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Skinny Jeans (or What I am Allowed to Wear) August 12, 2009

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My wardrobe consists pretty much exclusively of jeans.  I’ve never cared for khakis or slacks.  I don’t often wear skirts or dresses.  Even in the summer, I mostly wear jeans or, if it’s warm or I’m in the mood, a pair of capris –which also will probably be made of denim.  It just seems easy to me.  I’ve never thought of myself as being able to assemble a cute outfit, so I feel like if I stick to jeans and a nice top, I’ll end up looking presentable, even if I’m not on the cutting edge of fashion.

When I was growing up, I never felt I could wear jeans.  Even though I realize now that I wasn’t fat (at least, not for most of my non-jeans wearing life), I always felt like I was too big to wear jeans.   The first time I can remember getting a pair of jeans for myself was in the fourth grade.  My pediatrician, without considering that I was starting puberty and beginning to reach my full adult height (I was a tall kid, who hit 5’4″ quickly and then stopped and became a shortish adult), told my parents that I needed to lose weight and so I went on some sort of diet that summer.  By the time school started, I must have lost enough weight because my Nanny took me out shopping; she told me I could pick out a new outfit as a reward.  I bought a pair of blue, yellow, and red striped jeans and a black top.  I remember wearing them the first day of school, so that I could be sure to impress everyone.

My jeans wearing life didn’t last long.  I’d be lying if I said I had any other clothes memories from fourth or fifth grade, but I do remember going back to school shopping the summer before sixth grade.  This time, I snubbed jeans in favor of palazzo pants; I thought they were more sophisticated and adult, and that was exactly what I wanted to be in the sixth grade.  When those pants didn’t turn me into a sophisticated adult, I decided I would spend my Christmas money on some new jeans.  Over the break we went to the mall and I tried on the biggest size in the juniors section, a 13, and they didn’t fit.  I came home and wrote in my diary that I was a fat pig and a a failure, and I vowed to go on a diet.

I don’t think I seriously attempted to wear jeans again until college, when my obssesive dieting/eating disorder started to make me thinner, and I’ve been wearing them ever since.   Yesterday’s post on Shapeley Prose about a woman who took a special exercise class just to fit into her skinny jeans and the ensuing discussion really made me think though, even though now I happily buy Lane Bryant’s Right Fit jeans, do I wear them as much as I do just to prove I can?  I like jeans, don’t get me wrong, they are comfortable and go with pretty much anything, but where they used to be the clothing I lusted after, now they have just become an easy outfit choice.  And I think this is one more way of telling myself that I am not worth the time/money/thought/etc it would take to put together something that would be both comfortable and pretty.

I spent a good chunk of yesterday online window shopping for clothes and creating wish lists of things I would normally be drawn to, but would never attempt to buy because I feel like I have permission to wear them.  While I don’t see myself giving up jeans completely (because I do still like them), I think it is time to expand my range of outfits beyond what I feel I am allowed to wear.

Acceptable. February 28, 2008

Posted by Jae in Aimless Conversation, Body Image.
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This morning I weighed myself and found that I was three pounds above what I thought my set point would be.  I didn’t freak out.  I didn’t skip breakfast.  I didn’t run myself ragged on the treadmill.  But I did feel just a little disappointed.

And I hate that I did.  I want to be okay with the number on the scale.  I want to be so okay with it that I don’t even bother to check it.  The problem is that I still can’t shake the idea that there is a certain point where, for me, weight gain will cease to be acceptable.  At my highest weight, I wasn’t treating my body well.  I ate mostly junk food, and since I was always about to start another diet, I often binged because I believed every time I did it would truly be the last time.  And I never exercised.  When I decided to give up my dieting and disordered eating, I knew I would probably gain some weight and I accepted that.  Now though…now I’m only 25 pounds away from my highest weight and I’m afraid that I might end up back there, and as much as I hate to admit it, I don’t want to.

I don’t have very many good memories from that time in my life; I was anxious, unsure, and I hated myself.  I know in reality that those things were not caused by my weight, on some level I think I knew that back then, but it was so much easier to blame my fat hips than to face my real problems.  And even though I’ve grown so much since then, somehow, looking at the scale, I feel as though I’m just 25 pounds away from being that same scared, self-loathing, little girl.

Logic tells me that I’m wrong, that those things had nothing to do with my body.  At my heaviest I imagined that a size 14 would be all I would need to be totally content with myself and with my life, but the truth was that I hated myself just as much once I got there.  I never enjoyed that size 14 body; I called it hideous and disgusting on an hourly basis.  If anything, I’m happier with myself and my life now at a size 18, than I’ve ever been in my life.  But somehow it still feels unacceptable to go back.

I know that this is all part of the struggle and that I will eventually get to a place where I feel secure enough to know that all the things I love won’t slip away if I have to go up a jeans size, but until then?  How do you trust in something you can’t even imagine?

No Free Lunch. February 13, 2008

Posted by Jae in Body Image, Jobz.
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In the past few months I’ve read a lot of horror stories about people whose offices joined the cult of Weight Watchers or started their own version of The Biggest Loser, and I’ve silently thanked God that my office was too disinterested in group activities to ever launch such a thing.  I can only imagine that the pressure to join would be enormous, and it probably makes work a very unpleasant place to be for those who have openly snubbed the idea.  I was never sure how I would handle that kind of thing.

Then yesterday my boss announced that he was considering signing us up with a service that would provide us with a healthy lunch every day.  From a company whose primary function is to produce meals for dieters. 

On the surface, this might seem like a kind gesture, and I suppose in a way it is.  We’re a small company and the perks are not what they would be if we worked in a larger firm, so it’s nice that we’re trying to do something for the employees, however the origin of the meals makes me wonder what exactly we are trying to do.

For you see, without giving away too much about the company, I work for a publisher that works heavily with diet and fitness books.  Thankfully, this isn’t my area (I work in an off-shoot company dealing with other matters), so I don’t have to deal with it on a daily basis, but the idea that we should live by the rules of our products kind of hovers in the background; in fact, as my boss made this annoucement he espoused the virtues of dieting.  So while you could look at this offer of a free lunch as nothing more than a kind gesture, given our parentage and the fact that the healthy meal came with a sticker attached boasting that it only contained 250 calories…it seems that this grilled chicken with lemon sauce and spinach comes with a heaping, cold, dish of morality.

Because if you choose to bring or buy your own lunch, you are saying that, in some way, what is provided is not enough for you.  And while for some people I’m sure that might not be a big deal, for me the implications are tremendous.  Coming off a lifetime of not trusting my body to tell me what it needs, a thing like this looks like another little message that we are all wrong.  Personally, I can not survive on a 250 calorie lunch; I’ve tried that for most of my life and it left me tired and cranky.  But this nicely packaged little box tells me that, in fact, this is really all I need and holds up my participating coworkers as proof, and this sends a message, no matter how subtle, that if you aren’t satisfied with this prepared “healthy” meal, than you are doing something unhealthy.  And my boss already feels it is part of his job to promote the health of his employees…aren’t we on a slippery slope to even more involvement in our personal lives?  Today our lunches, tomorrow our choice of birth control?

It’s probably not going to be that serious, at least I hope it isn’t, but things like this always get me to thinking.  I’m big on personal freedom.  I get nervous when I feel like parts of it are being taken away, and this is often how it begins; give someone a little say in how you live your life, and chances are they are only going to want more.  And in today’s work climate, where employers are given the impression that they have the right to manipulate their employees lives for their benefit and employees are often told they should deal because they are lucky to have a job, giving even an inch seems like a mile.

Conversations with my fourteen-year-old self. February 12, 2008

Posted by Jae in Me, myself, and I.
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There’s been lots of talk around the fatosphere in the past couple of days about what you would tell your fourteen-year-old self if you had the chance.  Though I left a brief comment at Shapely Prose about it, I couldn’t resist expanding it into a post of it’s own.

Dear Fourteen-year-old Jae,

–Right now you’re pretty miserable, and I’m sorry to say you’re going to be miserable for another few years.  It has nothing to do with you; you just weren’t cut out for high school nonsense.  The important thing to keep in mind is that it isn’t going to last forever.  In college the clouds will start to break and by the time you’re in your twenties you will be a much more together woman.  Just know that you’re not crazy; you’re just different in an awesome sort of way.

