How Asthma Has Affected My Body Image

Growing up, I fit the mold of a quintessential American child. I was healthy, thin, and athletic. I was a competitive swimmer, gymnast, and did ballet. My health was fairly decent and I had a relatively positive body image.

I did not develop asthma until I was late into high school. It started with shortness of breath whenever I had a sinus or chest infection, and did not really bother me on a day-to-day basis. I was still very much in shape through most of college, swimming multiple times a week and getting into the ballet studio when I had the chance. I had the occasional flare of my symptoms throughout those years, but my asthma certainly did not dictate my activities.

Treating my asthma

However, my asthma slowly got worse and worse. Every winter I would have more asthma exacerbations. I went from only needing a rescue inhaler, to needing steroid inhalers, then combination inhalers, etcetera etcetera.

Every winter there would be more and more steroids, a more and more sedentary lifestyle, and eventually it became almost impossible to make it to the gym or get my exercise in. I am so sick half of the year that it is near impossible to even get out of the house some days.

And then there are the steroids. I used to be able to get away with just a few days of steroids to clear up my lungs and get me breathing again. Those few days turned into weeks and those weeks occasionally turn into months. Steroids are not my friend. Steroids keep me up at night, make me ravenously hungry, and give me the classical "moon face" among other things.

Asthma's affect on my body image


If you mix the lack of exercise with the steroids, you get some major body changes, weight gain being the most psychologically significant. Each year I seem to put on a few more pounds, and although my weight fluctuates up and down, I no longer have the strong, athletic, thin body that I had growing up.

Body image is a huge issue here in America. We are inundated with magazines, and commentaries and watch movie stars seemingly lose weight so easily to fit whatever role they have. (Yes, I know it’s just a stigma, and losing weight is never "easy"). But from a young age, I have received repeated messages that being thin is what is desirable.

I have really struggled with those messages. As I have put on weight over the last decade or so, I have seen myself change from the "ideal" body type to a body that I am not always happy with. And some days I really struggle with seeing myself as pretty and desirable.

My strengths

But I also see a body that has endured and overcome many obstacles. I see a body that continues to fight and overcome the illnesses that plague it. I see a body that is unfairly consumed by medications that were never intended to be used for extended periods of time.

I struggle to see the beauty in myself most days, but I am definitely stronger for the things I have been through and overcome. I am learning to be okay with who I have become, and although some days are easier than others, I remind myself that I am no less of a person because of how asthma has changed me.

I am beautiful. My scars and struggles have made me who I am, and I am really proud of that.

Has asthma changed your body image? Let us know in the comments.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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