This is an interesting post for me to write, mostly because it is something that I deal with on a regular basis. This thought; this weighted fear of what happens to me and my identity when I wake up one morning and my pants don’t fit the way that I want them to. It’s as if this uncontrollable variable is what I use to determine how I feel about myself and who I will be that day.
As with most things of the ego and mind, when you pick it apart, piece by piece, the absurdity of the belief really becomes clear. How crazy is it that we allow ourselves to base our judgements of who we are and how we feel about ourselves- on how our clothes fit. Even more so, on how we look on a particular day. Why do we do this to ourselves? How important is it really, how tight our pants are on any given day? This perfectionist pattern of a perfect person with a perfect body is an impossible ideal to hold over anyone and yet so many of us practice it, daily.
For me, this practice became a daily mantra for me years ago, during the height of my eating disorder. It was something I did on a regular basis. I would wake up, excitedly in the morning (possibly high on caffeine), ready to try on my ‘skinny pants’ in hopes of them fitting- and consequently, having a great day. The difficult part, was what would happen if the opposite were true on that day. If I woke up, bounced out of bed, and those jeans either didn’t fit well or felt too snug, that would be the end of the day. I would crawl back into bed, close the blinds- and declare it a failure of a day. The only thing I would doing that day was drinking water and watching tv shows and movies from the comfort of my bed. I would shut myself off from the world; no phone calls, no house visits, no social events, nothing. Just me and my failure.
Suddenly, the tape of morning excitement would change to a script filled with self-hatred and complete disgust:
How could you let yourself get here?
How could you let go of something so perfect?
Everyone is going to notice your thunder thighs, bubble butt and fat face. They’re all going to know. No one is going to love you and want you like this. You have to get that body back immediately, no matter what it takes.
I would feel so defeated. My thoughts would begin to spiral and depression would very quickly take over. Back then, this sort of event would blanket over my life and my mind for days, sometimes even weeks. I would literally sentence myself to hours and hours in bed, in the darkness, ignoring the world- until I felt ready to try my pants on again. The only times I would leave my room were to fill up my large yellow plastic IKEA cup with water, grab a cortisol inducing coffee or diet coke, or run my butt off to the downstairs gym and spend several hours running and doing push-ups and sit-ups. I remember I would pretend an axe- murderer or a lion was chasing me, pushing myself to run as fast as I possibly could (and burn as much fat as possible).
This one event of trying on my pants would begin my obsessive sequence of trying on every item of clothing I had in my closet- as if I was personally salting my wound; soaking in my self-administered punishment. My entire being was so filled with anxiety and stress, anything would set me off. The only thing that kept me sane was that intense feeling of cortisol running through my blood- ensuring my monkey mind was in full effect, and I was grinding my teeth incessantly. I would do anything to get that body back. I would do anything for my pants to fit properly.
That was over 10 years ago. Back then, my entire life was dictated by those pants. Those white-washed stiff denim jeans which I bought from the Chinese mall in Kuala Lumpur (Sungai Wang, meaning ‘river of gold’). These pants were made for much smaller frames than my Western body. Thinking back, they must’ve been a waist size 24 or 25, who knows. All I know, is that those jeans are forever etched in my mind. They were my identity. The strange thing is, I don’t even remember getting rid of them. Who threw them away? Who knows.
I know what you’re thinking: do I still do this?
The answer is sometimes. In fact, the reason I wrote this so clearly, is because I went through a similar routine this morning. Tomorrow, I am flying to Vancouver to begin an exciting month’s trip to Vancouver, San Francisco, Miami and Calgary. This is an adventure that I have been looking forward to for months. As my mental countdown began, I can’t help but admit that there was another countdown taking place. One slightly louder in my head, yet completely silent to the rest of the world. This countdown had more of a panic to it. It sounded something like this:
in 10 days you will pack and get ready and feel absolutely confident and good in your jeans. They will fit perfectly and you will be absolutely ready to take on this trip and feel amazing! No matter what.
So this morning came and a similar practice commenced. I was excited, I jumped out of bed. I blasted Justin Bieber (“Sorry”) and blended up my cold-brew almond mylk latte. I poured myself a large 1 litre glass of filtered water and added cold-pressed lemon juice and ginger. So far, my morning was looking perfect, the only thing was I knew what was coming. Those pants. That suit case. This trip.
I’ll spare you the details: my pants didn’t fit “right”. Enter complete and utter disappointment and fear. Now what?
Here’s the thing: I’m not in bed. I’m not watching tv shows and I’m not getting ready for a 3 hour gym session. I’m still here. [bctt tweet=”Those thoughts are there, and they have some power, but they will not over-power me.”] I have so many beautiful and amazing things to look forward to, and I’m not going to let my pants dictate how they go, how I feel or if I’ll even be there to enjoy it.
