So yesterday, I reached a precipice:
I had an important meeting to go to… the kind that you can’t wear yoga pants or leggings to. Which meant digging through my closet to find ACTUAL clothes.
Sometimes being a grown up isn’t fun.
Anyways, I found 3 pairs of pants:
- A pair of thai pants… anyone who knows what thai pants are knows that these gems, while super comfortable, make leggings look like business suits.
- A pair of sweats… a skip from casual leggings to the lazy Saturday, not-leaving-the-house wear.
- A pair of pants I bought around January/February of this year. Wrinkled, but nothing an iron wouldn’t fix.
Obviously, I had to go with the third option. While to many, this is a non-stressful endeavor, for me, trying on clothes that I haven’t worn in a long time produces tons of anxiety.
Will they still fit?
Has my body changed?
I see fat accumulating on the daily, but they say it’s not an accurate perception. What if this is my worst fear come true? An enforcement that what I see is really what’s there?
If I do put them on, and they don’t fit, how will I react?
Will it be the start of more restriction? A more intense exercise regime? A reinstatement of my old eating disordered ways?
How will I cope with this?
Regardless, I had to put on the pants. I built myself up while ironing them, popped a few benzodiazepenes (kidding), and tried to tell myself it would all be okay.
And guess what?
The stupid things didn’t fit.
Correction: The stupid things didn’t fit the SAME as they fit at the beginning of January.
So let me clarify something… your brain doesn’t store useless information, or stuff that is deemed unimportant. That’s why, if someone asks you what you ate on September 1st, the most likely response would be something along the lines of:
“WTF, I have no idea?! Why the heck does it matter?”
And believe it or not, what your body looks like on a day to day, minute to minute basis is pretty useless information. I mean, your brain is much more preoccupied with keeping your heart beating and remembering how to get home from work so you don’t end up half way to Alaska. THAT my friends is useful information!
Hence, the argument of many eating disordered patients of, “I swear my stomach has grown two inches since the last time I looked in the mirror!” is pretty unfounded. The brain plays tricks, the disorder plays tricks, and creates a fictional perception of what you looked like before based on what you BELIEVE you looked like before, and what SEEMS logical in your brain.
Regardless though, the facts lie in the fabric: my pants were tighter in certain places. While I can’t remember EXACTLY specifically how the pants fit, because again, useless information, I remember them being a touch looser around my thighs, and butt.
The argument of me is instantly:
The argument of the boyfriend is: “It FITS you, instead of being baggy. They look good!”
It’s not a drastic change, but it’s a change nonetheless.
In ED recovery, one of the hardest things is coping with a changing body, even if its changing for all the right reasons. There’s the constant comparison between where you were and where you are now. You have to make peace with yourself, inwardly and outwardly. That includes accepting that your body wants to be a certain size and shape, and you have very little control over that if you want to live life as a normal person and not as a crazy food-and-exercise obsessed control freak.
That also includes accepting that the clothes you had when you were disordered, or the clothes you had even before your disorder might, or more likely than not, won’t fit. AND knowing that that doesn’t mean you’re ballooning, anymore than it means you’re fat. And even if you are, is that the worst thing you could be?
You also have to decide what you’re willing to give up to create the life you want.
In a world of people telling you to never give up, to push yourself to the limit, and to strive for nothing short of perfection, I am your antithesis. It is impossible to create a life that is filled with everything. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Something’s gotta give. _______ (Insert other overused historical/film quote here).
The same thing applies to eating disorders, or rather eating disorder recovery. If you hope to recover, you have to be willing to let go of things. I know this seems like an obvious statement, but when put into practice it’s actually quite a difficult thing.
So what do you have to give up?
Is it the idea of a lack of cellulite?
A thigh gap?
The ability of the ED to act as an excuse for putting life on hold?
Is it exercising when you’re really anxious about moving?
The idea that health = thinness?
All the food rules and judgements you hold in the name of “health”?
Is it the need to feel in control and right/perfect all the time?
For me, it’s all these things and more. AND it’s the idea that a certain arbitrary label sewn, probably haphazardly, into an article of clothing has the right as well as the power to determine my worth, value, beauty, and integrity as a human being.
Because in your everyday life, do you look at a woman next to you on the bus, who society deems as “overweight” but who also has volunteered countless hours at the local homeless shelter, and say, “You have less value than the thin woman next to you who has fundraised more for the SPCA than anyone in the town.” ?
