When I woke up last Thursday, I was excited for my day. My plan was to bike down to the National Mall to see the the Peru exhibition at the Smithsonian Folklife festival and then meet a dear friend for lunch downtown at new Italian market. I felt so very lucky for my healthy, city lady life full of culture and connection.
Then I got dressed for my day.
Usually I love getting dressed. It wasn't always this way but over the past couple years, I've traded in most of my target brand clothes for quality vintage finds from the thrift store (thrifting is like a sport for me) and a few splurgy but long-lasting items from Anthropologie. It's fun to put these clothes together into occasion-appropriate outfits that really fit my own sense of style. Also, I still spent a lot of my life in yoga clothes, so I welcome the opportunity to wear non-spandex out in the world.
This Thursday I was excited to wear a pair of green high-waisted trousers, a favorite from a thrifting mission in south Florida last summer (holy land of thrift). But when I put them on, they didn't feel right. Specifically had a lot less “give” in the seat then I remembered from my last wear of them. They were slightly baggy and “boyish” in my memory but the mirror showed me a different reality.
Eeeek, they were tight. In a way that all-forgiving spandex will never tell me, these pants let me know that I had gained a little weight.
Since I was already running late I had to really fight the urge to find a new outfit. From experience I knew this would end near tears with a big pile of clothes on my bed.
I told myself I just needed to brush it off. Had I washed the pants lately? I couldn’t remember. That could explain a little. I knew that they also looked fine to the outside world. When seeing a friend, I notice her smile and her eyes, not the fit of her pants.
I got more into my pep talk. I reminded myself that I am a grown-ass woman who spends a decent chunk of time in self-inquiry practice. I ponder my universal nature on a daily basis. Are tight pants really going to ruin my day? Hell no!
But as I biked downtown, I knew I was upset. Pep talk and all, the tight pants bothered me. So I decided to make a plan. I resolved to cut out sugar again and to only eat at designated meal times. I could get a handle on this quickly. It would just take a little extra discipline.
But no no no. That wasn't right either.
Although both of those ideas agree with my main eating philosophies, I knew they were coming from a place of fear. Having experimented with dieting since I was in the fourth grade, I could recognize the smackings of a diet. Diets are about controlling yourself from a place of lack and scarcity. I was definitely coming from that place with these restrictions.
Also, since I’ve failed to get past day one on most diets I’ve tried, I know that the scarcity route isn’t effective. The backlash effect that comes after a diet attempt usually undoes every bit of weight loss progress and then some.
So what does an independent, spiritually-savvy city lady like me (and maybe like you) do in a situation like this? Suddenly I knew that asking this question was the right answer. I don't know if I've come up with a perfect solution but I hope the following thoughts can help bring more self understanding within the life reality of ill-fitting clothing.
1) Work on the Mental Level. On Wednesday of this week I was feeling fine about my body. On Thursday I felt like a huge, disheveled mess. This is a pretty clear sign that my fear of losing control, gaining 20 lbs and my life falling apart is mostly in my head. Of course we need to make sure our lives are working on a physical level but notice when your judgements about your physical reality change dramatically from day to day. This points to them being mostly on the mental level.
Luckily you can work on the mental level to feel better. How you look is irrelevant. We all want to feel good. Luckily you have complete control over that. Use your thoughts to remember that your main desire is to feel free, happy and comfortable in your body. Your mind is a powerful tool to refocus your commitment to appreciating your own sweet self. The other option is to snowball into a fear response that is based on hazy, unexamined fears lurking in the back of your mind. Use your lovely mind to create more peace and see through the anxious wheezing of that sh*tty voice in your head.
2) Check Your Self Care. On this particularly Thursday morning I had decided to indulge in two cups of coffee. By the end of the second cup, I felt jittery and disconnected. Looking back, it's no wonder that I started having body insecurities from this place. In Ayurveda, we learn that insecurity comes from vata imbalance (again the mental level!). We trigger vata imbalance when we compromise our self care routine by staying up too late, skipping meals, being hungover, taking on too much, etc. The next time you begin spiraling down into a icy pit of insecurity, check in with your self care. See if you've missed an essential aspect that helps you to feel like yourself.
