I put on a pair of jeans to go in to the office.
That is the biggest news in my life, lo these past few weeks.
I’ll give you a moment to yawn, because if you’ve never had an eating disorder or grappled with obsessive body image issues — or, on a deeper level, a lack of self-esteem that manifests itself as obsessive body image issues — you have no idea how intense a love-hate relationship with denim pants can be. You don’t understand what it’s like to have your whole day ruined by that snug feeling in your hips and thighs, which in your head means you’re gross and unattractive and lazy and worthless, when in reality nobody else on Planet Earth notices nor gives a 🤬 about bunched-up fabric around your ass.
You think it’s NBD, or maybe a symptom of batshit insanity, but to me, the simple act of putting on said pants, then feeling comfortable enough to leave the house in them, really does evoke enough emotion to inspire an entire blog post.
Maybe I should’ve called this one “Vanity.” 💁🏼♀️
No, I’m not going to fill this entire space with a play-by-play of my first day back in my old “real clothes” since the start of the year. And no, to suggest that I’ve “won” the decades-long battle between my mind and body would be…well, it would be delusional. I’ll always have to fight the evil twins of not-good-enoughness and all-or-nothingness, and I’ll probably always struggle to find that elusive “perfect balance” in my diet and exercise regimens (not to mention my moods).
I’m a recovering alcoholic with a history of anorexia and bulimia, and I have 16 1/2 months of sobriety. That’s everything — and nothing — all at once. Undoing a lifetime of negative patterns could, in fact, take another lifetime.
But, for now, I can at least say I succeeded in losing most of the COVID quarantine weight that can’t so much be blamed on COVID quarantine as an insatiable appetite for salty snacks run amok.
I mean, as if 2020 wasn’t already a massive shitshow, it was also the year I reached that swift groin kick of a life milestone that I’m sure many of you have experienced: Realizing your metabolism has officially slowed down and you CANNOT eat as much as you used to, even if it’s “healthy food,” and expect to stay the same size.
Part B of that, of course, is that self-medicating with food has negative consequences, just like self-medicating with booze (or shopping, or sex, etc.) And when you are sober, you are fully aware of these consequences, unable to deny and/or hide from them in an intoxicated oblivion.
So, I made up my mind six weeks ago that I could not abide the consequences of one particular bad habit, and I had to change if I wanted to be happier.
I had to stop nervous-eating family size bags of almonds and cashews every single weekend.
Forget the fact my jeans had become too tight; the excess weight from all that excess fat intake (trust me; it was A LOT) put undue strain on my joints and the annoying connective tissue surrounding them. I wasn’t moving well when I worked out. I started developing chronic back, hamstring and calf injuries, which begat chronic pain, which killed my motivation, which soured my attitude, and so on down the misery spiral.
So, I quit nuts. Plain and simple. You laugh, but this was a monumental shift for an incorrigible creature of habit.
To lose weight, I did not count calories or “macros” or weigh and measure my food (been there, done that; never again!) I did not skip my nightly dessert of homemade smoothies or cheesecake-flavored Jell-O pudding. I did not stop eating chicken salads out of giant serving bowls or devouring enough sushi for two (three?) people on Saturday nights. I did not work out harder, either, although working out did get progressively easier with a little less ass to drag around.
Maybe it goes without saying, but I also didn’t drink any alcohol, and I got plenty of sweet, sweet sleep (*Homer Simpson drooling sound*). The power of both, in the quest for a more svelte physique, cannot be underestimated.
Anyway, I could have saved you a half-hour if I’d just put it this way: Over the past six weeks, I set a goal and reached it without going to extremes. Accomplishing that required exercising patience and faith along the way. It required letting nature take its course, not giving up when results weren’t immediately tangible, and always keeping the focus on progress rather than perfection.
THAT is a HUGE victory! 🥳
I mean, underneath the seemingly shallow aesthetics, and the issue of wasting thousands of dollars on a wardrobe I could no longer wear if I kept doing what I was doing, and even the escalating health concerns, this quest to fit back in my jeans serves as a powerful symbol of my personal growth. It’s a real-world application of the lessons I’ve learned in recovery, and it absolutely would not have been possible — nor would it be sustainable — without a strong foundation in sobriety.
Start with a willingness to change. Take one step in a different direction. Follow that step with another step. Then another. Go as slowly as you need to, even crawl if you must. Just don’t give up.
It’s a simple equation for achieving anything.
To bring this “ponderous tome” on home, today is my interview for grad school, and apologies to my Paige denim pants, but that is truly the biggest news in my life right now. As “victories” go, just getting to this point is amazing, given how personally and professionally lost I felt back in November of 2018, at the nadir of my addiction.
Getting to this point required clearing the first round of the application process. I wrote my admissions essay about the miracle of change, describing how the execution of that simple equation (willingness + faith + perseverance) saved me from circling the drain and inspired me to help others by studying psychology.
There’s no doubt I’ve made progress in the past 495 days. My instinct is to demand perfection from my performance in this interview, in order to consider it a “win.”
Of course, what “perfection” even means is not for me to decide. All I can do is summon every ounce of newfound self-esteem and put the old best foot forward, and although this is a Zoom interview and no one will actually see my feet — or anything below the neck, for that matter — I’m squeezing this slightly svelter physique into a pair of jeans and heels, because…well, because for the first time in a long time, I actually can. 👖👠
2 thoughts on “Victory”
Well done, Jen! Thank you for the reminder on goal setting and the “progress, not perfection” approach.
I hope the interview was a “success:” and I’m sure that they could see how well your entire ensemble looked in your confident and self loving demeanor.
Continue to build your love of self. That feeling will carry through any days where bad things pop up. Your character shines through your words.
Do not let busy get in your way. Enjoy grad school. I have done it over many years and it is rewarding