We’ve all been there: after enjoying a big meal, your body takes on an expanded persona. Everything feels swelled up. All you want to do is put on the baggiest clothing possible and sleep.
It’s natural and normal to get bloated. Our bodies can handle what we throw its way, and bloating is just another way of adapting and surviving. All of this happens without conscious thought; it just is.
However, this reality doesn’t invalidate the struggle of finding body positivity when bloated. If you already manage mental illness, especially eating disorders and body dysmorphia, this question becomes even more complicated. We’re already in precarious places with body image, so bloated sure won’t help, right?
Rather than pushing this situation aside, let’s bring it into the light and find meaningful insight into how we can continue on the path of self-love and acceptance. Based on my own experience with irritable bowel syndrome and anorexia, I understand your pain of somehow finding body positivity when bloated. But I believe we can find peace, or at least a middle ground for acceptance.
the struggle has been real.
I haven’t always bloated like a balloon by the end of every night. Nor have I had constant struggles with my bowel movements, gas, and all those taboo-esque topics.
When I first started dealing with IBS, my symptoms stayed pretty consistent with what I expected. This includes switching between constipation and almost waterlike diarrhea, bad gas, and bloating. While it’s nice to know there’s a reason why this is happening, it doesn’t make the effects any less annoying.
My perspective on body image has definitely been challenged since developing digestive issues. You don’t realize how much your digestion affects every other part of your body, especially your mental health, until it becomes unbalanced. Once one aspect of health gets whacked, it ends up throwing off the preexisting conditions you’ve already been trying to balance.
With disordered eating tendencies and body dysmorphia, getting bloated COMPLETELY throws off the perception of myself. It shouldn’t be a big deal of how it looks, and I rationally know that. That doesn’t mean I still don’t have doubts and concerns from seeing my stomach and body swell up, even if I know it (usually) is better in the morning.
It’s a vicious chain of thought to follow, and it’s not the first of its kind. Even without a disordered-eating past, we can still succumb to internal harsh judgment. To combat that, let’s put it into perspective.
We all bloat. Our stomaches expand after we eat. That’s basic biology. Knowing that doesn’t completely ease the mind, nor does it immediately stop harmful thoughts from creeping back. Mental illness magnifies what’s probably not even noticeable into something huge and obvious. A ballooned stomach ready to pop.
Some people bloat more than others. Sometimes it’s due to the food we consume and unknown intolerances. The gut and digestive system is the root of our entire wellness. If something feels off, there are many ways to realign our health, such as adding in more probiotics and/or eliminating pesky foods.
This doesn’t discredit the burden of IBS and how much it affects how and what you eat and feel. Combined with an eating disorder is even harder, complicating how you approach everything. When looking at food, stressing about the numbers and nitty-gritty details is now piled on top of how your body will react to it.
We live privileged lives. To even have a functioning body, a life on this beautiful planet, to wake up every morning…they’re all gifts. But it’s very frustrating knowing your digestive system isn’t working properly. Or it is working properly, but your mind tires from critiquing its fluctuations.
finding peace within.
Body positivity when bloated is another hurdle to jump along your self-love journey. It’s not a straight progression to self-acceptance. At times, it feels like the world is just asking you to revert back to default negativity. But you’re so much stronger than you believe.
Even if it seems like your body is working against you, that it’s angry at you for its current state and past pitfalls, this is when it so desperately needs positivity the most. See it as a small child that needs your nurturing touch. Your best friend that simply wants to feel accepted by someone they love.
Make peace with your body: the simplest phrase yet the absolute hardest to believe and implement. It’s about taking little intentional steps each day to grow and improve. All you can ask for is looking forward. Not beating yourself up for eating a food that your body negatively reacts to. Or shaming yourself for what can feel like a crippling disability at its worst. Destructive thoughts may want take control and enslave you back into disordered habits, but you don’t have to listen.
Finding inner peace and body positivity when bloated almost always includes self-care practices. Things like basic hygiene and reflective activities can be so powerful and transformation. Especially if you’re feeling anxious or depressed, they can be the greatest forms of self-care.
Yes, brushing your teeth and taking a shower are big deals. Accomplishing just one assignment of the entire list you had planned out is a victory. Celebrate the small things. Shift your mind toward external places, like expressing gratitude and spending time with loved ones. Practice your preferred form of meditation and rest in the steady rhythm of your breath.
This isn’t an easy process. Progress won’t happen overnight, as with any physical or mental illness. Despite setbacks, your body continues to function and keep you alive. Even body dysmorphia takes the reins. Nevertheless, you persist. Inspiration can truly come from within.
Is it ideal to have your body and mind feeling like they’re playing off each other to sabotage you? Certainly not. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make the best of right now. It’s all we have, and an optimism for the future, a potential only possible by taking care of ourselves in this moment.
Do you struggle with your self-image when feeling bloated? How do you find peace within yourself to accept bodily changes and treat yourself well?
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie