, I was always a size 2-6, now I am over that. I never had this problem in my life.” The personal trainer was saying, “It is swelling and I am going through it too, sometimes stress will do that.” Behind me a mother said, “YOU WERE A SIZE 4, WOW”. The shock and disdain woven in those words, was a stab right through my heart.
  • My little 3-year-old cousin said, “Aunt Kate, is there a baby in there.”
  • My youngest looked at a photo of me and said, “Look at you there Mummy, look at how little you were.” This was a picture after my first baby.
  • a neurologist said, “Well, it isn’t like you are obese?”
  • An endocrinologist said to me about my weight gain, “We don’t have the same bodies at 40 that we did at 20.” I wanted to say, I know that but, I fit into my wedding dress after my second. I bought a size 0 dress, for gosh sakes.”


Until a few years ago, I had a great wardrobe, did my hair and makeup everyday, was always put together. Now I feel like a frumpy, fat pile of dirt. My self-image is so ruined, that I can’t even look in the mirror anymore. I will not change in front of anyone. I am so embarrassed about my appearance, that I am afraid to go to parties or social occasions. I can’t bear to have anyone look at me with those eyes of disgust and pity. I sense people watch every bite that goes into my mouth. What they don’t know, is I literally have to fight a gag reflex when eating. I try to hide myself all the time. My wedding rings don’t fit anymore and I hate that too.


My Pain Specialist has tried to help me figure out what is happening to my body. I had high levels of Cortisol in my blood, which is a contributor to weight retention. The swelling in my face, comes from my neck pain, I know it is fluid for sure. Lack of sleep is also a contributing factor to my weight. Constipation from my medication is also part of the problem, as I can feel it inside my body.


It may seem silly to many, I know that people have way worse issues to deal with. I try to concentrate on the fact that my husband has never said Boo about my appearance. It is hard on him too, as he doesn’t want the girls to see my talk about my weight and body image. He is right. I am not setting a good example for them. My low self-esteem has made me so introverted that I don’t like being touched some of the time, because I feel repulsed by people touching me. It isn’t about them, it is my internal cringing at how disgusting I feel about myself.


Slowly my body has turned on me. It isn’t well and I know that. I wish I could explain to everyone how I feel, but they don’t get it. Some think I am petty and silly, others think I am lying about what I eat, some think I don’t look any different and others don’t say anything to me, but to each other. I can’t even begin to think about what people are saying. It just makes me want to cry.


To know, I mean really know, that your body is sick is surreal. I can’t explain it. I want to be me again. I want to not be afraid of seeing people. I want to not feel shame. I want to feel strong. I want to feel well. I want to feel like I am part of my friends. I want to find a shred of the girl I was somewhere deep in the mess of my body. I can feel some of the swelling going down. Each day I am committed to getting better. I want to be a role model for my girls. I want to feel secure about myself, so that the outside doesn’t matter. I want to be grateful that I am able to move at all.


I don’t know how other people handle the issues of their own bodies betraying them. People who have large tumours, missing eyes, burns on their faces or any other type of disfigurement are able to hold their heads up high and go about their lives. What is wrong with me? Is it just vanity? Is it pathetic? I don’t know.


Getting better and becoming the women I once was is my total focus. I am grateful for what I have; that I am able to walk, talk and move. I want to look in the mirror and recognize myself. Vanity is a carnel sin and I understand why. It can eat you alive, if you let it. I can’t let the pain win and take me over, so it is time to find a small part that is good and focus on that.


If anyone has any suggestions, let me know!!



3 thoughts on “Pain & Body Image

  1. You aren’t alone dealing with a body that feels out of control: pain, pain medications, mobility issues as a result of pain: all of these things can alter your shape and your self-image.
    If meds are the problem, perhaps another pain medication or technique might help.
    I’ll spend some more time rereading your blog entry and will send a more detailed response.
    Hang in there: you definately aren’t alone!

    1. Hi Phylor, Thank you for all your comments. The meds are a problem, but thankfully I have eliminated 2 entirely in the past 2 months and reduced others by about 30%. So I am pretty positive about it.
      I am being tested for a hormone problem. As I had a slight hypo tyroid problem at the time of conception, add in epidural, add in big injury, may have caused an imbalance in my pituitary gland, creating weight gain, big boobs (never thought I wanted them?), lack of sleep, dry thin skin and sadness. My pain specialist had a patient get the hormone replacement and has improved by about 50% in 3 months.
      A blood test is being done next week (another $150 bucks) to see what is up.
      I like to be cautiously optimistic, if you know what I mean.
      Thanks for your support. If it is ok, I would like to add you to the Blogroll.

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