Living with IBS - I always feel fat - Karlijnskitchen.com

Living with IBS – I always feel fat

I feel fat. Always. There I said it. As long as I can remember I have been hating my belly. My pants never feel comfortable. They are ALWAYS tight around my belly. I always look at other people wearing jeans wondering if they actually feel comfortable in them. “Do they really feel as comfortable as they look?” or are jeans actually comfortable to them? Am I really the only one who feels like jeans are horrible?

As long as I can remember, I have been telling myself that this is because I am fat. If I simply lose a few kilos, my pants will fit comfortably. Only recently I start to realize that this might not be the reason why my pants are uncomfortable. My weight has been going up and down in the past few years, 5 kilos less, 5 kilos more. But my pants never felt comfortable. Maybe I feel like I could lose a few kilos, but I do have a healthy weight. So probably my weight isn’t the reason.

It was a few months ago when I read on a blog from a girl with Coeliakie that she wears pregnancy jeans when she feels bloated after she accidentally ate gluten, that I thought: “Wait a second, am I not the only one who has this?”. Are there more people whose pants feel terribly uncomfortable because they are bloated?

Living with IBS - I always feel fat - Karlijnskitchen.com

And for the people who don’t have IBS and think: but Karlijn, you already follow a strict FODMAP diet for your IBS, how can you still have a bloated stomach? Well.. firstly the FODMAP diet can really diminish your bloating, but this doesn’t mean that you are bloat-free. Secondly, people with IBS only need something very small to get stomach problems anyway. For example: a hidden FODMAP in a dish where you didn’t expect it, eating several limited low FODMAP products in a meal which gets you over your threshold, stress, nervousness or just something random like the weather. Jup, when you have IBS you never know when you will get bloated.

It often happens that I go to work and I feel perfectly comfortable in my clothes. A few hours later I am sitting behind my desk, feeling super fat and bloated and I wonder what I was thinking in the morning when I put on that outfit. Because it doesn’t feel comfortable at all and I look fat. I have been struggling with my body and accepting my body as long as I can remember. And I am starting to realise that my IBS might have played a pretty big role in me not managing to accept my body.

Because it is really hard to find yourself beautiful when your belly looks like a balloon, when your pants are always tight,  when it always seems like you ate way too much, even if you have been eating super healthy foods all day. If you can never go overboard on a party and eat lots of cake and chips or have few drinks without being punished for it the next morning. I remember the hundreds of attempts that I did to lose weight. After a day of healthy eating I almost never felt satisfied. Because no matter how healthy I ate, my bloated belly still made me feel fat and unsuccessful. And if I do have a day where I really eat too much, my belly is always there to make me feel extra full.

I think I never wrote such a personal and open blog on Karlijn’s Kitchen before and I did feel a bit nervous about sharing this. But I really want to share this with you because I know that I am not the only one. And I know that it would have helped me so much, if I would have known earlier that I am not the only one who struggles with this. This is something that is part of having the chronic disease IBS and having a bloated stomach shouldn’t make you feel ugly or bad about yourself, however hard that might be.

Living with IBS - I always feel fat - Karlijnskitchen.com

I have made a vow with myself to try to only buy clothes that I actually feel comfortable in from now on. I won’t buy jeans because everybody is wearing them, because they make ME feel horrible (unless they are super stretchy). I bought two pairs of pants with elastic waistbands last summer and I have been living in them ever since. I LOVE IT. I refuse to let bloat rule my life any longer, so I am going to have to find ways to live with it. The low FODMAP diet is one way, because it reduces my bloat a lot and finding bloat-proof clothes is a second way.

In my next blog about #livingwithibs I am going to search for the perfect pants for a bloated stomach. If you have any tips already, please let me know!

I am very curious what you think about my story. Do you recognize this?

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20 Comments

  • Leslie says:

    Hi Karljin
    I do relate.. Eating low FODMAP has helped a lot, but hasn’t completely solved the bloat problem. And it gets worse with age! Elastic waists are comfortable but sometimes I want something a little more stylish. Recently I found some skinny stretchy pants/leggings in a maternity section of a store that work beautifully with a tunic top. Whatever works, I say. Thanks for sharing.

