Comfort in my own skin

Losing weight used to be the most important thing in my life. Year after year, it was my resolution each January. And year after year, despite my weight, I still never felt like I had succeeded. If I gained, I had obviously failed. If I maintained, I had not done enough. If I lost, I still had so much further to go.

My highest weight was 300 pounds. I panicked. I felt out of control. I changed my diet and exercise habits and started to lose weight.

My lowest weight was 201 pounds. I panicked. I felt unsafe. I changed my diet and exercise habits and started to gain weight.

While I was elbow deep in an MLM company selling shake mix and workout DVDs, I used to collect and share all sorts of fitness inspiration (“fitspo”) graphics and memes in my coaching groups. Slogans like “Eat like you love your body” and “Don’t let food be the boss of you” and “Strive for progress, not perfection” and “In three months you will thank yourself” were my absolute bread and butter (but, like, gluten free, because gluten is evil).

And I strived for those things. I ate salads and raw veggies and superfood shakes because I wanted to eat like I loved my body. I avoided sugar entirely, even eschewing condiments, because I wanted to eat like I loved my body. I did three day clean eating cleanses and sugar fasts and Whole30 so that I could be the boss of food, instead of letting food be the boss of me. When I slipped up and ate something off-plan, I tried to remember that it was still progress as long as I didn’t gain weight back — a couple bad days on a diet doesn’t mean utter failure and a life in this fat body. I knew that after three grueling months of breaking my bad food habits, I would be on my way to a toned, lean, fit Pinterest body. All of the fitness memes promised that soon, this lifestyle change (not a diet, a lifestyle change) would become an addiction and I would wake up in the morning and all of the little Disney blue birds would come put my moisture wicking skintight pants on me so I could go run a quick 10k before breakfast. Every day. I looked forward to that day.

I would finally love myself, if I could only overcome my lack of self control. If I could eat right, I would finally love my body. If I could exercise enough, I would finally love my body.

One of the graphics saved on my phone says “I am obsessed with becoming a woman comfortable in her own skin.” I was determined to lose enough weight to reach this point. I knew I could become comfortable in my body once I had found the right mix of food and movement to unlock the secret code to making my body get smaller.

I started running. I did 5Ks, and then a 10K, and then a half marathon. The next year, I did another half marathon and signed up for the race that would change my life and make me a true runner. I signed up for a Ragnar relay. Two hundred (ish) miles in two days, sleeping in a van, running on sleep deprivation and cold bagels and the promise of epic satisfaction and pride when I was finished.

But the Ragnar didn’t change me. I felt the same. I questioned if I had done it right. My first leg was partially canceled due to flooding, so I didn’t even run my whole Ragnar. My position had shorter legs, so I questioned the validity and badassness of my Ragnar experience. Did I even do a Ragnar if I wasn’t completely broken by the end of it?

I was still chasing that self love. I was still chasing body satisfaction.

And I thought pain and exhaustion and limitation and control was part of that journey to becoming comfortable in my body.

I started therapy to specifically target my relationship with food just a few weeks ago. On February 1st, my therapist and I identified a target thought process: I am not allowed to eat. I had a very rough night that evening and cried a lot. Processing is hard. But over the weekend and through the next week to my first “reprocessing” appointment (in which we focused on changing the target thought to “I am allowed to eat”), I did a lot of work.

I unfollowed any account on Instagram or Facebook that focused on dieting or thinness. I followed a bunch of real, actual body positive accounts (especially large bodies). I started reading about the anti-diet culture. I pre-ordered “The Fuck It Diet” by Caroline Dooner.

After the reprocessing session, I ate without restriction. And something unexpected happened inside me.

This is going to sound so hokey and silly but I swear, this is what happened.

The space in my mind that previously held all of my rules and need for control had given way to hold contentment and joy instead.

Where I used to ask myself twenty questions to determine how valid a hunger pang was, I now just made something tasty and enjoyed it, then went on with my day.

Where I used to keep a constant inner monologue of comparison to what I had eaten the day before, how fast my dining companion was eating, whether or not I could finish my side of fries without looking like a fatty mc fatty fat, I now just ate what I wanted and went on with my day.

