Owning Up to “Guilty Pleasures”

Will I ever pass up the chance to have Tom Hiddleston's name on this blog? No. The answer is no.

Will I ever pass up a chance to reference Tom Hiddleston on this blog? No. The answer is no.

This sounds like a departure from my normal topics, but it isn’t, really. Hear me out. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and the reason has a lot to do with Olive Garden.

Yep, Olive Garden. Here’s where I’m coming from. I moved recently, from one unreasonably cold Midwestern city to another slightly more unreasonably cold Midwestern city with a significantly higher number of Walgreens. In my new neighborhood, there’s an Olive Garden across the street from my apartment. When driving past with a friend who came into town to visit, he pointed out the restaurant and said, “I see you’ve got the height of class in this city.”

I looked at the off-yellow stucco, then back at him. “What’s wrong with Olive Garden?” I asked.

“Well, you know. It’s not exactly high Italian cuisine, is it?”

High Italian cuisine? What was this, an episode of Chopped? Was I going to be docked points for inappropriate plating?

“I,” I said, drawing myself up to my full (seated) (not very impressive) height, “love Olive Garden.”

Maybe it doesn’t have the makings of the Next Great American Novel, but this micro-conversation made me think. Should my ever-abiding love for Olive Garden be a “guilty pleasure”? Is there such a thing as a “guilty pleasure”? Is anything that makes us happy really anything to feel guilty about?

In my personal history, the answer has generally been “yes.” Of course we should feel ashamed about the things we like. Isn’t the fact that we like them a marker of our own poor taste, the signature on the death warrant of our worth as human beings? I could be immersing myself in hour upon hour of of The Roosevelts or sitting down to read the copy of Infinite Jest that has been collecting literary dust on the bottom of my shelf for months now.

But what am I doing? I’m watching back episodes of New Girl and reading 1500 pages of Game of Thrones in three weeks. I don’t even like Game of Thrones that much. I don’t think it’s well-written, and the intersectional feminist side of my brain is having a small aneurism every single time Melisandre appears (because come on guys, hasn’t the evil demon seductress with a mystical pregnancy been played out enough?). And yet, I’m midway through Clash of Kings and I’ve had that book since New Year’s Day.

Isn’t all this just a demonstration of my poor taste? Shouldn’t I hold myself to higher standards than this? Shouldn’t I at least make an effort to like authentic Italian food and David Foster Wallace?

Well, no.

Because why is it anybody’s business what I enjoy? The point of pleasure is that it’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to feel good. I can like crappy food and poorly written novels and TV shows without any semblance of a plot. It’s not a reflection of my worth as a human, or a being who enjoys culture. It’s just something that I like … because I like it.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to come around to this conclusion. And I think the reason for it is that pleasure, in and of itself, is something we’re conditioned to frown upon. Think about it this way: If you let your reptile brain take over for a day — side note, I hate the phrase “reptile brain” because it is gross — what do you think you would do? For many of us, the answer probably follows the “eat, sleep, and have sex” kind of model. (I recognize that for the asexual community part of this may be inaccurate, but forgive the generalization for the point.)

Now consider how we’re told to think about those instincts.

You like to eat? Selfish. Greedy. Lazy. Unhealthy and worthless. We’re in the middle of “New Year, New Pointless Diet” New Year’s resolution season, we shouldn’t have to stretch to think about how food and immorality are linked.

You like to sleep? Lazy. Unmotivated. Never getting anywhere. Get up and do something productive. Go to work. You’ll get a jump on that useless competition who’s asleep while you’re already at the office plugging formulas into an Excel spreadsheet like a madperson. You want to win, sleep when you’re dead.

You like to have sex? Slut. Whore. Straight to Hell for you. Have fun burning, lascivious monster who enjoys making your body feel good. Explain that to the Devil for me.

It’s odd, isn’t it? That the things our bodies naturally want are the very things we’re shamed for enjoying? That we’re bombarded with guilt for “indulging” in these things, even though we’ve been programmed to want or need them? Odd to say the least.