As I freaked out and messaged my confidants (aka besties) I was quickly shut down by their confidence that this is no longer a piece of my present.
You always use jeans to measure this, almost like self worth, and it’s such a silly thing to do. Bodies fluctuate. That’s just how it goes! It doesn’t make you any worse or better off when you go to Vancouver by how your jeans fit.
I’m past this. My belief system and identity is not dictated by my body’s natural weight fluctuations and potential water retention (maybe because of stress, maybe not, who cares!)
This moment of release reminds me of a similar event in Elizabeth Gilbert’s creative memoir, Eat Pray Love. In it, while she is in Italy, she and her travel buddy and friend go to Naples for the infamous Neapolitan pizza. After their delicious indulgence, her friend communicates her unfortunate weight-gain and disappointment. Instead of giving up, leaving Italy and hiding in the dark, the do the most logical and rational thing you can imagine: they buy bigger pants.
Whether or not you have to buy bigger pants, or you just have to settle with slightly tighter pants for a week or so, the question remains, does it really matter?
Does the fit of your clothes really dictate who you are?
The answer is simple: no way!
Who you are reaches far beyond your outer appearance, the clothes you wear, or how they fit. From a nutrition point of view, your body is constantly changing. Whether you are retaining more water because of dehydration or stress, less water because of proper hydration or balance; it will never stay one way forever. Allowing your identity to be determined by how your body looks or feels one day to the next is giving up all of your power and setting yourself up for failure. You will never achieve one look or one body for the rest of eternity. You will never feel blissfully happy if your happiness is dependent on your temporary appearance.
There must be something much deeper, much more constant.
This is a practice that goes beyond a one time experience. The vigilant practice of connecting with your core is something that you must do each and everyday, to strengthen your soul and your sense of self. Sometimes, it will be thwarted by an experience. Maybe an old belief is reinvigorated by someone’s comment, the way a piece of clothing fits or an old memory coming back to life. It is in those moments where your vigilant practice is most important. That is when self love is the tape that you must choose to play. To catch the spiral as it occurs and notice it, with love and kindness. Offering yourself a moment of compassion; recognising why the patterns is there, where it came from, and why it is no longer serving you.
There is such a difference between fighting and resisting something and just allowing it to be there. The more you try to control something or remove it, the larger and more persistent it becomes. Just think about it, the act of fighting something or resisting it- involves putting your thoughts towards it. The more thoughts you give it, the bigger it becomes.
Our beliefs have been developed over years (and years) of consistency; patterns that have been solidified through experience. Much like traits of yours that you dislike or wish you didn’t have- there is a much more practical way of existing; and that is with them. Being with them, allowing them to exist. Making peace with your fears and bringing yourself into the present. The more we determine something as “wrong” or “bad”, the less likely it will be that they will disappear. When it comes to weight, this is something that continues to be true for me. Weight gain or weight loss is nothing more than what it really is- a temporary physical change. We are much more than our bodies and our bodies are not and should not be platforms upon which we demonstrate distaste and hate for. Our bodies are not our identity.
Your body does and will continue to change. Your body is the vehicle within which you experience this life. For way too many years we have worked against our bodies- trying to change them, alter them, judge them and shame them. Again, this act of resistance have brought us to a place of chaos and pain. It is important that we find ourselves (back) in a place of love and gratitude towards our bodies. For the hands that allow us to type and write our thoughts, for our legs which get us from point a to point b, for our hearts and brains that keep us alive and living.
There is a way to feel better, and it doesn’t involve changing or hating yourself or your body. That pattern and behaviour is old news.
If you’re experiencing pain around this topic, here’s what I suggest:
- Add in some new thoughts
- Instead of playing the same tape of hatred and disgust, just sit with what you feel without attaching thoughts or judgements
- write out how you feel, sometimes bringing light to your thoughts and stories can offer you insight into how silly you are being
- Try a meditation or do some colouring to end the spiral and give space for new thoughts
- Let yourself take part in the practice or pattern, and simply bring awareness to what you’re doing with fighting it
- Practice gratitude: write out 21 things you are grateful for everyday (every morning) for 21 days. Form a new habit.
So here I am today. Maybe my pants don’t fit as perfectly as I wish them to. Maybe my skin isn’t as clear as I’d like, my eyes aren’t as bright blue and I don’t look as well rested as you’d want me to. The thing is, i’m still here- there is no failure and I am not doing anything wrong.
[bctt tweet=”The living is in the being. Life is a blast when we live it not just think it. “]