REAL Talk with Julia Hansen

Growing up body image wasn't something that I often dwelled upon. When my girlfriends would talk about their bodies, I wouldn't say anything.

I felt as though there was shame on both ends. Shame for not being confident and liking what you look like, but also shame if you weren't dealing with body image issues. I didn't want others to judge me because I was comfortable with the way I looked. It was much farther down the road and out of my teen years that I realized my security with who I am, had to do a lot with my size.

I started to see doctor after doctor looking for what was wrong, but for 6 months I had no idea what was happening to my body. At the end of May, I was finally diagnosed with graves disease, also known as hyperthyroidism. While most people’s thyroid regulates the output of certain hormones, mine is overactive.

In December of 2014 I started getting strange symptoms; headaches, hot flashes, rashes, fatigue, fluid retention, shaky, appetite increase and weight gain—to the point where I was asked several times if I was pregnant. I wasn't.

Life was rough to say the least. I was trying to get a foothold on my new marriage and trying to navigate all these changes in my body at the same time. I felt like an entirely different person, emotionally and physically. It was the first time in my life that I was uncomfortable in my skin, and I had no idea how to handle it. I had to start thinking about what I was eating and how much. I had such a hard time cutting out foods or working out because I would become discouraged so easily, which in turn made me self-conscious of how I could become defeated so quickly. My clothes were no longer fitting, and buying new clothes wasn't something I enjoyed anymore. I felt completely out of control. I became hyper aware of everyone else that was losing weight and compared myself to everyone. I felt so much shame, and no longer felt beautiful. I hated getting my picture taken because I didn't want to feel more shame. I didn't want to see what I looked like.
Despite knowing why I was sick, nothing was changing physically or emotionally, until a full year after my symptoms had begun. As this inner battle continued I eventually realized how deep my identity was rooted in my image. But why? Simply because I wasn't my old size? Or because I didn't look like what media describes as beautiful?

Our minds are dangerously powerful. Who knows if I will ever get back to my previous size? But I can no longer let my body be defined by what society tells me is right. I want to feel confident about who I am even when my body changes instead of having shallow confidence in my high school jeans.

My hope through this Real Talk blog is that women TRULY start talking about this stuff. To the women that are struggling, you are not alone. Find someone to talk to. Reach out. You won't feel more shame by sharing your struggles but rather an acceptance and liberation. And to the women that feel good in their skin - don't feel shame for that either. Whatever size you may be, find a place where your confidence is not dependent on your body but by the fact that your worth is defined by something far deeper.


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May 26, 2016 — Nettle's Tale