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6 Deadly Sins of Body Policing and Negativity

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Sometimes, society is exhausting.

The constant pressure placed on our bodies day in and day out can make you never want to leave your bed, where at least your pillow understands that your body is nobody’s business but your own.

But much as I’d like to, I can’t stay in bed for my entire life and listen to body negativity pitter-patter against the roof like a particularly noxious rainstorm. So forgive this somewhat-ranty list of the top six things that irritate me about the way body politics appear in the world and the media today.

If I miss something that really grinds your gears, let me know in the comments! This list could go on forever, but I only have so much emotional energy to expend at one time.

1. The phrase “plus size.”

Plus what? Plus society’s preconceived notion of what size is acceptable for a woman? Here’s my general thought on the matter: “plus” means positive, as in “not a negative number.” We are all plus-sizes if we take up any space at all in the world. So please stop dividing clothing into “acceptable” and “plus-acceptable.” If you have to make clothing sized by numbers, go ahead and do that. Just keep your value judgments out of it.

2. Diet supplement and weight-loss ads everywhere.

facebookadspic1I’ve made a game of it every time an ad telling me I can LOSE SEVEN INCHES IN TWO WEEKS WITH THIS ONE EASY PILL, NO DIET OR EXERCISE REQUIRED!! (For some reason or other, they do seem to enjoy caps lock…) I like to block them, and then when Facebook politely asks me why, explain that they are “against my beliefs.” Which they are. I’d just like to see the article my friend posted on my wall about the French kids who took a llama on the tram. I don’t want to be bombarded with the multi-billion-dollar diet industry. Facebook doesn’t know my body. And quite frankly, it’s none of its business.

(For those who are interested, the llama on the tram is real. Click here.)

3. Tabloids like these:

mary-kate-olsen-119waity1originalFirst off, tabloid reporters have zero way of knowing whether or not one of these celebrities is or is not struggling with an eating disorder. That’s not something that you can tell by picking them out on the street. Eating disorders are mental illnesses (I’ve discussed this before…), not diet plans. And making it something you have to continuously deny only adds to the shame. The last thing we need is celebrities having to repeatedly assert “I’M NOT ANOREXIC!”, as this only heightens the stigma on an already dangerous disease.

And let’s not even talk about those little arrows on the left image, pointing out Mary-Kate’s “stick thin legs!” Because that’s so helpful, Star.

4. Tabloids like these:

originalenq012207vh41 xkim-kardashian-in-touch-cover.jpg.pagespeed.ic.gEmlI1yY_5No. No no no no no no. Other people’s bodies are literally none of your business. Cellulite is not like Sugar Ray Leonard, and you cannot “lose a fight with it.” Cher “packs on 26 pounds,” and that’s entirely her business. Please stop making other people’s body size news.

You want to show me “eight pages of shocking new photos”? How about some pictures of the cleanup efforts around Hurricane Sandy, or the continuing conflict in Syria. Not Britney Spears’ thighs. The only person to whom Britney Spears’ thighs are important is Britney Spears. And I doubt she’s reading this magazine to find out what they look like.

5. Fat-Shaming Week

I didn’t make this up. This is actually a thing. October 7-11 was apparently hailed by some self-absorbed douche canoes on Twitter as Fat Shaming Week, otherwise known as five days of the year when people with nothing better to do provide unsolicited, ineffective, rude, and cruel advice to anonymous strangers whose weight they determined was unsatisfactory. Here is part of their actual mission statement:

Mocking someone for lazy and slothful behavior is one of the best ways to motivate them to change and appear more pleasing before our presence… Hurting people’s feelings is the quickest way to get them to change… We have decided as a group that fat shaming is essential in creating a society of thin, beautiful women who are ashamed for being ugly. Let the fat shaming begin!

I’m actually so angry about this that I want to throw my computer across the room and let out a war cry. I won’t do that, because 1. my laptop is very expensive, and I’m unemployed, and 2. I’m in a public library and that would be frowned upon. But seriously? This is the world I live in?

I don’t think I actually need to say what’s wrong with this, but let’s do it briefly anyway.

