Life with IBD can often mean a constantly changing body. From weight change due to medication or flare ups, to surgery scars, to side effects that you never could have anticipated, the way you relate to your body can be intimately tied to your diagnosis.
These physical changes are often accompanied by mental and emotional changes as well, as you come to terms with how your body reacts to your Crohn’s or colitis. So how do you keep your mind healthy and accept the changes you are experiencing physically and emotionally?
Fostering and maintaining a positive body image can be a difficult undertaking, particularly during flares when it can seem like your body is rebelling against you. But with so many aspects of IBD beyond your control, it can feel pretty fantastic to take control of what you can!
Here are some ways in which you could build a positive body image.
Be open with friends and family
Everyone with IBD has been the recipient of a well-meaning but uninformed comment. If you can develop a go-to list of responses, or figure out the level of detail you are comfortable sharing with a friend, a partner, a colleague or even a stranger, you can put yourself back in the driver’s seat when unwelcome comments come your way.
Keep fit any way you can
Physical activity in any form can help strengthen the body, which can relieve stress and improve your immune system – some people find this to be the best way to reduce flare symptoms, or to lengthen their time in remission. Bear in mind that any significant changes to your health regime should always be discussed with your treatment team.
Be kind to yourself
You are the person who knows you best. If you are starting to feel a bit ‘down’, or notice that your self-esteem is taking a hit, focus on developing your self-compassion. Explore activities that you know relax you, from a long bath to taking some time to read or meditate.
If you find yourself becoming critical of your body, particularly when it might feel like it is ‘failing’, try and take a step back by reminding yourself of what your body is capable of, the parts of it you love, and how far it has gotten you. That could be through positive affirmations, leaving notes for yourself, or just a simple reminder that you are more than your disease – you have IBD, it doesn’t have you.
Find a trusted friend or family member who you know you can talk through any issues with, no matter how small. You may also consider joining a CCA support group, as support group members can share experiences with you, and prevent feelings of isolation as you know they have been where you are too. If you wish to speak to a peer or an IBD Nurse confidentially, you may connect with them through iConnect or call our telephone helpline on 1800 138 029.
However, there may be times when a friend, family member or support group are not the only tool you need. Don’t be afraid of speaking with a therapist if you are developing a negative body image or feeling anxious.