We’re told we’re supposed to want things that are difficultTaking the easy way out is for people who won’t ever get anywhere in life. Why go to sleep at 10pm when you could stay up all night and get a little bit more work done? Why flip through a magazine when you could pour over Grey’s Anatomy or every individual paragraph of The Goldfinch, regardless of whether or not you like it? Why make yourself a grilled cheese sandwich with the kind of cheese that’s individually wrapped in plastic when you could do something fancy with gruyère and chèvre and other words containing the letter è?

It’s another version of the “not good enough” mentality that hounds us every single day. It hounds us about our bodies – not thin enough, not fit enough, not tall enough, not pretty enough, not anything enough. It hounds us about our minds — not smart enough for this job, not hardworking enough for that promotion, not worthwhile enough for a raise, not worth anything to anyone.

And I want it to stop.

Once I finish writing, I’m going to open up Netflix and pop on the next episode of whatever show is at the top of my list. It will, doubtless, be rated one or two stars. It may actually be targeted toward five-to-eleven-year-olds (you do know about my Disney thing, right…?). And I’m learning to be okay with that.

As a side note: I had Olive Garden leftovers for lunch at the office yesterday.

And they were delicious.


Confessions of a Reformed Yogi

yoga sunset

If yoga is supposed to be about getting in touch with yourself and developing inner peace, for years I was doing it wrong.

Some teachers say that there’s no “wrong” way to do yoga. Modifications and adaptations are all ways of listening to your body wants, and if you’re moving in a genuine expression of what you’re feeling, that’s no less valid than someone who can execute a perfect flying bakasana ten times out of ten. I agree with this. But these yogis weren’t talking about yoga practice the way I was doing it.

I began practicing yoga in the fall of 2011, through a reasonably priced and well-taught program at my university’s gym. I met with a fabulous teacher twice a week who put me through the paces of a vinyasa flow, starting gently and moving into longer sequences of postures. It felt great, especially as at this point I was trying to find a way to exercise while having been forbidden to run or do vigorous cardio. Yoga, it seemed, was the perfect solution to get a workout while leaving my running shoes at home.

Yes, I fell prey to the “yoga body fantasy.” If I spent enough time in downward-facing dog, if I did enough sun salutations, I would finally be able to get the slim, toned, perfect body I had spent so much time running trying to obtain. And even if the results weren’t immediate, at least it was a way of burning calories and toning my muscles instead of sitting on the couch and turning into a fat slob. Which, obviously, would happen within weeks, and would be irreversible. [*sarcasm abounds*]

My teacher told me that yoga was a mental, physical, and spiritual unity. My eating disorder told me it was a cardio workout.

I missed out on so much during these early practices. I focused only on the standing, high-intensity postures and loved the feeling of my leg muscles burning during warrior poses. I once did sun salutation after sun salutation not to get lost in the rhythm of mind-body movement but because it made me sweat and I couldn’t work up the motivation to go for a run. I scorned seated postures and worked every practice to the max. Come hell or high water, my inner perfectionist commanded, I would be the best damn yogi in that room.

Not exactly the best recipe for inner peace.

About a year ago, my recovery from my eating disorder actually took off, and my body began to undergo physical changes. In yoga, a practice so highly intertwined with an awareness of one’s body, where full-body scans are a normal practice, changes in body size create changes in the whole experience. And for me, these changes were almost traumatizing.

I hated the way my belly rested against my thigh when I moved into revolved side angle pose (put aside the fact that revolved side angle pose looks like this, and pretty much requires placing one’s belly on one’s thigh). Shoulder stand was agonizing as my shirt would slide up my chest, revealing the (so I saw) enormous fat rolls cascading towards my face. I’m sure the horrors of plow pose (with my newly-extant belly three inches from my face) need no elaboration. And let’s put aside that my yoga studio doubled as a ballet studio, and the two side walls were covered in floor-to-ceiling mirrors. It was, to put it lightly, not exactly a relaxing hour.

As my recovery progressed, against all reason and logic, I had to take a step back from yoga. I was treating it as a weight loss crutch, and I would leave practice more stressed-out than I entered it after seeing my stomach and thighs from every angle imaginable. For several months, I didn’t touch the mat. I missed the sound of yoga breathing in my lungs, I missed the zone I used to fall into while doing sun salutations. But I wasn’t sure if I could handle it.

