A few weeks ago, I found myself doing a much needed clean-out of my closet. Naturally, I came across pieces I hadn’t worn in a very long time, which usually means it’s time to throw them in the donation pile. But instead I found myself holding onto them, debating what I should do. In that moment, I realized something particularly profound. Giving away these clothes meant letting go of something that I no longer am, skinny.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not delusional. I am well aware I am what society would consider “thin”. This is my natural build and one I suspect some people torture themselves to have. The skinny that I am referring to is the frail, rail-like skinny I used to be. The bone-popping, thigh-gap skinny that I wore proudly. The skinny that was hungry and overworked.
A long time ago, I heard my idol, Oprah Winfrey, say something that ended up sticking with me for years. It was something along the lines of “never buy bigger jeans, keep working to fit into your old ones”. While I respect Oprah in many domains, weight-loss and body image isn’t one of them. If I knew then what I know now, I never would have listened. But of course hindsight is 20/20.
Nevertheless, I listened and I did everything in my power to fit into those jeans. In the process, I discovered the secret to skinny. Spoiler alert: it’s not worth it.
This secret would end up taking over my life for more years than I wish to tell. Being skinny was my first priority. I masked my attempts in the face of “health” but inside I knew what I was doing.
I ate a lot of salads. I worked out every single day. On most days it was a mix of cardio and weights and on “rest days” I walked/ran on a steep incline on the treadmill. Diet Coke was my best friend. Calories were meant to be counted. If I was drinking, I either ate less or worked out more and these “drinks” usually consisted of shots, lots of shots. I looked at my body in the mirror, a lot. Binge days would happen that usually started with a hangover, followed by a jumbo-sized bag of peanut butter M&Ms with a side order of guilt.
And here’s how I felt:
Exhausted. My body was literally crying out for rest. By-products of this negligence remain to this day i.e. chronic leg and back pain.
Hungry. Food was on my mind all the time.
Guilty. I actually felt ashamed if I skipped a workout or binged.
Frustrated. I felt like no matter what I did I could never look how I wanted to look.
I had discovered the secret to skinny, but I lost all the joy in my life.
My habits today are far removed from that girl who ran endless miles and ate rabbit food for sustenance. They changed because I wanted them to. Because once I figured out the secret to skinny, I realized it wasn’t worth it. I valued living my life over planning it.
How I came to these conclusions is a post for another day and quite honestly is still an ongoing process. For the most part, I now eat when and what I want and move my body when and how it wants to, but not surprisingly some of my clothes no longer fit. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a moment where I thought of dear old Oprah’s saying and considered doing what I had to in order to get back in those jeans.
I knew I had what it took to look skinny in my skinny jeans. I’d done it once, I could do it again. But while I definitely looked skinny, it was the furthest thing from how I felt.
I may have paused for a second to think about my decision, but ultimately I knew those clothes belonged in the donation pile. I wasn’t turning back. Instead, I made the choice to accept myself, exactly as I am. Someone who is smart, driven, successful and beautiful. Someone who loves to walk and hike and fuel my body with veggies and wine. Sometimes more wine than veggies, and sometimes those veggies are french fries. Most of the time they’re not.
Giving away those clothes was the final straw in letting go of all of the negative habits that had previously taken over my life. It meant choosing to live each day as my happiest self instead of my skinniest self. Discovering that these two concepts are not intertwined is the greatest gift I ever could have received.
I now know the secret to happy and trust me folks, it looks nothing like skinny.
Check out the rest of our Health & Happiness posts curated by our Guest Editor, Lea Michele, all week long. Also, be sure to get Lea’s book, You First, a book about, “respecting and understanding what you really want — and then going out to achieve it.”