Maybe it’s the sting of the harsh lighting. Maybe being surrounded by mirrors. Maybe I take the phrase “retail therapy” a little too seriously. Whatever the reason, I have a history of tearing up on shopping trips.
Last month, I blogged about overcoming the fear of weight gain. But here’s the thing I forgot to mention: eating disorders are not really about a fear of getting fat; in fact, they don’t have anything to do with weight at all.
The starving, the bingeing, and the purging are the weapons with which we fight off the demons of inadequacy who tell us we are nothing until we’ve proven that we are perfect at maintaining self-control.
It’s not about weight; it’s about perfectionism and punishment for failing to meet that standard, for failing at “the game,”…which sadly, revolves around an ability to control a disorder meant, in the end, to kill us.
So, there I was, standing in the Francesca’s fitting room, staring vacantly at the girl in the mirror. I don’t recognize her. She is bigger. She has bulges and lumps and jiggle. Her bones aren’t visible anymore. Her face is round and full. Her hips take up space. She takes up space. She’s taking up so much space. She…
Waterworks. No clothes will ever look good on this new body.
“Is everything ok in there?”
“Yeah! I’m fine.”
I’m tired of lying.
I walked out of the fitting room and, with desperation in my voice, asked for help.
“Can you please help me? Shopping is… it’s such a huge trigger for me and it stresses me out. Can you help me find some outfits?”
If you’ve ever shied away from asking for help because of fear that you may seem weak, you’re not alone. Sadly, this is the norm. But the truth is that we all have gifts to share – time, talent, insights, experience, skills – and most people love to share them!
The employee looked genuinely delighted to do a favor for me. We can all do so much more together than we ever can alone. Too often though we “tough it out” rather than reaching out to ask for help when we need it most. Fear gets the better of us while depriving others of a chance to show they care and share their gifts.
For the next hour, I let myself be dolled up. I let her pick clothes with earth-tones colors to complement my olive skin and dark hair. I let myself be dressed from head-to-toe without judgement. I listened to her when she described different ways to pair outfits and let myself be complimented.
One pair of pants, a handful of shirts, two pairs of shoes, and a few accessories later, I grinned, toothy, and said, “I think I’m going to take them all!” She laughed, “Really? That’s so awesome!”
I could barely keep my composure at check-out. I was completely in awe of the customer service that I received. “Is this your one big shopping trip of the year?” she asked, acknowledging my high total cost.
“Actually, to be honest, I’m in recovery from an eating disorder and I just…none of my clothes fit anymore and I needed to go shopping.. and it’s just been so emotional and I can’t even begin to tell you how much you have helped me.”
We hugged. She was delighted. As I walked out, she told me, “Come back and visit us again soon! If you need any help with winter clothing, I am always here for you.”
I immediately called my friend Madison and we set up a photoshoot. The photos began as an accent for this blog post, but flipping through them now, I know they are much more than that.
These photos were a release. I learned that this body isn’t a”new body.” It’s the same home I’ve inhabited since birth. I gained LIFE when I gained 60 pounds. I gained pizza nights with friends and glasses of wine with dinner and an extra serving of my mom’s amazing cake. I gained nights at home with my roommate instead of slaving away at the gym. I gained spontaneous ice cream outings with my boyfriend and surprise dinners with old acquaintances.
Our brains tell us that we’re not allowed to take up space—but we are. When you expand your mind and your imagination and your comfort zone and your social circle, your body might expand too, but that’s more than ok; it’s making room for your growing soul!
I have been feeling so beautiful and inspired after the photoshoot, so I’ve decided to create an event where others can share in this experience.
ALL ARE WELCOME to this celebration. If you are in the Columbus area, click the photo above to view more information.
You guys read about me all the time. Now, I want to hear YOUR voices. I am implementing more reader involvement into my future posts.
I want to celebrate YOU. I want to celebrate us—beautiful, unretouched human beings. Grab an outfit that you feel like a goddess in. Grab that sweater you’ve spent too long being insecure about wearing. Wear something that screams “THIS IS ME” and come out so I can photograph you being your authentic self.
If you are willing to share, I will follow up with you for a conversation about your self-love journey. If consent is given, I will share your photo and text on my blog.