Where I used to look at a large body on Instagram and focus on fat rolls and sagging skin, I now saw what I was after — the look on their faces. The way they held their shoulders back and head up. The way they were comfortable in their bodies… as they were right now. 

Y’all, something snapped inside me.

That is what was missing for me. Contentment with my body isn’t an aspiration. It’s not something that will happen if only I can achieve and limit and drag myself to it. It’s not the reward for suffering. Contentment with my body – becoming a woman comfortable in my own skin – is a right-now thing. Not a someday-maybe thing.

I was obsessed with becoming a woman comfortable in her own skin. And all I had to do to become her was love myself right now.

The shame was so, so heavy. After over two decades of carrying the burden of hating my body, I put it down. And what rushed in to fill the void was love.

bikini

This. is. what. I’m. talking. ABOUT. 

 

 

Love your body, clean your closet

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 was Love Your Body Day (LYBD).  LYBD seeks to encourage women (and men) to, clearly, love their bodies.  Stop fixating on the things you hate about your body.  Stop wishing it was different.  Stop worrying about numbers on a scale.  Stop negative self-talk.  Stop reading magazines that promote airbrushed models as the desired shape and size for beauty.  Stop letting other people’s words get you down. Here’s a secret: They aren’t always happy with their bodies either.

A pants size will not make you happy.

To bring this idea around to a practical minimalist application, I’d like to talk about the clothes in your closet, wardrobe, or dresser that do not fit and do not make you feel fabulous.

Holding on to clothes that are too big, just in case, is not healthy.  You have an excuse to stop being accountable for your health because you think it’s okay since you’ve got a pair of fat pants. First off, stop calling them fat pants.  Someone else out there just calls them pants.  They may like their body just how it is, and you calling their pants “fat pants” just adds another little layer of insecurity that society is throwing at them.  Stick to the clothes that fit you.  “But what if I gain weight?” Then you buy bigger clothes when you gain weight.  Keep yourself accountable — eat a balanced diet of mostly plants, and move for thirty minutes a day, and you should maintain your weight (minus any health issues that cause extreme weight fluctuations).

Holding on to clothes that are too small, as motivation, is not healthy.  Having clothes in your closet that are too small is a body-negative reminder of your “ideal” beauty and body.  Get comfy in your body, and stop making yourself feel bad by surrounding yourself with reminders of what you’re not.  If you want to lose weight and wear smaller clothes, do it.  In a healthy way.  Which will take a while, so go ahead and take that top to Goodwill.  Reward yourself with new clothes when you do lose the weight, instead of having to look at a blaring neon sign that says “YOU CAN’T WEAR ME” every time you get dressed.

Holding on to clothes that are not your style is silly. These are the clothes that technically fit, but that you don’t wear.  Because they have a weird pattern, or you don’t like the cut, or you just don’t wear long sleeved shirts but your aunt bought it for you, or a tee shirt from high school that you have no reason to wear, or any other of the million reasons people hang on to these clothes.  If you are not wearing them, get rid of them.  Try the hanger trick.

Some guidelines:

  • Only clothes that fit you and that make you feel good deserve a space in your closet.  Anything else is not worth your time.
  • If you are pregnant or otherwise gaining weight that is temporary, a range of sizes is acceptable, but it IS possible to avoid having an entire (soon useless) wardrobe of maternity clothes.  See Miss Minimalist for more on that.
  • If you have a lot of clothes in sizes that don’t fit and you can’t bring yourself to get rid of them all, limit yourself to one box of clothes to put in storage for you to have on hand in case of weight fluctuations.
  • Don’t let your mom guilt you into keeping an ugly shirt because she bought it for you. Apply this to whatever guilt-ridden sentimental reason you have for keeping something you don’t really wear. Sorry mom.
  • When purchasing new clothing, look for items made with forgiving fabrics with some stretch, or elastic waists.  This makes the clothing more comfortable to move in and accommodates minor weight fluctuations.

What’s your favorite item of clothing, and how does it make you feel to wear it? Share in the comments!