Last weekend, I hit the mat again. And it was glorious.

My roommate and I visited a tiny, out-of-the-way yoga studio on the far side of town. Both of us stressed, tense, and stiff (hello, midterms, you lovely beasts, you), we decided a nice, easy, soothing practice would only be beneficial. And you know what? It was the best feeling ever. We spent most of the practice seated, practicing spinal twists and stretching, releasing tension in our muscles. Not a high-intensity vinyasa flow in sight. I didn’t come out of the practice sore and sweating.

My old self would have felt cheated and disappointed. My current self felt energized and relaxed. Stomach resting on my thigh and all.

Yoga does not have to be about obtaining the perfect body. It can be about getting in touch with the body you have now, and treating it well so that it can treat you well in the future. It can be about taking a step back from the difficulties of everyday life and remembering, if only for an hour, to breathe. Yoga is for everybody, not just the lithe models in LuluLemon ads. Even with our complicated relationship in mind, yoga can be for me again.

So body hate, you can kiss my asana.


The Voice in the Mirror: Confronting Negative Self-Talk

Image via

Image via

I received a comment on one of my posts a few days ago that I can’t stop thinking about, and it made me want to address a topic that I’ve danced around a few times but have never gone into concretely.

What do you do when, even though you know that you are at a healthy weight, you can’t stop the voices from telling you otherwise? How do you take control of your own mind again?

I wish there were an easy answer to this.

The most insidious element of any eating disorder is that it takes place in your own head. One of the biggest misconceptions about EDs is that they’re about food: they’re not. They manifest themselves in our relationships with food, but they’re not caused by the piece of pizza sitting on the plate in front of you. They originate in our heads, and once they take root they’re incredibly difficult to get rid of. How many of you have heard that whispering voice in your head, when you least expect it?

You look horrible today. Take off those jeans, they make you look like a whale.

You can never be as skinny as she is, because you’re fat and you can’t stop eating.

Don’t you dare eat that. You don’t deserve it.

You’re a failure. Everything you try is a failure. Just stay in the house and don’t talk to anyone, they don’t like you anyway.

The most infuriating part about these voices? It’s almost like we’re all expected to have them. According to a semi-recent study by Glamour magazine (let’s not talk about how Glamour may or may not be perpetuating the problem and focus on the results…), a terrifying 97% of women have at least one negative thought about their body every day, with the average number of body-negative thoughts coming in at 13. That’s pretty much one negative thought for every waking hour. Oh, it’s 3:00. Time to hate my body again.

What are these negative thoughts doing for us? Only making it more difficult to live our lives to our full potential. If you’ve ever tried to drive with a nervous passenger, you know that constant judgment and critique makes you perform worse than you ordinarily would. And if you get stressed and inefficient in this basic situation, think about how much worse it becomes when you never get a break.


Like I said, I wish there were an easy answer to reclaiming your inner thought-space. But even a year into active recovery, there are still more moments than I’d like to admit when the voices pop up again. I’m not that far off the average, let’s put it that way.

There is a difference, though, between hearing and listening.

Here are three tips for taking back control of your mental soundtrack:

1. Externalize the Demons

Remember when you were five or six years old, and your older brother would take your hand and smack it against your chest while taunting, “Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself?” (I hope I’m not the only one with this childhood trauma…)

Did you believe for a second that you were actually the one causing yourself pain? Of course not. It was the external force of the antagonist hurting you, not you. Negative self-talk is the same way.

You are not the voices in your head.

Can you think of moments when you distinctly heard your own voice? Maybe it was a reaction to a book or a TV show that you love. Maybe it was how you felt in a conversation with a loved one. Maybe it’s the gentle drift of consciousness you slip into while laying in the sun doing absolutely nothing. Get to know this voice. Recognize it when you hear it. And then recognize when you don’t.

Some people find it helpful to name their negative voices to see them as detached from themselves. Jenni Schaefer uses this strategy in her book Life Without Ed, to great success. It’s not you that’s insulting you, it’s the voice of your eating disorder, which Schaefer called “Ed” for the obvious reason. For most people, it’s easier to reject being insulted by someone else than to challenge your own cognitions.

