Triggers and Trust

So yesterday I experienced a very triggering situation. I was searching for a pair of shorts to wear to the orientation for an animal shelter I plan on volunteering at and came across a pair that I liked. And as has unfortunately become habit, I glanced at the size on the tag.

Then I proceeded to tug the shorts on. They fit quite snugly.

I was shocked. The number on the tag didn’t correspond. It was too high. Had I gained weight again? I was fat, wasn’t I? I should never eat again, shouldn’t I?

These thoughts ran through my head at the speed of light, creating a dizzying effect. I actually felt physically ill at the thought that I would soon not be able to fit into certain clothes. I resolved to go back to my old ways of restricting and overexercising.

Then, just to allay my fears, I pulled out another pair of shorts in a smaller size that I was more used to and put them on instead. They fit much the same.

So now I was confused. Maybe the other pair had shrunk?

Or maybe, I then realized with a surge of confidence, maybe it didn’t matter at all.

Several of my friends in the eating disorder community have voiced similar issues, and the way they’ve come up with to solve this problem is to do away with the numbers altogether. This often involves actually cutting the tags off of clothes so that you have no idea what size you’re wearing; you just know that it fits. Obviously this becomes impossible when shopping, but it’s a test that has to be faced. And the idea, really, is just to desensitize you to the concept of judging your worth based on the tiny little number printed on a piece of fabric.

For so long, I was obsessed with these numbers. They ruled my life, just like the number on the scale and the numbers on the nutrition facts had omnipresent power over me. I’ve never been one for math, but here I was, calculating things left and right and coming up with new goals for myself every time I turned around. The end result was always to be smaller.

Of course, I now realize, that if I had let this continue, I would have basically disappeared. I would have died.

How ridiculous does that sound? To die over a number? Pardon my French, but who fucking cares what size of anything I wear? One-size-fits-all clothing items are the dumbest idea ever. There is no way that a piece of cloth is going to magically contour itself to look the same on everybody, because every body is different. The only saving grace of -one-size-fits-all is that that is its only designation. It has no numerical value. But it can still leave you feeling awful if you can’t fit into something that you desperately wanted to be able to wear.

I encountered a similar problem to the shorts not that long ago, when I tried to put on a pretty dress that I had bought while out on pass when I was in residential treatment. It did not work. I couldn’t even get it over my shoulders. Oh god, I instantly thought. I’m gigantic. I’m huge. I’m disgusting.

And then I told that voice to shut up and held the dress out in front of me, marveling at how small it was. How tiny was the girl who fit into it? How wasted away was she? How sick she must have been. The girl who could wear that dress was a mere shadow of the girl who couldn’t fit into it now. She was horribly ill. I shouldn’t want to be that girl again.

I’ve tried on several items of clothing to discover they now fit very differently than they did even just a few months ago now, and every time it happens, those malicious thoughts immediately start running through my head. It takes great strength to be able to stand up to them.

But again, who fucking cares what the size is? So there’s more to me than there was. Good. I was a walking skeleton. You could snap me in half like a stick. I fit into clothing designed for little children, for god sakes. We couldn’t even shop for normal clothes for me, because nothing fit. Everything looked gigantic on me, like I was swimming in it.

How is that attractive? How is that desirable? How is that anything positive?

The answer is: it’s not.

I highly advise anyone struggling with similar issues to try the method of cutting out the tags on clothes that you own. Another good thing to do is to donate your “sick clothes” to an organization that accepts them; you’ll simultaneously be helping others and yourself. By getting rid of the clothing that fit you when you were very sick, you make room for things that fit the new, healthy you. You get rid of all those awful reminders.

True, the outside world is still full of measurements and people who judge their worth and the worth of others by them. But let me share something my dietitian said the other day that really struck me.

This was my first meeting with her after having cracked and giving into weighing myself. I was disgusted with the number, and decided I was going to fully relapse, essentially. I knew that it was senseless and irrational, but those digits held such a power over me. So I told her that I wanted to be sick again.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because I’m fat. The number was so high,” I responded robotically, as if the answer was programmed into me.

“So you saw a number that tells you your relationship with gravity,” she replied. “So what?”

I let that echo in my head a little bit.

So fucking what? There’s a number that appears that tells me something completely arbitrary to my worth as a person. Who cares? I repeat, so fucking what? 

Why let this number rule your life? Why let any numbers rule your life? Worth and beauty cannot be measured numerically. There is no “beauty scale” that assigns you a number based on the societal perception of how you should ideally look. And if there were such a thing, I’d be horrified and say that it should be axed immediately. Every body is different; depending on genetics, muscle mass, height, you name it, each and every one of us is varied slightly from the next. So maybe your arms are a little thinner than that other person’s, but your legs are wider. So maybe your stomach isn’t perfectly flat, like the aesthetic I used to long for.

Perfection is not real. If you ask someone to describe someone who looks perfect, I guarantee you’ll get a different answer every time. It’s just because there are sometimes some unfortunate similarities that we have become convinced that there is some finite ideal of appearance. 

And just like perfection is not real, the concept of letting a number define your value as a human being is laughable as well. It’s silly to let such a completely unrelated thing get so cemented in your mind that it literally causes you to destroy yourself. I let it happen to me. I almost died because it was such a powerful conviction.

So don’t worry about your weight. Throw out the scale. Smash it. Never know what you weigh ever again; leave that to the medical professionals. Cut out the tags on clothes as soon as you buy them until you see that number and don’t so much as bat an eyelash. Clothes fit differently from brand to brand, anyways. Some are just naturally made smaller or bigger than others. Who cares? Wear what fits. Don’t worry about the number of calories you consumed in a day or the number you’re going to compensate for by burning. Eat what you want, when you want, in a healthy and nutritious manner.

Don’t let numbers define you. Because they quite literally cannot. You are beautiful, you are stunning, you are unique, and you are worth so much more than a fucking number.

Much love ❤

 

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