Endometriosis and body image: what’s the impact on the way we perceive ourselves?

What is Endometriosis? For anyone who doesn’t know, it is a disease where tissue similar to the lining of the womb is found in other places, for example on the ovaries, bowel or other organs. There is currently no known cure. Symptoms of endometriosis include painful periods, bloating, IBS and more. 

Endometriosis and Weight Change 

Many women with endometriosis will also suffer from weight fluctuation. This could be caused by hormones naturally produced by their body, hormonal treatments, an inability to exercise due to pain, or something else entirely. Especially in conjunction with bloating, it can have a negative impact on one’s body image. Weight changes in any capacity and for any reason can take you on an emotional rollercoaster, but always feeling uncomfortable in your clothes and insecure in your own skin can be extremely draining, even more so when you’re living with sometimes daily pain and/or other debilitating symptoms!  So, how can we help ourselves and other endo warriors to practice more self-love?  

Recycle Those Old Jeans! 

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that trying to squeeze into outfits that I used to wear or forcing myself to keep up with trends which don’t make me feel good about myself, does my physical symptoms and self-esteem absolutely no favours! You don’t have to throw them away, at Chitè we’re all about sustainability, but I would definitely suggest selling, donating or even just temporarily putting in storage all the clothes that sit in your wardrobe just waiting for the day you feel confident enough to wear them again! I truly believe that said day will come for those of us who are currently stuck in a rut of insecurity, but pressuring and shaming ourselves isn’t the way to get back to a healthy relationship between our minds and bodies! 

Trust Yourself 

That might seem like an odd thing to say in a piece about body image since our brains often tell us lies about our appearances, but hear me out! Unfortunately, we live in a society which takes women’s health much less seriously than men’s, not to mention the additional appalling experiences people of colour and members of the LGBTQ+ community often face. Because of this, as well as countless symptoms, the majority of people with endometriosis suffer from medical trauma and gaslighting, especially in relation to being ignored and disbelieved by doctors. These things can have an understandably detrimental effect on a woman’s mental health, leaving many of us even more vulnerable to deflated self-worth. One possible way to combat this is by looking at some old photos! If you do this, chances are you’ll remember at least one time where when the picture was taken, you felt like you looked bad, but when you look at the same one now, you wonder why you thought that in the first place! So many of us get stuck in this vicious circle of never been satisfied with our bodies, and I think it’s really important to remember that just as there wasn’t really anything wrong with how you looked in the photo you’re looking at, there is nothing wrong with you now!  

Remember You’re Not Alone 

The mainstream media regularly contributes to body image issues, especially in women, as we are constantly shown airbrushed versions of what are often already unrealistic body types. Consequently, from a young age, lots of us expect ourselves to meet unattainably high beauty standards. When you add chronic illness to the mix, it can become increasingly difficult for an individual to engage in body positivity. This is partly because much of the current self-care movement frequently focuses on appreciating all the hard work our bodies do to keep us healthy. Whilst this can be grounding for many, it can be counterproductive for those who live with chronic pain because it can draw their attention to the difficulties they have with their health, thereby making them feel potential resentment towards their body or embarrassed about the problems they face because of their condition. This is another way in which those living with endometriosis are made to feel excluded, so this is a reminder for anyone reading this who currently feels isolated, that you’re not alone. There are millions of others fighting the same fight you are, and one day things will change for the better.