–You won’t speak to D again after this year, thank God, but it’s only then that you will start to deal with what she did to you.  You know that it isn’t your fault.  She’s a sick person and though she will get away with torturing you for a big chunk of your life, she does not win.

–There’s going to be a day in a few years when your sister will disappear for a few hours and no one will be able to find her.  She’s okay, but she is up to no good.  Don’t let the subject drop.

–Speaking of letting things drop, don’t let your best friend  talk you out of telling her mother about her anorexia.  She’s never going to have a healthy relationship with food or her body, and she’s going to develop bulimia later on.  You can’t save her, you really can’t, but this is the best chance she has.

–Stop dabbling in your own eating disorders.  It won’t make you thin; it will just make you sick and depressed.  Instead go and buy a book on intuitive eating, and don’t be afraid to exercise; you’ll like it and I promise, you won’t hurt yourself.

–Guys are not the yardstick by which you should measure your self worth; it really doesn’t matter how many boys you kiss or how old you are when you first have sex.  A boyfriend is not the magical pill which cures all insecurities, so you’re really not going to be “broken” until you find one because you aren’t broken to begin with.

–Let’s repeat that: You are not broken.

–While we’re talking about boys…you’ll meet a special one at twenty, but he isn’t ready for you yet and he may never be, but you will be awesome friends.  Don’t believe the lies in your head that tell you he doesn’t love you because you aren’t good enough.  You’ll meet another one later that year…don’t run away because you’re scared.  You’ll always regret it if you do and you’ll always wish you had another chance.

–Do an internship in college.  I know it’s going to mean you’ll have to quit your job and/or work your ass off, but it will be worth it.

–Dad has bigger problems than you know.  I won’t tell you what they are, you’ll only be tempted to try and fix them and you can’t, but know that he doesn’t hate you; he just doesn’t really know how to love you.  Show him you love him and try and get mom to talk him into getting help.

–Grandma is going to die in just three years.  You’ll know it’s coming, but it won’t make you miss her any less.  Take pictures with her.  Spend all the time you can with her.  Do the same for grandpa.  You’ll have him for another six years, but it will go by in a flash.

–You and L will stop being friends in about a year and a half, but you’ll find your way back together.  It’s probably necessarry for you to do this, but she isn’t healthy for you.  You’ll love her inspite of the fucked up things she does, but until she works out her issues the friendship isn’t going to work well, and it will fall apart again. 

–The most important thing to remember: you are a worthwhile human being.  When others try to treat you as less than, don’t let them get away with it, but even more importantly don’t let yourself get away with it either.

The Weight October 3, 2007

Posted by Jae in Body Image.
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I got rid of the scale today.

I didn’t throw it out, but I did store it up on a shelf in my closet. I can still get to it, and probably will, but at least it’s not staring at me from the bathroom floor anymore, begging me to hop on.

Consequently, all I did today was think about how much I weighed; the way I craved certain foods when I dieted, is the way I’m craving the scale now. Even when I was distracted, the thought was in the back of my mind. The funny part of that is, I didn’t weigh myself every day, but I guess it was somehow comforting knowing that I could do it whenever I wanted.

But the scale is trouble for me, there’s no doubt about that; it was a big part of my disordered eating behaviors. When my anorexic behaviors reappeared in college, I weighed myself every time I passed my scale. Morning on the way to the shower: get weighed. After the shower: get weighed. After I came home from class: get weighed. After I ate: get weighed. After I worked out: get weighed. Before I went to sleep: get weighed. When it went up, I knew that I was doing something “wrong,” and when it went down…when it went down I was on top of the world. Later, when my behavior stabilized a bit, I weighed myself every, single, morning, and recorded the weight in my food journal.

For years good days were ones when the scale displayed a smaller number than it had the morning before. I would walk out of the house feeling better about myself. Now it’s hard to know how I should feel. It saddens me how much my worth has depended upon the size of my thighs; I’ve wasted a whole lot of life worrying about that, and I’m never going to get it back.

Though I guess in a way I’m lucky too because I have the chance to escape from this, to find a self-worth that is not tied to my weight, and that’s a chance that some people will never get.

She’s a warrior September 23, 2007

Posted by Jae in Me, myself, and I.
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I’m miserable at introductions.

