The other day I was looking through pictures of myself taken from 2005 to the present. I have previously said that I’ve spent a lifetime dealing with body image issues. Weight has always been a big part of my life but not for the usual reasons. People assume because you’re skinny you don’t have weight problems; but the way I see it, being obsessed with being skinny is very much a weight problem and I’ve spent most of my life being obsessed with being skinny. When you don’t have a weight problem it means you are neither overweight nor underweight and you do not have body image issues that cause you to starve yourself, binge eat, overeat or in any way practice detrimental eating habits that cause you to carry too much or too little weight. So it’s not just overweight women who have a weight problem.
I previously dismissed the idea that weight had anything to do with my developing fibroids, but I think I was looking at it the wrong way and after looking through my pictures I believe that my problems with weight, going so many years starving myself to stay thin, then jumping from 100 pounds to 120 pounds and then going on Paxil and putting on another 30 pounds, coming off paxil and losing the 30 pounds, then spending the next several years going up and down between 100 pounds and 130 pounds–I believe that helped to create a toxic atmosphere in my body so that when I became assaulted by inevitable hormonal changes in my mid-thirties, the fibroids had the perfect environment in which to grow.
Warning: This is a very long post with a lot of personal info that you might find tedious and boring. It doesn’t get immediately to the point of addressing how “Gaining weight will make your fibroids grow bigger“. It starts with and delves into how I developed the image issues that started me on the path to abusing my body, which I believe is a key factor in answering the question of how and why I developed fibroids. If you don’t have patience for long-winded personal blog posts you might want to skip this one.
How the body image issues began to develop
I think I first started becoming conscious of my body and embarrassed about my appearance when I was ten. At that time I used to get teased about being skinny so my issues weren’t about wanting to be thin. At that time I regarded being “scrawny” as something that was not ideal, so I wasn’t particularly pleased to be called scrawny and knock-kneed. I would credit that teasing, not just about being boney but also having numerous physical traits that were apparently worthy of being mocked, with bringing me to a state of awareness of myself as a physical object that was not quite adequate and not quite pleasing to the eye.
At that time I was growing up in a different culture in a different country where having a little meat on your bones was preferable to being thin. I don’t mean having layers of adipose tissue or anything of the kind. The women who were considered sexy and beautiful had curves but they were within normal weight range. They were fit and healthy women. They didn’t look like they ate too much or like they too little.
When I began to develop phobia of gaining weight
It wasn’t until I moved to New York when I was thirteen that I developed a phobia where gaining weight was concerned. I won’t blame anyone for contributing to the development of that phobia. I’ll just say that all I ever heard growing up were messages about the thin ideal, the horror of being able to pinch an inch of fat anywhere on your body–the shame of weighing more than a certain number of pounds. The messages were everywhere–at home and at school. They came at me via the television, via magazines, via the people around me. They came at me directly and indirectly and, having already developed a heightened self-consciousness from years of being teased about one thing or another, I very easily absorbed these messages deep enough into my conscience that I quickly developed a fear of meeting any of the criteria for being called fat.
So from the age of thirteen I began to practice controlling what I ate in order to avoid gaining weight. That more than often meant not eating anything at all. Because you can’t remain under the weight that is normal for your age and your height if you eat normally; and I was very concerned at that time with making sure that I weighed as few pounds as possible.
Up until I was about 33 my weight fluctuated from 89 pounds to 103 pounds. At age 34 I began to gain weight. I remember the first time I discovered I had gained 20 pounds. I almost had a heart attack. I knew I had gained some weight because I was filling out the size 2 jeans that were my go-to baggy pants; but I hadn’t realized I had gone all the way to 120 pounds until I went to the doctor. I generally don’t weigh myself. Even back in the day before I lived on my own I didn’t like to weigh myself, although I did check my weight every day to make sure it was still the same, because I had to make sure I wasn’t gaining anything for other people to notice. Once I was living on my own I didn’t have eyes to be concerned about watching me and I chose not to keep a scale in my house. So I had no clue of my weight. When I discovered I had gained all this weight I became desperate to lose it and began to practice making myself throw up after I ate. It was a ridiculous period in my life which I would really rather forget.
