Saying Goodbye to Your Jeans—A New Perspective on Progress


I bought a new pair of jeans yesterday. For me, trying on jeans is right up there with going for a new bathing suit. No, not particularly positive. In fact, while I love fashion, shopping for clothes and shoes is never anything short of depressing. I can’t find my size shoes in stores (9 1/2 AAAA), and those in catalogues are often fashion failures. My shoulders are broad and my arms long, making well-fitting tops and jackets impossible to find. I’ll stop here; I think you get the idea.

I needed a new pair of jeans. Somehow, a few years ago, I had convinced myself to purchase a pricey pair of dressy jeans, and now I knew it was time to move on. Why? Because every time I put them on, while they looked fine, I was less than comfortable. Maybe knowing the phrase muffin topping had an impact—I just couldn’t get past that visual. And wearing them kept me from fully enjoying my dinners out and my socializing.

So I selected a new pair from a boutique with a limited but fabulous selection of clothes, and picked them (drum roll please) based on their fit and comfort. Yes, they were a size larger than my last designer-type jeans, in spite of my weight remaining the same over these years. And so I bought them.

Jeans were a topic raised in many patient sessions last week. (You thought I only talked about food, eating, calories, I suppose?) Marie, who has struggled with obesity and binge eating disorder for many years, reported her approach to moving on. She was ridding her closet of everything over size 20, as she now comfortably wears an 18, having lost, I forget exactly, but somewhere near 60 pounds (while enjoying such foods as cookies and bagels, I’ll add). The size 20s are really a just in case—I don’t think she truly trusts that her progress is for real, in spite of it being over a year and a half of consistent behavior change with resulting weight loss.

Even more notable was the message I received from Dana, describing the emotions of parting with her old jeans, her anorexic jeans, a remnant of her anorexic self. After discussing her decision to discard a stack of unhealthy-sized jeans, she followed up her session with this note, (excerpted with her permission, below):

I must tell you that when I pulled down my street from my appt with you, the trash truck was at the house before mine... and as I pulled into my garage I watched in the car mirror the big claws grabbing the trash can to empty it into the truck.  My jeans.  I did it.  Lori, I totally did it.  I successfully threw them out.  I'm feeling so mixed about this enormous sudden decision to get rid of those jeans.  I'm so glad I told you I did this, as I originally wasn't going to tell anyone because to me it signifies weakness... I will never fit into those jeans again... I will never be as disciplined as I once was for so many years... I will FEEL now... there will be no more dismissing life... no living in a state of fog and numbing out... no more living passively...I must now be present in life. 
I didn't want to tell you (or anyone) about throwing away the jeans because I feel like I'm a failure and I'm giving up.  Logically I know this not to be true... but the emotional level is a whole other thing.

This feels a little overwhelming right now.  Never did I imagine it would stir this much emotion.  That pile of jeans symbolized so much - probably more than I can comprehend.  All these years (I guess of progress and agonizing work) it took me to build that pile.  The rejects.  What does it mean for me now? The only descriptive phrase I can come up with is sink or swim.  I made the decision to get rid of that pile of jeans that are unhealthy sizes for me.  This means I forfeited the chance to fit back into them, ever again, because they are no longer in my possession.”

“Right this minute I am in the midst of surrendering to better health at a bigger size.  I feel weak, but I also feel a pull to try.  The challenge is to learn how to accept this larger size as a new way of life...”

“I don't like the size I am, but then I was never happy with the size of those jeans I just threw to the garbage...”

“Just a lot of feelings around this.  You're right, maybe it is sort of like mourning…”

Wow. I am so impressed with her action, and her newfound ability to communicate her thoughts and feelings around this. In the past, these would have been masked with either binge eating or restriction. She couldn't have done it without the clarity that comes with nourishment, and, of course, with good counseling. 

 Clearly there’s much more to purging the jeans and buying a new pair. It’s about accepting change, and believing that it’s okay. It’s about trust, that you really have progressed, and you can continue to stay the course. And it’s about getting comfortable, physically—choosing sizes and styles that are appropriate, allowing your self to simply feel good. Maybe it's time to clear out your old jeans.

Your thoughts?
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