Learning to Love Your Body

When I was a little girl, my dad taught me that strong is beautiful, and that skinny wasn’t something to focus on. My mom also played a huge role in how I saw myself as a child, but it was something about my dad’s words that stuck with me throughout my life. When I was very underweight and sick with Crohn’s Disease, my dad would make me protein shakes, in hopes of me gaining some weight. Learning to love your body can seem like a real struggle, but I know that if I can do it, so can you.

Learning to Love Your Body

From left to right – June 1997, February 2011, March 2017

 

In our society we’re constantly bombarded with television, magazines and the Internet, telling us who we should be and how we should look. Many of us realize that nearly every magazine cover is photoshopped, and yet we still compare ourselves to a fake reality. I know I certainly did this for YEARS.

 

Learning to love your body is challenging enough in this world, and when you add in a chronic illness and medications that change the way you look – it can feel next to impossible.

 

Learning to Love Your Body

In the hospital shortly after being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, at 12 years old and 60 lbs. 

 

At the age of 12 I suddenly became very sick, and shortly after, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. On May 23, 1997, I was given the first of many medications to control my Crohn’s. This medication was Prednisone, and it flipped my world as I knew it upside down.

Of the MANY side effects I experienced due to Prednisone, the “moon face” as they call it, was one of the most challenging that I dealt with. This caused my face to become very round, and because of it, it felt as if I wore my disease. Middle school is a challenge in itself, and looking so different from everyone else really challenged my self-confidence.

 

Learning to Love Your Body

12 years old with my cute Prednisone cheeks 😉

 

I went into my freshman year of high school with puffy cheeks, but shortly after, I was placed on a medication that worked wonders, and with very few side effects. Throughout my high school years I never talked about my Crohn’s, and hardly anyone knew that I had it. I kept it hidden, as the last thing I wanted was to be was different.

A year after finishing high school, and 6 months after meeting my now husband (Mike), the medication I’d been on for the previous 4 years suddenly stopped working. My disease came back in full force, and I was once again placed on Prednisone. Here’s the thing though, Mike always told me I was beautiful. He loved me no matter what, even when I didn’t feel worthy of love.

Fast forward to 2010, when my life began to take a dramatic shift. In addition to the constant sinus infections that I had, I also developed fungus in my lungs due to the medication that I was taking to control my Crohn’s Disease. I was immediately taken off of that medication and placed onto another that I had taken when I was 14 years old, as it was my only option at the time.

As I’ve experienced many times in the past, I once again became terrified to eat, as anything I did eat went right through me and caused intense pain in my gut. I’d lost a ton of weight and was barely touching 100 lbs, which is extremely underweight for me. Mike and I had made plans to go to Vegas with our friends, and we decided to still go. I remember being in my bathing suit, completely embarrassed about the 6” scar on my abdomen. It made me different, and that was the last thing I wanted to be.

 

I was so sick and completely miserable, yet I was getting more compliments than I had ever received. I had women coming up to me that I’d never even met, constantly telling me how great I looked.

 

I was so malnourished, incredibly insecure, and yet so many people were praising me.

THIS is so much of what is backwards in our society.

 

Learning to Love Your Body

Vegas, June 2010. You’d never know it, but I was MISERABLE in this picture, and barely touching 100 lbs.

 

The “older” medication that I was put on no longer worked for me, and once again, I was placed back on Prednisone. Once again, my cheeks puffed up, and I looked very different in just a short amount of time.

 

Learning to Love Your Body

August 2010 with my Prednisone cheeks

 

Learning to Love Your Body

December 2010, a couple days after I got out of the hospital – note the sweet IV bruises on my right arm 😉

 

My self-confidence was a complete mess, and it was only about to get worse. On February 4th 2011, I had a life-saving and life-changing surgery to remove over 6 feet of diseased intestine. I was given an ileostomy, which once again, changed how I looked. The months following this surgery were the darkest that I have ever experienced. I lived with so much regret, knowing that this surgery was my only real option at the time. I hated my body and I felt as if it had betrayed me.

 

Learning to Love Your Body

February 4th, 2011 – right before I was taken into surgery

 

I remember shortly after my surgery, I was desperately looking for hope from others who have had similar experiences, and I came across an online chat forum. In this group, multiple people were talking about wanting to end their life, simply because they had an ostomy. That was a life-changing moment for me. I realized that it was only a big deal because they were making it a big deal. This was the very beginning of my long road to self-acceptance. I came to the realization that if someone doesn’t accept me because I have an ostomy, that’s their problem, not mine.

Learning to Love Your Body

February 12, 2011 – the day I arrived home from the hospital after my surgery

 

Two months after my surgery, I developed Adrenal Insufficiency, caused by taking Prednisone. It’s no coincidence that I developed this condition from Prednisone, which caused me to need to take it daily, for over 5 years.

 

Learning to Love Your Body
February 2013, 2 years on Prednisone, after my diagnosis of Adrenal Insufficiency

 

Years into my diagnosis with Adrenal Insufficiency, I read a book called The Loving Diet, written by my friend, Jessica Flanigan of AIP Lifestyle. While reading this book, something clicked. I realized that for the years that I’d taken Prednisone, I was sending that little pill so much hate without even realizing it. I hated the way it made me look and the way that it made me feel.

Once I realized what I was doing, I decided to make a change. From that moment forward, each time I took Prednisone, I sent a silent message of love for all the good that pill did for me. Without it, I wouldn’t be alive today. In order to heal my body and heal my adrenals, I had to make peace with this medication, which I once fiercely hated. This alone changed my life more than I can even put into words.

