How Sizing Up in My Jeans Taught Me a Valuable Lesson in Body Acceptance

The mere sight of a fitting room instills fear in me: It has always been a space associated with pain, disappointment, and deep, deep shame.

Growing up, I was acutely aware of the fact that thin = good. Merely existing in our society will do that to you, and if you couple that with a particularly diet-culture-heavy environment and being a people pleaser like me, it’s a done deal.

I wasn’t thin—it’s simply not my body type—and that was a cause of profound distress in my life: It dominated my existence in various different forms of disordered eating and chronic dieting until I finally sought help in my late 20s.

But fitting rooms were the pinnacle of my body shame. Conditioned by messaging telling me that anything above a size 10 was undesirable and needs addressing, my ever-fluctuating (but never down to a size 10) body just didn’t measure up. I would desperately try and squeeze myself into sizes I knew deep down just didn’t belong to me, and I would sometimes even buy those sizes, not allowing myself to even contemplate a higher number.

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The label in the back of clothes was so physically small, yet so significantly meaningful to me, that jamming my body into a size too small and suffering the consequences of this discomfort was favorable to purchasing the same item with a different number on the label. My jeans used to dig in so badly that they felt like they were cutting my skin, leaving marks that lasted all night.

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