  • Joan says:

    I really relate to your blog. I am 69 years old, months away from being 70 and I have had the bloat feeling all my adult life. Better on FODMAP, but not gone entirely. Even if my clothes fit me perfectly, my bloat makes me feel like I am in too tight clothing and I feel like I am carrying around a lot of extra baggage. Even at my age, I haven’t gotten the body image thing figured out, but still trying

    • I try taking it step by step, I can imagine how hard it must be to accept your body if you have been struggling with it all your life. I hope you will find a way!

  • Cass Jayde says:

    hey hun!
    im really inspired by your idea of not buying clothes that you arent comfy in anymore – jeans are my big one, and youre so right in that i wear them because thats the accepted idea. youre right, i do only wear them for that reason. stretchy waistbands from now on!!! thanks for sharing, its always so nice to hear from someone who gets how ibs can feel.

  • Eloise says:

    Hi!
    Thanks for sharing, I think its great to be able to talk about these things and move in a positive direction. I have IBS-C and while I eat a strict low fodmap diet, my C side of things is not well managed, I have recently started on some new probiotics and will experiment. So my stomach is often bloated at the end of the day and puffed up like a hard balloon. I often have a “bloat baby” and steer away from clingy shirts. I have resorted to only buying stretchy jeans with an elastic waist band and only cheap ones as I seem to change sizes a lot, despite not changing weight.
    I can recommend some elastic topped ones from H&M.
    I went through the same thing as well thinking I need to loose a kilo or two, but then I realised I needed to get the C part of my IBS more under control, so I am now making steps to help with that.

  • Celeste says:

    Karlijn, thank you for your open honest blog.
    I thought I’d not done the FODMAP plan properly or that I was the only one it failed as like you, although it did ‘help’ I still experienced bloating etc. I also only shop for ‘Bridget Jones’ style pants, much more comfortable. Jeans that are comfortable around the waist and tummy area can be huge from the hips down.
    Having lived with IBS most of my life (left my forties this year) and visiting my GPs, having various tests just to confirm I have IBS and sadly realising there’s no cure, I have a heavy heart but reading blogs like yours helps.
    I hate my body (my wonderful husband is always telling me he loves my body but it’s my body, I don’t like most of it) but it helps strangely knowing that if I do look in the mirror, I could be looking at so many other people who feel exactly the same. I know I’m not alone but it does feel lonely so again, thank you for sharing your post publicly, it’s made me waffle on; cathartic it’s helped x

  • Herlives says:

    Hey, This is actually what I was looking for this. I am currently pregnant with my first baby. Recently I found some skinny, stretchy pants/leggings in a maternity section of a store that works beautifully with a tunic top. Thanks for the sharing this.

  • Pak31 says:

    So glad I found your site. I have suffered from IBS for years. I’m 50 but have had issues with bloating since being in my 30’s. I recently lost 25 pounds because my stomach was overweight. I was 145 and now just dipped under 120. I know I’m super thin but I feel huge. It’s because of my stomach. I usually am very constipated. When I clean my system out which is about once a month I feel fabulous. Then two days later I’m back to misery. If I didn’t have IBS then I could easily put 20 pounds back on and if my stomach was flat I’d feel great. It’s the worst thing to go through and no one understands. How can I be underweight and feel fat? That’s crazy. I’m working out and eating very healthy. Sometimes I want to blame it on my female reproductive system. I’ve entered menopause but who knows.

  • Helen says:

    You’re not alone, Karlijn: bloating is my biggest problem too. At times I’ve even had two wardrobes with clothes in different sizes to wear when I’m having ‘fat’ or ‘thin’ days. I gave up wearing jeans and any clothes that don’t stretch years ago. Elastic waistbands may not look as stylish, but comfort is more important when you’re managing IBS. I love loose, tapered trousers (or harem or jogger styles if they’re not too casual), elasticated-waist skater and a-line skirts, and swing or skater dresses as they’re the most forgiving. It can be difficult finding things to fit as I’m also very petite but I keep looking. I really appreciate your bravery in posting this.