First: THEY ARE WRONG. Fat-shaming isn’t even effective. Studies have shown this. (Yes, there were studies on this. I’m linking only a few sources that confirm it. Tiger Beatdown puts it best, I think: “Guess What? Shaming People for Being Fat Doesn’t Magically Make them Thin!)

Second: Some people still seem to be laboring under the delusion that women are here to “appear more pleasing before men’s presence.” Excuse me while I laugh so hard that I actually vomit up a lung.

Third: “Lazy and slothful behavior” are not direct causes for someone’s body type. Fat does not equal unhealthy. Thin does not equal healthy. Neither of these equal beautiful. Besides failing basic human decency, it appears that someone also failed science.

Moving on, before I actually get so angry that I break something expensive…

6. Photoshop.

If you haven’t seen the 37-second video that explains why Photoshop gives us an unrealistic view of what the actual human body is supposed to look like, I recommend you click on this link and check it out. You can spare 37 seconds to see in glittering detail how fashion magazines and advertisements are airbrushing us out of existence.

If you want to sell us clothing and accessories, please show us how it would really look on an actual human’s body, not on some computer-generated cyborg that you whipped up in your laboratory. I don’t want to see what pants will look like on someone made of toothpicks and papier-mâché, I want to know what they would look like on me. Because unless I’m very much mistaken, the average consumer is, in fact, human.

The only plus side of Photoshop in the fashion and advertising industry? The fails. Photoshop fails make my day.

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I could go on for days and days and days, but as I mentioned earlier, that would only result in me breaking things. Is it possible to live in a society where women’s bodies aren’t placed on the dissecting table and picked apart by strangers and CEO’s? Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But I live in eternal hope that someday I will turn on my computer, switch on the TV, and flip through a magazine without once feeling the need to flip a table.

Until then…

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Excuses, Excuses – Maria Kang and Body Positivity

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What’s my excuse? Didn’t know I needed one.

Over the last few days, the above image has circulated around the Internet with the fervor usually reserved for cats on robot vacuums or whatever Miley Cyrus is up to now. Featuring a thin and toned mother of three posing in a sports bra and matching panties around her three children, aged 8 months to 3 years, this picture of Maria Kang has apparently succeeded in pitting half the virtual world against the other.

On one side, we have the supporters: “Good for you! This inspires me to lose the baby weight and get in the best shape of my life! Don’t let the haters get you down!”

And then the other side. Mine.

Now, let’s be clear. I support Ms. Kang’s right to take care of herself in whatever way she sees fit. (No pun intended.) If her lifestyle involves regular workout sessions, “clean” eating, and rigorous self-discipline, and that makes her healthy and feel good both physically and mentally, then more power to her. No body positive movement that I support will shame people for any reason, whether they are slim, full-figured, athletic, prefer a marathon of Breaking Bad to a workout, or any combination of the four.

Moreover, I do not and will not support body shaming of this woman. My body positive movement will not stand for the shame and criticism of this woman’s body shape for any reason. And neither should yours. No calling her out for being “a bad mother” or “self-obsessed” or any of those things. Positivity is part of the movement for a reason.

That said, though.

The message conveyed through this picture is not one of supporting a healthy lifestyle through a balanced diet and regular exercise. The message here is work hard enough, and you can look like this.

If Ms. Kang provided a picture of her three kids sitting down with her to a balanced meal full of healthy whole grains and vegetables, or the three of them partaking in mommy-and-me aerobics or whatever her workout routine actually is, I would be completely behind this message. You absolutely can take good care of your body regardless of your family size (though for some it might be more difficult because of economic circumstances, work schedules, physical disability, etc). Advocating health for everybody is totally in line with body positivity. Hey, if we want to love our bodies, shouldn’t we take care of them?

Kang’s apology, though, doesn’t address the real problem that I think should be mentioned about this image: it equates health with body size and sexual attractiveness, which is simply not true.

