Reflections on body image

By | August 3, 2014

Walking today, my husband mentioned by blog post about my improved body image. He ask if it was because my focus is now on strength rather than fat or weight. It occurred to me at that point that is was actually my physicians response to my body that was perhaps the biggest factor in my changed body image.

My family medicine (primary care) doctor mentioned my body only in that I needed to consider my body weight. That I was at a point where I was starting to tip the scale towards obese. I was carrying too much weight. Yet, there was no focus on how strong I was or any other aspect of my physical health. I eat relatively healthy (healthier than most), and I exercise perhaps a little excessively compared to the average person. And yet I never really saw myself as someone who was in good health.

Then I saw my oncologist. When looking at my health overall, he listed it as “excellent”. I was rather proud of that fact. And going into treatment for cancer, I felt stronger than I’ve ever felt. I felt healthy! Actually that too was an interesting challenge, as I felt strong and healthy, so did not see myself as ‘sick’. The whole cancer thing causes a cognitive dissonance, as I feel like I’m in excellent health.

Upon reflection I realize just how large of an impact the view of my physicians has had on my overall self perception of my personal body image. Before cancer, I felt that I was overweight. Even though I was in good shape from a cardio perspective, and pretty strong (regular 30km+ bike rides), I still felt ‘fat’. I felt ‘overweight’. I knew that I was 20-30 pounds over my “ideal” weight. But now, (OK, I’ve lost 10 pounds, but still), I’m much happier with my body the way it is. I’m proud of the classification of “excellent health” in my oncologists records.

I think it is just interesting how much weight I put on the opinions (or perhaps the presentations) from my doctors … and wonder, what family (primary care) physicians might learn from this reflection?

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