How my mind and my body began to create the right atmosphere for fibroids to grow
I know now that there were a number of things going on that were causing the weight gain. I was more isolated from the people I had grown up around so I was able to eat. Back in the day I had to keep up this image of being the girl who hardly ate or who ate like a bird. Even at times when I wanted to eat I couldn’t eat because people noticed and commented and I always felt like eyes were watching. I had to sneak food to eat. Sometimes I would go to the kitchen and put something into a cup and hide the cup between my legs and go back to the bedroom, go into the closet and hide to eat. It wasn’t just that I wanted t keep up an appearance of not eating. I was also ashamed for people to see me eating. But when I was living on my own, with no eyes to watch how much food I was eating and with no one to comment if I happened to gain a few pounds, I eased up on myself a little bit. I ate more pizza. Because I liked pizza, and for years I wouldn’t touch a slice.
There was also the fact that I was going through serious hell in my marriage and I was severely depressed and reaching a point in my life where I didn’t have any energy to spare for caring how I looked.
Then there was the reality of my body–probably the biggest factor of all–I was transitioning from one stage to another. I was getting older. My body’s chemistry was changing naturally, and possibly the rate of change was being accelerated by the sudden change in my diet where I was eating all these fatty foods, and by my mental and emotional condition. I believe that a change began to occur starting from 2004, maybe even as early as 2003. There was a lot of toxic stuff going into me –I was poisoning myself in every way that you can poison yourself–mentally, emotionally and physically–and it created the necessary environment for tumors to grow. My weight went up and down during this period of time. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t exercising as much as I used to. I was always in emotional turmoil. I was so severely depressed I had to be put on medication. One of the medications caused me at one brief point to gain an additional 30 pounds on top of the 20 pound weight gain that had taken me from weighing between 89 pounds and 103 pounds from age 13 – age 32/33 to suddenly weighing 120 pounds between age 33/34. I lost the extra 30 pounds once I stopped using the medication; but I continued to go through this cycle of gaining and losing weight all up until June 2005. I was still 34 then. That month my husband and I became abruptly separated when he got arrested.
I briefly find myself again with my husband out of the picture; then start to lose my way again when he returns
From June 2005 until about March 2007 my weight became more stabilized. I began to re-discover myself during this period. It is interesting to note that I was separated from my husband during this time. Emotionally I was still in a great deal of turmoil. There was still a lot going on that wasn’t good; but some things had returned to normal, not the least of which was my weight. I didn’t go under a hundred pounds. I discovered my “real” body and it was a beautiful body. I truly loved my body for the first time in my life. I was comfortable in skin. I was beautiful to my own eyes–something I had never experienced before even while as thin as I felt I needed to be. This is a photo that was taken in January 2006.
The materialization of the fibroids
To my own eyes, I looked the best I had ever looked in my life during the period of time I was separated from my husband. I did not have any struggles with my weight. The extra weight went away, no doubt in part as a result of the shock to my system sustained the night he was arrested, and it stayed off without effort. I had energy. I was working out every day. I was dancing again. I was feeling alive in ways I had stopped feeling alive for years. And I enjoyed almost two years of being in control of that aspect of my life. From June 2005 – March 2007 I was on my own. My husband spent 6 months in jail but after he was released I could not see myself getting back with him so we were separated for a year living in different states. Then I made a decision, mostly for financial reasons, to give things another try. Within a few months of getting back together with my husband I began to fall back into that hole.
It was sometime in 2007, I think around May 2007, just two months after resuming my marital life, that I discovered a lump in my lower abdomen while doing situps. I hadn’t necessarily gained a lot of weight between March 2007 when my husband moved back in and May 2007 when I discovered the lump; but I had gained some weight (between 7-10 pounds), and the struggle was back on to try to maintain the lifestyle I had become used to with him gone. One of the things I had insisted upon before he returned was that I did not want a marriage like what I had experienced with him from 1997 – 2005. I did not want any part of any of that BS type of marriage. I stressed how much relief I had experienced during our time apart not having to deal with that kind of stuff. It was the reason I had resisted an entire year of his begging me to give things another try. The benefits of being apart from him had been tremendous–not having that extra baggage to carry around. I had really wanted no part of marriage any more; but my business had started to struggle (I was a PHP developer making some money from some products I had built), and I was finding it difficult to stay afloat. I was also struggling with other things and after a year of trying to figure out what to do, I decided I would try the marriage again. Certain options weren’t open to me while suffering with agoraphobia and having other social anxiety issues.