I’m Jae. I’m twenty-three years old. I’m a writer/editor living in New York City. Aside from ones focusing on applying to grad school, I’ve not been much of a blog reader, but the other day I stumbled across a blog that grabbed me and gave me a good, hard, shake.

I sat and read all in one day about this woman, this funny, intelligent, woman who was learning to love her body and live without dieting. Having been on a diet myself for most of my life what she said touched me.

I have never been thin. When I was little, my pediatrician told me that I weighed too much for my height and put me on a diet; that’s the first time I remember thinking that I was fat and needed to be fixed. I was probably about six years old. From that point on, I lost and gained (but mostly gained). I made little diet and exercise plans and wrote them out in my diaries. I followed them, failed, failed miserably, and tried again.

Looking back on it now I can see the truth, I wasn’t thin, but I wasn’t fat. At thirteen I was the same height that I am now, and my weight was probably at its set point. But you couldn’t have made my thirteen-year-old self believe that. I still heard the voice of my old, curmudgeonly, doctor telling me that I was too fat. So when an immature boy or two hurled insults at me, I believed I deserved them. When my chubby Spanish teacher pulled me aside to ask me if I had gained weight and if my family was torturing me about, I believed she did it because she was concerned, and not because her family had tortured her (as she told me) and she didn’t think I was getting humiliated enough.

All this might have been brushed away as part of the normal torture of adolescence, if not for two things: my best friend, who I had known since I was six and who had been abusing me just as long, and suffering a major knee injury at fourteen.

Post-injury I was terrified to move-terrified of getting hurt, terrified that my operation could be undone, terrified that I would need more surgery. I was depressed, confused, and didn’t know what to do. I had escaped my bad best friend, but the effects of her actions were starting to reveal themselves. I was starting to lose my mind. I drowned myself in food to escape, and because I wasn’t moving, gained a ton of weight. This changed the occasional comments from boys who didn’t know what to make of the fact that I had hips and an ass to out-and-out abuse. I can’t say I suffered as much as some did, but I was definitely aware of what the world apparently thought of me.

So, for the first time in my life, I chased anorexia and I caught up with her quickly. In fact, I caught up with her so quickly, that I didn’t lose any weight. My body hung on to every calorie I gave it, and sent me constant reminders that what I was doing was killing me. I had dizzy spells that lasted for hours. My hair, already fine, became stringy and thin. I felt sick to my stomach pretty much all the time, and at times I think only sheer stubbornness kept me from fainting.

Somehow, I broke away from this, began a more “sensible” diet, and lost weight. It didn’t last though. I gained it back and then some. I alternated periods of dieting, periods of binging, and periods of anorexia all through high-school. I spent the night before my high-school graduation with my hand down my throat wondering why I couldn’t just throw up.

In college I didn’t have to chase anorexia; it found me. By Christmas I weighed myself every time I passed a scale and thought I was having a good day when my first bite of food came at dinner; bad days were when I ate some grapefruit or drank a glass of milk before going to class. This time I lost weight though and eventually alternated periods of regular dieting and starvation.

The weight loss stopped though, and after that I maintained a weight-range for awhile. Then, I started binging (still with alternating periods of anorexia though!) and I gained weight. I have tried to diet since then, and haven’t had a sustained period of anorexia for awhile (probably since last year).

Reading this blog though made me realize that I have to stop this. I don’t want to diet and I don’t want to starve myself, and I don’t want to overeat. I don’t want to ignore my hunger or feed myself when I’m not hungry. I don’t want to stuff myself with junk because I feel deprived or feel like killing myself because I ate a cookie. I don’t want to work out until I’m crying or lay on the couch feeling like a failure. I want a healthy relationship with food. I want love myself for once.

So that’s my story with food, weight, and my body. I felt I should share it for anyone who was interested because it is important to know where I came from to understand where I’m going-and that goes for me as well as anyone who happens to read this.

However, that’s only a part of my story. Like I said, I’m a writer and an editor. I’m also a music-lover and a TV junkie, a total bookworm, and a baseball freak who likes to pretend she’s crafty. And all of that is going to be floating around in here somewhere.

So welcome to my blog; make yourselves at home!