Personally, I never found naming the voice helpful, though it does work for many. However, I do have an image of a person in my mind to whom I associate my negative thought-track. I know exactly what my eating disorder would look like, if it were a person. This might sound weird, and heaven forbid I ever meet someone who looks like this, but it’s helpful in creating distance between self-care and self-destruction.

You are not your eating disorder. Step one is learning to tell the difference.

2. Pay Attention

Remember when I said earlier that eating disorders are not about food, but food is a manifestation of a different psychological problem? Negative self-thought, likewise, is not caused by there being something actually wrong with your body. It’s a manifestation of emotions that takes itself out on your body. And that’s not fair.

Notice what you’re doing when your negative voices come into play. What else is going on in your life? Are you taking on a lot of new projects at work? Is there an illness or another stressful event going on with your friends or family? Are you nervous about work, family, responsibility, being judged by others? Are you sleeping enough? Are you physically feeling ill?

I used to reject this advice out of hand, because I thought it made me sound hysterical and irrational. Obviously it’s about my body, I would tell myself, I’m not making this up! I feel fat and out of control and horrible because I am fat and out of control and horrible.

But with a little distance and mindfulness, I’m starting to notice patterns. When is my negative self-talk the worst? During big transitional moments. Travel. Beginning of the university semester. Moving. Family illness. New responsibilities. Any time I think I’m not going to be able to measure up. And so I take that stress out in the easiest way I know how: body hatred.

That’s not fair. And it’s impossible to deal with an issue if you’re avoiding it.

Not that the solution is easy in any case, but it helps to be working on the right problem.

3. Learn to Say No

This can mean many things in recovery. Learning to say no to ED behaviors. Learning to say no to others who want to take advantage of you, and to take control of your own choices. But in this case, we need to learn to say no to the voices in our head.

Sometimes out loud, if necessary.

Often, when we get caught up in mental negativity, it’s almost impossible to find the off switch. The spiral of thoughts goes on and on, getting darker and darker, until soon you feel so terrible about yourself that you don’t even want to get out of bed. One thought builds on another, until they’ve formed an unbreakable chain of horrible things.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Negative thoughts are powerful, but they can be stopped.

Just say “no.”

No, I am not going to listen to you today.

No, you’re wrong, there is nothing wrong with me.

No, I do deserve to eat, because you have to eat to be alive.

No, I am beautiful.

It’s not always appropriate to say these things out loud (it might look weird at a dinner party, for instance), but it’s helpful to hear your own voice if at all possible. Your voice is the real one that you can hear with your ears. It exists. The voices in your head? Not real. Why would you listen to something that doesn’t really exist?

If you can’t vocally throw a wrench in the works of negative self-talk, try movement. When I’m eating out (still difficult sometimes) and get stuck in self-doubt, I like to shake my head quickly, just to myself. It can look like it’s part of a conversation, or just a little shiver, but I know what it means. It means no, I’m not going to listen to what I’m hearing. I don’t need to believe it. No. You’re wrong.

You are a human being with your own beliefs, opinions, and knowledge about the world. You are allowed to disagree with people who are saying things you know to be wrong. And that includes yourself.

Progress is slow, and it’s difficult, and often it’s two steps forward and one step back.

But hopefully someday, the only voices any of us will be hearing will be our own.

Childhood, Selfhood, and the American Girl

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Image via

Originally appeared on Adios Barbie, then cross-posted on SheHeroes.

It’s amazing how much of an impact our favorite childhood toys can have on us years and decades later. If I asked you what toy you treasured back in the day, what would you say? Maybe we have some Lego people out there, or Easy Bake Oven folks, or for children of the nineties like me, Doodle Bears. (Seriously, do you remember Doodle Bears? Best things ever.) As for me, I loved American Girl dolls.

Oftentimes, we’ll look back on the things we loved in the past with a more critical eye, and our childhood talismans start to lose their magic a little. Not so with these dolls, though. Even as an adult, I’ll still stand up with pride for them.