  • Nat says:

    Ha this is so me! I have to keep a sense of humor about it as I have workmates rubbing my tummy and then the look of disbelief when I tell them they are rubbing my food Baby. I love yoga pants and even if the belly goes up and down, beautiful shoes still fit!

  • Elmari Kuyler says:

    Oh lordy! I sooo relate to this! Thank you for writing this article. I have ‘fat’ jeans and ‘thin’ jeans because my weight fluctuate so much. I actually find myself buying clothes too big so that I have something to wear in the bad days. Please share more tips on how to dress for IBS!! Wish I could wear pretty dresses.

  • Hello from sunny South Africa,

    How lovely to have found your blog! I am 68 years old and in the past five years have contracted a Super Bug (C.Difficile), initially from antibiotics for Diverticulitis and both times resulting in faecal transplants.
    After this suffer from bouts of bloating and painful colon and a lot of gas that gathers in the colon. It has definitely affected my immune system. Would you have any ideas for eliminating gas from the colon and any natural remidies perhaps. I find that pepperming oil capsules help somewhat. Have just started on a low Fodmap diet

  • Jennifer says:

    Buying comfortable pants is the way to go with IBS. When I wear pants with a stretchy waist band I am much kinder to myself through the day and I am not always analyzing my food choices. Eddie Bauer carries some lovely work type pants with skinny legs and an elastic waist (Passenger Ponte skinny leg or regular). I am starting to buy the size that is just a little to big instead of the size that fits just right (a little snug) at the store. Be careful when shopping with a friend as they almost always tell me to buy the smaller size. I am learning what I need to do for my own stomach.

  • Sara says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m 30, and just in the past few years have begun to address my lifelong struggles with stomach pain and bloating. I was always the super skinny girl who felt fat, but I never had an eating disorder or unhealthy relationship with food. I’m starting to lift weights now and really get into fitness. While I’m at an ideal weight and body fat percentage, when I look at photos of people with the same stats (5′ 9″, 135 lbs, 20% body fat) I can’t imagine ever looking like that because my stomach will never be tamed. I’m hoping I can find a happy balance between feeling good, being strong, and accepting my bloated belly for what it is. And thank you for the idea to get rid of jeans!!! They’re the worst!

  • Ciana Howlin says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I had a huge mental breakdown about my body yesterday as I am an actor at drama school, we do intense workouts every single day and I eat super healthy because if I didn’t I would crash. Even then my body still stays the same it never changes and my belly looks like a balloon. It’s been so disheartening especially surround with beautiful girls with tiny stomachs and I just feel absolutely huge next to them, even though I am a normal size. I tried on a dress yesterday for a huge event on Saturday and it looked so awful because of my tummy and I just lost hope. I’ve only eaten one meal a day for the past three days because of the bloating, I thought there was something wrong with me so thank you for this post. It has reassured me I am not alone.

    • Karlijn says:

      You are welcome! I am sorry you feel that way, but I know exactly how you feel. It is so hard sometimes and then it is nice to know that there are others who feel the same <3

  • Stephen says:

    Hi,
    I’ll reiterate what so many people said: this candid, courageous honesty is extremely helpful! I grew up with a female body and always kind of wondered if I just had an oversized uterus or something. As a teenager I had well-defined abdominals, but the instant I stopped flexing I would have my rotund little…well, I like the term “food baby”. It’d be there even if I hadn’t eaten for a long time. I have since realized that I am female-to-male transgender, and I had a hysterectomy for psychological reasons. The odd bloated stomach is still there, to the point that I either look quite pregnant (not fun for a man) or pot-bellied (not great for a 24-year-old). After a somewhat flippant jibe from a family member, and not the first of its kind, I got to feeling somewhat depressed about the belly again. Even without excess fat, I always get catalogued in people’s brains as the skinny-armed, slightly-overweight guy with the belly…..unless I’ve fasted for 24 hours or more. I suppose what saddens me is that I need to resign to this bodily appearance, and all the assumptions that people have about it. But the isolation is lessened from reading everyone’s stories here, and it also reminds me that I live with relatively little pain or discomfort from bloating, which I would consider a privilege. So thank you, again.

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