It’s true; I have three pairs of Thanksgiving pants for the three different phases of my eating past. I can’t go back in time and change what I did all those years. My past is still very much a part of me, so I have to find a way to face it, forgive it, and find some humor in it. I truly believe that is the best way to make peace with it. Look back and laugh a little.
When I looked back, I was surprised to find I had somehow channeled my inner Goldilocks (I guess I can chalk that up to my natural blonde locks) when I found I had evolved through three very different types of Thanksgiving pants. I also found it ironically hilarious that Goldilocks begins her plunder hungry, looking for food, and the first thing she does is sit down and eat a stranger’s whole bowl of porridge.
I had to laugh, realizing that was a pretty fitting testament to what my ED-self might have done back then. Hide your porridge folks, Goldie’s hungry and on the hunt! And, in true Goldilocks-style, that is exactly where my twenty years of porridge-plundering began—with pants way too small in an attempt to hide my hunger.
1. Thanksgiving Pants That Were Way Too Small
My thinking was: if my pants are literally too small to allow me to eat a big Thanksgiving meal, then I won’t eat a big Thanksgiving meal. Does that ever work? Does your inner hunger (your animal brain, your “I’m here to keep us alive” subconscious) care whether your clothes might rip and buttons might fly if she gorges on cornbread stuffing? No!
She’s out to do some serious stuffing, whether your clothing makes it comfortable for her or not. This was during my brief stint with anorexia where I had the brilliant plan to eat only a lettuce leaf and apple slice all day, then a reasonable, filling Thanksgiving meal in the evening (that would fit in my snug, size 4 britches) and that would be that. All the stress and inner turmoil that surrounded the Thanksgiving meal would be over.
And it was … until midnight.
After everyone went to bed, my animal brain roused from its slumber and brought me zombie-like to the kitchen to stuff my face. Where were my too-small pants then? Who knows. I ate pants-less in a t-shirt and undies on the kitchen floor. Was it an enjoyable, happy, heart-filling feast? Anything but. It was a sad, mindless mess, something my body was merely doing to save itself because I had starved it.
Moral of the story:
Clothing won’t curb your appetite. Your strong inner-self (who, remember, is doing everything it can to protect YOU) will rip right through that button fly. So, the next year I thought I had a better plan with:
2. Thanksgiving Pants That Were Way Too Big
This was during my heavy bulimic phase. It was a daily routine. One that my body in no way needed but also one I had programmed my mind into thinking it did. My thinking this Thanksgiving go-round? Allow myself one big binge and purge. Fill my big billowing elastic pants. One time. Make quick with the regurgitation in the bathroom, clean up, then curl up for fun games and time with the family in comfy PJ-like pants for the rest of the night. Then all the stress and inner turmoil that surrounded the Thanksgiving meal would be over.
And it was … until midnight.
The problem is if you allow yourself to binge—if you plan for it, prepare for it, even look forward to it—your mind begins to do the same. It begins to crave it like a treat, a drug, and it builds little happy sensors to welcome it and talk you into doing it more. Our minds are funny things. Clever little devils, but you have to admire them for merely responding and adapting to the sad little tricks we try to pull over on them. But the simple fact that none of us can avoid is that they act on the input we put in. Always remember that. I had trained my brain to savor binges, to look forward to them and take pleasure in them.
So, after everyone went to bed, my addicted brain roused me from it and trudged me very Goldie-like to the kitchen to eat everyone else’s porridge—cold, hot, or otherwise. Where were my too-big pants then? Easily accommodating my growing waist as I binged once again in the light of the fridge on the kitchen floor. Was it an enjoyable, happy, heart-filling feast? Anything but. It was a sad, mindless mess (again), something my body was merely doing to soothe itself in the way I had programmed it.
Moral of the story:
Clothing won’t cure your addiction. Your strong inner-self (who, remember, is doing only what you have trained it to do) will open logic traps bigger than your britches for you to fall into so it can get what you have trained it to want. After spending many sad holidays on the kitchen floor in the wrong pants, I finally chose a better plan with:
3. Thanksgiving Pants That Fit Just Right
Recovery pants are those that fit just right. This may sound crazy, but I’m thinking many of you might readily agree: the hardest part of my recovery was feeling like I was giving up. I’m serious. Like many of you, I am a very driven person. I’m incredibly self-motivated. I’m uber-productive. I’m hard on myself. I’m an over-achiever. I thrive on praise and a pat on the head. I love to put my mind to something and not just accomplish it, but annihilate it.
And, it took me a long time to realize that’s what I was trying to do to my body: making it some kind of attainable accomplishment that, if I worked hard enough, I could achieve. Meaning, in my ED-brain, I thought, “I can look just like Cindy Crawford. I can have her 5’11” body, her slender torso and perfect abs, if I just eat carrots and Splenda and workout a lot.” Because that’s how that works, right?
But when I finally started to realize that is in NO WAY how that works, deciding to start eating normal so I could recover felt like I was giving up. Like I was in the middle of a marathon and I just stopped running. I quit.
What is the best pair of pants to wear for Thanksgiving? The pair that fits just right.
The only problem was: I don’t do that! I never give up. I never quit. I never wanted to be seen or cast as a quitter. But, that’s exactly what my recovery felt like at times. Like I’d given up on the Crawford goal. And, that irked me to no end. So much so, it caused me to jump back on that treadmill many, many times, to continue my futile chase for (what I at least by then knew in the way back of my mind was) an UNattainable goal.
I hope if you feel like that, this revelation can help. What is the best pair of pants to wear for Thanksgiving? The pair that fits just right. Pants that don’t stifle you, don’t cut into your skin and leave painful red marks. And, not pants that are three sizes too big, cinched up like a garbage bag at the waist.
The same is true for your body. The “size” you should “wear” is the size YOU that fits just right. Being the best YOU you can be is not giving up, it’s giving your best efforts back to your body and mind to make them as healthy as possible. It’s the opposite of giving up, because it’s way harder. Choosing (and promising to love and forgive and respect) your right size you can be a very tough choice to make, but it is the right one.
If you feel like you’ve been playing Goldilocks the last several years, trying to eat too little, then too much, this year try to make a promise to yourself to eat a Thanksgiving meal that’s just right, a normal, appropriately-indulgent, happy, heart-filling feast.
Being the best YOU you can be is not giving up, it’s giving your best efforts back to your body and mind to make them as healthy as possible. It’s the opposite of giving up, because it’s way harder.
I won’t lie and say a day set aside specifically for all the world to stuff their faces with food doesn’t still cause me anxiety, but I do handle it much better now by donning pants that tell my body I’m proud of it and remembering, no matter what I eat, that it is just one day. And, remembering it is just one day, that I will be lucky to spend with family I rarely see and get to visit with, helps remind me to spend it—not all balled up about food or avoiding people I love so I can eat too much or too little food—but, rather, in the moment enjoying myself, my healthy body, and my family.
I hope by consciously putting on a pair of pants on Thanksgiving Day that fit right you, too, can show your body you are thankful for it and enjoy a day centered around family and food that is “just right” for you.