You know what the typical doll looks like: perfect, plastic, blonde, white, unrealistically huge breasts, anatomically impossible. Sometimes missing crucial body parts, like noses. We’ve all been raised around these images. The only diversity we see in girl’s toys is the color of their clothes: do you want the purple dress or the pink one? Well, with a choice like that…

But that’s where the American Girls take dolls to a whole new level.

In 2006, the wonderful folks at American Girl launched the line of My American Girl dolls, which is exactly what it sounds like. Children can customize their dolls so that they look like them. The dolls come in three different skin tones, three different hair colors, three different eye colors, three different hair textures, optional bangs, and optional freckles. Doll F1209 would have been me, as a child. Doll F1231 would have been my best friend. Not the catchiest of names, but I guess we would have come up with our own.

Beyond recognizing a variety in skin tones and racial/ethnic backgrounds, American Girl also plunges headlong into a domain that I have yet to see another doll anywhere provide: physical disability. These dolls can come equipped with their own wheelchair, seeing-eye dog, and crutches, among the plethora of other items.

To be fair, Barbie did attempt to make a doll with physical disabilities, cloyingly named “Share A Smile Becky,” in 1997. The doll, in a darkly ironic demonstration of art imitating life, was unable to fit through the door or into the elevator of the Barbie Dream House with her wheelchair, and was shortly after discontinued.

These examples, among others, sum up why I’m so committed to American Girl as a doll-ternative: they look like children.

The target age group for most Barbie dolls is ages three to six. The Bikini Basics Barbie line, a full lineup of skimpy bikinis over anatomically impossible legs and disproportionate breasts, is marketed toward children ages three and up. Name me a three-to-six-year-old who wears a DD bra.

Now, I’m no mathematician. But I did take a basic algebra class in the 7th grade, and I know how to work a scale factor. Assuming that the average 8-year-old is about 50 inches tall and American Girls are 18 inches, it’s pretty easy to work out what the doll’s proportions would be if she were human-sized. How’s this sound to you: 29-inch chest, 29-inch waist (no breasts to speak of, considering that she’s eight), 31-inch hips. All of those measurements are only slightly larger than they would be for your middle-of-the-road 8-year-old. (I’m using this children’s clothing pattern for comparison, because I’m by no means an expert on childhood body measurements.)

Barbie’s life-size proportions, on the other hand, come out as something from a science fiction movie. At 5 foot 9, Barbie would have a 39-inch bust, an 18-inch waist, 22-inch hips, and would wear a size three shoe. The day you see a real-life woman who looks like this, please let me know.

In case you’re more a visual learner than a numbers person, take a look at a lineup of Barbie dolls side-by-side with four American Girl dolls. Imagine you have an eight-year-old daughter. Maybe you do. Which of the two would you want her emulating as a role model?


The original American Girl series of dolls had plenty to say on the note of positive role models. Dolls came complete with a set of six books outlining their historical backstory, from one’s daring escape from slavery to another’s confrontation with the child labor industry in the 1900s. These were girls who overcame seemingly impossible obstacles, and who helped young girls believe that they, too, could make a difference.

I grew up with this generation of dolls, which has been retroactively named the Historic Series, and so I understand the complaint of some, including Amy Schiller at The Atlantic, that the stories accompanying second-generation dolls are watered-down and sanitized. The dolls are no longer crossing the Atlantic as pioneers or planting victory gardens in World War II, they’re “having a bake sale to help save the arts program in a local school” or “persuading a neighbor to stop using pesticides… for the organic food movement.” I’ll admit, the girl-power-against-impossible-obstacles theme appears to be fading slightly. On a side note, three guesses what toy conglomerate took over American Girl when the Historic Series was replaced by gardening and bake sales? If you answered “Mattel,” you’re both a cynic and right on.

Still, there’s something to be said for the message that even the “innocuous” backstories of the newer dolls cannot overshadow. I’d much rather show my daughters, when I have daughters, that there are dolls with their ethnic background, skin and hair color, physical disabilities, and something a few steps closer to their body type.

I don’t know if we are what we play with, but I know it can’t hurt to play with what we are.