You can be thin and fit, just as you can be fat and fit. The Health at Every Size (HAES) movement has been trying to spread this message, but apparently it has not caught on as well as it should. Looking good in a sports bra (and hey, who’s to say that her way of looking good is the only way?) does not mean that you can run a marathon, or that you are getting an adequate amount of nutrients, or that all your muscles and organs are in tip-top working order. They can do that just as well at a higher weight, or a different body shape.

If Maria Kang is healthy and happy in her current body, more power to her. But I don’t need an “excuse” not to look like she does. Why? Because even though I look different, even though my abs will never do whatever thing hers are doing and my thighs have some more give to them, I am perfectly capable of being healthy in this body. Just as you’re perfectly capable of being healthy in yours.

Now, I’m all for free speech and first amendment rights. I’m not saying that Kang should take the image down, or that she should stop anything she’s doing. I’m just asking that we think critically about the social movements that lead us to believe that health equals thinness and “conventional attractiveness.” (The only way I can express my disdain for this concept is through quotation marks, because I don’t know how to punctuate an eye-roll.) Consider that athletes, and all women for that matter, come in different shapes and sizes, and one shouldn’t be more valued than another.

What’s my excuse for not looking like Maria Kang?

I look like me.

Mythbusting: Eating Disorder Recovery Edition

Mythbusters and associated logos are under copyright by Beyond Entertainment and the Discovery Channel.

Mythbusters and associated logos are under copyright by Beyond Entertainment and the Discovery Channel.

This post was originally published for Adios Barbie and can be read in its original context here.

September 1st was my one-year anniversary.

Not a romantic anniversary with a candlelit dinner and diamond earrings. The one-year anniversary of my recovery from an eating disorder.

I don’t know if taking a day to celebrate the recovery process is common, but I wanted to commemorate the year I began taking care of myself. I’d thought I was taking care of myself before – avoiding weight gain, exercising, eliminating “bad” foods. In the name of getting healthy, I reached what looked to be the point of no return.

Operative words being “looked to be.”

Here I am, one year later, at or near my body’s set point (my body’s natural, comfortable weight). All my blood work comes back consistently normal. I can run up stairs without getting tired now, and I don’t wear hooded sweatshirts in 80-degree heat anymore. I think celebrating a different kind of health is worth it.

There are plenty of resources for people beginning recovery from any kind of eating disorder.NEDA provides an extensive list to get you started. Doctors, therapists, nutritionists, and well-meaning friends and family might be present at every turn, or they might not be. And yet, it’s still difficult to get a straight answer for the most pressing question on people’s minds.

What is recovery going to look like? Will it go on like this forever? Will I be strong enough to make it?

My experience was my own, and I can’t pretend that it will ring true to every person beginning a recovery journey. But I think this episode of “Mythbusters: Eating Disorder Edition,” if you will, is pretty universal. Take it from me: this article is not a magic spell. Recovery is hard. But it doesn’t need to be any harder than it has to be.

Myth One: You need to meet with a full treatment team three times a week, or you don’t really want to recover. And if you don’t want it, you’ll never get better.

Truth: You probably do need support, but what form that takes is up to you.

Recovering from an eating disorder isn’t easy. If it were, we wouldn’t need to talk about it. And as with any difficult life issue, it helps to have people on your side.

But support looks different for everybody.

If you don’t meet regularly with a physician, a therapist, a nutritionist, and a psychiatrist, that doesn’t mean that you don’t want to get better or that you’re not trying. It just means that your needs are different from other people’s needs.

Some people benefit from in-patient treatment centers. Others try out-patient programs at hospitals or other facilities. Some meet with a therapist a few times a week, go in for nutritional counseling, or try to go it on their own with family and friends on their side. I’m not suggesting that anyone should discount therapy or nutritional counseling. They’re valuable techniques that help many people sort out complicated problems. By all means, give them a go. But recovery and treatment are not one-size-fits-all.

Use your voice, not your eating disorder’s, to direct your life. Doing recovery your way (whatever way that is) means you’re beginning to take charge. For many, this comes with some kind of professional help or guidance from a trusted therapist. But the biggest change has to come from within. Find the help that works for you, and don’t give up.

Myth Two: Shifts in weight will happen at a rate of X pounds/week.

Truth: Honestly? Who the heck knows.

