Banish Those Negative Body Image Ideas when Weight Fluctuations Occur

Brittany Foster avatar

by Brittany Foster |

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“The scale can only give you a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. It cannot measure beauty, talent, purpose, life force, possibility, strength, or love.” –Dr. Steve Maroboli

Seven years ago, while in the depths of my eating disorder, if you had told me that I would be working toward having a healthy relationship with a scale, I would never have believed you. Recently, I have struggled with ignoring eating disorder thoughts that arise because of weight fluctuations of more than a few pounds. Many in the PH community have talked to me about their own struggles with body image, particularly on days when they notice extra weight from fluid retention. My body image may not be where I want it to be, but there are things I remind myself of when I am struggling.

My Words of Wisdom:

  1. Know your baseline weight. Weigh yourself at the beginning of the day on the days you feel water retention. Keep track of the number by writing it down. Call your doctor to report any abnormal weight fluctuations (get a reference to know what is normal vs. abnormal at your next visit).
  2. If you see the number on the scale increase, don’t assume that you are “fat” or “got fat” overnight. This isn’t the case and is just your mind playing tricks on you. Obsessing over body image acts as a distraction from a health concern, but it’s not a healthy distraction.
  3. Throw on something comfortable for days when you have more fluid retention. I prefer something with an elastic waistband, leggings, or just walking around my house in an oversized T-shirt and underwear. Trying to fit into those skinny jeans is NEVER a good idea. Also: Who actually enjoys jeans?!
  4. Don’t stare at yourself in the mirror and pick yourself apart. I’ve squeezed my sides, pinched my legs and poked at my swollen knees. You will not get rid of your fluid retention or swelling by pinching it.
  5. Ask your doctor if you should avoid certain foods and if you should adjust any particular medications to help with extra water weight. Sometimes some extra weight is “normal” for someone with PH. Know your “normal” and learn to accept that it will be uncomfortable.
  6. No one likes to appear heavier and no one is overjoyed when the number on the scale goes up. Don’t put yourself down for being upset about it. Feel upset and acknowledge your emotions, but try not to let it ruin your entire day.
  7. Distract yourself in positive ways. When your body image isn’t great, don’t do something that will make you uncomfortable. Maybe this isn’t the best day to try on your favorite bathing suits or go clothes shopping for a formal dress. Do things that don’t involve focus on your body.
  8. On a hot day, even with the extra water weight, don’t feel like you need to hide from the pool. If you are comfortable with wearing a bikini, GO FOR IT! But if you aren’t (like me) just wear your favorite cover up, put on an adorable one-piece, and cool off in the pool or at the beach. Don’t hide in fear of what other people might think of your weight gain. You notice it more than others will.
  9. Do things you enjoy. Read, watch a movie, have a friend visit, go out for a special treat, journal, blog, chat with friends online, and ask for support from people who understand.
  10. Remember that this weight fluctuation will most likely happen. It is up to you and your doctor to establish what is “normal” and what isn’t.

Living life with a chronic illness is ridiculously hard. Your body may seem awful, but it’s yours. It can be triggering for anyone with pulmonary hypertension to see the numbers on the scale increase. It triggers worries, fears, anxiety about our condition, and anxiety about weight. A scale causes lots of anxiety, but it can be a crucial part of monitoring our condition. Don’t pick on yourself for things that you have no control over. Don’t let a number on the scale stop you from living.


Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, Bionews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


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