Psychology is famous for its studies on the effects of toys on young children. The most well-known experiment, and one that recently surged back into the public consciousness in a video from Upworthy was that by Dr. Kenneth and Mamie Clark in 1939. Both black and white dolls were shown to black and white children, asking them which doll was pretty, which doll was mean, which doll was bad, etc. Overwhelmingly, both black and white children labeled the black doll as “bad” and the white doll as “pretty.” Children are not stupid. If they see that dolls aren’t made to look like certain kinds of people, they’re going to wonder why. And they’ll pick up on our internalized prejudice to find the answers.

We can’t say that dolls are “just toys.” They represent the archetype of what society believes we should look like. They teach children from an early age what is acceptable and what is not. If there’s not a doll that looks like me anywhere in the world, children will think, there must be a reason. There must be something wrong with me.

What American Girl is suggesting is just the opposite: No, there is nothing wrong with you. Look, there’s a doll with a face that looks like yours, with a body that moves on four wheels like yours does, with arms and legs and a torso that look like people your age. Look. There are others like you out there.

You are okay.

No, it’s absolutely not perfect. There are obviously more than three skin tones in the world, the “average eight-year-old” is a fallacy that rules out countless body shapes and sizes, and this doesn’t address the issue of boys who want to play with dolls and have nothing but G.I. Joe to turn to. But when you look at the alternatives we’re given, I’ll stake my money on American Girl every day of the week.

Abomination and Fitch: On Abercrombie and Body Type Exclusion


Okay, folks, it’s time for full disclosure. I’m not going to say anything in this article that anyone with more than half a brain, an ounce of common sense, and some kind of feeling for humanity as a whole couldn’t come up with on their own. Every single one of my Facebook friends who has posted this article has been saying more or less variations on the theme of “What the –expletive-?” The real point of me writing this is that I’m searching for someone to hold me while I seethe. But it has to be said anyway. This is unacceptable. This is ridiculous.

This, in case my bubbling volcano of rage didn’t make that clear, is Abercrombie & Fitch.

Now, I already don’t shop at A&F, for a variety of reasons. First, I am about seven inches too short for all of their jeans. Second, I operate on a college-student budget, which means I buy my shirts at Target and my pants at JC Penny. Third, the smell. It makes me want to throw up every time I walk near the store. Or really within fifty yards of the store, because whatever they spray in there, it wafts.

But A&F CEO Mike Jeffries has replaced inaccessible and funky-smelling clothes as reason number one that I am not, nor will I ever be, a walking billboard for Abercrombie. To be as unbiased and objective as possible, I’ll let Mr. Worst Human Being Alive Jeffries explain why, in his own words, his store does not stock women’s clothing in XL or XXL, or in sizes above a 10.

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

I’ve gotta be making this up, right?

Oh, I wish this were a joke. This is a direct quote.

Let’s break this down point-by-point, because I don’t know how else to deal.

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids.”

Okay, so first point of a marketing plan for a clothing retailer is emulating childhood bullying. Sounds like a great idea, except I wonder if Mr. Jeffries has seen this video, which was just as viral on my Facebook feed as the A&F article was this morning:

So not only are we selling terrible clothes, we’re selling the idea that some people are inherently less than based on what they look like, and the only acceptable response from those who wear single-digit sizes is to point and laugh and shun them. I wonder if Mr. Jeffries borrowed his business module from the movie Mean Girls.

Let me also take this moment to point out the terrible business sense of a module that only dresses “the cool kids,” when the average American woman is 5’4”, 164 pounds, and a size 14. When three-quarters of the nation’s population need to take the seven inches they cut off the bottom of your jeans and add them to the waistline, this does not make for a welcoming experience.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, Abercrombie, but we’re kind of still in a bit of a recession. Limiting your target demographic to pretty much nobody might not turn out so well for you.

“We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and lots of friends.”

Not only does something smack of xenophobia in this quotation (are immigrants or minorities not allowed to shop at Abercrombie? Would it do something terrible for the brand’s image if, say, Sofia Vegara were to sidle in and pick up a sweater?), there’s that link between “attractive,” “lots of friends,” and being a size ten or under that makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit.

Sorry for the image. I know nobody wanted that.