Also, when you feel like you have gained weight please resist the urge to skip meals. This will only make the vata imbalance worse. Instead, wait until you physically hungry, eat a healthy, filling meal and stop eating when you feel full. Learn to trust your body instead of denying it's needs. Cultivating a happy relationship with your own physical form--even when the world is telling you to go on a diet--is such a solid way to practice self love. From my own experience, self love is what guides me naturally back into a happy feeling body and mind. (Note at the time of this writing I am feeling at home in my body again, proving these first two points true for me. Hallelujah!)
3) Fashion change. Say you are just like me and while running late you get dressed and discover your pants are fitting tighter then desired. You feel uncomfortable and need a quick fix.
The way I see it, you have two options. 1) If you still have a little time, replace the culprit pants with a looser-fitting pair that help you feel cute. This season has so many printed, flowy pants that look great. Have a pair on hand and use them liberally. Or toss on a moo-moo (again, love all this free form fashion right now!) and a lovely pair of earrings. Wear your favorite shoes and enjoy the sunset as you walk into your evening. You’re beautiful. Or 2) If you don’t have time to change then go into the world with the old pants and a spirit of self love. Your pants may not be comfortable but you can certainly do everything else in your power to feel great. Put on rose-colored lipstick and smile for yourself. Order your favorite cocktail but skip the second round. Ooh and aah over your dessert, but leave some on your plate if you are full. Talk only to the people you love most at the event. Leave when you are ready to leave. Once home, put on Nina Simone, your most comfortable PJs and light a candle. The only thing left to do is give yourself is a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow will figure everything else out for you. You’re beautiful.
4) Know You are Part of Nature. Repeat this mantra to yourself: It’s totally normal for my weight to fluctuate a few pounds here and there. We are human beings, maybe even a female, reproducing human being at that! We are contending with shifting cycles of life, the seasons and even the pull of the moon on our animal bodies. The perfectionist part of our brain (aka the ego) would rather we believe it's possible to achieve and maintain perfect balance. Not only is this impossible but rather it’s completely opposed to what actually natural. Perfectionism is hollow and makes us feel alone. You are not a machine, you are a incredible, evolving work in progress. Consciously remembering and practicing authentic connection in the face of perfectionism has been proven to light up the parts of our brain that actually feed our sense of joy. You want to be joyful, not thin--trust me if you are ever doubting this. Remembering we are an inextricable thread woven throughout the majesty of nature brings is such a connecting thought. Nature wins, always. Relax into that reality and feel the true value of your beautiful life shine on.
5) Reach Out. When my pants are feeling too tight I usually want to hide out with my Netflix queue. I have this pesky belief that I should only reach out when I am feeling good about myself. A little of this is definitely ok but it becomes a isolating habit if you don’t keep it in check. I urge you to reach out during the moments you want to hide. Thinking we are alone in our struggles--even if they feel too superficial to mention--creates unnecessary suffering. Thinking we should already be “over” our body insecurities makes it much harder to actually work through them.
So let's all join the imperfect human being club. When you are struggling with too-tight pants, make it a practice to tell a trusted friend how you are feeling. The connection that comes out during these moments builds true friendship and an authentically beautiful life. Reaching out during low self-worth moments is a hard practice and for this reason also quite rewarding. Pick out two friends that get to support you during these tender moments and put them on speed dial. You will find that often they are struggling with the exact same issues and that by working through them together you both will gain valuable, healing insight.
Tell them they can also call you when they need some tender fashion advice or a gentle body image reality check. Not only can should we do this for each other but we get to do this for each other. It’s win win because everyone gets more permission to be a healthy human being by the end. Five pounds and an extra inch of fabric have absolutely nothing on that magic.
Great example of this: Last weekend I mentioned to lovely yoga teacher acquaintance that I wanted to write this blog post. She’s beautiful, fashionable and in awesome shape so I assumed the topic would be irrelevant to her. Her face flooded with relief. She told me how her body had been changing lately and how it was bringing up anxiety. She said she couldn’t wait to read this post. I hope it's been helpful dear! At least you know you are not alone.