Self compassion

Weight loss and self identity

When our body changes through illness, accident or injury we have to develop a new relationship with ourselves, with our new physical identity.

For me it was weight loss through illness. For most of my adult life I had been around 140lbs, but when I went into my 40’s this gradually increased to 148lb, and it was a continuous battle to remain at that weight. There were a few exceptions, for example prior to getting married I was eating 1300 calories a day and it still took 4 months for me to loose 8lbs prior to our wedding in 2013, needless to say it soon went back on. Then in the late Summer of 2014 I naturally began to lose weight which I put down to a change of diet; drinking smoothies and eating lots of salads, but the weight continued to fall through the autumn.

After an episode of acute pancreatitis – where the pancreas becomes inflamed and the digestive enzymes it produces begin to digest the pancreas itself – my diet became more restrictive. I was eating less generally, as well as having a low fat diet (less that 35g of fat a day bearing in mind an Avocado pear is around 20g!).

However, due to the pain I was in, eating wasn’t enjoyable, it became a chore rather than a delight. Anything containing too much fat caused me discomfort as my pancreas wasn’t able to digest it properly.

I struggled to get used to my lighter weight and what I called my scrawny shape. Why? Because it wasn’t my choice. The interesting thing about losing weight when it’s not planned is that there is a sense of confusion about why it was happening and also a concern as to when it would stop.

How low could my weight go for me still to have enough energy to get through daily life?

Then when I was diagnosed with a pancreatic tumour (IPMN) in January 2015 the weight loss made sense, at least I knew why, which was a relief. Also, the tumour could be removed, an even greater relief.

By the time I had surgery to remove my tumour I was down to 120lbs, the last time I was this weight I was a teenager! Having lost 2 stone none of my clothes fitted, everything was baggy, making my weight loss more obvious. I became gaunt as my face became thinner.

My sense of identity had never been challenged before, and I didn’t know how to adjust to the change. It was like I had been given a new body to live in, a very disconcerting feeling. My view of myself changed. I may have looked a thinner version of my usual self to everyone else. But I felt small, not just physically but psychologically too, it felt like everything about me was diminishing, fading.

Fortunately as with most things, it was time that allowed me to accept my new shape and identity. I literally had to shrink into my own skin and then as I got used to it, I became stronger and more confident in myself and my new body.

When we chose to change our body shape, it’s because that is what we want to do, and therefore we are delighted when we achieve it whether that is due to diet, exercise or surgery.

Having lost 28lb in the 12 months prior to my operation, it has taken 9 months to put on 8lbs due to a low fat diet. But I now finally feel comfortable and well in my own skin, and I am enjoying having a new body, a new shape, a new identity.

It takes time to adapt and accept physical changes. I am fortunate, I haven’t lost a limb or one of my senses, I just have an abdominal scar that fades with each passing day. I also have age on my side, at 50, I no longer want or have any expectations of a ‘perfect’ body, what ever that may mean. I am just happy that I have a body that is still functioning and enables me to live fully.

Sugar sugar

So sweetly my heart aches for you
Infused in tea from birth
The processed legacy of the modern era

Daily you inflame my body
Destroying all the good I eat
Following Ella with good intentions
My will power is torn to shreds
Addictive like heroin
Slowly slowly I kill myself by many names
Cancer, diabetes, obesity,

WHO advises less than 25 grams a day?
With APPs tracking every gram
A new day with focused new resolve
So wanting to abandon this sweet toothed poison
All undone by a creme egg well before 12
My body burns in the freezing night
A riot of inflammation and immunity

Sugar tax petition signed
Yet my saccharide hypocrisy remains
Killing myself sweetly with mono and di(e)

2015 gratitude and compliments

At the end of 2014 I decided that instead if having a New Years resolution I would have a theme to focus on, and for 2015 that theme would be gratitude. It was a theme that has proved to be somewhat challenging especially as on the 2nd January I was dignosed with a rare tumour (IPMN) in my pancreas. So literally 40 hours into 2015 I was thinking why me, and gratitude was the furthest thing from my mind.

Whilst my tumour didn’t seem something to be grateful for, I soon realised without having an astute consultant and the latest diagnostic technology it wouldn’t have been diagnosed at all! And that was definately something to be grateful for as without an early diagnosis the outcome could have been very different.

So as the year unfolded, it was by trying to find ways of being grateful despite pain, uncertainty, surgery and depression that helped to keep me positively focused and began to give me a wider perspective on life.

The initial biopsy proved inconclusive so I wouldn’t know if the tumour was malignant or benign until after surgery. Surgery wasn’t optional as IPMN tend to progress from benign to malignant, so it was all about timing. During this period of uncertainty I spent a lot of time thinking about life, illness and death, not the most cheery of times it does have to be said!  But it gave me time to realised how easy it is for me to live lost in the activity of day to day life without appreciation and gratitude for life itself and all the opportunities it offers.

My next major hurdle was the surgery itself, which had to be done in a specialist hospital as the pancreas is a difficult organ to operate on, and I was incredibly fortunate to be living 40 minutes from just such a hospital. Which was so new, that the futuristic ICU resembled the inside of a space ship, bearing in mind that I was on morphine when I saw it!!! I soon appreciated how lucky I was to be living in a country with an amazing health care system, well qualified medical personnel and access to pain relief!

I up-cycled (I just love that word) an old notebook into a gratitude diary to ensure that I wrote at least one different thing each day that I was grateful for. Which ranged from; finding a delicious new ground coffee; expressing my gratitude by sending compliments instead of complaints to the various NHS hospitals who took care of me; to being grateful that my wonderful sister didn’t make me laugh when she took care of me (as sneezing, coughing and laughing really really hurt after abdominal surgery!)

I am grateful that I found forums which helped me to realise that I wasn’t alone, there were others going through the same uncertainty, the same surgery, the same pain, the same frustrations and we could share our experiences.

As we near the end of 2015, I find myself more appreciative of all that I have in my life including the most amazing family and friends. Also I am making a concertive effort not to overcommit myself and instead allowing myself more time to experience those individual moments and people that bring a smile to my face and warmth into my heart.

As for 2016, the themes that I have shortlisted so far are laughter, contentment and simplicity so if you have any other suggestions for my 2016 theme, I look forward to hearing from you 🙂