I’m not going to harp on this because the point is so obvious it’s practically screaming off the page, but being a size ten or less does not make you a good person “with a great attitude and lots of friends.” Nor does it make you a shallow, self-centered person who’s obsessed with popularity and tanning beds and whatever the Kardashians are up to.

You know what it makes you? A person who wears a size ten or under. Everything else people associate with that is their own baggage, not yours.

“A lot of people don’t belong in our clothes, and they can’t belong.”

You know how they could potentially belong in your clothes, Mr. Jeffries? Make clothes in their size. BAM! Suddenly they belong in your clothes. It’s like magic.

Not that we would all necessarily want to, of course. I’m not asking for Abercrombie & Fitch to suddenly make plus-size fashion, or even make clothing that the average American woman could wear. (Aside: is it still “plus-sized” if it’s the size of a huge majority of the population?)

I’m asking for a boycott from those who could hypothetically shop at A&F. I’m asking for a backlash the likes of which Mr. Jeffries never saw coming. I’m asking for credit-card activism, and for a universal turn to those “vanilla” stores that “don’t alienate anybody, but don’t excite anybody, either.” Stores that recognize that women come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and socioeconomic statuses (for the record, a lace-trimmed tanktop goes for almost $30 at A&F, where for the price, I could buy THREE of the exact same product at Target), and doesn’t see body acceptance and basic human understanding as compromising some inherent tenant of business honesty.

The backlash over Mr. Jeffries’ remarks has been enormous. (And yes, I’m using his name as many times as possible in order to convey how much I cannot stand this man my disinterested critique of his questionable business practices.) The Internet has taken this cause to heart. But we need to move into the private sector and make our mark there. Hit them where it counts.

In your responses, keep it civil and poised. I’ve already seen too many responses accusing Mr. Jeffries of “not being attractive enough to work in his own store,” as if attacking his appearance were any less despicable than Abercrombie’s policy of deciding what body types are acceptable to be seen and what aren’t. Let’s prove to the world that we don’t need to stoop to the level of the people we are trying to argue against. We can be outraged and reasonable at the same time. In fact, it’s a lot harder to cut us down when we’re being more well-spoken and polite than those we are criticizing.

There’s a better way to fight this problem than finger-pointing and name-calling, anyway.

Let’s see how dismissive Abercrombie & Fitch is of the average American woman when they take a closer look at their quarterly earnings and find a size-ten-and-up hole in their profit margin.

Fear and Clothing in Las Vegas

Image via simplerabbitsociety

Image via simplerabbitsociety

Well, folks, it happened. I went shopping today.

I promise this isn’t going to become one of those oversharing moments where I tell you what I made for breakfast this morning, what time I woke up, and what setting I turned the washing machine to when I did laundry in the afternoon. This isn’t as mundane as it sounds. Actually, it’s one of the biggest victories I’ve had in the past couple of weeks, arising as it did out of one of my biggest setbacks.

But before I can explain why the plastic bag sitting on my bed from JCPenny is brag-worthy, I’m going to need to back up a little bit. Let’s do a wide-angle shot and include the time of year in our considerations. It is currently May 5th. In my region of the US, this indicates absolutely nothing for certain about the weather. As a measuring stick, about nine days ago it was snowing. Today, it is 75 degrees and gorgeous. So I’m not complaining about the sudden change from permafrost to summer. Not at all.

It’s just that I had nothing to wear.

I began my unsettlingly high-speed recovery from anorexia sometime around September, and in the ensuing eight or nine months my body shape has changed dramatically. I’m not going to describe this in numbers, because I know as well as any the unreasonable power numbers can have to ruin somebody’s day, but let’s talk ratios to give some kind of understanding about how big a change this was: since September, my body weight has increased by about 50%. Yep, you read that right. Take how much I weighed in September, divide it in half, add one of those halves on top, and that’s where I am now.

So needless to say, the shorts and tanktops I was wearing in July and August… well, they didn’t fit so well when the thermometer topped 80 on Wednesday. And so there’s a giant pile of old clothes sitting in my front hallway, waiting for me to take them to Goodwill. (I will get to this. I swear.)