Not all eating disorders result in a drastic change in body weight. But some do. Whether you are hoping to lose weight after fighting with BED, gain weight after anorexia, or settle into your body’s set point and a regular pattern of eating after any eating disorder, your body is influenced by a number of factors. The duration of your disorder. Your height. Your family history and genetics. Your body type. Your metabolism. Your current level of stress. Heck, your sodium levels and how much you tend to sweat.

Your set point isn’t something that can be predicted. Bodies change with age and life circumstances, hormones and stress. I had a weight in mind I was comfortable with when I began recovery, but my body decided on a different one. All of this is scary, but it’s okay.

Medical professionals told me that my rapid weight shifts would stop after about six to eight weeks. I was also told a pound range that was normal to expect per week. Well, I gained about twice that per week, and it didn’t stop after eight weeks. It took me nine months. Disinterested strangers watching me might have mistaken me for a pregnant woman (Ah, recovery bloating). And that’s okay too. Your body is going to do what it needs, no matter how frightening that might seem.

The theory of a “set point”? I thought it sounded like the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. And then I found mine. It took longer than I wanted, but it does happen.

Every body is different. Just give yours time.

Myth Three: Relapsing means you failed at recovery.

Truth: Relapsing means you hit a setback. It’s how you deal with setbacks that matters.

A huge step in recovery is being able to step back after a moment of relapse and say, “Yes, I made a mistake,” or “I wish that had gone differently.” And then you continue on, planning to do better next time.

Relapses are not the end of the world. Of course, we try to avoid them at all costs, but sometimes learning what sparks a relapse can be important. What issues cause you to retreat back into destructive behaviors? What problems are still unresolved in your life? What is it about this situation that makes you want to wrench back control in this way?

Just because you have problems doesn’t mean that you can’t overcome them. You are strong and powerful and you can do it. You’ve proven that by deciding that you want recovery in the first place.

Need more reassurance? Watch this great video from Arielle Lee Bair on relapse in recovery. This inspiring poem by Portia Nelson captures the spirit of relapse and recovery—a comforting thing to keep in mind during hard times.

Beating yourself up over your mistakes is part of your disorder, not a viable way of ending it.

Myth Four: If you are underweight, you’ll feel way better as soon as you start gaining the weight back.

Truth: Weight restoration is hard.

Not necessarily because it’s hard to gain weight. It’s hard because it means looking your biggest irrational fear in the face and saying, “Come at me, bro.”

It’s hard. And it doesn’t always feel great, especially right away. In fact, weight gain can feel horrible (and terrifying) at first. Bloating, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, gas, night sweats, impossible clothes shopping… It’s not fun.

But it gets better.

It’s a gradual better. You might not even notice it while it’s happening because you’re caught up in all the problems. But when you take a step back and realize, “Hey, I’m not cold all the time anymore,” or “I just ate breakfast and I didn’t think about the calories,” that’s when you see it. And it makes the rest a lot easier to take.

Myth Five: Complete recovery from any eating disorder is impossible.

Truth: If you’ll pardon my French, bullshit.

Recovery is hard work. I’ve been working at it for a year, and I’m still not totally there. But every day, I get closer.

I fall in love with my former off-limits foods. (Looking at you, French fries. Delicious.)

I continue to re-evaluate my relationship with exercise.

I think critically about weight-loss tabloid articles and the latest fad diets.

I surround myself with body positivity, whether through online communities and articles or re-directing conversations with friends and family that turn to body-snarking.

I might not love my body 100% of the time, every time. But I respect it for what it does, and it’s forgiving me for what I’ve put it through previously.

Looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Recovery: A Process, Not A Destination

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Feminine stereotypes? Forget it. I cut my hair short three years ago and I’ve never looked back. I get more angry at the team playing against my college football boys than most of my male friends. And, as I’ve written about before, I hate shopping.

A lot.

That’s not strictly true, of course: I enjoy shopping for shoes and tee-shirts. Things you don’t need to try on. Things that always look good and come in a variety of colors and patterns. That’s fun.

