HOW RHABDO HELPED ME RECONCILE BODY IMAGE WITH SELF-WORTH
A few years ago, I was “in the best shape of my life.”
I managed to stretch the days from 24 to 72 hours non-stop. They were filled with early on-set call times, long work trips around the country, and high-intensity workouts in a hot warehouse. Peppered with dance classes, coping binges, and a massive lack of sleep—all within a 100-degree summer.
I strained my body with extreme compensatory behaviors. The more it responded, the more I pushed.
It was our last year in Houston, so there was no time to spare.
Achieving the Look
The perfect body—that was the not-so-holy grail. Ever since I can remember, I thought it was my duty to look a certain way as a woman. Not too thin, yet not too thick. Not too toned, yet not too puffy. Narrow waist, big boobs, enough junk in the trunk. Pretty face, long legs, adequate height. Phew.
Who created these body image standards? I didn’t know. But growing up as a Latina, let alone in Venezuela (the second country with the most Miss Universe crowns), the pressure was on.
Skinny meant healthier, better. More deserving of love.
As I grew older, I thought I had cracked the code. Too skinny was wrong, but too fat seemed worse, so I needed to stay in line.
Cut to my late twenties and that sizzling Texas summer.
The Wake-up Call
Everything was “fine.”
Until one day, I felt dizzy at the office. I could hardly walk and almost passed out in the restroom.
I asked my husband to pick me up. I was too weak to drive.
He immediately took me to the ER. I assumed my blood sugar was low, or perhaps I was having another heatstroke?—yes, I had one a few weeks before and kept going.
After a few tests, the doctor told me I was severely dehydrated. My creatine kinase (CK) levels were through the roof: about 1,700 U/L (units per liter) compared to 26-192 U/L (women’s reference values).
I was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, the rapid breakdown of damaged muscle tissue that releases certain enzymes into the bloodstream, which in turn are harmful to the kidneys.
IV fluids were the treatment of choice. We had to get those CK levels down fast to protect my kidneys. I spent the night in the ER wondering how the heck did I get there? I had heard of brown-urine rhabdo stories that only happened to elite athletes.
As it turns out, I checked all the boxes. Common causes of rhabdo include:
The doctor instructed me to drink 2 gallons of water a day for the next 3 weeks. No alcohol for 2 months. I could slowly get back to working out in a few weeks with moderation, avoiding extreme heat, and focusing on proper hydration.
Hard Look in the Mirror
I went from shock to utter shame in a matter of hours. How could I let this happen?
I was so proud of being a “superproducer,” obsessed with working all day, partying all night, and on my way to a deadly six-pack.
All for what? To fit in the “right body” and have people love me more? To be worthy? I had to take a long hard look in the mirror.
But the glass shattered. All I was left with were my naked creeds and this beaten body that I love and owe SO MUCH.
I realized the “perfect body” I was preconceived to aim for was not worth a trip to the emergency room or kidney failure.
Working on body image issues and self-love is ongoing and ruthless. I’m still battling to understand my worth has nothing to do with how I look. I love to exercise because movement fuels me, but I struggle to separate my value from the idea of “who I should be.”
The truth is: I am love, I am light, and I am worthy.
My body IS the perfect body because it’s mine. I appreciate it, but I have much more to offer than just my flesh.
And I hope to raise my kids to see that before it’s too late.
How to Steer Your Daughter Away From A Negative Body Image Path
Become Aware of Your Biases
It took this terrifying experience for me to dive deep into my body image prejudices. Look inward and check in with your own biases. Some of these are deeply rooted and may not be evident to you. If there’s a part of you that has a distorted relationship between body shape and self-worth, then acknowledge that reality.
Understand the issue at hand. Make an effort to expose yourself to body image books and resources that show the other side of your preconceived notions. The fact that you made it here means you are already taking action, so keep that up!
Have Open Conversations
Educating your children on this topic also involves allowing space to talk about it. Encourage a dialogue with your daughter about body image differences and the beauty behind them.
Instill empathy and compassion. Instead of labeling shapes as “right” or “wrong,” talk about the value of establishing healthy habits as a path for wellbeing, but not as an indicator of self-worth.
Once you’ve opened that line of communication, truly listen. Don’t multitask. Actively sit down and hear what your kid has to say. This will help you build trust, making her feel less vulnerable and bringing you closer to each other.
Learn more about how you can avoid promoting negative body image to your daughter.
Nita Diaz is a bilingual freelance writer for hire, list-maker, and movement enthusiast. She helps health and wellness businesses connect with their audience by translating their knowledge into well-researched, colorful, and digestible content. When Nita is not writing for her Coloring Book, she spends time journaling, surviving high-intensity workouts, and contemplating life upside down from her yoga mat.