Do you say to an “overweight” woman breastfeeding her newborn that because she’s “fat” her breast milk is worth less to the baby she’s feeding, than the thin woman doing the same sitting next to her?
Your weight is the least interesting thing about you. And whether or not you can fit into a size 2 or a size 14 is hardly the most important thing in your life.
At some point, we have to make peace with our changing shape. With everything in our lives, we have to decide whether it is something that is important, or whether it’s something that is preventing us from creating the life we want.
We stand at a crossroads, or a fork in the road as obvious as the fork dividing your left pant leg from your right. We can put on our pants, suck in our guts, and do up the button, all while lamenting the loss of our willowy frames, our high school bodies, our 25 year old stomach, or our grey-less hair. We can beat ourselves up and make ourselves feel like crap for changing. And we can choose whether the things we have given up or lost, are things that we still want to hold on to or get back.
As my pants hugged my thighs, and caressed my hips and butt, I felt like a failure. I felt panicked. I felt as if my world was ending and my worst fears were being realized. I felt like the person I was was gone, and I could never get her back.
All because denim is unforgiving after a trip through the laundry machine.
But I had a choice. I could continue to hate myself. I could cut out sugar. I could decrease my portions. I could skip a few snacks. I could exercise for just 10, 15, 20 minutes more. I could bust out the screwdriver and put the treadmill that I dismantled because I didn’t want to be chained to it, back together. I could find the person I was, and bring her back.
I’ve done it before. Enter relapse, again.
Or I could decide that there were other things that I valued MORE than the person I was, or the size of my pants. I could be uncomfortable, unsure, unsteady, and exposed to the harsh realities of limited motion fabrics, and not change a thing. I could move on with my day, and my life.
I could set my priorities… and I did.
30 things that are more important than my pant size:
- I can go out to whatever restaurant my friends, family, or boyfriend pick without having a complete mental breakdown, ordering a salad, or looking up the menu/calories ahead of time.
- I have a latte every day, and it is 100% delicious and a very normal, enjoyable part of my morning.
- I’ve had a few cocktails, a couple slices of cake, and made memories to last a lifetime.
- I’ve had cookie crumbs fall into my bra, and lost a drop or two of ice cream in there as well. I remember a time neither of those would touch my lips or fingers, never mind get up close and personal with my feminine features.
- I FINALLY learned to bike, and I bike… a lot. And have increased the strength and musculature of my legs, as well as my genetically crappy knees.
- I’ve spent more time with my friends and family than I have on a treadmill or yoga mat.
- I have the strength to go up stairs and hills without getting winded.
- My energy level is much more consistent and I have more get-up-and-go than I have had in my whole life, even before the ED.
- I have learned to relax my standards a bit more, even though it is uncomfortable to do so.
- My hair is crazy soft… and not brittle at all.
- I’ve spent less time at home, and more time exploring the world.
- I frequently have conversations that don’t revolve around food, weight, or shape… and I can pay attention and remember having them.
- I can have a bite of pizza without counting it as a snack or meal.
- I have more patience and more compassion for those around me.
- I’ve stopped mumbling, “Fuck you!” under my breath every time I saw someone genuinely happy.
- I’m not trapped in a specific exercise cycle, with a specific route, for a specific amount of time, EVERY SINGLE DAY, until I die.
- I can’t remember the last time I specifically set my alarm clock earlier to fit in a work out.
- I can’t remember the last time I did sit ups, weights, or pilates at 2 am.
- I’ve carved out a niche and found a great love for blogging, which I never could do when I couldn’t sit long enough to open a browser window.
- I’ve fostered relationships that fill the gap in my spirits to replace the one in my thighs, and that never would have had a chance to grow had I not stopped moving.
- I have a figure that allows my boyfriend to hold me without fear of breaking me.
- I can wear shorts again. Both in terms of temperature, and in terms of acceptance.
- I’ve begun to view my “unforgiveable” past choices, simply as choices. They don’t speak to who I am now, or who I will, or can become.
- My body does not determine my worth, value, or integrity as a person.
- I’ve begun to do things regardless of the fear there is in doing them. I push myself to not stand in my own way.
- I don’t take life so seriously. One choice, one day, one hour, one meal, or one conversation does not a life sentence make.
- I’ve shared my deepest and darkest secrets… and was met by only love and support.
- I’ve become more literate on the many ways society is more flawed than I am.
- I’ve laughed more, seen more, and done more than I ever did when my pants fit.
- Basically, I’ve learned how to live, and lived a life worth living.
And that is worth so much more than my pant size. So in the end, it really comes down to: