wellness

For years, jeans were punishment. This year, all that changed.

Trigger warning: This post deals with eating disorders and might be triggering for some readers.

I recently bought a pair of pants that fit me. For many people, that's not exactly a revolutionary act. Except for me, it was. 

For years I have purchased pants I squeezed my stomach into. To secure the button, I sucked in and hunched over. It hurt. But I always assured myself that they would stretch or I would shrink. 

I used my clothes to discipline myself. My waistband was like a whiplash of punishment - a physical barrier to stop the impulse to indulge. I walked around in pain. Pants cutting into my waist. High heels blistering and cutting my feet. Barely breathing because of SPANX. Lacy underwear sneaking up my ass crack. 

I only recently realised what an insane way of living this was. I expected my body to conform to a piece of clothing, rather than finding clothing that simply fit. I came home from a night out and thought nothing of seeing my body covered in marks from my clothing. Nothing. 

After all, women have equated beauty with pain for centuries, back to the days of rib breaking corsets. We've always been told to sacrifice comfort and ease to achieve status and self worth. 

Personally, I’ve had a complicated relationship with my body. As a fat child I walked the predictable and well-worn path of eating disorders and gruelling exercise programs. 

I'd swallow the bitter taste of bile in my throat from vomiting up my food. Fat was not just a part of my body, fat was a feeling. It was an obsession. It was everything. 

I spent years enduring starvation, trying anything to shrink my stomach. From punishing exercise programs to drinking “detox” teas that left my stomach in cramps and caused diarrhea. 

Through my eating disorder recovery, I avoided exercise or any other triggers. For years.

'Through my eating disorder recovery, I avoided exercise or any other triggers.' Image: Supplied. But when I began to experience symptoms of anxiety, my doctor suggested exercise. So I joined a gym. 

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I loved it. I would stroll on the treadmill listening to pop tunes of the 90s. I would deliberately choose odd hours when my husband and children were sleeping and the gym was empty so I could dance between the weight machines. 

Eventually I started a program, and suddenly I didn’t want to go to the gym. My legs hurt when I sat on the toilet. My arms ached when I lifted my baby. 

“That’s good,” I told myself “because you know it’s working”.

I had to drag myself out of bed and I soon realised I was dreading the whole process. I no longer found joy when I knew the result was pain. 

“You have to push through until it gets easier,” I chanted, until a radical thought forced its way in.

“Says who?”

My body has birthed four babies and my nipples have been bitten and bled. Life is hard. Pain is part of that. Even the act of simply existing in this world means inevitable emotional suffering. 

Many don’t have the luxury to avoid daily physical pain. 

If you are lucky enough to live without it, then why do we choose to?

Now, I simply refuse to deliberately endure self inflicted pain any longer. And that starts with buying a pair of jeans that fits.

If it hurts, I won’t do it. If exercise begins to make my muscles quiver, I’ll stop. If shoes make my feet hurt, I’ll throw them out. If a dress looks sexy but I can’t breathe, then it’s not for me. 

I dance instead of doing squats. If I don’t want to go to the gym, I’ll choose to move my body in other ways, like sex with my husband or dancing with my kids. 

My clothes are comfortable. There are no marks or scars when I undress. 

I feel like I’m finally off the endless cycle of pushing through the pain to achieve a “better” me.

Perhaps some perceive my choices as "lazy" or "letting myself go". There are others who thrive off the pain. Who feel a rush from pushing their bodies to the limit. Who relish the burn. 

But I’ve been in pain for a long time. I’ve punished my body and tortured it, forced it into restraints of ill-fitting clothes and left it bruised. I’ve starved It. I’ve forced it to feel too full and then too empty, over and over. 

I haven’t quite reached love for my body. Maybe I never will. But I refuse to hurt it. 

My new motto is no pain, all gain. 

For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation‘s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email [email protected] 

You can also visit their website, here.

Feature image: Supplied.