But every time I decide I need a new pair of pants, everything gets unnecessarily complicated. And I remember that recovery is a process, not a destination.

Obviously, there was a small event that sparked the need to write a post about this, and that small event happens to be back-to-school shopping. I’ll be starting my last year of college in about two weeks, and it seemed like a good idea to take advantage of one of the last times my parents will be willing to take me to the mall and get me a few new things to wear. After all, my Ramen-noodles-and-Goodwill budget days are just on the horizon.

As far as I’ve come in recovery, there are still some things that are incredibly difficult for me. Going up a size or two in clothes is one of those.

Now, I can rationalize my way through my discomfort until the cows come home. I can say that sizes across stores are not consistent, that size isn’t important and it’s how much healthier I am now that matters. I can remember how much I liked that pair of jeans I tried on twenty minutes ago, and how comfortable I was in them. And yet, when I hit that moment that the jeans in the size I thought I was no longer go over my thighs, I still get that sinking feeling in my stomach.

Why is this my particular issue? I don’t know, but every time I have to go to the mall, I notice that my thoughts become more negative, and my behaviors inch closer and closer to what could be considered a relapse. I want to be able to fit into the clothes I used to wear, though I know that there’s nothing wrong with my body the way it is now.

There are plenty of things to be learned from this pattern, but I’m going to focus on two of them here that might be useful to people other than myself. Meaning I’ll let slide the fact that I should probably stop shopping at Forever 21 for the sake of my sanity.

First, the fashion industry is not designed to bolster positive self-esteem.

This is as depressing as it is readily apparent. The media has recently bedeviled stores like Abercrombie & Fitch and, more recently, LuluLemon, that deliberately exclude what they call “plus-size” women and what logic and rational thinking call “the average-sized American woman.” Runway models are being recruited at eating disorder clinics. Fashion magazine editors are airbrushing out hipbones and ribcages on their models, leaving us with impossibly thin women with the consequences of extreme thinness erased with Photoshop. Sizes across stores are not consistent, and so it’s almost a given that you will go up three sizes just by crossing to the other side of the mall.

All this is to say that it’s not surprising that shopping might make somebody feel bad about themselves.

It doesn’t justify the practice, nor does it mean that looking for jeans is invariably a death sentence to your self-esteem. For me, it sometimes helps to realize that the problems I’m having are not because I’m crazy, but because there’s something endemic, something inherently twisted about the system. I’m not giving myself a free pass to mope, but I don’t need to blame myself for it.

Second, and I’ve said this before, recovery is a process, not an end point.

Sorry for the cheesy Tumblr inspirational pictures. Sometimes they're what you're in the mood for.

Sorry for the cheesy Tumblr inspirational pictures. Sometimes they’re what you’re in the mood for.

It’s more frustrating than usual that shopping can still get under my skin like this, because I really thought that I was doing well in recovery. I am able to go several days without worrying about my weight or beating myself up, and while my weight is still not quite as stable as I might like, it’s certainly better than it used to be. But that doesn’t mean that everything is perfect.

It’s been a year since I actively began recovering from anorexia. I’ve marked September 1st on my calendar as my one-year anniversary, and I intend on celebrating in some random and exciting way. I’ve made a lot of progress. And while I do believe that full and total recovery from any eating disorder is 110% possible, it’s not the kind of thing that can be done by snapping your fingers and wishing it away.

Recovery takes work. It takes slip-ups. It takes realizing what pushes you over the edge and figuring out ways to face it head-on.

My head-space is still healing from yesterday, but I know that I need to find a way to look at shopping in a new light. I need to find a way to sit with the discomfort I have with my new body, and hopefully in time embrace the way I look and feel.

I still feel like I’m living through a real-life version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers at the moment. My mind has been moved into a body that I don’t know how to manipulate. It’s like puberty all over again, and heaven knows puberty was awkward enough the first time around.

Recovery isn’t hopeless, and mental doubt and difficulty is not a prison sentence.

It just means that the road is always more winding and complicated than we want it to be.

But every road has to end somewhere.

Abomination and Fitch: On Abercrombie and Body Type Exclusion

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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.