I began to focus less and less on how Prednisone made me look, and more on how it was keeping me alive. As I healed my relationship with Prednisone, everything began to fall into place, and that’s when I was finally able to fully heal my adrenals.

Learning to love my body for exactly what it is has been a process, but I realize that it’s a choice that I get to make. I’ve realized that having an ostomy has only made me stronger, and it’s only a tiny part of who I am. What once was a HUGE deal, simply isn’t anymore.

 

I see the beauty in what once made me feel so different, and this has made an incredible impact on my life.

 

I simply became tired of putting my energy and focus onto my ostomy. It is what it is, and I no longer let it hold me back from anything.

Each day isn’t perfect, and I still struggle with body image issues at times. It’s a constant learning process, but the more I practice it, the easier and easier it becomes.

 

What’s made the biggest impact for me is focusing on what my body is capable of, not how it looks.

 

My husband and I call our bodies our “meat suit,” as we are SO MUCH MORE than how we look. To me, true beauty comes from the inside.

 

Our bodies have to do SO MANY things, just to keep us alive, right in this moment. That in itself is a miracle. You being here today and having the ability to read this is a miracle.

 

Imagine if we all were exactly the same. How BORING would that be?

 

For what I once used to look at as my flaws and scars, I now look at as my strengths. Every scar and every challenge that I’ve faced has played a role in creating who I am today.

 

I’m now by far the strongest and healthiest that I have ever been. It’s been one hell of a journey, and it’s my hope that by me showing you that if I can totally accept myself just as I am, scars, ostomy and all, you can too.

Learning to Love Your Body

All pictures that were taken this year – healthier and stronger than I’ve ever been!

 

Learning to Love Your Body

 

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11 Responses

  1. Denise
    | Reply

    <3 <3 <3 – what I see in all of these pics (except maybe one when you were 12, so it's forgivable ;)) is your incredible smile! That's exactly what I remember about you through all of this from when I first learned about your health struggles – I think you were 16-17. It was only because of a flare-up and the "prednisone cheeks" you describe here that the subject even came up. You were always so happy and upbeat I had no idea how serious Crohns actually was (is!) That part of you is what I always thought was most beautiful about you. Looking at these photos I remember seeing you at many these stages, but it really is crazy to see them all lined up together. You are beautiful and amazing inside and out. And that upper body and grip strength is awesome! 😉
    Love and miss you so much! xoxo – Denise

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Your words mean more than you know, thank you so much D! You really did see me through so many of these stages! Love you and miss you!! <3

  2. Sandy2
    | Reply

    Incredible journey you have been on Kristen and your writing is beautiful, I copied parts to share with a friend who is struggling with feeling different in her life choices, a bit different but the same idea. I remember you as a young child with your halo of hair and sweet strong spirit. Still there,even more refined, as life has stripped you to your core essence. To see such suffering and then to see how you have overcome it and transformed it into heartfelt caring for your fellow human beings is beautiful.

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you so much, Aunt Sandy! Love you! <3

  3. As always your sharing is so empowering! So many of us struggle with body image issues (one way or another) and it is important to remember to love our bodies for doing their job and keeping us alive!!!! Thanks for the reminder and for sharing all of your struggles and triumphs…. it helps me remember to look past my prednisone cheeks and see how far I have come 🙂 HUGS!!!!!

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you so much, sweet friend! Sending so much love your way! <3

  4. Bonnie k
    | Reply

    Hi! Just came across your blog today via Instagram and found this post. Wow! What an incredible journey. Your joy radiates in these photos and words. I am currently struggling with some Newer body image/self love issues right now and your story really touched on some changes I’m trying to incorporate in my life too. I’m definitely going to check out the loving diet book too.

    Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to checking out the rest of your blog, esp the recipes! 🙂

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      I’m so glad you found me over here, Bonnie! Sending you lots of love! <3

  5. […] This post isn’t so much about body image, but if that’s a challenge of yours, I recently wrote a post about how I learned to love my body. […]

  6. dvora
    | Reply

    Somehow I found you on Instagram, what a gift…..you have been an inspiration to me since, maybe a year or so, maybe even less, you just have no idea!!!! I just read this story Learning to Love your body, and as an older woman, mid 50’s this year, I have struggled to say the least. I have a disease that was quite rare when I was born, Incontinentia pigmente. Long story short, 18 mo in the hospital from birth, high fever for first 13 months, disintegrated my teeth, left blisters all over my body, 7 surgeries on my eye, braces on my legs as a kid, and the story goes on.. In 07 diagnosed with Crohn’s and the first doctor I saw told me I needed to have xx feet taken off my intestines, and I just flipped out and left.
    I am on meds, however just lost my job, no insurance at end of this month and have been stuck in a terrible funk, to say it nicely. I follow you on Instagram and just reading all your posts here on your website and its time to make a change!!! My illnesses and appearance I have let get in the way all these years…in more ways than I am left to admit.
    Thank you, for being the vulnerable, kind, sweet, giving young woman you are to inspire me to STOP! My scars and many physical issues are what they are and they make me who I am today…and like you say, my flaws and scars I too want to rename…as my strengths. I have made it when I shouldn’t have 10 times over from birth, and here I am!
    I thank you for your promise to yourself at 12, to make a difference, its working…
    Love to have coffee or lunch sometime, as here in the Southbay, not too far from you
    Feeling blessed and grateful
    throughdvoraseyes

    • livinglovingpaleo
      | Reply

      Thank you so much for your sweet comment, Dvora! Life isn’t always an easy ride, but it sounds like you’re definitely on the right path. Sending you so much love! <3

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