My IBD Journey | How IBD changed my relationship with fitness

My IBD Journey | How IBD changed my relationship with fitness


At 21 years old, Billie Anderson was left without a large intestine. Here is how IBD changed her relationship with fitness in ways you might not expect. 

There’s countless amounts of research into the effects of physical health and its relation to mental stability; ultimately concluding that when you have a healthy body, you have a happier mind. 

I’ve always loved going to the gym but, being fit has been more important to me in the last nine months than ever before.

I’ve been recovering from major abdominal surgery, that left me without a colon and with a stoma bag strapped to my front at 21 years old. The journey of how I got here has made me incredibly aware of both my mental and physical health.

A year and a half ago I was diagnosed with IBD. 

I was reduced to 35kgs in a matter of weeks; unable to eat anything or keep any food down. I was put through intense medication therapy to try and help, but this came with a multitude of side effects, contributing to a very unhappy body and very unhappy mind. 

The severe joint pain combined with anaemia meant I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t look in the mirror without crying; unable to make a cup of tea without feeling like I was going to pass out, making notions of the gym a distant memory.

Before I got sick I was working my body to the extreme. 

I saw a multitude of rock-hard abs, flat tummies and peachy bums and thought that was what I needed to be. I was setting unrealistic goals and doing it for the wrong reasons. 

Nothing was ever good enough, and in hindsight, I see how damaging this was on my mental health. And then, in a matter of weeks, all those years of hard work were wasted. 

When I asked my doctor if I was able to go to the gym - he laughed at me - saying that would be ‘an incredibly stupid idea’ due to the fact I could hardly stand. But I wanted to get back to what I once was, and it was at that moment I saw how important my fitness was. 

Being unwell had been the metaphorical bus I needed to hit me to see what I was doing to myself pre-illness.

Almost one year to the day of my diagnosis, I was on my way down to the operating theatre about to undergo surgery. I came out scarred, missing my large intestine and a bag stuck to my front. 

At that moment, I chose to take care of this new body. 

As the months went on, I started to gain strength. I walked unassisted for the first time, moved onto low resistance ab strengthening and then the fitness bug hit me. I took up swimming again for the first time in years and went to the gym regularly. 

The more I worked out, the better I felt.

The best thing about Gymshark leggings is how high waisted they are; they cover my bag and more importantly support it when I’m doing high-intensity workouts. 

To have that extra level of confidence, knowing that my gym kit looks good as well as supporting me with the exercise I want to do, makes my routines so much more enjoyable. 

Because after all, it’s about enjoying the gym and being proud of the results; feeling confident in your own skin is a great place to start. 

So, let’s fuel that happy body, to keep a strong mind.

Follow Billie's post-op journey here

Read more from Gymshark Central.

Images from @amberschormans


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