The fibroids from 2008 – 2009
My weight gain wasn’t anything quite so severe in the first years of discovering I had fibroids. I gained weight but it wasn’t anything like I had to deal with when Paxil caused me to pack on 30 pounds on top of 20 I had gained just naturally from eating normally and not obsessing like I used to about making sure my weight did not surpass 100 pounds. In this photo taken in 2009, I was trying to recreate a picture I had taken in 2006 to see just how much weight I had gained and how much my stomach was protruding. The photo at the top of this page is my attempt to duplicate the same photo in 2014. I took the one on the top today. This one below wearing the same outfit was taken in 2009. When I took the photo in 2009 my stomach was protruding on account of my fibroids, but it was nothing compared to how I would look by November 2010 when my fibroids had become so large that I was treated like a circus clown at a visit to the women’s clinic when the nurse didn’t want to believe that I wasn’t pregnant and had to be reassured by the nurse or other assistant that my urine test had indicated I wasn’t pregnant, and people other than the ones examining me were invited into the room to gawk at me. At that point there was no way I would ever have been able to balance on a stool as in the picture.
Comparing this picture to one taken in 2006 executing the same pose, it is clear that by August 2009 I had become much bigger than I was in 2006, but I was still managing to stay within a certain weight range. I still recognized myself when I looked in the mirror.
But at some point between August 2009 and November 2010, age 39 going on 40, I became the heaviest I had been in my entire life. Looking at my photos from that period I do not recognize myself at some stages. I went through many fluctuations in weight. Somehow I didn’t notice when I hit that all-time high of 160 pounds. I think I must have gone through a spell at that point where I probably didn’t go out for a whole month, maybe two months and I wasn’t taking any pictures of myself wearing the kind of clothing that would have made the weight gain plainly obvious; and I wasn’t exercising; so it became easier not to appreciate just how fat I had gotten. I didn’t have the kind of people around me who would tell me the truth.
Duplicating the photo today was quite difficult because my stomach was pretty massive today and it was very painful to pose on the stool lying on my stomach. I can’t remember if my stomach was as big as today back when I took the 2009 photo. The thing about my stomach is that it keeps changing. Different conditions determine how big it’s going to be from day to day and whether or not I suffer any pain or discomfort on account of the fibroids. Sometimes I can lie on my stomach without any difficulty because the fibroids are not in the way. Sometimes it’s painful to lie on my stomach because of the fibroids.
The connection between weight and fibroid growth
Looking at my pictures it is plainly obvious that the weight I gained during this period when I became my fattest ever–not obese but most definitely well overweight–corresponds to the time that my fibroids were their largest. They went through a massive growth spurt. Whatever I was eating, whatever was causing me to gain as much weight as I gained for that brief period, it fed the fibroids well and thoroughly. They fattened as I fattened. They went from being possible to disguise with the right clothing to being impossible to hide no matter what I wore — from first trimester pregnancy to late second, or quite possible early third.
Although I did not remain at that size for very long, the damage had been done. My body had changed between 2007 and 2009 due to my fibroids but it was nothing so bad that I couldn’t still wear the same clothes I had been wearing before the fibroids.
Since November 2010 I have been on track with managing my weight and working on remedies to shrink my fibroids. I lost all the excess weight and have kept it off. I have been back on track with working out regularly. I’ll admit I do go through some stretches when I’m just not feeling it and so I don’t bother, and I might gain 5 or so pounds during those stretches; but those stretches don’t last too long and I always get back on track which is really what matters. I’ve been taking much better care of myself. I won’t deny that my other issues–the depression, the agoraphobia, the marriage still have a large impact; but physically I have been at a much better place for the last several years. Yet my stomach has never gone back to the condition it was in before I gained all that weight. There are times when it shrinks enough that I look only newly pregnant as opposed to very pregnant; but it is clear from my photos that the situation with my stomach was very different before that massive weight gain that took place some time after August 2009 but before November 2010.
I did find a photograph taken in November 2011 in which my stomach looks very flat by comparison to now; and at that time I was using the apple cider vinegar and baking soda remedy. I hadn’t tried any juice fasts yet; and my stomach never looked quite as flat after fasting as in that photo. Whatever I was doing in November 2011 was clearly working better than anything else I have done in the last few years to try to shrink my fibroids. I am thinking it was the apple cider vinegar; but I don’t know. I am going to start that remedy again beginning as soon as I finish this post.
But most definitely I would say that weight played a huge part if not in my developing fibroids in the first place, certainly in causing my fibroids to grow to an unmanageable size.