I remember that humid August day, a few weeks before I started my junior year of high school, beaming as I squeezed into a pair of jeans a size smaller than I usually wore. They were plain jeans–a light faded blue color with pockets too shallow to hold my Galaxy S4. They did not make my body look better in any way; they just made me feel skinny. I had never worn pants a size that small (at least not since puberty), and even though they restricted my breathing a little, I felt a surge of happiness being able to button and zip them. I was successful; disciplined enough to fit into those jeans.
As a senior in high school, I always looked past that pair of jeans when picking out my clothes. The thought of not fitting into them filled my body with unshakable anxiety that caused my palms to sweat and my appetite to disappear. I decided that I would remember them as they fit, instead of risking them being too small (although, I did not gain any weight that year). Every few months, I would remove them from the hanger and try them on. They always still fit, but I felt too fat to wear such form-fitting jeans out in public. Instead, I disguised my body in my favorite baggy boyfriend jeans that always hung below my hips.
The thought of not fitting into those small jeans, made me exercise like a maniac. I had gym first period and would walk on the treadmill or walk a mile on the track. When I got home I would head upstairs to do intervals on the treadmill. Then, I would do crunches. Sometimes I would sweat and feel lightheaded, but I mentally repeated the mantra “No pain, no gain” (in my case, “gain” was replaced with “loss”). I constantly reminded myself that if I skipped a workout, I would no longer fit into those jeans. Then, by default, I would be a failure. Fitting into a small pair of jeans meant I was thin, fit, and healthy. It did not matter that I never felt healthy; I appeared healthy and that was all that counted.
As a freshman in college, I dreaded gaining the “freshmen 15,” and did everything in my power to keep my weight down. Not only did this include frequent trips to the fitness center and a low-calorie diet, but also wearing the jeans to ensure that I was not getting any fatter. Unfortunately, keeping my weight down cost me my grades, multiple friendships, and ultimately my happiness. Fitting into those jeans (that were now a bit too big) no longer made me feel a sense of accomplishment. I hated myself and wanted to end my life.
It has been almost six months since my first semester of college, but after an intense six-week eating disorder treatment program at Mather and weekly one-on-one sessions with a therapist, I am finally going to let go of those jeans. Even though they (barely) fit me, keeping them in my closet only causes me anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. Ultimately, my life is more important than fitting into a size four pair of jeans.