We Shouldn’t Celebrate Stomachaches

I have an affinity for skeletons – lean, sunken faces that have already experienced both life and death.

However, that doesn’t mean I want to be one. Whether living or dead, I want some meat on my brittle bones.

And yet, I’m told my thin physique is a good thing.

“You lose weight easily? You are so lucky!”

No, I’m not. While everyone else is counting calories, I’m becoming even lighter. Twig-like.

She never eats.

No, I’m not anorexic. No, I’m not bulimic. And even if I was, whispering those terms behind my back doesn’t help me or anyone with an eating disorder. It’s degrading and stigmatizing.

The truth is I’m a small woman with stomach problems aka IBS – a lethal combination of letters, a cursed acronym.

When I eat, rambunctious bacteria gobbles everything up, draining me of important nutrients.

When I eat, there is always the concern – a nagging fear – that my stomach will swell, and I’ll have to find the nearest restroom (again).

When I eat, I can’t eat too much. Big meals can spark a flair up.

I see their squinted eyes.

Lucky? I’d rather gain a pound by neglecting my diet for a week than lose five out of fear. Sometimes it’s not even caused by eating “like a bird.” Sometimes I eat a proper three-square meals a day, and I *still* lose weight.

I have a complicated relationship with food.

Why is she so finicky?

I get anxiety about family meals and company dinners. What if there is nothing on the menu I can eat? What if someone makes another comment about my “pickiness” or my tiny appetite? When I bring in leftovers to work, I try to hide my tray, knowing others are pondering my portion sizes.

“You eat so little!”

Trying to navigate a FOODmap chart is nearly impossible. The doctors just keep telling me to watch what I eat, but it’s difficult when you can’t eat ~anything~

At the same time, when I ask them how I can gain weight, the answer is “Eat a hamburger.” If only it were that simple.

Probiotics work but sometimes too well. I can’t have a war going on in my intestines when I’m trying to write coherent thoughts at pitch-white desk. Society is not kind to people with stomach issues.

She left her desk again.

I see chubby-cheeked girls complaining about their weight, wanting to lose a kilo. They’re beautiful; they’re a healthy weight; and they’re envy-provoking. I’d rather be a branch than a stick.

I feel like it’s 2007 again. My stomach is persistently tense; I’m scared to finish this slice of pizza. Gluten, grains, acidic tomatoes: all things that will make my intestines twitch. Back then, I didn’t have much choice about food – I had to eat whatever my parents bought or made. You have to eat, I told myself over and over again. Even if it hurts, you need to eat.

Nowadays, I try to follow an IBS-friendly diet, and my stomach still rebels. Stress can be a trigger. When you have anxiety and your stomach is one of the causes, it’s an endless cycle. A circle without an end.

Stress = stomach pain.

Stomach pain = stress.

You can say I am lucky for being thin because many people do struggle with their weight, and their struggle is valid. But you shouldn’t celebrate my stomachaches. Losing weight due to constant pain in the gut… being scared to enjoy a snack… feeling like my ribs are sticking out… is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Not even my bony friends.

Don’t worry, I am eating. While everyone else is avoiding calories, I embrace them, hoping to put on (and keep) at least a pound or two more. The main concern is whether or not I’ll end up looking like the skeletons that adorn my clothing.

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