Strangely, throwing out the old clothes that wouldn’t have fit without me detaching a limb wasn’t particularly difficult. Those pants and shorts are connected in my mind with a time that was not exactly my high point, and I’m glad that my body has come a long way since then. I don’t expect to fit into the same clothes that I wore in the height of my disorder. I understood that I was going to have to go out and buy new ones.

But understanding and accomplishing are two entirely different cans of worms.

My life story

My life story

Let’s just say that today was not the first day this week I set out to buy a few pairs of shorts. That first time… was not pretty. I’ve been pretty much living in yoga pants for the past few months, except for the two pairs of Levi’s a friend of mine sent me in the mail because they were the wrong size for her and which were close enough to fitting me to be getting on with. But I’ve deliberately avoided trying on pants for at least five months, because I just wasn’t ready to handle knowing what pants size I was.

And not only was I not the pants size I thought I was, I was also not the pants size bigger than that. Which, you know, was a lovely surprise to discover in a crowded Target dressing room. I went home empty-handed, still wearing jeans despite the weather, and a royal emotional mess. Exactly how I like to spend my Wednesdays.

There was more going on here, obviously, than none of the shorts I grabbed fitting. I’m okay with gaining weight from a year ago, but I won’t pretend to be fully recovered. There’s definitely a point over which I did not want to go, and discovering that I’d crossed the point was a little rough to take. (Okay, a lot rough.) I felt lied to: they always said that I wouldn’t get fat, I’d just gain weight! What’s going on here? I’ll never wear shorts again.

Obviously, there’s a turning point to this story, and it comes from the most unlikely source imaginable. I feel weird typing the name, because she’s the person who probably least deserves to be mentioned in this blog, and I actually just finished editing an article that talks (indirectly) about how much I hate her. But what are you going to do? This story finds its happy ending thanks to The Biggest Loser’s Jillian Michaels.

I know. You all just did a giant double-take. Sorry for anybody I gave whiplash to.

Over the course of the year, I’ve totally burned myself out on my ordinary exercise routine, and so I’ve been searching for alternatives that are at least mildly entertaining. Most of these came from YouTube, and one of the workouts that gave me the most satisfaction for my time frame was a cardio workout with Jillian herself. Now, I still don’t like her as a trainer. I think her strategies of fat-shaming her clients and her tough, abrasive, “Exercise should make you want to die” demeanor is terrible and shouldn’t be condoned. (But that’s a tangent. No tangents here.) The point is, I did her workout routine this morning, and as I sat on the floor in front of my computer, covered in sweat and pretty much feeling like a hot mess, a thought that I don’t have that often drifted across my mind.

You know what? You just made it through that whole workout. Kid, that’s really hard. Good for you. Clearly you’re in pretty good shape.

I praised myself. I saw the results of my exercise coming through in fitness, not in weight loss. I said something nice to myself, which hadn’t happened since the Target Fiasco of May 2013. And then another thought followed the first ones:

You know what else? It’s hot outside. This is stupid. Go buy yourself some shorts.

And I did. In the next hour. Before I changed my mind and chickened out.

I’m not pretending the shopping trip was perfect. It could’ve been an episode of Supermarket Sweeps: throw a bunch of shorts into your dressing room, fling them on over your hips as quick as you can, do a quick scan in the mirror to make sure nothing’s hanging out that shouldn’t be, slip your jeans back on, pay, and get back to the car. Twenty minutes, tops.

Still, I’m laying on my couch right now enjoying the 75-degree breeze in a brand-new pair of shorts. And they only cost me $10, and they’re neon orange for a bit more pizazz. Sure, they’re not the size I’d hoped they would be, and sure, my legs don’t look exactly like I’d like them to in them. Thank God I don’t live by the beach, because I’m not sure I have the stamina to go through bikini shopping right at the moment.

Nobody else is going to be looking at my legs but me. I’ll keep working on looking at them a little more nicely as I hang out on the back porch and let my legs see sunlight for the first time in nine months.

Has anybody else dealt with a similar problem shopping after recovery? Any tips or advice that you’d like to share? Is there anything else you’d like me to talk about in future posts? I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts.