IBD and Body Image

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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!

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. Take a look at our fitness tips here. 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 support

Consider joining a CCA support group, or find a trusted friend or family member who you know you can talk through any issues with, no matter how small. Support group members can share experiences with you, and prevent feelings of isolation as you know they have been where you are too.

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 your body image or a rising feeling of anxiety or depression is beginning to take up space in your life. Finding a counsellor or therapist familiar with the effects of IBD may be the support you need to find a way through.

How do you keep positive even when your body is rebelling?

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