So this post is going to be ridiculously long-winded, because I like to waffle, and I pour all my feelings out. All of them. Therefore, I’ve decided to split this topic into a couple, a few, or maybe more (lucky you) posts so that they don’t take up too much of your time.
I have started, restarted, then shelved, questioned, and worried about this post way too much. I feel like anything surrounding body image, weight, and appearance, is so triggering for a lot of people, and I’d hate to upset anyone. So, I’ll begin by saying that if you find talk of weight gain and loss, in anyway upsetting; I don’t think this is a read for you. I’ll also probably reiterate all the way through that I’m sharing my opinions on myself, as always. I did a shout out to ask other type 1 diabetics to send me their opinions too, so I’ll drop some in to reiterate points. To all those who DM’ed me, thank you; I’m both glad and a bit sad that it’s not just me who feels like having type 1 has impacted my feelings towards my appearance, negatively.
I think the current body positivity/confidence/joy that’s happening everywhere online, is great. If people are feeling empowered by how they look, and their outer appearance gives them a positive boost every day, I’m genuinely in celebration of that. Happiness and confidence is attractive, and if people are enjoying their curly hair, flat stomach, curves, or all of the above, I love it; I’m happy for them. I’m also kinda envious, because I’d like a little more of that when I look in a mirror. However, I have to work very hard not to compare myself and scrutinise each bit of my exterior. If I can leave the apartment feeling okay in how I look, I count that as a successful day. Seeing an Instagram post that tells me to love my body and how it looks, never works for me, and sometimes makes me feel guilty about the issues I have in regards to how I see myself.
It’s nobody’s fault; I just have some really deep-rooted feelings towards my weight (and my face, but, that’s another story), and I’m not sure I’ll ever shake them. I also feel like I’ll never shake them because I’m always going to have Type 1 diabetes, and my weight affects EVERYTHING (not just aesthetically either). Don’t get me wrong, I have confident days too; I love fashion and beauty products, and can have a dreamy time getting myself ready. I’ll do a last-minute check as I walk past my mirror, and tell myself that I look good today. Do I believe that statement? Yes. Does it cancel-out my insecurities? No.
I’d never given my weight a second thought until I was 9. All of a sudden, all the adults in my life had something to say about how thin I was. I had lost weight because I had undiagnosed Type 1, and as a slim kid; I didn’t have much to lose. Lanky, string bean, waif, skinny, thin, were all words I was hearing more and more. “My mom thinks you’ve got worms, you’re too thin”. Every helpful (ahem) parent had an opinion, and it was the first time I really noticed my body on an aesthetic level. I actually wish it was effin’ worms. At least you can cure that.
Alas, it wasn’t worms. My blood sugars were sky high over a long period of time (approx 2 years) because I had type 1 diabetes. High blood sugars and no insulin means that you lose weight rapidly (for those that are like, how? Why? etc. I like you, you curious readers; errrrm…Google?). After many trips to our (totally rubbish) GP, I was finally admitted to hospital, diagnosed, and given a lot of cuddly toys, but no chocolate. Or grapes. I had to learn all about sugar and carbs, and what foods belonged in the red section of the food circle. Red was bad. Everything I liked eating the most was in red. Luckily, I did like things in the yellow and green bits of the circle. But, I think most kids would be horrified to learn that all the best stuff was in red. Red-section foods would make my diabetes very hard to control. I hated that food chart. The illustrations of bread and chocolate were crap, and what 9 year old tucks into a couple of whole fish for tea? I could eat all the broccoli I wanted! Woo, fucking, hoo. My strict relationship with food had started, and I didn’t like it at all.
There were a lot of appointments at the hospital to follow (and still are really). I had to learn how to use a syringe to inject my insulin, test my blood sugars, and treat a hypo (low blood sugar). The first thing that happened during every appointment was (and again, often still is) that I had to step on the scales. I was weighed. I became very aware of my weight. I was 9 and knew exactly how much I weighed, to the pound (I’m still not metric in weight, sorry). As I got a little older, but I was still pre-puberty (or before womanhood popped up and wreaked havoc), I learned that although it was “bad” that I had been so skinny; it would be worse if I gained too much weight. Gaining weight affects how my insulin is absorbed, meaning that my body’s resistance to it will increase the more weight I gain. This is “bad” because I will need more insulin as a result, meaning I’ll gain even more weight, and so on. This knowledge was fine for a while. I was a sporty and active kid, my mom was a great cook and made me healthy meals, and I learned that chocolate and sweets were a treat. I was allowed a mini Mars bar before swimming so that I didn’t risk having a hypo.
But, then I hit 14, and swimming had lost it’s appeal. I was teased for being skinny, more specifically, for being so flat chested compared to the other girls my age, who were growing boobs. Teenage boys (and girls) can be real arseholes. And putting my swimsuit on became something I’d dread. My mom would say “they’ll grow”. I vividly remember the day that comment changed to “they’re fine”…I started saving for a boob job. I’ve gone off on a tangent again, sorry. For the record I haven’t had a boob job, and I’m happy with them (which took years). Anyway, back to swimming. I gave it up at 14 because I was fed up of being teased for how my body looked. I know other girls who did the same because they’d been called chubby, hairy, or their boobs were being commented on. Teens are proper savage. I was self-conscious like any other teenage girl, and then my body started to gain more weight.
Taking regular exercise out of my life, because of the array of teenage feelings you get about yourself, what’s cool, what’s uncool, and not having catch-up T.V (so I HAD to be in to watch Hollyoaks and The O.C), meant that my type 1 control began to slip. When I say slip, I mean that it fell off a cliff. A mixture of complete denial and a lot of fibs, meant that by the time I was 17, I didn’t know what my blood sugars were. I had also gained enough weight to be at a complete loss as to what insulin ratios I needed. I began to loathe my body; why didn’t it just function? Why was my condition affecting how I looked? Writing this, I just want to go back and give that Fay a big hug, followed by a strong shake and a stern word, followed by another hug. I realise now that it was around that age that I changed my behaviour completely, and a 6 year battle with diabulimia had started.
I know I’m being super annoying leaving it here for now; however, I’m currently very hormonal, we’re only up to the age of 17, and I’m currently 34, and it’s making me tearful (not my age, the sharing bit). I will definitely continue with this, because I think it’s an important story to tell, and could potentially help a type 1 from feeling alone/guilty/shit, and help them fight some severe complications. It’s also very cathartic for me, so, I’ll be back.
Peace, love, and self love, Fay x
Some help for type 1s who feel they may have diabulimia
P.S any type 1s who have skipped insulin, please get in touch if you’re comfortable to do so x